Archives‎ > ‎

Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, collection from Peter Myers

(1) The Economist magazine seeks to bring Putin down, likening him to Tsar on eve of Revolution(2) Rasputin was murdered by MI6, for advising Tsar to make a separate peace with Germany(3) Putin and the monk: Putin has his own Rasputin, Father Tikhon Shevkunov - Financial Times(4) The Unthinkable Has Finally Happened: Russia and America Have Traded Places(5) New York Times interview with Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov)(6) Everyday Saints, by Archimandrite Tikhon(7) Everyday Saints, reviewed by Antonio Mennini(8) Everyday Saints, reviewed by Wesley J. Smith(1) The Economist magazine seeks to bring Putin down, likening him to Tsar on eve of Revolution Tsar Vladimir: Vladimir Putin wants to forget the revolutionBut ignoring its lessons is dangerous for RussiaThe EconomistOct 26th 2017IN 1912 a group of Russian avant-garde poets, calling themselves futurists, published an almanac entitled "A Slap in the Face of Public Taste". On its last page Velimir Khlebnikov, one of the authors, listed dates for the collapse of the great empires. The last line read: "Nekto [someone or somewhere], 1917". "Do you believe that our empire will be destroyed in 1917?" asked Viktor Shklovsky, a literary critic, when he met Khlebnikov at a reading. Khlebnikov replied: "You are the first to understand me.""Nekto 1917" is the title of the main display at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution. It is one of the few public exhibitions in Russia about the two revolutions in 1917: the first in February, which overthrew the imperial government, and the second in October, which swept the Bolsheviks to power.Central Moscow’s prosperity bears few traces of those violent events. An exit from the metro station in Revolutionary Square leads to a street lined with designer shops such as Tom Ford and Giorgio Armani. In nearby Red Square tourists and rich Russians sip $10 cappuccinos and gaze at the mausoleum shrouding the embalmed body of Lenin. It is almost as though the events of 100 years ago no longer matter.In fact, over the past few years, they have taken on a new urgency. The Kremlin’s habitual use of history as a resource for shaping the present makes its reticence about the 1917 revolution all the more conspicuous. Its wariness is not a sign of historical distance, but of the potency of the revolution. It is today’s predicaments that make history relevant. Official silence about the revolution speaks volumes about the fears and discomforts of Russia’s elite today and about the hold on power of their president, Vladimir Putin.Remember the revolutionThat is why, despite being banished almost entirely from public spaces and official narratives, the centenary of the revolution nonetheless makes itself present in other ways throughout political life. On October 7th, Mr Putin’s 65th birthday, supporters of Alexei Navalny, the country’s leading opposition figure, marched in Mr Putin’s home city of St Petersburg, the cradle of the revolution. Invoking their president, the protesters chanted: "Down with the tsar!"Russia today is hardly on the verge of a revolution. It is not involved in a ruinous war, as it was in 1917, and lacks the pent-up energy of that time. Its elites are more consolidated around Mr Putin than they were around Nicholas II—at least for now.Yet the outward calm is deceptive. The kind of rule Mr Putin has gradually fashioned over his years in power has more in common with a tsar than with a Soviet politburo chief, let alone a democratically elected leader. The elites lack a legitimacy of their own and make no long-term plans. Everyone knows how easily tensions can flare up. Pollsters are registering a rise in social tension.In the minds of Russia’s elites, revolution is mainly associated with the recent uprising in Ukraine. But perhaps another reason Mr Putin is so reluctant to recall the overthrow of the ancien régime is because he has modelled himself on its rulers. Instead the Kremlin is said to be preparing a display of mourning for the execution of the last tsar.Mr Putin’s emergence as a 21st-century tsar is not as odd as it seems. Andrei Zorin, a historian at Oxford University, points out that the legitimacy of the tsar lies not (or, at least, not entirely) in the bloodline or the throne itself, but in the person who occupies the role and his ability to turn defeat into victory.The event that gave Mr Putin’s legitimacy was the war in Chechnya in 1999. After the bombing of apartment blocks in Moscow and other cities, blamed on Chechen rebels, people latched onto him, then prime minister and Boris Yeltsin’s anointed successor, as their saviour. The day he appeared at the site of the bombing in Moscow, the public first registered and recognised him as their leader.Like any tsar, Mr Putin has presented himself as a gatherer of Russian lands and the man who came to consolidate and save Russia from disintegration after a period of chaos and disorder. To create this image, he portrayed the 1990s not as a period of transition towards Western-style democracy and free markets, but as a modern instance of the Times of Troubles—a period of uprisings, invasions and famine in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, between the death of the last Rurikid tsar and the consolidation of the Romanovs.In a manifesto entitled "Russia on the Threshold of the New Millennium", published on December 29th 1999, two days before Mr Yeltsin handed him the reins of power, Mr Putin proclaimed the supremacy of gosudarstvo. Formally translated as "state", the word derives from gosudar, an old word which signifies a monarch or master. A modern state is a set of laws and formal rules. Gosudarstvo is an extension of the tsar as the ultimate source of order and authority.Mr Putin’s former KGB colleagues swore their allegiance to him as though he were the tsar. In 2001 Nikolai Patrushev, then head of the FSB, the KGB’s successor, described his servicemen as a new aristocracy and men of the gosudar. In the years that followed, they promoted a class system bound by intermarriages, god-parentage and family ties. Many top managers in Russia’s state-owned firms in the oil and gas and banking industries are the children of Mr Putin’s close friends and former KGB colleagues. They perceived their sudden enrichment not as corruption but as an entitlement and a reward for loyal service.Tsar qualityBut the most important source of legitimacy for this neo-tsar was the display of "unity with his people". Every year since 2001 Mr Putin has appeared before the nation, miraculously restoring people’s fortunes and disbursing favours over the heads of his bureaucrats. He established a direct line to the Russian people, using state television stations to project his message. In keeping with the tradition of Russian monarchs, he presented himself not as a politician driven by ambition but as a "galley slave" to his people. He rarely appeared with or talked about his wife. A tsar, says Mr Zorin, is wedded to the Russian people and nobody can stand between them.This direct mandate allowed him to consolidate power, emasculating alternative political and economic forces, including oligarchs, the media, regional governors and political parties. Those who refused to submit to his authority were banished or jailed. Whatever the formal reasons for sending Mikhail Khodorkovsky to a Siberian jail, most Russians believed that he fell foul of Mr Putin and deserved his personal wrath. Few questioned the prerogative of the tsar to banish a rebellious underling.In Mr Putin’s system the oligarchs prosper at the ruler’s pleasure. Equally, the only source of legitimacy for regional bosses is not the electoral will of the people but his appointment or approval.Mr Putin justified the Kremlin’s monopoly over politics and the commanding heights of the economy by evoking the symbols of tsarist rule and appealing to cultural stereotypes says Lev Gudkov, a Russian sociologist. The beginning of his second term in 2004 was marked by an inauguration which closely resembled a coronation. Konstantin Ernst, head of Channel One, the main state television station, created a royal setting. All Mr Putin had to do was to walk into it."It was like sticking a head into a cut-out of a tsar," says Mr Gudkov. The Kremlin guards were dressed in tsarist-era uniforms. Their horses were borrowed from a film studio, having appeared in a scene about the coronation of Alexander III. Mr Putin walked down to the Kremlin cathedrals to the sound of Mikhail Glinka’s "Glory to the Tsar" and was blessed by the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church.The legitimacy of a tsar, however, requires continual reaffirmation. Russian rulers, including Ivan the Terrible, have sometimes tested their authenticity by temporarily placing a fake tsar on the throne. Mr Putin repeated the experiment in 2008 when he withdrew from the presidency, putting a younger and doggedly loyal lawyer, Dmitry Medvedev, in his place. All the while, however, real power remained in the hands of Mr Putin, who assumed the job of prime minister. In 2012 Mr Putin came back to his throne.That year sliding ratings, and protests in Moscow and several other large cities, forced him to reaffirm his status by traditional means—and he saw his chance by expanding Russia’s territory during the protests in Ukraine in 2013 (see chart 1). Just as war in Chechnya helped create him, so conquest in Crimea pushed his ratings up to 86%, giving him an almost mystical aura.Understandably, revolutions make tsars uncomfortable. At the end of 2004, just as Ukraine’s Orange revolution began, Mr Putin expunged the celebration of the Bolshevik revolution from the Russian calendar, replacing it with a somewhat spurious anniversary: the chasing of the Poles out of Moscow during the Times of Troubles. While Yeltsin rejected the revolution because it was the foundation myth of the Communist regime which he had defeated, Mr Putin turned against it because it separated two periods of what he saw as a continuous Russian empire. He wanted to paper over a dramatic breaking point in the long line of Russian rulers that led ultimately to his own reign.Empire buildingYet the past is not so easy to tame. The centenary of the October revolution dramatises today’s challenges. Dominic Lieven, a British historian, writes that Russia faced a crisis as it entered the 20th century. Its main element was the alienation of the urban educated class from a state which refused to grant it political representation. Convinced that only an autocracy could hold the empire together, Nicholas II tried to rule a growing and increasingly sophisticated society as though he were an 18th-century absolute monarch.Economically, the country prospered. By 1914 it was one of the largest and fastest-growing economies in the world, accounting for 5.3% of global industrial production—more than Germany. It ranked between Spain and Italy in GDP per person. It produced Malevich and Kandinsky, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov. Politically, however, it remained backward.Even after Nicholas II was forced to grant a constitution in 1905, right up until the first world war, Mr Lieven writes, Russian politics boiled down to the question of whether to move down what was seen as the Western path of political development towards civil rights and representative government. Liberal advisers told Nicholas II that unless Russia’s political system were reformed, the regime would not be able to ensure the allegiance of modern educated Russians, and would therefore be doomed. His reactionary ministers retorted that any version of a liberal democratic order would inevitably bring on social revolution.Russia’s elite is immersed in discussions about the lessons of the Bolshevik revolution. Nationalists and some of the clergy, including Mr Putin’s confessor, Father Tikhon Shevkunov, claim that the Bolshevik revolution was brought about by a Western-sponsored intelligentsia, who betrayed their tsar. The opposite camp blames the stupidity of Nicholas II and the corruption of his court, which fed the sense of popular injustice.The debate is as much about the present as it is about the past. The economic growth of the 2000s (see chart 2) has also produced a thriving urban middle class that is alienated from the Kremlin. The challenge of transforming Russia into a modern state is as acute today as it was 100 years ago. The issues of legitimacy and succession of power are once again central to Russian politics.Might, not rightMr Putin’s rule is an example of what Douglass North, an economist, called "a limited-access order". This is a state where economic and political resources are made available not by the rule of law but by privileges granted from above. Politically, it rests on a system that predates and survives the Soviet period. As Henry Hale, an American political scientist, explains in a recent article, these informal networks and personal connections take precedence over formal rules and institutions. In the 1990s these networks jostled for influence; in the 2000s they were integrated into a single pyramid with Mr Putin at the top as the chief patron.The weakness of property rights and the rule of law are not accidental shortcomings, but necessary elements of this personalised system. The legitimacy of ownership or office can be provided only by the patron. The patron-client relationship cannot be imposed on a society, but requires its consent, which in turn depends on the popularity of the chief patron. Kirill Rogov, a political analyst, argues that Mr Putin appears both as a defender of his people against a greedy and predatory elite, and the defender of the elite against a possible popular uprising.Mr Putin’s legitimacy does not extend to his government, which is seen by 80% of the population as corrupt and self-serving. Legitimacy cannot be passed from the tsar to the next generation. That makes the question of succession the most crucial one for Russia’s future, and the one that weighs most heavily on the minds of the elite. As Fiona Hill, senior director at the National Security Council, said in a recent essay written before she joined the NSC, "The increased preponderance of power in the Kremlin has created greater risk for the Russian political system now than at any other juncture in recent history."There is little doubt that Mr Putin will be reaffirmed as Russia’s president after the election next spring. But his victory will only intensify the talk of what comes afterwards. The point of the election is not to provide an alternative to Mr Putin, but to prove that there is none. And yet it is not just a formality. Although the tsar is not accountable to any institution, he is sensitive to public opinion and ratings. These are closely watched by opportunistic elites.It is this weakness that Mr Navalny, Mr Putin’s main challenger, is trying to exploit. He brought young people onto the streets this summer and has been campaigning ever since despite the Kremlin barring him from standing in elections on the grounds of a criminal conviction it had engineered.Mr Navalny is not seeking to beat Mr Putin—for that he would need a fair election. He wants to deprive him of "miracle, mystery and authority". The Grand Inquisitor in "The Brothers Karamazov", Fyodor Dostoevsky’s masterpiece, identified these as "the three powers, three unique forces upon earth, capable of conquering forever by charming the conscience of these weak rebels—men—for their own good."Mr Navalny first pierced Mr Putin’s aura in 2012 by branding his ruling United Russia party a collection of "crooks and thieves". That description spread through the country, causing more damage to the Kremlin than actual revelations of corruption. Although Mr Navalny faces real physical threats, he shuns the image of a revolutionary, a crusader or a martyr, which only elevates the tsar; instead, he seeks to bring Mr Putin down to his level by portraying himself as a professional politician doing his job.When will Russia see the back of Mr Putin?Recently he described Mr Putin not as a despot or tyrant, but as a turnip. "Putin’s notorious rating of 86% exists in a political vacuum," he wrote in a blog. "If the only thing you have been fed all your life is turnip, you are likely to rate it as highly edible. We come to this vacuum with an obvious [message]: There are better things than turnips." Laughter and mockery can erode legitimacy far more than any revelations.What Mr Navalny offers is not just a change of personality at the top of the Kremlin, but a fundamentally different political order—a modern state. His American-style campaign, which includes frequent mentions of his family, breaks the cultural code which Mr Putin has evoked. His purpose, he says, is to alleviate the syndrome of "learned helplessness" and an entrenched belief that nothing can change.Reordering RussiaThe longer Mr Putin stays in power, the more likely his rule is to be followed by chaos, weakness and conflict. Even his supporters expect as much. Alexander Dugin, a nationalist ideologist, says Russia is entering a time of troubles. "Putin works for the present. He has no key to the future," he says. While nobody knows what will follow, few people in Russia’s elite expect the succession to happen constitutionally or peacefully.Writing in 1912, Russian artists could not imagine that Nekto 1917 would turn into a Bolshevik revolution. The Bolsheviks were a mere 10,000 people, and even in 1917 nobody could believe they would seize power, let alone hold on to it. Yet everyone sensed a crisis and corrosion at the heart of the Russian court. In February 1917, five days before the abdication of the tsar, Alexander Benois, a noted artist, wrote: "It seems everything may still blow over. On the other hand, it is obvious that the abscess has ripened and must burst…What bastards, or to be more precise, what idiots are those who brought the country and the monarchy to this crisis."This article appeared in the Briefing section of the print edition under the headline "Enter Tsar Vladimir"(2) Rasputin was murdered by MI6, for advising Tsar to make a separate peace with Germany Rasputin murdered by MI6?John SimkinSpartacus Blog, Monday, 24th February, 2014  (updated December 2014).In September, 1915, Tsar Nicholas II assumed supreme command of the Russian Army fighting on the Eastern Front in the First World War. As he spent most of his time at GHQ, Alexandra Fedorovna now took responsibility for domestic policy. Gregory Rasputin served as her adviser and over the next few months she dismissed ministers and their deputies in rapid succession. Alexander Kerensky complained that: "The Tsarina's blind faith in Rasputin led her to seek his counsel not only in personal matters but also on questions of state policy. General Alekseyev, held in high esteem by Nicholas II, tried to talk to the Tsarina about Rasputin, but only succeeded in making an implacable enemy of her. General Alexseyev told me later about his profound concern on learning that a secret map of military operations had found its way into the Tsarina's hands. But like many others, he was powerless to take any action."Rumours began to circulate that Rasputin and Alexandra were leaders of a pro-German court group and were seeking a separate peace with the Central Powers in order to help the survival of the autocracy in Russia. Michael Rodzianko, the President of the Duma, told Nicholas II: "I must tell Your Majesty that this cannot continue much longer. No one opens your eyes to the true role which this man (Rasputin) is playing. His presence in Your Majesty's Court undermines confidence in the Supreme Power and may have an evil effect on the fate of the dynasty and turn the hearts of the people from their Emperor".These rumours were picked up by MI6 agents based in Russia. John Scale, a British agent working in Petrograd recorded: "German intrigue was becoming more intense daily. Enemy agents were busy whispering of peace and hinting how to get it by creating disorder, rioting, etc. Things looked very black. Romania was collapsing, and Russia herself seemed weakening. The failure in communications, the shortness of foods, the sinister influence which seemed to be clogging the war machine, Rasputin the drunken debaucher influencing Russia's policy, what was to the be the end of it all?"Recently released files show that Samuel Hoare, the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service in Petrograd, sent a message to Mansfield Smith-Cumming, the head of MI6. Hoare said he believed that Rasputin was sabotaging the Russian war effort and if he was murdered "the country would be freed from the sinister influence that was striking down its natural leaders and endangering the success of its armies in the field." The fear was that Rasputin's influence would eventually persuade Tsar Nicholas II to negotiate a separate peace with Germany. This would have created serious military problems for British troops fighting in Europe.Michael Smith, the author of Six: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (2010), has argued that MI6 officers in Russia were ordered to arrange the assassination of Rasputin. Richard Cullen, the author of Rasputin: The Role of Britain's Secret Service in his Torture and Murder (2010), claims that agents Oswald Rayner, John Scale and Stephen Alley were involved in the plot. These agents then made contact with a group led by Prince Felix Yusupov and Vladimir Purishkevich, the leader of the monarchists in the Duma. Other members of the group included Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert and Lieutenant Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin, an officer in the Preobrazhensky Regiment.Yusupov later admitted in Lost Splendor (1953) that on 29th December, 1916, Rasputin was invited to his home: "The bell rang, announcing the arrival of Dmitrii Pavlovich Romanov and my other friends. I showed them into the dining room and they stood for a little while, silently examining the spot where Rasputin was to meet his end. I took from the ebony cabinet a box containing the poison and laid it on the table. Dr Lazovert put on rubber gloves and ground the cyanide of potassium crystals to powder. Then, lifting the top of each cake, he sprinkled the inside with a dose of poison, which, according to him, was sufficient to kill several men instantly. There was an impressive silence. We all followed the doctor's movements with emotion. There remained the glasses into which cyanide was to be poured. It was decided to do this at the last moment so that the poison should not evaporate and lose its potency. We had to give the impression of having just finished supper for I had warned Rasputin that when we had guests we took our meals in the basement and that I sometimes stayed there alone to read or work while my friends went upstairs to smoke in my study."Vladimir Purishkevich supported this story in his book, The Murder of Rusputin (1918): "We sat down at the round tea table and Yusupov invited us to drink a glass of tea and to try the cakes before they had been doctored. The quarter of an hour which we spent at the table seemed like an eternity to me.... Once we finished our tea, we tried to give the table the appearance of having been suddenly left by a large group frightened by the arrival of an unexpected guest. We poured a little tea into each of the cups, left bits of cake and pirozhki on the plates, and scattered some crumbs among several of the crumpled table napkins.... Once we had given the table the necessary appearance, we got to work on the two plates of petits fours. Yusupov gave Dr Lazovert several pieces of the potassium cyanide and he put on the gloves which Yusupov had procured and began to grate poison into a plate with a knife. Then picking out all the cakes with pink cream (there were only two varieties, pink and chocolate), he lifted off the top halves and put a good quantity of poison in each one, and then replaced the tops to make them look right. When the pink cakes were ready, we placed them on the plates with the brown chocolate ones. Then, we cut up two of the pink ones and, making them look as if they had been bitten into, we put these on different plates around the table."Felix Yusupov added: "It was agreed that when I went to fetch Rasputin, Dmitrii, Purishkevich and Sukhotin would go upstairs and play the gramophone, choosing lively tunes. I wanted to keep Rasputin in a good humour and remove any distrust that might be lurking in his mind." Stanislaus de Lazovert now went to fetch Rasputin in the car. "At midnight the associates of the Prince concealed themselves while I entered the car and drove to the home of the monk. He admitted me in person. Rasputin was in a gay mood. We drove rapidly to the home of the Prince and descended to the library, lighted only by a blazing log in the huge chimney-place. A small table was spread with cakes and rare wines - three kinds of the wine were poisoned and so were the cakes. The monk threw himself into a chair, his humour expanding with the warmth of the room. He told of his successes, his plots, of the imminent success of the German arms and that the Kaiser would soon be seen in Petrograd. At a proper moment he was offered the wine and the cakes. He drank the wine and devoured the cakes. Hours slipped by, but there was no sign that the poison had taken effect. The monk was even merrier than before. We were seized with an insane dread that this man was inviolable, that he was superhuman, that he couldn't be killed. It was a frightful sensation. He glared at us with his black, black eyes as though he read our minds and would fool us."Vladimir Purishkevich later recalled that Felix Yusupov joined them upstairs and exclaimed: "It is impossible. Just imagine, he drank two glasses filled with poison, ate several pink cakes and, as you can see, nothing has happened, absolutely nothing, and that was at least fifteen minutes ago! I cannot think what we can do... He is now sitting gloomily on the divan and the only effect that I can see of the poison is that he is constantly belching and that he dribbles a bit. Gentlemen, what do you advise that I do?" Eventually it was decided that Yusupov should go down and shoot Rasputin.According to Yusupov's account: "Rasputin stood before me motionless, his head bent and his eyes on the crucifix. I slowly raised the crucifix. I slowly raised the revolver. Where should I aim, at the temple or at the heart? A shudder swept over me; my arm grew rigid, I aimed at his heart and pulled the trigger. Rasputin gave a wild scream and crumpled up on the bearskin. For a moment I was appalled to discover how easy it was to kill a man. A flick of a finger and what had been a living, breathing man only a second before, now lay on the floor like a broken doll."Stanislaus de Lazovert agrees with this account except that he was uncertain who fired the shot: "With a frightful scream Rasputin whirled and fell, face down, on the floor. The others came bounding over to him and stood over his prostrate, writhing body. We left the room to let him die alone, and to plan for his removal and obliteration. Suddenly we heard a strange and unearthly sound behind the huge door that led into the library. The door was slowly pushed open, and there was Rasputin on his hands and knees, the bloody froth gushing from his mouth, his terrible eyes bulging from their sockets. With an amazing strength he sprang toward the door that led into the gardens, wrenched it open and passed out." Lazovert added that it was Vladimir Purishkevich who fired the next shot: "As he seemed to be disappearing in the darkness, Purishkevich, who had been standing by, reached over and picked up an American-made automatic revolver and fired two shots swiftly into his retreating figure. We heard him fall with a groan, and later when we approached the body he was very still and cold and - dead."Felix Yusupov later recalled: "On hearing the shot my friends rushed in. Rasputin lay on his back. His features twitched in nervous spasms; his hands were clenched, his eyes closed. A bloodstain was spreading on his silk blouse. A few minutes later all movement ceased. We bent over his body to examine it. The doctor declared that the bullet had struck him in the region of the heart. There was no possibility of doubt: Rasputin was dead. We turned off the light and went up to my room, after locking the basement door."The Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov drove the men to Varshavsky Rail Terminal where they burned Rasputin's clothes. "It was very late and the grand duke evidently feared that great speed would attract the suspicion of the police." They also collected weights and chains and returned to Yuspov's home. At 4.50 a.m. Dimitri drove the men and Rasputin's body to Petrovskii Bridge. that crossed towards Krestovsky Island. According to Vladimir Purishkevich: "We dragged Rasputin's corpse into the grand duke's car." Purishkevich claimed he drove very slowly: "It was very late and the grand duke evidently feared that great speed would attract the suspicion of the police." Stanislaus de Lazovert takes up the story when they arrived at Petrovskii: "We bundled him up in a sheet and carried him to the river's edge. Ice had formed, but we broke it and threw him in. The next day search was made for Rasputin, but no trace was found."Rasputin's body was found on 19th December by a river policeman who was walking on the ice. He noticed a fur coat trapped beneath, approximately 65 metres from the bridge. The ice was cut open and Rasputin's frozen body discovered. The post mortem was held the following day. Major-General Popel carried out the investigation of the murder. By this time Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert and Lieutenant Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin had fled from the city. He did interview Felix Yusupov, Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov and Vladimir Purishkevich, but he decided not to charge them with murder.Tsar Nicholas II did not believe the original story and suggested to the British ambassador, George Buchanan, that MI6 agents were involved in the plot to kill Gregory Rasputin. Buchanan called Samuel Hoare in to tell him of the accusations. Hoare reacted angrily and described the story as "incredible to the point of childishness". Richard Cullen, who has examined the released MI6 files, argues in Rasputin (2010), that the assassination of Rasputin had been organised by three MI6 agents, John Scale, Oswald Rayner and Stephen Alley: "Rasputin's death was calculated, brutal, violent and slow and it was orchestrated by John Scale, Stephen Alley and Oswald Rayner through the close personal relationship that existed between Rayner and Yusupov."Cullen points out that Scale left Russia just before the assassination: "Given the clear and supportable assertions that he (Scale) was involved in the plot to kill Rasputin, was this the reason for his absence from Petrograd?" The files show that on 7th January 1917, Alley wrote to Scale in Romania: "Although matters have not proceeded entirely to plan, our objective has clearly been achieved. Reaction to the demise of Dark Forces (a codename for Rasputin) has been well received by all, although a few awkward questions have already been asked about wider involvement. Rayner is attending to loose ends and will no doubt brief you on your return."Giles Milton, the author of Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot (2013), is the latest to write about the possible involvement of MI6 in the assassination of Rasputin. Milton argues that the cover-up would have been successful but for one serious mistake made when the plotters were disposing of the body: "Yusupov and his friends had assumed that the corpse would sink beneath the ice and be flushed out into the Gulf of Finland. There, trapped under the ice for the rest of the winter, it would be lost forever. What they had never expected was that Rasputin's corpse would be found and plucked from the icy waters. Rasputin's corpse was spotted in the Neva River on the second full day after his death. A river policeman noticed a fur coat lodged beneath the ice and ordered the frozen crust to be broken. The body was carefully prised from its icy sepulchre and taken to the mortuary room of Chesmenskii Hospice. Here, an autopsy was undertaken by Professor Dmitrii Kosorotov."Milton goes on to point out Professor Kosorotov autopsy report suggests that "Yusupov's melodramatic account of the murder was nothing more than fantasy. Yet it was fantasy with a purpose. It was imperative for Yusupov to depict Rasputin as a demonic, superhuman figure whose malign hold over the Tsarina was proving disastrous for Russia. The only way he could escape punishment for the murder was to present himself as the saviour of Russia: the man who had rid the country of an evil force. The story of the poisoned cakes was almost certainly an invention." The postmortem included an examination of the contents of Rasputin's stomach and Kosorotov insisted that it "reveals no trace of poison."Professor Kosorotov also examined the three bullet wounds in Rasputin's body. "The first has penetrated the left side of the chest and has gone through the stomach and liver. The second has entered into the right side of the back and gone through the kidney." Both of these would have inflicted terrible wounds. But the third bullet was the fatal shot. "It hit the victim on the forehead and penetrated into his brain." Kosorotov noted the bullet wounds revealed that they "came from different calibre revolvers."Giles Milton has made a study of the bullet wounds: "On the night of the murder, Yusupov was in possession of Grand Duke Dmitrii's Browning, while Purishkevich had a Sauvage. Either of these weapons could have caused the wounds to Rasputin's liver and kidney. But the fatal gunshot wound to Rasputin's head was not caused by an automatic weapon: it could only have come from a revolver. Forensic scientists and ballistic experts agree that the grazing around the wound was consistent with that which is left by a lead, non-jacketed bullet fired at point-blank range. They also agree that the gun was almost certainly a British-made .455 Webley revolver. This was the favourite gun of Oswald Rayner, a close friend of Yusupov since the days when they had both studied at Oxford University."In 1927 Oswald Rayner helped Prince Felix Yusupov with writing his account of the killing of Rasputin. Rayner died in 1961. After his death friends claimed Rayner told them he was with Yusupov when Rasputin was killed. The evidence suggests he was not only at the scene of the crime, he fired the fatal shot.(3) Putin and the monk: Putin has his own Rasputin, Father Tikhon Shevkunov - Financial Times 25, 2013 - How much influence does Father Tikhon Shevkunov have over the Russian president?’s RasputinEamonn FitzgeraldTuesday, 4 March, 2014    At the end of January last year, Charles Clover, then Moscow bureau chief of the Financial Times, asked "How much influence does Father Tikhon Shevkunov have over the Russian president?" The question was posed in a lengthy portrait titled "Putin and the monk". Snippet:Father Tikhon Shevkunov"Father Tikhon wields influence in the church far above his modest rank of Archimandrite, or abbot, due primarily to his contacts in the Kremlin. The story that travels with him, which he will neither confirm nor deny, is that he is the confessor to Vladimir Putin. The only details he gives is that Putin, sometime before he became president at the end of 1999 (most likely while he was head of Russia’s FSB security service from 1998 to 1999) appeared at the doors of the monastery one day. Since then, the two men have maintained a very public association, with Tikhon accompanying Putin on foreign and domestic trips, dealing with ecclesiastical problems. But according to persistent rumour, Tikhon ushered the former KGB colonel into the Orthodox faith and became his dukhovnik, or godfather."Father Tikhon’s other claim to fame, as Charles Clover points out, is a film entitled Gibel Imperii (The Fall of the Empire), which he produced, and in which he argued that the Byzantine Empire fell, not as the result of assaults by the Ottoman Turks, but because its rulers and elites unwisely copied Western social, economic and political models. Worse, the West, especially Venice, supported separatist movements and central government in Byzantium was weakened. Worse again, young scholars went to the West to study and came back with outlandish notions such as individualism, free enterprise and common markets. Thus, was corrupted the soul of the East to the point where its merchants were ruined and the Empire fell.Gibel Imperii was ridiculed by historians as a crude attempt to fabricate history and create false parallels with Putin’s imperial Russia. The faithful didn’t care, however. Father Tikhon is now the ex-colonel’s dukhovnik and there can be no doubt about what he’s been whispering in his master’s ear.(4) The Unthinkable Has Finally Happened: Russia and America Have Traded Places PerloffNote: This article is being published during the final month of Barack Obama’s administration; the impact of a Trump Presidency remains to be seen.In 1985, I began my journalistic career writing for The New American magazine, house organ of The John Birch Society. (I am not a spokesperson for either entity, so my remarks here are my own.) The magazine was, and still is, a defender of the U.S. Constitution, an opponent of globalism, and a critic of the Federal Reserve and Council on Foreign Relations. In the pre-Internet era, it was one of those few journals to use the word "conspiracy" in connection with the U.S. government.If anyone doubts this, check this 1983 clip of Georgia Congressman Lawrence McDonald, who had recently become the Birch Society’s chairman, as he fends off "conspiracy" ridicule by Tom Braden (CIA/CFR) on Crossfire, co-hosted by Pat Buchanan: {video}Dr. McDonald, of course, was lost later that year in the still-controversial Soviet shoot-down of Korean Airlines Flight 007.Indeed, both the Birch Society and the magazine were perhaps best known as opponents of communism. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and communism were correctly viewed as a police-state institutions birthed with the Bolshevik Revolution. They were the builders of gulags and the Berlin Wall, suppressors of freedom of speech and religion, the architects of Ukraine’s Holodomor, crushers of the 1956 Hungarian revolt. Even The Black Book of Communism, published by the very liberal Harvard University Press, put the number of people murdered by the communists at about 100 million worldwide1, although other sources put it much higher. And we perceived our America, with its Bill of Rights and middle-class prosperity, as the world’s beacon of freedom.When Mikail Gorbachev came to power in 1985 and subsequently introduced glasnost, we at the magazine viewed it with due skepticism. To us, it was just another Soviet ruse, temporary liberalization intended to deceive the West into disarming. Indeed, that was precisely the view which KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn had expressed in his 1984 book New Lies for Old, which foretold communism’s future with astonishing accuracy—everything from the rise of a Gorbachev-like leader to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.Giving further credence to Golitsyn’s work: its being totally disregarded by mainstream media (although his defection had inspired the opening scenes of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1969 film Topaz).Golitsyn predicted that, in the end, communism would vigorously return, and that "all the totalitarian features familiar from the early stages of the Soviet revolution and the postwar Stalinist years in Eastern Europe might be expected to reappear."2For a long time, I awaited that rebirth of Russian communism. I initially viewed Vladimir Putin with strong suspicion. The persistent question on my mind has been: "Is he the real deal?" Many of us in alternative media have become cynical to the point of believing that no major world leader can ever emerge without being a lackey for the Rothschild-run New World Order.Instead, a very different scenario has unfolded. It is the United States that is descending into communism (via creeping socialism), the police state (via the Patriot Act, NSA spying, etc.), and anti-Christianity, as nativity scenes are prohibited at Christmas, gay marriage and transgenderism carry the force of law, and the entertainment industry has gone full Lucifer.{photo} Madonna as Baphomet at the 2012 Superbowl halftime show.{end}{photo} Lucifer now enjoys his own TV show on Fox.{end}Over five years ago, the popular YouTuber Brother Nathanael, a Jewish convert to Orthodox Christianity, summarized the distinctions between Obama and Putin, and the different paths their nations were taking: {video}Unlike so many U.S. officials who, indoctrinated by the Council on Foreign Relations, place global interests above America’s, Putin is a nationalist who looks out for his own citizens. While America continually adds trillions to its staggering debt, Putin has actively worked to eliminate debt; he paid off all his country owed to the IMF and Rothschild creditors from the Yeltsin years.3 Putin has signed into law a ban on ads for abortions, while calls for ending abortion altogether in Russia grow. Whereas Russia has prohibited genetically modified foods (GMOs), the United States even outlaws GMO labeling requirements, preventing our people from knowing what they’re eating. Among the Russian people, Putin enjoys unsurpassed popularity.Putin also makes refreshing sense in his foreign policy. Since the Zionist-perpetrated 9/11, America has become the world’s bully, destabilizing nation after nation in the Middle East, in wars that were already planned in 2001, for the sake of creating the Luciferian Greater Israel. Those wars have in turn sent millions of refugees into Europe, ensnarling that continent in chaos. After the brutal deaths of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, the Zionists next envisioned Bashar al-Assad’s bloody body being dragged through the streets of Damascus, and so the U.S.-created ISIS forces struck Syria. (Incredibly, a number of Americans remain so brainwashed that they still think these wars are all about "freedom and democracy," a slogan that should have been relegated to oblivion after Woodrow Wilson said fighting World War I would make the world "safe for democracy.")But Putin had seen enough Middle East madness, and put a halt to it, climaxed by the recent victory of the Syrian army in Aleppo.Perhaps most important is the spiritual dimension, which is the root of the Russian transformation under Putin. I again turn to Brother Nathanael: {video}Putin’s faith is not new. Father Tikhon Shevkunov, a Russian Orthodox monk very close to him, said in 2001 that Putin "really is an Orthodox Christian, and not just nominally, but a person who makes confession, takes communion and understands his responsibility before God for the high service entrusted to him and for his immortal soul."4In this two-minute clip, Putin criticizes Western countries for abandoning their own Christian roots and moral values, banishing Christian holidays, and embracing political correctness, pedophilia, and globalism. How I wish to see an American President speak like this: {video}Since the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, over 26,000 new churches have opened in Russia.5 Public schools have become so Christian that some parents have complained about it. In November 2016, accompanied by Patriarch Kirill, Putin dedicated a statue of Vladimir the Great, who Christianized Russia in 988 AD: {video}For those who still harbor doubts about the authenticity of Putin’s faith or the Russian revival, and have time for a 14-minute video, I recommend watching this: {video}Incredibly, at an evangelical church I used to attend, which was mentally incarcerated by Christian Zionism, the Bible teacher told us that today’s Russia is the evil Gog and Magog mentioned in the Bible, and confided to us his belief that Putin is the Antichrist. This individual was so bottled up in Hal Lindsey’s warped theology and the Left Behind series, that he was blinded to the obvious truths occurring in our world. While Obama was lighting up the White House in rainbow colors to celebrate gay marriage, this Bible teacher continued to proclaim how America is a "Christian nation" standing against "evil" Russia.Many American Christians pray that the world will experience a spiritual revival. What most of them don’t know: revival is occurring now, within Russia.As a veteran anti-communist from the late Cold War era, and bitter critic of the USSR, I never dreamed I’d see the day that America and Russia traded places. But it has progressively happened. Is Vladimir Putin the real deal? I believe he is. The corporate media’s continual demonizing of him (most recently with totally unproven claims that he hacked the 2016 election) greatly supports that. Some will say that Putin is only acting; if so, I say give us more such actors.The spirit of the czar and of Christ, which the Rothschild-backed Zionists thought they had forever destroyed in Russia, is rising from the ashes.NOTES1.Stéphanie Courtois et al., The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), 4.2.Anatoliy Golitsyn, New Lies for Old (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1984), 347.3."Putin’s Purge of the Rothschild Money Changers from Russia," Political Vel Craft, March 23, 2013, Clover, "Putin and the Monk," Financial Times, January 25, 2013,"How Russia Came to Be a Christian Nation," Koinonia House, April 6, 2015, New York Times interview with Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov) See Church and State Come CloserBy SOPHIA KISHKOVSKYNew York TimesOCT. 31, 2012MOSCOW — As the Russian Orthodox Church continues its ascent as a political force, Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov stands at the center of a swirling argument about the church’s power and its possible influence on President Vladimir V. Putin.Father Tikhon, a former film student, presides over the 14th century Sretensky Monastery here, near the headquarters of the former KGB, for which Mr. Putin worked in Soviet times. A media-savvy figure, Father Tikhon has written a surprise best seller about monastic life and has been described as "Putin’s spiritual father" — a label he coyly neither embraces nor denies."It would be cruel of me to answer this question, to say yes or no and take away the bread of journalists," he said recently in an interview in his receiving room, adorned with portraits of a saint and a czar. "Although, of course, one doesn’t answer such a question about anyone," he added.This week, Father Tikhon was in the news again after reports, swiftly denied, that the police had shut down a brothel on the grounds of his monastery. He branded the story "unconscionable slander" and "a vivid example of the information war against the church." The truth, he told the news agency RIA Novosti, was that a brothel had been operating in a building next to cloister grounds, and that his monastery had demanded it be shut.Father Tikhon, 54, took over at the white-walled monastery, one of Russia’s oldest, in 1995. He has since transformed the structure, which served as a killing ground in Stalin’s times, into a cinematically perfect vision of Orthodoxy.Continue reading the main storyA few days later, on an idyllic fall evening, his black monastic robes billowed in the wind as choral music wafted through the air and a crush of bescarved women lunged for his blessing.Some critics belittle Father Tikhon as a publicity hound. But others, who see him as a rising power broker, call him a promoter of a rigid Orthodox fundamentalism. That is a charge he dismissed as "nonsense."The old debate over the role of the Orthodox Church and its relationship to the state broke into the open most recently over the conviction of members of the punk band Pussy Riot for staging an anti-Putin stunt at Moscow’s biggest cathedral. The performance, which was captured on a video that circulated widely on the Internet, mocked both Mr. Putin and Patriarch Kirill I, the head of the Orthodox Church.In this atmosphere, Father Tikhon’s ties to Mr. Putin have come under scrutiny. He had already attracted attention in 2008, for writing and narrating a television documentary that depicted the fall of Byzantium as a parable about the threats to modern Russia. The film was derided by liberals as pandering to Mr. Putin’s worldview of a virtuous Russia under threat from foreign forces.Now as the author of "Unsaintly Saints and Other Stories," a book about monastic life and the path to faith, Father Tikhon and his Kremlin connection are even more prominent. The book focuses on another famous monastery that Mr. Putin visited shortly after becoming president in 2000.Photo   President Vladimir V. Putin, with Father Tikhon, helped reunify the Russian Orthodox Church with a foreign breakaway group. Credit Pool photo by Sergey PonomarevOne unanswered question is whether Father Tikhon is, in fact, Mr. Putin’s spiritual father — in Russian Orthodox tradition, a figure who is a father confessor and guide to salvation."I know Archimandrite Tikhon personally, and he told me directly that he is not Putin’s spiritual father," Father Georgy Mitrofanov, a prominent St. Petersburg priest, said publicly in September. "I think that our president’s main spiritual father is he himself."When pressed on the question, Father Tikhon changed the subject to the Chinese winter watermelon grown on the farm run by his monastery.For all the reticence, Father Tikhon is an unabashed supporter of Mr. Putin, saying he saved Russia from "vulgar liberals" who nearly destroyed it in the 1990s. During the interview, he checked the time to make sure he would not be late to a Kremlin meeting of Mr. Putin’s culture commission.At the meeting, according to the Kremlin Web site, Mr. Putin chided the monk, who is a member of the commission, for comparing today’s young Russian women to "a drunk girl standing by the bus stop.""Father, you have gone too far," Mr. Putin reportedly said.In 2007, Mr. Putin and Father Tikhon were instrumental in the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which is based in New York. The reunification is a centerpiece of Mr. Putin’s efforts to stitch together the red and white in Russian history — the Soviet and the czarist pasts.To mark the fifth anniversary of that reunification and to promote an English translation of his book, titled "Everyday Saints," Father Tikhon toured the United States in October with the Sretensky Monastery Choir.His book runs 640 pages and has sold over 1.1 million copies in Russian. Millions more have been downloaded electronically, Father Tikhon said. OLMA Media Group, which published the book in 2011, announced in August that it was the country’s biggest best seller since the Soviet era. The profits are going back into the Sretensky Monastery, Father Tikhon said, to build a cathedral honoring those killed there for their religious faith in Soviet times.The book is a portrait of one of the Orthodox Church’s holiest sites, the Pskovo-Pechersky Monastery in northwestern Russia. The monastery stayed open during the Soviet era, surviving first within independent Estonia, then by the wiliness and fortitude of the monks after the territory was absorbed into the Soviet Union.Georgy Shevkunov, as Father Tikhon was known before taking his vows, became a novice there shortly after his baptism in 1982, a sharp turn from studies at the Soviet Union’s most prestigious film school. At the monastery, he writes, "a new world had suddenly opened up, incomparable in its beauty."Mr. Putin visited the monastery in August 2000. Russian church Web sites say that he spent over an hour in private conversation with Archimandrite Ioann Krestyankin, a revered monk who died in 2006 and who served as spiritual guide to Father Tikhon.In the monastery’s guest book, Mr. Putin wrote: "The revival of Russia and growth of its might are unthinkable without the strengthening of society’s moral foundations. The role and significance of the Russian Orthodox Church are huge. May God protect you."A version of this article appears in print on November 1, 2012, on Page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Russians See Church and State Come Closer.(6) Everyday Saints, by Archimandrite Tikhon Saints and Other Storiesby Archimandrite Tikhon5.0 out of 5 starsThis is the best book authored in the 21st century that I have read. Period.ByJust Meon July 13, 2013Somehow what gets broadcasted over the last dozen or so years eventhough labelled "culture" is in fact a mixed bag of vulgar, distasteful, over-sexualized, mundane, shocking, violent or new-age delusional elements in any odd proportion.I've come to a point of not wanting to go to the movies (haven't been for years), not wanting to watch TV, and even less so buy a recent book. And here is the exception that proves the rule--Archimandrite Tikhon's collection of stories that don't feature any of the dreaded substance of modern Hollywood/Bollywood/HBO material. They instead go to the very core of the human experience to answer the eternal most important questions of human existence.The stories resonated so much with me that I cried reading almost each and every one of them. This book is a stark reminder that "Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever" and that salvation is possible even in our time when atheism is the norm of public life in the Western Civilization that has worked hard over the course of the 20th century to undermine its true cultural foundation. ...5.0 out of 5 starswhat a fantastic read! The local Orthodox monk in my town ...ByAthena_Penelopeon July 29, 2015Oh my goodness, what a fantastic read! The local Orthodox monk in my town recommended this book to me (along with many other titles as you may see by some of my reviews). I was one of the many who stayed up late at night, trying to fit in one more chapter! I am sad that the book came to an end. There was a dreamy part of me that hoped somehow, the pages would go on forever! So many touching stories! There's much in the way of history, too, if you are interested in learning a bit of how the Orthodox Church survived through Soviet times. I am glad this book was translated into English as so many of us in America may enjoy these wonderful stories. I hope you will read it and be inspired to delve deeper in your faith and perhaps, if you are not Orthodox, to explore the beautiful tradition of the Orthodox Church!5.0 out of 5 starsWonderful, inspiring and personableByPatrick Allenon March 6, 2013Archimandrite Tikhon does a fantastic job of relating to his readers, not just his own personal story, but numerous funny, thought-provoking, shocking and awe-inspiring anecdotes of the wide cast of characters he's met during his years as a monastic in Russia, a large part of which takes place during the Soviet Union's attempts to completely exterminate religion within its borders. He connects very well with his readers, and he describes the Russian Orthodox monastic life that makes it much more approachable for those of his audience who do not have much experience with it. This book may not be something like St. John Climacus's fantastic "Ladder of Divine Ascent," in which a guideline for the virtues of a monk are described, and in which various pitfalls are warned against. Rather, "Everyday Saints" gives the reader real stories of real-life, memorable monks; their interactions with each other and the outside world; and their struggle to find the Kingdom of God--and then to turn around and share it with others.I would recommend this to anyone looking to see the rich spiritual heritage of Russia that survived during and after the Soviet Union, which is so often forgotten in the West. Also a hearty recommendation for any Orthodox Christian (this includes us inquirers and catechumens as well!) looking for inspiration.4.0 out of 5 stars"Everyday"ByPreston Salisburyon May 20, 2013The definition Archimandrite Tikhon uses for "everyday" is certainly different from my definition! Many of the people in the book are far from everyday, yet at the same time they possess a certain earthy quality. And while the characters of the book clearly belong to a different world from the average American (even the average Orthodox American), they are also revealed as human, perhaps more human than we typically experience. From the priest who has the habit of removing his steering wheel while flying down the road, to the stories of "Difficult Father Nathanael" and Father Alipius and their interactions with Soviet authorities, the book is alternately humorous and inspirational. While Orthodox Christians will probably get the most out of the book, almost everyone would benefit from the picture he paints of spiritual life in Soviet Russia, and the development of Orthodoxy in the post-Soviet period.BUY it from Amazon, or direct from the publisher: Everyday Saints, reviewed by Antonio Mennini"I greet the readers of this book in the English-speaking world with all my heart" A review by Antonio Mennini, Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain.Over the years of my ministry in Russia I have been very touched by what I have many times encountered, and what is described in this book—the simple, almost child-like religiosity that is not necessarily impeccable, but by virtue of its very inconsistency and imperfection is even more disarming. It is rather a seeking and contemplation of Jesus in everyday life. The gift of sanctity borne in Russian people often expresses that "everyday holiness", reflected particularly in fools-for-Christ and startsy or "elders" (monks with a special religious experience, who possess the gift of spiritual guidance and prophecy).While fools-for-Christ have always been isolated cases, the monastic tradition in Russia has deep and extensive roots—it could be said that the Russian people were born (spiritually) in the eleventh century in Kiev, around the Kiev-Caves Lavra. In the fourteenth century Russia flourished once more, after the dramatic period of the Mongol Yoke and internal wars, finding socio-political unity thanks to St. Sergius of Radonezh and the monastery he founded. The vast spread of monastic practice across the country began there. This practice echoes Benedictine monasticism and the practice of monastic mendicancy the West. In the coming centuries, despite the fact that Peter the Great "beheaded" the Russian Church by depriving it of its Patriarch and instituting what was essentially a "Ministry of Religious Affairs", the monasteries and startsy remained the highest spiritual guidance for the common people and intelligentsia alike. All the major figures of nineteenth century Russian culture, from Gogol to Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (to mention only the greatest) knocked upon the gates of Optina Monastery. One monastic practice, the "prayer of the heart" (Jesus Prayer), soon became the heritage of Russian spiritual life, later spreading widely across the Western world.This marvelous book by Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov) addresses this tradition once again after the painful period of Soviet rule, and gives us a unique picture of Russian society, especially Russian youth, from the perestroika period to the present time. The publication of this book last year became a great event in the cultural life of Russia. In just a few months after its release the book was at the top of the bestseller lists in the largest bookstores of secular Moscow. The author, who is the Abbot of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, holds the position of executive secretary of Patriarchal council for culture and is known in Russia as a spiritual father of President Putin. Undoubtedly the author’s high-profile determined the popularity of the book—more than 1000 people attended the presentation of the book in the State Library—and its enormous success: four print runs and over than 500,000 copies sold within the first few months.Nevertheless, the author’s calm, removed, and positive views more probably determined the book’s phenomenal popularity. Father Tikhon has successfully fulfilled an extremely important task, combining the ability to formulate the problems of life with true faith using modern language, beginning a dialogue with modern man on his own territory, yet avoiding all banality and primitive cliché…Although language is still a sufficiently serious obstacle in the dialogue between Church and society in Russia, the author addresses the reader without making any condescension to his or her supposed spiritual immaturity. He refuses to fit faith into the framework of piety in order to make it more appetizing, or even presenting it at the cost of diluting or changing it. He does not stand on a pedestal or try to convince anyone; he only recounts his own experience, sharing it, but never playing upon his listener.This approach begins with the very title of the book chosen by the author. Introducing the book, the author says that, "this book is about all of us, called to holiness despite our infirmities." Everyday Saints tells us the story of the monastic calling of young Georgiy Shevkunov in the Pskov Caves Monastery: "It was 1984 at the time, and there were five of us. Four had grown up in nonreligious families, and even for the fifth in our group, the son of a clergyman, our preconceptions of the sort of people who go off to join a monastery were utterly Soviet. Just a year earlier, each of us had firmly believed that the only people who ever entered a monastery nowadays were fanatics or complete failures in life. Losers, in short—or else victims of unrequited love." Why were these healthy young people, full of life’s energy, doing this? "We knew very well. It was because, for each of us, a new world had suddenly opened up, incomparable in its beauty. And that world had turned out to be boundlessly more attractive than the one in which we had previously lived our young and so-far very happy lives."In this book I want to tell you about this beautiful new world of mine, where we live by laws completely different from those in ‘normal’ worldly life—a world of light and love, full of wondrous discoveries, hope, happiness, trials and triumphs, where even our defeats acquire profound significance: a world in which, above all, we can always sense powerful manifestations of divine strength and comfort (p. 1–2)."After the period of spiritual seeking (not without dangerous adventures, such as spiritualist séances) in 1982, young Georgiy is baptized and heads off to the Pskov Caves Monastery for a short time (as he thought then) for obedience and reflection. In fact, his acquaintance with this new world changed him radically; he became a "different man", and thus was his future path determined.This preface is followed by a series of stories that happen at the intersection of two worlds—inside and outside the church fence—which highlight the paradox and humanity of church life, an ability to look at life events from a new, unusual angle, and discern the intricate weave of a mysterious pattern that recognizes the signs of God’s presence in our real life.One of the book’s characters is Father Raphael (Boris Ogorodnikov), the one with whom the author practiced his first obedience—"an idler" in the eyes of the world and even perhaps in the eyes of many religious people, because he spends all his time talking with people over a cup of tea, doing almost nothing for his parish. "But it seems that Fr. Raphael had his own particular agreement with the Lord God. Therefore everyone with whom he drank tea sooner or later became Orthodox Christians, all without exception!" Father Raphael’s secret was in his open heart: "But Fr. Raphael endured everything and everyone. Actually, he didn’t even endure them—that’s not really the right word, because he never even felt slightly burdened by it. In fact, he enjoyed this time that he spent drinking tea with absolutely anyone, always telling stories, always remembering something interesting from his life in the Pskov Caves Monastery, or talking about his old spiritual mentors, the elders of Pechory. Anyone sitting down to drink tea with Father Raphael found that once he had gotten going, it was impossible to tear oneself away." But even the most exciting stories, as the author notes, are not enough to transform "people who have gotten themselves hopelessly lost in this cold world, and what’s worse, in their own selves… For transformation, you need to show them hope, show them the opening to a new life, a new world, in which meaninglessness, suffering, and cruel injustice does not triumph, but where, reigning omnipotent over everything, are faith, hope, and love. And then you need to not only show them this new world from afar, pointing towards it, but you need to bring them to this world by yourself. You need to take them by the hand to the physical presence of the Lord God Himself. Only then will they recognize Him, the One Whom they have long truly loved deep inside their hearts, their one and only Creator, Savior, and Father (p. 462)."The same Father Raphael, in the final story that gave the whole book its title, meets an inglorious death according to the traditional canons. In addition to tea drinking he was passionate about cars and died in a car accident, driving an old bright red Mercedes that was given to him by one of his parishioners. Archimandrite Tikhon underscores the presence of paradoxical holiness beyond the customary patterns: "My friends were all ordinary people. There are many like them in our Church. And of course they are very far indeed from canonization. It’s quite out of the question." "Why did we all love Rather Raphael so much? He was an awful prankster, he couldn’t say a sermon to save his life, and very often it seemed he busied himself a lot more about his car than he did about us." But nevertheless, the author concludes as he recalls his friend, "We could see in him an absolutely remarkable example of living faith. One cannot confuse such spiritual strength with anything else, no matter what other eccentricities or frailties a person may otherwise be weighed down with." "Yet still, though we are frail and feeble sinners, we remain His disciples, and there is truly nothing more beautiful in this world than the contemplation of the remarkable unfolding of the Providence of our Savior in His divine will for the salvation of this world (p. 489–490).I greet the readers of this book in the English-speaking world with all my heart.+ Antonio MenniniApostolic Nuncio in Great Britain(8) Everyday Saints, reviewed by Wesley J. Smith Saints and Other Storiesreview by Wesley J. Smith 3 . 8 . 13Thirty years ago, who would have dreamed that a 490-page book by a Russian Orthodox monk would sweep Russia and sell millions of copies around the world? But that has been the deserved publishing history of Everyday Saints and Other Stories , recently translated into English.The book is all the rage among American Orthodox Christians, but deserves a far wider audience. Using biographical vignettes (with photos) of monks, abbots, bishops, nuns, and "fools for Christ," its author, Archimandrite Tikhon, paints a powerful picture of the courage and cleverness Orthodox monastics deployed to survive Soviet persecutions"even as it shatters the stereotype of monks as dour men dressed in black who never enjoy themselves and are ignorant of and indifferent to the outside world.The story of "The Difficult Father Nathaniel""whose photo appears on the cover"is the standout. (In Orthodox monasticism, all monks are called "Father" whether or not they are priests.) The Pskov Caves Monastery’s eccentric treasurer, an obsessive hoarder who "usually carried an old canvas bag over his shoulders, in which just about anything might be found, ranging from moldy crumbs of dried bread given to him ages ago by some old grandmother, to perhaps one million rubles in cash," was a power unto himself, both terrifying novices and somehow unanswerable to his own abbot"even as he fully complied with all his assigned duties (known in Orthodoxy as "obediences").In a hilarious example of masterful rope-a-dope resistance to authority, Fr. Nathaniel repeatedly thwarts attempts by the abbot to inspect his cell. Finally, the dreaded invasion could be prevented no longer. As the abbot enters the room, he asks, "Why is it so dark in here? Don’t you have electricity? Where is the light switch?"Fr. Nathaniel tells him mildly that it is on the right. "Just turn the handle." Then:A horrible cry rent the air, as if some unknown force had cast the abbot straight out of the pitch-black darkness of the Treasurer’s cell, into the corridor. Speeding out after him into the light came Father Nathaniel. Within one second, he closed and triple-locked the door of his cell one again.His domain safely secured, Fr. Nathaniel tells his (literally) shocked superior about how the light switch broke back in 1964 "on the occasion of the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God," the very day that Khrushchev was removed from power. "That was a sign!" he tells the abbot, explaining why he never repaired the switch. "Come, I’ll just open the door again, and we’ll slip back in!" But the abbot had already fled in ignominious defeat, never to mount another incursion.Fr. Nathaniel’s unique genius of resisting through obeying made him a dangerous enemy of the Soviet authorities who harassed the monastic community at every opportunity. Once, the First Secretary of the Regional Communist Party insisted that the "black beetles" vote in town rather than at the monastery as a way of teaching "the atavistic deviant non-working-class element of society" a lesson. Before the abbot could protest, Father Nathaniel whispered into his ear "a piece of advice that was both innocent and extremely subtle in its defiance."On election day"a Sunday, of course""from the monastery gates came streaming forth a magnificent procession of the cross, with priests bearing crosses and icons . . . in a long line, singing hymns and in full ceremonial dress towards the polling place." Open Christianity on the march"and at the order of the atheistic authorities! When horrified bureaucrats protested, the abbot declared that they were just doing their duty as Soviet citizens as required by the First Secretary. "Needless to say, when the next elections came around, the ballot box was once again waiting for the monks on the table of the monastery refectory."Space does not permit a detailed summary of the many vivid personalities that await discovery in this literary treasure. There is the con man who pretends to be a monk to cover his thievery, converts, and then backslides"fatally. In contrast, the "secret nun," Mother Froysa, maintains her faith and hope despite the severe and tumultuous religious persecutions of the entire Soviet era. There is the ever-adventurous Fr. Raphael, exiled to rustic parishes for speaking truth to power, whose fatal attraction to speedy cars hangs over his many delightful escapades like a pall.And the humble Basil, who upon being tonsured a monk and immediately made a bishop, asks his Metropolitan how he could follow the necessary obediences of a novice when already a hierarch. "Metropolitan Anthony grew thoughtful for a moment, and then said, ‘You will be in obedience to everyone and anyone whom you meet on your journey through life. As long as that person’s request will be within your power to grant it.’" Bishop Basil, who served the Orthodox Church in America, became a frequent visitor to Russia after the Soviet collapse, did precisely that"no matter the personal inconvenience"often to the chagrin of moaning monks dragged along for the ride.The Russian Orthodox Church, no longer persecuted, is rebounding"to the point that some worry it may be growing too chummy with the Russian political establishment. Indeed, the author, now the Father Superior in Moscow’s Sretensky Monastery, has reportedly become the confessor of Vladimir Putin .But don’t let that give you pause. Archimandrite Tikhon has written a classic work of commitment and perseverance that powerfully and entertainingly illuminates the glories and foibles of striving to live a life of faith and truth.Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. He also consults for the Patients Rights Council and the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His previous "On the Square" articles can be found here .-- Peter Myerswebsite: