Sunday, December 27, 2015

Putin’s Man in Moscow Patriarchate Calls for Soviet-Style Censorship

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 27 – Turbulence at the top of the Russian Orthodox Church makes the views of the hierarch deemed closest to Vladimir Putin and thus a possible successor to Kirill. They are distressing and suggest that should Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov become patriarch, the church would be even more slavishly subordinate to the Kremlin than it is now.

            That and several other comments at a meeting last week of the Presidential Council on Culture was obscured by media attention to Putin’s statement that he was unaware of the case swirling around the Ukrainian library in Moscow and was opposed to the closing of that institution.

            But given that it seems likely that Putin was being disingenuous and plans to transform the library rather than close it entirely (, his remarks on this point are likely to prove less significant than those of several other participants at the meeting including Shevkunov.

            “Moskovsky komsomolets” has provided a more comprehensive description of what occurred ( The paper stressed that participants “supported the right of the state to conduct a single policy in culture and … do not have anything against the revival of censorship in its Soviet variant.”

            The meeting was called to review the year of literature just passed, but its participants quickly shifted their attention to the conflict between the culture ministry which has been unable to come up with a single culture policy and the organizations subordinate to it which do not want any such policy unless they each design it.

            The culture ministry’s failure to come up with a policy paper prompted Vladimir Tolstoy, an advisor to Putin, to say that the ministry must stop being selfish and must transfer control over the elaboration of a culture doctrine to the Presidential Administration, an implicit attack on the current controversial culture minister Vladimir Medynsky.

            Other participants like Shevkunov spoke approvingly of Soviet censorship, although he at least said it had cost Russians access to some important works. And still others at the meeting complained about the state’s failure to do more to protect historical and cultural monuments and to take care of aging artists.

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