Wednesday, September 07, 2005

MIT: Konstantine Preobrazhensky. Laurus & the KGB

1. The Obscure Metoche (Podvoriye)

What money went into building the Jordanville Monastery’s Metoche in Moscow suburbs? Whenever you address this question to the Russian йmigrй in America, they show you all their white teeth in wonderment: they never even heard of a metoche or anything… Some did eventually hear a rumor or two about either an office or Laurus’ exquisite dacha near Moscow.

Anyway, the Podvoriye has a precise address - settlement Veliaminovo, Istra District, some 20 miles from Moscow’s center along the Novorizhskoye Highway. It is a very prestigious recreational retreat where no aliens are admitted. The place is inhabited by high-rank embezzlers of public funds and rich "New Russians", many having close ties with the Mafia. Neighboring on the Jordanville Metoche is a grand mansion of a vodka baron.

The Metoche is a vast three-level mansion plus a spacious attic and includes an inner church splendidly decorated by archbishop Alipy (see photos). Experts estimate its cost at around a million dollars, especially if we throw in the sums in bribes that are known to be part and parcel of everyday life in Russia.

There is a telephone in Podvoriye bur very few know its number. Hence Nikolay Savinov, a ROCOR priest who picked up the phone, was all courtesy at first. He explained that the Podvoriye was built in the year 2000 but so far has been operating as a private house, illegally. He also readdressed me to vladyka Laurus for a blessing for a comprehensive interview.

A nice private home that was, whence you are relayed to America which is here viewed with a more and more hostile attitude as days go on. Besides, Laurus is not listed among the owners of this building, the formal owners being a group of four other clerics of the Church Abroad.

The accrediting of a Podvoriye of a foreign-based Church presupposes full communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. According to the rules of the Foreign Relations Department of the MP, only the Rector can be sent in to serve in the Metoche while the rest of the clergy must be local. It should be brought to mind that ROCOR does not as yet enjoy liturgical communion with MP, yet the Podvoriye had been completed more than 5 years ago. Has someone been so indiscriminate as to throw such a big sum of money to the winds?

With but little hope did I dial the number of the Jordanville Monastery to reach metropolitan Laurus and was put through immediately! On duty at the telephone that night was an US-born monk who did not speak a word of Russian and fortunately had never before read any of my articles on the KGB operations in ROCOR. Had there been some one of the Russian novices or monks openly working for Moscow, I would not have had one chance to get connected to Laurus I saw it as God’s provenance.

Initially Laurus was as hearty as ever.

- The Podvoriye is not open yet, he commented, when will it be? When we settle things.

- When did the Podvoriye appear in its present form? – I asked.

- A few years ago.

- Will it be opened officially after eucharistic communion has been established with MP, I asked.

- Perhaps a while later, -specified Laurus,-we need men. The problem will hopefully be discussed at one of the meetings of the Two-Sided Commission.

However, when I asked to explain to me if the presence of the Podvoriye was canonically tenable, Laurus showed signs of apprehension: "What do you need that for?". For an article, I answered frankly.

-This is not to be mentioned! – snapped back Laurus, and the interview was over.

Last time I got a similar response was at Russian Communists’ Headquarters.

The news of the Podvoriye must meanwhile have reached the Russian Authorities, especially the FSB whose business is to carry on a close watch on the US organizations operating in Russia. Why then hide it from the Church people? Can there be any secrets in Church?

Anyway, they would be facing a difficult task trying to explain to the ROCOR believers why should they have had to begin building a Representation already in the middle of the 90’s when no sign of a rapprochement with MP had yet been in sight! Most certainly the whole business had been negotiated back then secretly, without knowledge of the parishioners. Hence also the official discussions which started off in 2003 have not been anything but a fake, a deception of the working class, as they used to say during the Soviet era. This portends a scandal.

A Moscow archpriest Mikhail Ardov once told me that in the already distant 1994, he came to Jordanville and proposed they printed his book which exposed the sergianist nature of the MP. Laurus did not bless this publication. They are telling now that at those times they were cautious about publishing works by unknown writers from Russia lest they do them wrong. But Fr Mikhail was then a clergyman of ROCOR and was even receiving funds from her for his church. It is now clear that the reason for denial lay in something else.

Archpriest Sergiy Klestov, a New Yorker, narrated a story of how he rebuked Laurus for his participation in the Moleben in company with Alexis II in May of 2004 on the Butovo firing range premises near Moscow where thousands had been shot as part of Stalin’s reprisals in mid 30’s.

How dared you, Vladyka, - he said, - serve together with the Sergianists at the place of death of the New Martyrs, in which a share of guilt was on the Sergianists themselves? You mixed up them and the traitors of Christ!

-I did not put on my vestments, retorted Laurus rather naively.

-Do you think it does matter to the martyrs, whether you were in vestments or not?,- continued Fr Sergius, but received no answer from Laurus

Laurus had long thought of relocating to Russia and built this castle in Veliaminovo precisely for this purpose, - I was told by a prominent Moscow priest serving under the omophorion of Metropolitan Vitaly who knew and communicated with Laurus closely ever since his first visits to Russia in early 90’s. Laurus’ business has always been to stifle any initiative directed at the improvement of ROCOR position in Russia, - he went on, - at that time, many MP clergymen with a status came to see him in order to explore the possibility of their joining the ROCOR. He took every measure to discourage them from making this step. He received outsiders with all possible courtesy but as courtly did he see them off, normally with no result. With the insiders he would be impolite, often pretending he was weary or something, thus exhibiting a cute discrimination.Two words were lacking in his vocabulary, yes and no.During the first years after the collapse of the Soviet regime, there were many excellent church buildings everywhere that had no owners. Given a slight effort any of them could be appropriated at no charge. Laurus however sabotaged any such endeavor, and I could give examples. A jesuit smile usually overshadowed his face whenever the question was raised, a stain of double-dealing in life. The most striking example ever was his reluctance to ask for a superb, early 20th century church in the village of Byokhovo, near the world-famous Polenovo estate, which by the time had been standing unoccupied for at least 8 years. The church could have become a gem of the Russian Church Abroad in Russia. Supposing Laurus is an agent of Moscow, commissioned with unleashing subversive activities within the Church Abroad, his behavior finds adequate explanation, - my interlocutor concluded with a sad sigh.

He further told me, that several years ago, when the health of Alexis II deteriorated sharply, the "orthodox KGB-ist" and banker Pugachev and businessman Boris Jordan who had serious business going on through the mediation of the Patriarch, feared he would die before they could get their transactions cleared and decided they could persuade Putin to promote their friend Laurus to the position of the Patriarch of Moscow. They went on to do this via Putin’s political technologist Gleb Pavlovsky, and as a token of their good wishes and as consolation bought a villa in Switzerland for the ailing Alexis.

The wealthy Jordan family had always maintained close relations with Laurus. Boris’ father, the late Aleksey Borisovich, set up a foundation in 1999 for promoting cadet movement in Russia. Yet he did not do it under the auspices of ROCOR as would be logical, but under the MP, canonical intercommunion with which had yet been out of question at the time. The Movement does not propagate the spirit of the White Guard, its leaders being none other but the soviet communist-minded generals. Can it do any good for the Church Abroad? What does Laurus think about it all?

There are many strange features in the bios of many hierarchs of ROCOR which lead one to think of the KGB. For example, who can tell how archbp Mark, a native of German Democratic Republic (the Soviet-occupied part of the divided Germany) and its army officer, managed to defect to the West in the 60’s. He could not have done this legally. Why also the KGB let him go quietly out of jail in USSR where he had landed for smuggling in a load of anti-soviet literature in mid 70’s, when the law stipulatedsevere punishment for what was then considered as subversive activities against the regime. I have included my understanding of these strange episodes in my article "The Two Mysteries of Archbishop Mark".

Laurus too has had some strange episodes in his CV. I mean his regular visits to his relatives in the communist Czechoslovakia.

-Well, it was not the USSR he went to, - somewould try to acquit Laurus.

Alas, alas! Just the same thing! Simply because all the intelligence agencies of socialist countries had a unified system for registering the arriving US nationals. If anything, the KGB would not let a former citizen of the "bourgeois Czechoslovakia" and a patent antisovetchik go without a close watch. Laurus was certainly listed as one such activist, considering that all members of the Church Abroad had been nicked as "activists of the йmigrй anti-soviet center" in the KGB lingo.As soon as one such "activist" applied to the Czech embassy for a visa, a call immediately flew Moscow-ward over the "VCh" secret phone line:

-Would you like to make good use of him/her? –

To Moscow-based KGB-ists this phrase implied a possibility for promotion in rank or receiving a medal or order. No such person could go uncatered for: some degree of harm just had to be inflicted, whether it be recruiting, blackmailing, or anything. By hook or by crook he or she were to be discouraged from visiting the blessed land again. They called it "putting a person on the list for operative processing".

Laurus was "processed" every time he visited Czechoslovakia, and every time returned safely, and received his visa with no trouble. They say he had no trouble even after 1968, the year when Soviet troops had been moved into Czechoslovakia and the regime had become even more dreadful. In those years my parents often went to Karlovy Vary resorts on vacation on the invitation from the Czech KGB, and on returning my father used to tell me about the hard time the Czech chekists had combating the inner enemy. Laurus could not but be "approached" by our comrades not only from the local KGB but also from the Soviet agency whose huge filial in Prague outnumbered their local colleagues.

It is rumored that Laurus’s brother was holding a high position in the Czech Communist Party. One requirement a party functionary had to meet absolutely was that of "ideological purity". He was not to have a brother who was an anti-Soviet priest, and an American too! His only excuse to any rebuke was that "my brother is one of us; those who need to know it, know it".

2. The American Law is no Obstacle for the KGB

It is a tradition in KGB to give presents to higher-ranked officers, and this tradition goes back to the Stalin’s time. What may be a worthy present to Mr Putin for overpowering the Church Abroad? The chief resident of the Russian Intelligence in Washington has been racking his head lately over this crucial problem.

Whereas the answer is self-evident: the St John the Forerunner Cathedral in the heart of Washington. It will be a symbol of the victory of Russians over America, which used to seem to be a perfectly unattainable task some time before, a bastion of Russia’s strategic interests under the very nose of the White House! Putin will walk into the place not as an honorary guest but as the master. Like he walks into the big church of Christ the Savior in Moscow, the official church-house of Russian Authorities.

Let Mr Bush perform his master’s duties in the White House, while our Russian Mr President will do the same just a few steps away from him, upon a small spot of homeland in the hostile American environment. Imagine the propagandistic impact this will have in Russia! Putin’s presidential tenure will be sure to extend to more than one term!

The parishioners as yet feel secure, being sure that they own the church building and that the American Law protects them. But no, the KGB will NOT take them to court. It will take recourse to other methods, illegal but effective. Westerners grow up with a conviction that the law has an invincible power. We Russians are not so sure. It won’t be hard to substitute the parish activists: they are few and the KGB is as powerful as ever.

Many are wont to rely excessively on the institute of what they call a "board of trustees", thinking the Board would present a wall of bricks to any enemy’s attack. But the trustees are living people like you and me. Some would eventually develop a deep, and strange, infatuation with Mr Putin, like many ROCOR priests have done recently. Others, not as ready for a compromise, will be rendered harmless by different means. The field for the KGB operative activity is vast here.

The spy-post in Washington (located, incidentally, not far from the church, in the Russian Embassy) will be busy writing a multi-page plan of operations, will receive enough "resources", as they elusively call them in the Agency, to implement it, and will start action.

To capture the church, the mechanism worked out at the election campaign in Chechnya, where Russian soldiers are voting instead of the Chechens, will be used. In Washington the voters will be the officers, of both sexes for all that. Like locusts they will appear as it were from nowhere under the guise of emigrants, and will vote passing of the church into the Russian ownership. All foreign federal assets belong to the President’s Administration, that is to say, to Putin personally. Just to play up to him, the KGB will spare no effort, all the way to a war, the military action in Chechnya being one example.

Under Putin, the intelligence agencies feel dizzy from utter impunity. The unawaringly complacent western leaders are ready to forgive anything to their friend Volodya. Will they come to senses when they know he had made them accomplices in his crimes?

The chekist-parishioners will act knowingly, in accordance with the adopted plan. They will donate to the church fund such sums in comparison with which those of the true parishioners will look meager. During the last seven years the defense budget in Russia has grown five-fold, and it is not usual to save when it comes to meeting the Homeland’s needs. The true parishioners will eventually develop a sense of resentment and protestation at such cheeky behavior and will certainly turn their proud backs on them, as is considered normal in America. And this would play exactly into the hands of the KGB! The church capture operation will be performed in a clumsy and brutal manner, but is not the capture of the entire Russian Church Abroad being currently performed in just this manner?

Every Russian knows the truistic proverb that "there is no grip against a crow-bar", but it has to be explained to an American.

-Here is a big church in Washington for your personal needs, Comrade President! We recently took it over from local morons, - will be the report to Putin of the chief intelligence resident, and Putin will give an approving smile. The resident will get a Hero Star on his chest.

Soon afterwards, Putin will tell Bush with a tender feeling in his voice:

-I am so glad, George, that now I have my own church in Washington. I so much like praying there at nights…

Bush will nod his head respectfully: of course, the freedom of religion is first priority in the US. And then he will go on to compliment Putin, saying he perceived the soul of a true Christian in him.

Americans will let the attachment of the Church Abroad to the Russian Intelligence go unnoticed. They will not see in the process anything but a problem of inter-church relations. Smiling radiantly, American lawyers will watch the church being handed over to their anti-terrorist coalition ally. Because the letter of the law will be observed, and also because KGB agents may occasionally be met among American lawyers as well.

The US Authorities are not only hesitant about interfering in church affairs; they usually show signs of panic every time there is a chance of wounding somebody’s religious sentiments. By contrast, in Russia they do not have such fears, but behave in religious organizations authoritatively as if they were elephants in a crockery shop.

The clergy currently at work in the Cathedral will be wiped away by the powerful tempest. It will be Putin’s personal guards who will take over power here, like they do on all presidential premises. They will dismiss foreign priests, as they will not have access to state secrets.

I foresee their indignation and questions addressed to their new masters. Under Putin, however, the law enforcers have got the habit of not treating their subjects very considerately; time and again they may hit you with a gun butt. ROCOR priests who delighted in Putin so much previously, will come to know from personal experience the boorish manners of his subordinates. They will be just as helpless in front of them as many rank-and-file Russian people are. They will finally realize that is not the Moscow Patriarchate that the Church Abroad will have been united with.

When he attends Divine Services in the ancient Dormition Cathedral in the city of Vladimir, Putin unabashedly stands in the Czar’s corner. Why not build a replica in the Cathedral in Washington? Perhaps as a token of the forthcoming re-establishment of the Russian Monarchy. Some of the Russian йmigrй will all but salute such a development. The builders will be the jacks-of-all-hands of the KGB of course.

As he will stand there, Putin will experience a revengeful glee for the reason that the Cathedral had decades before been founded by the uncompromising foe of the Soviet regime, St John of San-Francisco.

3. The Abuse of St John of San-Francisco’s Blessed Memory

It began when the hierarchs of the Church Abroad engaged themselves in treacherous dealings with Mr Putin. At a meeting in New York in September of 2003 they presented him with an icon of the New-Martyr Grand Princess Elizabeth, the sister of Empress Alexandra. Why not of our saint hierarch John of San-Francisco, - inquired many attendants of parish meetings, -there would be more logic in that! The official interpretation was as follows: one of Putin’s numerous mansions is the Novo-Ogarevo castle, which had been expropriated from the Grand Princess by Bolsheviks in 1917. This explanation cannot but sound humiliating. Putin’s chekist predecessors cast Princess Elizabeth out of her castle, subjected to tortures and death – and for all this Putin receives her icon as a gift! The gift would have meaning had Putin denounced KGB’s bloody history and all its crimes. No way, today’s chekists are heroes once again.

The true reason was different. Archbishop John of San-Francisco was always outspoken in his anti-soviet and anti-communist attitudes, and such men are instinctively disliked in Putin’s Russia. They would rather accede to the politically neutral figure of Princess Elizabeth as the hallmark of the Church Abroad, who had not had time enough to do anything against the communist regime.

On July 3, 2004, an icon of St John suddenly fell down from an analogion where it had been lying peacefully in the Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral in San-Francisco where his relics repose. The glass of the icon case cracked. This happened precisely when Fr Peter Perekrestov (who is now more frequently called Comrade Perekrestov) was telling the guests of the 11th All-Diaspora Conference of the Young Orthodox that "we ought to leave the past behind us and go forward". The falling of the icon was a sure sign from God that Saint John would not agree with this statement.

I came across a video recording of a discussion of this event, which took place during the Patron Saint’s Feast-Day in St Serafim of Sarov Church in Sea Cliff, NY, the first of August. Metropolitan Laurus was present at the discussion, and his reactions were very revealing.

The first to speak was the young priest Fr Seraphim Gan. With a lachrymose voice he made every effort to persuade the congregation that this was no sign at all, just a mere coincidence, a result of the wind blast outdoors. It was with a heavy feeling that I watched this young priest telling lies. And it was part of his effort to promote the idea of a union with Moscow. Oh, many were orations of this type that I had listened to at Party conferences in the Soviet Union!

Archpriest Sergiy Klestov, the Rector of the parish, delivered an indignant speech of rebuke.

-Can and may we ever leave our past history behind? – said he excitedly, - We are successors to the St Patriarch Tikhon, to the New Martyrs, and are we to denounce all this? Disavow Vladykas Anthony Khrapovitskiy, Anastasias the First Hierarch, Averky and Filaret? When the icon fell…we were given a great sign…and it is a sin to laugh about it…

All during the rebellious speech, Laurus was nervously eating something from the table and soon afterwards left the meeting. Not long after that, Fr Sergiy was ousted from the parish. Fr Seraphim Gan was appointed as the new Rector. No comment…

The advocates of a Unia with Moscow are characteristically prone to lies and behind the scene intriguing, very much as though they passed training with the soviet party apparatus. For instance, Archpriest George Larin of Nyack, NY, recently paid a visit to the ailing Archbishop Alipy of Chicago who is known not to have sympathy for MP, and threatened him with forced resignation and custody in the Jordanville Monastery if he would as much as let out a squeak against the Union.

Lies and coercion are devil’s devices, are they not?

By God’s connivance, it was precisely the San Francisco where Saint John’s relics repose which was to become the hotbed of the defeatist policies. This must have been the result of the long-term expert spying activities of the KGB residents in SF. No wonder then that the All-Diaspora Local Council which is expected to decide the matter, is planned to take place here and not in New York where the Synod is stationed. Can, however, one imagine a higher degree of disrespect for the blessed memory of St John, when right over his relics they will solemnly announce that his much beloved Church Abroad is surrendered to the Stalinist MP.

It will be not long before they also bury General Denikin (one of the central figures of the White Guard resistance to the communist revolution) under the communist red banner in Moscow. Putin will be much pleased when they play the Bolshevist Party hymn over his grave. Thus will a short red-haired boy born to a poor workers’ family satiate his class hatred.