Filenews 13 May 2022 – by Pavlos Neophytou
During this time, during the period of the war in Ukraine, the book “Greek-Russian” by the theologian and musician Panagiotis Andriopoulos was published, which presents important aspects of the relations between Hellenism and Russia. Questions are answered about what connects us and what divides us with Russia, not only in terms of cultural and ecclesiastical geopolitics, which are the two main parts of the book, but also in domestic politics, ideology and attitudes. As Mr Andriopoulos states in an interview with philenews, the Moscow Patriarchate is pursuing an expansionist policy in areas of the Greek Orthodox Church, while at the same time serving the imperialism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He stresses that this is the context of the infiltration observed in recent years of the African continent, which has traditionally been the field of action of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. On the other hand, the culture of both sides and their creators have often come quite close. An example is the connection of Dimitris Mitropoulos with Shostakovich or Hadjidakis with the work of Prokofiev. But even today, when Dostoevsky is systematically adapted and staged in the Greek theatre.
What are the most important elements that connect Hellenism with Russians?
This relationship is timeless, something that can be seen from the moment the Russians become Orthodox, by clerics sent by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in the late 10th century. But also in Culture there is an uninterrupted relationship between Hellenism and Russia, which lasts until today. In both Greece and Cyprus there are many Russian artists who really contribute to Culture.
In your book you emphasize the resonance of the work of the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky on the Greek spiritual life.
It has influenced Greece immensely. While he is not a playwright, in recent years he has been at the forefront of Greek theatre. There are too many adaptations of his works. Also, in addition to Dostoevsky, many other Russian playwrights, such as Chekhov and Gogol, take the stage. That is, at the moment we have a Greek theatre, which, one might say, is based on the Russian theatre. Moreover, in my book I refer to the Greek-Russian musical interactions in the course of history. Here, too, the relationship between Manos Hadjidakis and Russian composers is interesting. I personally had the experience of listening to Hadjidakis conducting the “Orchestra of Colours” in works by Russian composers. For example, he listened to and studied Stravinsky and Prokofiev from his youth. It is something very important that Hadjidakis recognized the great music that these Russian composers wrote. Also very important is the famous Greek conductor Dimitris Mitropoulos, who, while he excelled in America, loved Russian music and Russian composers very much. He was Shostakovich’s “missionary” in America, where he played his symphonies very much. Therefore, in modern civilization there is a very great relationship between Greeks and Russians.
Let us move on to the news relating to the second part of your book, the Greek-Russian ecclesiastical ones. The name of the Russian patriarch Cyril was recently linked to the EU’s intention to impose sanctions because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. What is the attitude of the Moscow Patriarchate towards this Putin war?
The Patriarch of Moscow supports the invasion, and this is theologically unacceptable. In fact, it supports the invasion with arguments such as that NATO is to blame for this situation because it provoked Russia. Things that he said recently to Pope Francis himself, during the online conversation they had, emerged. Cyril’s position is therefore completely political, with him taking a clear position against NATO and in favour of Russia. Beyond that, I think it is a disgrace that the patriarch is invoking either neo-Nazis in Ukraine or homosexuals to justify the Russian invasion. The aggressor cannot be right. We cannot justify it theologically and Christianly. And I make that clear, even if NATO invaded, and anyone else, we would be against it. We cannot be in favour of a war, as Christians and as theologians. And especially as church leaders. So what the Patriarch of Moscow is doing at the moment is a huge mistake, which is largely inscribed against him in history.
The Church with the State in Russia has always been very close. However, with the fall of communism, and especially with Putin’s “dynasty”, the Russian Church was instrumentalized and clearly serves Russian politics. That is very important. That is, when communism was, the Church was by no means in the foreground. But now, under Putin, it is in this plan, and it is purely a tool and instrument of Russian politics. And this happens bluntly.
Who is within Putin’s “logic. That is, the Russian president uses the Church for Russian imperialism. So we have Russian churches that are built almost every day all over the world, in order to be Russian territory. This includes the issue of Africa. That is, the “invasion” of the Moscow Patriarchate in Africa, under the pretext of the Autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine. Russian expansionism was shown very well on the issue of the Church of Ukraine: because the Patriarchate of Alexandria, like the Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II, recognized Ukrainian autocephaly, in retaliation Moscow said “we will establish Russian churches on the African continent”. And this, before it began to become a reality, was an official report from the Moscow Patriarchate. This, you will understand, is a ‘bombshell’, since it seems that Russian imperialism is not just Ukraine.