The Holy War of Patriarch Kirill

The war between Russia and Ukraine is no longer just a simple military conflict but rather a crusade for Putin’s Russia. Furthermore, the rhetoric about the Holy War is reminiscent of another deeply ingrained tradition for the Russians – the myth of the Great Patriotic War. The Russian Orthodox Church adeptly merges the Soviet narrative with the Orthodox concept of Russkiy Mir and has become increasingly dependent on the political authorities.

rosyjska cerkiew patriarcha cyryl putin propaganda ideologia
Patriarch Kirill and Vladimir Putin.

“From a spiritual and moral perspective, this is a Holy War. We are fulfilling the mission of a protector, safeguarding the world from the attacks of the West, which has fallen into Satanism.” Despite initial appearances, these are not the words of radical Islamists.

-From a spiritual and moral perspective, a special military operation is a Holy War in which Russia and its people protect the only spiritual space of Holy Russia. We are fulfilling the mission of protectors, safeguarding the world from the attacks of globalization and the West, which has fallen into Satanism; it is what the quoted statement precisely says.

On March 27, a document was published on the Moscow Patriarchate’s official website, calling for the entire territory of modern Ukraine to be placed under Russia’s exclusive influence. The document stated that there should not be a hostile political regime in Ukraine towards Russia and its people after a special military operation. It is noteworthy that the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, not a fanatical Muslim, is justifying and advocating for a Holy War in his views.

-The spiritual and cultural-civilizational impact of the Russian world extends beyond the borders of the current Russian Federation and historic Russia. (…) Russia should return to the ‘trinity doctrine’ of the All-Russian nation, which has existed for over three centuries. According to this principle, the Russian nation consists of ethnic groups of Great Russians (the Russians), Little Russians (the Ukrainians), and the White Russians (the Belarusians).

Polish people could feel relieved that Poland is outside the brackets of this ideology concept, but the question remains: Are they free from Great Russia? Some members of the State Duma have already argued that Warsaw is a Russian city, and the Russian Orthodox Church views Catholicism as an enemy almost as dangerous as NATO. Efforts of Pope Francis, who met with his “Brother in Christ”, Kirill, in Cuba in 2016, were unsuccessful in smoothing things over. However, the Pope was not alone in believing illusions of possibility to ease the religious dispute. I remember the visit of Patriarch Kirill to Poland in the summer of 2012 and the hopes that the Polish Episcopate hhad associated with it. The Joint Message to the Nations of Poland and Russia was signed at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. Polish media wrote about the historic rapprochement. Meanwhile, Russian media warned against cunning Catholicism. They also recalled the presence of Polish troops in the Moscow region, led by military Commander Stanislav Zolkievski, who conquered the Kremlin for two years in 1610.

In the end, there was no reconciliation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Polish Episcopate. However, the Russian Orthodox Church improved its image using a propaganda machine and promoting its patriarch as the head of all Orthodox churches. The Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which is formally independent, played a decisive role in this strategy by accepting visiting Kirill as a leader within its subordinate structures. Unfortunately, this stance towards the patriarch continues now. The Polish Orthodox Church is one of the few that hasn’t acknowledged the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church. In some of its temples, you can still hear prayers for Russkiy Mir. It’s important to remember this fact, especially in the context of Warsaw being called a Russian city.

The document adopted by Russian Orthodox Church hierarchs at the end of March, openly calling for the murder of opponents in the name of the spiritual and moral idea of ​​the All-Russian Nation, should finally dispel any misconceptions about the religious character of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is unfortunate to note that this organization no longer upholds the values of the Christian Church. It is not surprising that historically, the Church in Tsarist Russia was used to reinforce and expand the empire’s influence. In the past, the ruler of Russia was regarded as the absolute authority, both in the secular and religious spheres, not the patriarch or the Synod of Bishops. However, despite this, the Tsar had a strong belief in God. Nowadays, the former KGB colonel is in charge of the Russian Church. As a result, it is not shocking that the Moscow Orthodox Church leaders, who act on the Kremlin’s orders, are advocating for the destruction of the Ukrainian nation and the annexation of whatever will remain of Ukraine’s territory into Russia.

Notably, the American Institute for War Studies has taken notice of the document released by the Moscow Patriarchate and conducted a separate analysis. Experts have noted that the message delivered by Orthodox Church leaders to the Russians in the document explains why they should engage in a war with Ukraine. This war is no longer an ordinary conflict but is more a crusade. Additionally, the language used in the document regarding a Holy War is associated with the Great Patriotic War myth, a critical tradition for the Russians.

In a truly deceitful way, the Church has combined the Soviet narrative with the Orthodox concept of the Russkiy Mir, whose God-given mission is to unite the Orthodox believers under one protective religious umbrella. This narrative is linked with the meaning of the old proverb – Moscow is the third Rome, and there will be no fourth one. American analysts suggest the Kremlin may not publicly endorse the Church’s ultra-nationalist ideology. However, the Kremlin will likely use this doctrine to gain support for any future acts of aggression against Russia’s neighbors and the West, including hostilities against Ukraine. Moreover, let’s keep in mind the frame of reference in the Russian propaganda declaring that Warsaw is a Russian city, too.

Maria Przełomiec for

Translated by PEV

The opinions and thoughts expressed in the text reflect only the author's views.