Archbishop Hilarion: Stalin a ‘Monster’

HT: ONet blog

Russian archbishop’s censure of Stalin as “a monster” makes waves

By Sophia Kishkovsky

Tuesday, 04 August 2009 23:00

MOSCOW (ENI) -— Comments by a senior official of the Russian Orthodox Church condemning Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, accusing him of genocide, shortly before a European security forum equated the crimes of Stalin and Hitler, have stirred heated debate in the Russian media and blogosphere.

“I think that Stalin was a spiritually-deformed monster, who created a horrific, inhuman system of ruling the country,” Archbishop Hilarion had said in a June interview with the news magazine Ekspert. “He unleashed a genocide against the people of his own country and bears personal responsibility for the death of millions of innocent people. In this respect Stalin is completely comparable to Hitler.”

Hilarion is head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, a post Patriarch Kirill I held before he was elected leader of the Russian Orthodox Church in January.

His comments came shortly before a session of the parliamentary assembly of the 56-member, Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Lithuania. At its July 3 meeting, the organization in a resolution stated that both Nazism and Stalinism “brought about genocide, violations of human rights and freedoms, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.”

The resolution called on member states to mark each August 23, the day of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which divided Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union, as “a Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism.”

The Russian foreign ministry denounced the resolution as “an attempt to distort history for political purposes.”

The Second World War is considered a sacred topic in Russia, where it is called the Great Patriotic War. In May, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the creation of a commission to fight the “falsification of history” and defend the official account of the Soviet past.

Stalin is portrayed by top officials, and also in a study guide for high school teachers approved by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin when he was president, as an effective manager, comparable to the Russian tsars or to Bismarck, who united Germany in the 19th century. Putin has also continued his efforts to unite the pre-revolutionary and Bolshevik strands of Russian history into a seamless narrative.

Shortly before Victory Day celebrations on May 9 to mark the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, Patriarch Kirill indicated an interpretation of events that might diverge with that of the Kremlin. The Soviet victory in the war was “a miracle,” Kirill said, and the suffering of the Soviet people during the war is atonement for its rejection of Christianity during the Bolshevik era after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

At the end of July, during his first official visit in Ukraine, Kirill laid a wreath at a monument to victims of a Stalin-era famine that Ukrainians regard as genocide, and which President Medvedev refused to visit in 2008. The Patriarch spoke of how his family, and the entire Soviet people, had suffered under Stalinism.

Archbishop Hilarion in his interview said that “the number of victims of Stalinist repressions is completely comparable to our losses in the Great Patriotic War.” Yet, Hilarion also warned against idealizing pre-revolutionary Russia.

“If everything had been right in the pre-revolutionary church, then there wouldn’t have been a mass retreat from it during the revolutionary and post-revolutionary period,” he said. “Maybe the revolution itself wouldn’t have happened.”

Today, said Hilarion, the situation requires a different approach to relations between Church and State.

“Of course, there were many positive things as well in the pre-revolutionary status of the Church in the State,” said the archbishop. “But under no circumstances must there be an attempt to recreate the pre-revolutionary situation. We must create a new model of Church-State relations that would exclude those negative phenomena in church and public life that led to the revolution.”


  1. cynthia curran :

    Well, I agree with that one. However, there are some historians out there that compared Byzantine emperors with Stalin. Rereading about Stalin, I think very few Byzantine emperors or Russian Czars should be compared to Stalin.

  2. George Patsourakos :

    I believe that Russian dictator Josef Stalin was a “monster” who was responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people.

    Moreover, at the end of World War II in 1945, Stalin ordered Russian troops to take control of several Eastern European countries, thus making these countries satellites of the Soviet Union. Fortunately, the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, and this resulted in freedom and independence for these countries.

  3. Chris Banescu :

    Archbishop Hilarion is right and he’s speaking with great moral authority in labeling Stalin as the monster and enemy of God, the Orthodox Church, and the people he truly was. Stalin’s unimaginable evil and hatred of the Creator, His creation, and human life should never be glossed over, minimized, or excused away, ever!

    “One has to realize what communism is,” insisted Father Seraphim Rose. “Not merely a power-mad political regime, but an ideological-religious system whose aim is to overthrow and supplant all other systems, most of all Christianity. Communism is actually a very powerful heresy whose central thesis . . . is chiliasm or millennialism: history is to reach its culmination in an indefinite state of earthly blessedness, a perfect mankind living in perfect peace and harmony.”

    “Communism specifically attacked the lands which had most nearly retained their ancient Christian traditions – Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, etc. Propaganda portrayed Bolshevism as a political/social uprising, which is what gullible individuals throughout the world still imagine it to have been. But the “revolution” was far more than this – it was actually a battle against Christianity.”

    This 92+ years battle against Christianity and humanity, started with the French Revolution, was strengthened by Marx and Engels, and had Lennin and Stalin as their main cheerleaders and perpetrators. Now these same Satanic ideas have infiltrated the mainstream and many of the same corrupt ideologies (sometimes disguised as other “movements”) are being embraced and passionately promoted by many in academia, the government, and even many of the Christian churches, including Orthodox ones too.

  4. If the current Kremlin regime completes its program of rehabilitating Stalin, it will spell disaster for the whole world. It is incumbent upon the MP and to do everything to prevent this atrocity in order to preserve its spiritual mandate. Any acquiescence imputed by silence will be an indictment against the Patriarch. God save the Russian church from subordination to a renewed antichristian imperium.

  5. George Michalopulos :

    I wholeheartedly agree. Right now, among the Orthodox patriarchs, only +Kirill has the moral authority to promote Orthodoxy. If he and the Church cannot fight this rehabilitation, then his authority will be squandered. Let us pray for +Kirill that he is able to stem this drift towards rehabilitation.

  6. If the current Kremlin regime completes its program of rehabilitating Stalin, it will spell disaster for the whole world

    Fr. John, what do you mean by “rehabilitating” Stalin? Has Stalin’s reputation previously been tarnished among the Russian people, and is it now being whitewashed, broadbushed with state heroism?

  7. cynthia curran :

    Well, I remember a work a long time ago by a Protestant called the Generation that knew not Joseph. It was talking about the evangelical left, people like Jim Wallis and Ron Sider that never dream up during Stalin. Granted, I doubt either one of them approve of Stalin. But since we are moving in a direction in the world of politcal leaders becoming more god like, for example our president, people thought he would solve all our problems. And granted, he is a lot better than Stalin. But in a country like Russia, which is more autocratic for centuries, this is more dangerious.

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