Putin, Stalin, and the Church

On Orthodox Easter, just weeks before Russia’s 70th Victory Day celebration, Russian Patriarch Kirill addressed scores of the faithful, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. He likened the resurrection of Christ—who, in Orthodox parlance, “trampled down death by death”—to the Russian, née Soviet, victory over the Nazis.“When spiritual heroism becomes the substance not only of the individual but of an entire people... the nation acquires enormous spiritual strength, which no disasters or enemies are capable of overcoming,” he told those gathered in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. “The truth of these words is evidently attested by the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, achieved by the self-sacrificing heroism of our people.” Continue Reading »

Solzhenitsyn's Red Wheel

It is not uncommon for readers of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s final novel, The Red Wheel, to draw comparisons with another Russian masterpiece, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Like its predecessor, The Red Wheel is a massive, sweeping work, six thousand pages divided into four . . . . Continue Reading »

Ecumenism and Russian State Power

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s department of external relations and a frequent visitor to the West, is a young man of parts: a widely-published author, a composer, a gifted linguist. He can be charming and witty, as I discovered during two hours of conversation at the Library of Congress in 2011; and in the intervening years he’s positioned himself and his Church as defenders of traditional Christian values in a world threatened by Western decadence. Continue Reading »

Notre Dame Honors Russia’s New Martyrs

It’s sometimes hard to tell, this time of year, but there’s more going on at Notre Dame than football. Spirited debate continues about the university’s Catholic identity and what that means for everything from curriculum and faculty hiring to the campus master plan. Those involved in that debate can now take inspiration from an impressive new project mounted by the university’s library, which introduces English-speakers to some modern Russian heroes of faithful discipleship. Continue Reading »

An Open Letter to the Patriarch of Moscow

Your Holiness: Grace and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ. Remembering with pleasure our meeting in Washington some years ago, I am prompted to write by what I once hoped was a common concern for the unity of Christ’s Church and a shared commitment to bridging the chasm that opened between America and Russia during the Cold War. Continue Reading »

An Archbishop of Destiny

When we first met in April 2011, what initially impressed me about Sviatoslav Shevchuk was his almost preternatural calm: which was striking, in that, less than a month before and still a few weeks shy of his 41st birthday, Shevchuk had been elected Major-Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych and head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church—the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches, Byzantine in liturgy and governance while in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. Continue Reading »

Putin: Ideological, not Irrational

Last Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”—the breakfast salon of the bien pensant—Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Rick Stengel took on Vladimir Putin. Stengel attempted to explain how Putin’s conduct in Ukraine damages Putin’s own interests. Putin, Stengel told his interlocutor Steven Rattner with an air of frustration, “is making fundamental errors” that would get him in trouble with the Russian people. “He’s moving further away from the West,” Stengel said, at a time when “people want to be closer to the West.” Rattner agreed that Putin is being “irrational.” Isn’t it obvious? Continue Reading »

The President and the Patriarch

Vladimir Putin, who after a sham “referendum” completed his aggressive seizure of Crimea, denies he has plans to invade Eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, he is increasing the number of troops on the Russian-Ukrainian border and sending provocateurs and criminals to incite ethnic tensions in . . . . Continue Reading »

The Last Station

 Over the weekend, courtesy of my friends at Netflicks, the wife and I watched what may be the most under appreciated film in quite some time, The Last Station. Beautifully filmed while adhering closely to period costume, architecture, and environment (1910 Russia) the drama examines both . . . . Continue Reading »