The Russian Orthodox Church should make its own statement about national repentance in connection with the hundredth anniversary of the Revolution, says Rector of St Philaret’s Orthodox Christian Institute, Fr Georgy Kochetkov, in an expression of hope that the Patriarch and Russia authorities will join in with the repentance initiative.
Earlier this year in connection with the hundredth anniversary of the Revolution, the Transfiguration Brotherhood came forward with the “Calling our National to Repentance” Initiative, supported by Producer Andrey Smirnov, Historian and Telejournalist Nikolay Svanidze, Author, translator, former GULAG inmate Nikita Krivoshein, and grandson of Alexander Vasilevich Krivoshein (Manager-in-charge of land use from 1908-1915 and Chairman of the Government of the South of Russia), Dmitry Aleshkovskij, Chairman of the Charitable Fund “Nuzhna Pomoschj, Poet Olga Sedakova, and others.
Participants in the Initiative are calling for conscious recognition of the consequences of Bolshevism, and for a moral evaluation of the crimes of 1917 and the Soviet Regime which was installed as a result of the Revolution.
Speaking recently at an Interfax Press Conference, Fr Georgy Kochetkov answered a question from “Blagovest-Info” news agency: “is there hope that at least those within the church will hear the call and take some spiritual action?” Fr Georgy said, “There is hope and, moreover, I am certain that they will hear and take action, because it is impossible to remain non-repentant if we want some sort of a future for our country, including our church.”
“The Church should make its own statement – a statement from the church itself – which at this point still hasn’t happened. Of course, it would be best if the Patriarch himself would lead the “Calling our National to Repentance” initiative. If he would just say a couple words on it, everything would be perfect and we could leave it at that. Or, the President could lend his support. But it seems for now that in the immediate future, before the end of the year, as you say, I’m afraid this might not happen,” said Fr Georgy.
“Perhaps not every person is capable, but I’m sure that within the church more and more people will be found who can do this…who are ready to be bold enough to take this upon themselves. It will take boldness and bravery, because it involves overcoming our fears,” said the Rector of SFI.
Fr Georgy recalled that some individual representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church have previously said that there is no such thing as national, or communal, repentance, and that only the possibility for each individual to repent of his own sins exists. Fr Georgy repudiates this understanding, reminding us that national repentance not only exists, but has a long tradition, as Patriarch Kirill himself affirmed not long ago in a public statement. “The Revolution was a great crime. (…) Nor should we easily dismiss that which took place from our historical memory. We should draw a very important conclusion from the terrible events of 100 years ago. We must redeem ourselves from our sins and those of our forefathers through good works,” said the Patriarch.
To the BBCs question about whether the government had made any statement of its position vis-à-vis the repentance initiative, participants expressed hopes that the authorities would not remain indifferent, as regards the spiritual aspect of overcoming the consequences of the Soviet period.
“I’m not sure what’s going on inside the consciousness of our leaders – we’ll see… We can hope that the state will also want to be decisive and perhaps even take part in the repentance initiative,” said producer, actor and nationally acclaimed artist, Andrey Smirnov.
According to Oleg Scherbachov, leader of the Russian (Moscow) branch of the Dvorjanskoje Sobranije (Council of Aristocrats), “state authorities might take part in their own way by carrying out a minor decommunization of symbols.” In his words this is “more than just the mausoleum” and would also include changing the names of streets, metro stations, etc.
The “Calling our National to Repentance: those who have Hope” initiative is a non-political movement of Orthodox Christians. Its initiators see repentance as an act which will stimulate the unification of the people and the restoration of trust and communion, which were torn apart and ruined during the Soviet era. They act out of a belief that a unified discernment of good and evil is the genuine basis for reconciliation; the movement to repent or set ourselves on the right road is associated with this unified discernment not only for the Orthodox, but for human spiritual culture, more generally.
The initiative’s participants address their call to “all who have an active conscience and live heart,” referring to the rich tradition of communal repentance which is imprinted in the experience of the Russian church, her people and of many saints. St Silouan the Athonite, for instance, wrote that “the Merciful Lord has given us repentance, and it is by repentance that all is made new. In repentance we receive forgiveness of sins; for repentance we receive the grace of the Holy Spirit, and this is how we know God. If anyone has lost his peace and is suffering, then let him repent and God will give him His peace. If a people group of nation state is suffering, then they must repent, and God will set everything right.”
There have already been several events within the framework of the “Calling our Nation to Repentance” initiative, including:
“February 1917” – a contemplative concert, which took place at the ZIL Cultural Centre in Moscow,
“He who has a heart should hear, time…” – a contemplative concert at the Lendok Centre, in St. Petersburg,
“A Prayer of Memory” – a reading of the names of many who suffered repression in Soviet times, presented by Elena Kamburova in dozens of cities across Russia.
“The 1917 Speakers Bureau” is also active in various cities across, dedicated to understanding what happened at the time of the Revolution.
Flashmobs dedicated to freeing the nation from Soviet symbolism – primarily statues of Lenin – are also being organized online (флэшмоб #НамНужноРасстаться).
Arina Filippova, Sofia Androsenko
Photo: Alyona Kaplina, Alexander Volkov
Translated by: Georgia Williams