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"No one man, or group of men, can himself speak for the Church of Christ. It is nonetheless possible to speak from within the Church, in conformity with Orthodox tradition; and it is this that we shall attempt to do." Fr. Seraphim Rose Orthodox Word #1 Jan-Feb 1965 p. 17
The New Soviet Man
THE NEW SOVIET MAN
From the OCW
( June 3/16, 1996)
What do Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Harold Laski, George Bernard Shaw, Pablo Picasso, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt all have in common? One thing was their belief that the "Soviet Experiment" offered a great hope for the better future of mankind. They believed, naively, or otherwise, that human nature could be changed by this "experiment," and a "new man" could be created, and therefore in various ways they aided and promoted Communism as it developed in Soviet Russia. While today we hear less about Communism as such, the belief that some new system of government can create a new kind of human being is far from dead. It still undergirds much political thinking (from both the right and left) in the United States and the democracies of Western Europe. In fact, many people today, although they may not openly admit it, think that Christianity has failed, so they turn to various forms of political systems to create a new person and to overcome the selfishness and egoism of fallen humanity.
With the fall of Communism in Russia, it is now possible for us to get an inside look at this "Great Experiment" and see just what sort of "new man" it managed to create. Was this "new man" someone we would want to be like, or was the so-called "new man" really a lot closer to the "old man" that our Lord Jesus Christ came to rescue? The results are becoming very clear: the "Soviet Experiment" was a failure, leading to almost unimaginable human misery and death, environmental pollution, economic waste, and a general loss of hope and trust. It is also at last becoming clear that this "experiment" was not content merely to compete with Christianity for human hearts and minds; it actively infiltrated and subverted the Russian Orthodox Church and other religious bodies in Russia, and it tried to do the same elsewhere. In fact, the idea that government, rather than our Lord Jesus Christ, is the savior of mankind has spread into almost all the religious bodies of the West. But perhaps it seems harsh and suspicious to say that not only did Communism persecute the Church from without, but it also actively tried to pervert it from within. Fortunately for us, some hard evidence of what happened to the Russian Orthodox Church has become available in recent years, and we can learn from it the patterns which this secularist ideology used in Russia to subvert Christianity.
A recent book, Tower of Secrets, by Victor Sheymov gives us some disturbing insights into just what the "new Soviet man" is actually like. Victor Sheymov was born in Moscow in 1946. He graduated from the Moscow Technical University and worked on the Soviet space defense system for a time. He then joined the KGB, where he moved up four ranks in five years, becoming a major in 1978. He was given broad responsibilities for a major upgrade of the KGB’s communications security system, but he defected to the West in 1980 and offered his knowledge to the CIA. His position within the KGB gave him a unique understanding of the reality of the Soviet "experiment" and led to his eventual disillusionment with the Soviet state and its ideology.
Sheymov describes the various components of the KGB, including: "The Fifth Directorate, responsible for suppressing ideological dissent, running the Soviet Orthodox Church, and laying the groundwork for the First Chief Directorate's subversive promotion of favorable opinion about the country's position and policy." 1
Because of Sheymov’s rank, one of his jobs was the drafting of agents to infiltrate the "Soviet Orthodox Church," as he refers to it.
The Church draft was the result of the KGB’s penetration of the Soviet Orthodox Church. It had started years before, with the KGB initially recruiting agents and informants from among the Soviet clergy. The program had developed to the point at which full-time KGB officers were placed in critical Church positions immediately after graduating from the Church’s university, the Spiritual Academy in historic Zagorsk, and were guaranteed an amazing career in the Church. Although all legitimate candidates for the clergy had to pass rigorous entrance exams, the KGB had its own entry quota for the Spiritual Academy.
Together, Personnel and the KGB’s Party Committee sought candidates for the KGB’s Spiritual Academy quota from the pool of younger KGB officers. These candidates had to satisfy certain criteria:
They had to be members - (or) at least candidates for membership - of the Communist Party. Party candidacy meant the universal one - year probation period.
They had to volunteer for the Church duty.
They had to be officers.
They had to be unmarried.
Those candidates who met these criteria had to be individually approached, and the offer was handled as a sensitive matter. If the answer was no, there was to be no further mention of it, and a rejection of the invitation would not reflect on the officer's career . . . 2
Further confirmation of the degree to which the Russian Orthodox Church had been made into a tool of the Soviet state is provided by the noted Russian researcher John Dunlop:
Certainly few today would deny that prior to the collapse of the August 1991 coup, the Russian Orthodox Church had been both tightly controlled and meticulously monitored. Konstantin Kharchev, Chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs from late 1984 through early 1989, has confirmed that the Russian Church was indeed rigorously controlled by the Central Committee of the Communist Party (especially by its Ideological Department) and by the KGB. 3
In early 1992, a former KGB agent, A. Shushpanov, gave an interview to the mass-circulation pro-democracy weekly Argumenty i fakty in which he described in detail his work as a secret police operative inside the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Ecclesiastical Affairs. 4
A "majority" of the individuals working in that department, Shuspanov noted, were in fact agents working for either the Moscow or the all - union KGB. There was also a full-time KGB "resident" or chief-of-station located at the department. Obligatory reports on contacts with foreign visitors had to be submitted in five copies: one copy for the department chairman, one for the Council of Religious Affairs ("in essence a filial [branch] of the KGB"), while three were "submitted directly to the KGB." 5
After reading all this, one may be tempted to say: Granted that under the Communists the Russian Orthodox Church was converted into a tool of the Communist Party, and granted that this was unprecedented in the war of the secular world against the Christian Church; but now that Communism has collapsed in Russia, what difference does any of this make?
Unfortunately, it is still very relevant. First of all, as John Dunlop observes, "the overwhelming majority of the current one hundred and nineteen bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate were ordained to the episcopacy prior to August of 1991 [the date of the effective end of Communist rule in Russia]. This suggests that each of these bishops was carefully screened and vetted by both the ideological apparatus of the Communist Party and by the KGB." 6 Mr. Dunlop further notes:
Materials unearthed from the KGB archives indicate that four of the six current permanent members of the Moscow Patriarchate Holy Synod are, or at least until recently were, KGB agents: Patriarch Aleksii II (agent code-name "Drozdov"); Metropolitan Iuvenalii of Krutitsy ("Adament"); Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk ("Mikhailov"); and Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk ("Ostrovskii"). The head of the Patriarchate’s publications department, Metropolitan Pitirim of Volokolamsk ("Abbat"), was also revealed to be an agent. 7 It should be stressed that an "agent" of the former KGB was considerably more than an informer, he or she was an active operative of the Committee for State Security [KGB], in effect a non-uniformed officer of that organization. 8
From this evidence, we could reasonably conclude that the one part of the old Soviet Union which survived the fall of Communism relatively intact was the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church. While leaders of many Communist Party units and Soviet institutions were replaced after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Church leadership remained in place unchanged. How tragic to see that those men, put in place by a Communist Party whose aim was the destruction of the Christian Church, have remained there and, if anything, acquired even more power and influence in Russia today, for we see them featured prominently in the Russian media, occupying positions in the Duma, and meeting with the President of Russia, while enjoying far more respect than they had in the past. Orthodox Christians must be very careful not to be misled by the fact that these men wear the clothes of Orthodox bishops, are called by ancient and honorable titles, and occupy the sees of Saints of the Church. They were appointed by the Communists to serve their ends, they were agents of the KGB, they are at best careerists who would sell themselves to the KGB for advancement in a secure job, and at worst they are themselves convinced atheists who viewed the Church as something to subvert. They are indeed examples of the "new man" created by Communism - a man without moral sense or values, but they are in no sense the "new men" our Lord Jesus Christ intended His Church to create — men who deny themselves even unto death to obey God.
1. Sheymov, Victor, Tower of Secrets, p. 418. Naval Institute Press, Maryland 1993.
2. Ibid., p. 186.
3. Argumenty i fakty, 1992, no. 8 p. 5, Archpriest Viacheslav Polosin has asserted that the Department of External Ecclesiastical Relations effectively had been turned into "a secret center of KGB agents among the believers." Nezavisimaia gazeta, 20 February 1993, p. 4 (End note 71, taken from Dunlop, John, "The Moscow Patriarchate As An Empire Saving Institution" Chap. 2 in "The Politics of Religion in Russia and the New States of Eurasia" Editor Michael Bourdeaux. M.E. Sharp Pub. 1995, Armonk, NY).
4. In Moskovskie novosti; 12 July 1992, p. 20 (from End note 72, taken from Dunlop, John, "The Moscow Patriarchate As An Empire Saving Institution" Chap. 2 in "The Politics of Religion in Russia and the New States of Eurasia" Editor Michael Bourdeaux. M.E. Sharp Pub. 1995, Armonk, NY).
5. Ibid. p. 29.
6. Ibid. p. 29.
7. Ogonek, 1992, nos. 18-19, p. 13. To date, the only Moscow Patriarchate bishop to publicly admit that he has served as a KGB agent has been Archbishop Khrizostom of Vilnius. See the interview with him in Moskovskii komsomolets, 30 November 1993, p. 2. Concerning the KGB’s extensive use of church funds to finance secret police operations, see the open letter of Fr. Gleb Yakunin to the Patriarch in Ekspress-khronika, 1994, no. 4, reprinted in Russian and CIS Today, 30 January 1994, pp. 64/22-29. According to the journalist Iurii Buida, monies from this so-called black cashbox may have been employed by the KGB to fund political assassinations. See Novoe Vremia, no. 5, pp. 50-51. (From End note 74, taken from Dunlop, John, "The Moscow Patriarchate As An Empire Saving Institution" Chap. 2 in "The Politics of Religion in Russia and the New States of Eurasia" Editor Michael Bourdeaux. M.E. Sharp Pub. 1995, Armonk, NY).
8. Dunlop, op. cit p. 30.