Main Cathedral of Mutual Legitimation: The Church of the Russian Armed Forces as a Site of Making Power Meaningful
2. Theoretical and Conceptual Framework
3. Methodological Framework and Materials
4. Results and Discussion
4.1. The State in the Discourse of the Church
In that terrible and fateful time, we as a country and as a people have endured.(Kirill 2020b)
[Speaking to the military personnel] Remember the whole nation and the whole country stands behind you(Kirill 2020b)
May the Lord protect all those who, in the words of the Apostle Paul, bear the sword (Romans 13:4) and who are able to draw that sword only when danger comes to the beloved Homeland.(Kirill 2020b)
May […] the historical path of our people continue in peace and well-being. May God grant that on this path, there will be new victories, new achievements and no defeats(Kirill 2020b)
The upper church, dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ, the main Christian feast, is particularly splendid and solemn. The dedication of the church was not chosen by chance: in the feast of the Resurrection sounds the eternal joy of Christ’s victory over the devil and death, a Victory to which all soldiers who fell for a righteous cause—for the defence of the Fatherland on the battlefields—are partakers.(Patriarchia 2020)
And the duty of the Church is to pray for you [the military] [and] for the Fatherland. [In order to achieve] peace and prosperity, may the historical path of our people continue in such harmony between the Armed Forces and the spiritual forces of the Church […] a harmony between the spiritual and the material, between [what is] state (gosudarstvennogo) and [what is] ecclesial (cerkovnogo).(Kirill 2020b)
And apart from the necessary technical equipment, it is important that the spirit of our soldiers should always be invincible and strong, that the awareness of the need to lay down one’s life for the Fatherland should be present in the minds and hearts of everyone who takes the oath. Only such determination, such courage and such loyalty to the country, multiplied by contemporary technical capabilities and ultramodern powerful weapons, will guarantee the security of our country for years to come.(Kirill 2020c, emphasis added.)
The source of the spirit is God; therefore, buttressing one’s spiritual strength is primarily realised through prayer. [...] That is why we build churches in multitudes today across the face of the Russian land.(Kirill 2018, emphasis added.)
[...] for our historical development to continue, we must keep our gunpowder dry, the Armed Forces must always be at the height of their calling.(Kirill 2020b, emphases added)
The Cathedral of the Resurrection became a place of achievement [podvig] of the architects, artists and clergymen, who, risking their lives and health every day, worked under almost combat-like conditions, and fulfilled their task, demonstrating courage and desire to serve the Fatherland without sparing themselves, like our great ancestors, the warriors of Holy Rus’(Patriarchia 2020)
Today we, as one nation, remembering the exploits of our soldiers, have prayed in this church for our Fatherland, that the Lord protect our country from enemies, both external and internal. That the Lord unite our people with the strength of faith and love for the Fatherland(Kirill 2020a, emphases added).
[Y]ou [to the soldiers] are our defenders [zashhitniki]. We all know from experience what that [zashhitnik] is. A strong comrade who stopped the fist that was raised against us as children. Our parents who shielded us from doing the wrong thing. The law enforcement agencies who protect us from crime. Finally, the Armed Forces, who protect our Homeland from external enemies(Kirill 2020b).
It is remarkable that after decades of hardship and stagnation [bezvremen'e: timelessness] following the absurd atheism that has been imposed on our country, our people […] have turned [back] to faith. This majestic cathedral is one of the symbols of the historic turn of the people […] from faithlessness to faith, from a meaningless existence to a meaningful existence(Kirill 2020а, emphasis added).
I thank Sergey Kuzhugetovich cordially for this historic initiative [the Cathedral’s construction], through which the huge shift that has taken place in the consciousness, in the history, in the destiny of our people [the return to faith] is truly being realised in a visible way(Kirill 2020a).
It was with great emotion that I have consecrated this church today. It was built not far from Lubyanka, where many people, including our hierarchs, priests and laypeople, were sentenced unjustly. Often at this place, death sentences were carried out; it was a symbol of the suffering of our people(Kirill 2017, emphases added).
Today, we are living in a time of peace. This time of tranquillity is the result of both the wise foreign policy pursued by our government and the availability of formidable weapons in the hands of our Armed Forces (Kirill 2020c).
4.2. The Church in the State’s Discourse
We know how fragile civil peace is—we know this now—we must never forget this. We must never forget how hard the wounds of division [raskol] heal.And that is why our common duty is to do everything in our power to preserve the unity of the Russian nation, to maintain social and political harmony through constant dialogue and, based on our traditional values, on the values of our traditional religions—Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism—to prevent any animosity and any division (Putin 2020).
We are attending a very important and historic event in the spiritual life of Russia: today, the foundation stone of the Cathedral of the Resurrection will be laid. Dedicated to the Victory of our people in the Great Patriotic War, it will become the main church of the Armed Forces, another symbol of the inviolability of our national traditions, our loyalty to the memory of our ancestors and their accomplishments for the good of the Fatherland.(Putin 2018)
The ordeals of the wartime period showed the incredible strength and resilience of our people, [as well as] the unfading examples of courage, true patriotism and devotion to the ancestors’ command [nakaz] to preserve and defend one’s native land.(Putin 2020)
The Russian Orthodox Church here in Russia, while suffering and undergoing great losses, has always been close to the people. And the Russian Orthodox Church abroad has always helped our compatriots who found themselves far from their Homeland, not only to keep their faith, but also to feel their close connection with their Homeland, with Russia, with its traditions, with its language, with our culture (Putin 2017).
It is faith that has always driven people to make self-sacrifices for the sake of high ideals. Faith, Fatherland, honour, duty, love—these are the things for which the great [people], including Europeans (when Europe was still Christian), gave their lives and thus set an example worthy of emulation for the whole world, creating great powers and great culture.
It is impossible to imagine our country and Russian statehood itself without the spiritual and historical experience of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is passed down from generation to generation through the word of the pastor (Putin 2017).
Conflicts of Interest
For instance, the Law against propaganda promoting non-traditional family values and non-traditional sexual relations among children and under-age and the Law against offending the religious feeling of believers, both from 2013.
It is worth noting that the close collaboration between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ministry of Defence dates as far back as the Joint Declaration on Cooperation signed in 1994 (Adamsky 2019, p. 35). For a detailed overview of the Church–State partnership in the military sphere, see Dmitry Adamsky’s comprehensive book Russian Nuclear Orthodoxy Religion, Politics, and Strategy (2019).
Located in the Sretensky Monastery in central Moscow. Its chief architect, Dmitry Smirnov, was also the main figure behind the MCRAF project.
In his paper, “Structural Power: The limits of neorealist power analysis” (1993), Stefano Guzzini uses the term “governance”. I prefer the concept of “structural power”, because it preserves the coherence of my conceptual framework.
“Hegemony is an operation that universalises a particular, contingent representation of the reality: an order established by an act of power comes to be accepted as true and natural by most members of the community.” (Morozov 2021, p. 8)
“[B]odies of theoretical tradition that integrate different provinces of meaning and encompass the institutional order in a symbolic totality.” (Berger and Luckmann 1967, p. 113)
“In any given culture and at any given moment, there is always only one episteme that defines the conditions of possibility of all knowledge, whether expressed in a theory or silently invested in a practice.” (Foucault 2002, p. 183)
“[D]oxa refers to pre-reflexive, shared but unquestioned opinions and perceptions […], which determine ‘natural’ practice and attitudes”. (Grenfell 2014, p. 115) “Habitus, to put it simply, are these practices and attitudes constructed by the doxa“ (Schaffer 2004, p. 113). For a good review of Bourdieu’s key concepts, see Grenfell (2014).
“… universally recognized scientific achievements that, for a time, provide model problems and solutions” (Kuhn 2012, p. xlii)
I employ Gilley’s (2009, p. 8) definition of State: “The state can be defined as the basic institutional and ideological structures that maintain dominance over the use of coercive force in a given territory. The former cover the organizations, agencies, departments, customs, norms, laws, electoral and legislative systems, public policies, and processes of a political community, as well as the particular holders of state power (‘the government’).”
All translations are mine.
The exact wording of Hebrews 11:33–34 is “through faith conquered kingdoms” (“veroyu pobezhdali carstva”) and “routed foreign armies” (“progonyali polki chuzhix”) (ENG, RU)
As in the following example: “A very important idea was present—the protection of the Christian minority [in the Middle East]. Back in 2013, when the heads of the Local Orthodox Churches came to Moscow to celebrate the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia, when they met with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, one of the strongest messages was precisely to request that Russia take part in protecting Christians in the Middle East. And I am happy that this has happened. Russia's involvement has prevented a genocide of Christians.” Patriarch Kirill 2018, http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5095439.html
Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodsky also performed this operation in 1941: “The Church of Christ blesses all Orthodox Christians to defend the sacred borders of our Homeland”. These words were inscribed on the north gates of MCRAF (Patriarchia 2020), which testifies to the interdiscursivity and continuity in the Church representations of the State in different periods.
Fundamentál'naja jelektrónnaja bibliotéka «Rússkaja literatúra i fol'klór», http://feb-web.ru/feb/ushakov/ush-abc/03/us132007.htm?cmd=0&istext=1
To continue the economic metaphor, instead of Orthodox monopoly, in Russia, there is a state-sanctioned religious cartel formed by the ROC and the other “traditional religions”.
V hrame Hrista Spasitelja sostojalos' podpisanie Akta o kanonicheskom obshhenii v edinoj Pomestnoj Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Cerkvi http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/242888.html
Although Narochnitskaya herself is currently not in a position of significant formal authority and is perhaps not among the most representative members of the Russian political mainstream, her statement published by the official Zvezda TV is certainly a paradigmatic example of how the political elite in Russia thinks of faith and Church in relation to politics.
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Kolov, B. Main Cathedral of Mutual Legitimation: The Church of the Russian Armed Forces as a Site of Making Power Meaningful. Religions 2021, 12, 925. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110925
Kolov B. Main Cathedral of Mutual Legitimation: The Church of the Russian Armed Forces as a Site of Making Power Meaningful. Religions. 2021; 12(11):925. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110925Chicago/Turabian Style
Kolov, Bojidar. 2021. "Main Cathedral of Mutual Legitimation: The Church of the Russian Armed Forces as a Site of Making Power Meaningful" Religions 12, no. 11: 925. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110925