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Author Topic: Moscow turns ownership of public monasteries over to Orthodox Church  (Read 1001 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: May 28, 2010, 09:05:56 PM »

Moscow turns ownership of public monasteries over to Orthodox Church
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered the handover of about 20 Moscow-area monasteries to the Russian Orthodox Church, returning properties seized during the Bolshevik Revolution almost a century ago.




By Fred Weir, Correspondent   
posted May 27, 2010 at 4:54 pm EDT

Moscow
The stunning 16th-century fortified convent of Novodevichy, a pearl of Russian architecture nestled in a broad bend of the Moskva River about three miles from the Kremlin, is at the heart of a tense battle. Cultural secularists want the UNESCO Heritage Site to remain a state-run museum, but the Kremlin has made a political decision to return the entire complex to the stewardship of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In January, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered the handover, which will make Novodevichy a fully functioning convent for the first time since the Bolsheviks seized the property almost a century ago. But the directive may also force museums to relinquish thousands of icons and other worship-related items that originally belonged to the site, so they, too, can be used once again in religious ceremonies.

Novodevichy is the last of about 20 Moscow-area monasteries to be returned to the church, along with hundreds of similar buildings around the country, in a process that church spokespeople and nationalist politicians in the State Duma hail as "historical justice."

But critics allege the mass giveaway of art and real estate to the church endangers precious artifacts, removes vast swaths of Russia's heritage from the public sphere, and cements a controversial political compact between church and Kremlin.

"Novodevichy is an outstanding historical monument, and it should be left to professionals to preserve it," says Alexei Lebedev, with the Institute of Cultural Studies in Moscow, which is run by the Ministry of Culture. "This process of 'demuseumification' that's going on now is a sign of serious social illness. The church is not an institution dedicated to preserving the heritage of history and culture, it has a different mission. It's not going to be their keeper, and that's a potential tragedy."

Church leader: 'This is a sacred place'

Church leaders, however, insist the returned assets are needed to serve Russia's huge Orthodox community, who associate the historical buildings and objects with the foundations of their faith.

"Novodevichy is an ancient convent that has been at the center of our nation's spiritual life for centuries," says Sergei Zvonaryov, a spokesman for the patriarch, who is the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. "It was created for this purpose, and every Russian believer knows of it. This is a sacred place, and with its transference Novodevichy will again become a place of prayer, a place one can associate with God."

No one is exactly sure how many churches and monasteries have been given back since "restitution" began in earnest about a decade ago. But the director of Russia's State History Museum, Alexander Shkurko, says about two-thirds of all former church buildings nationalized by the Communists have already been returned, and he would like to see the new legislation being drafted in the State Duma set some limits on the handovers and require the church to cooperate with the museum service.

"There are thousands of specialists working in museums who love these places and objects and are professionally qualified to take care of them," he says. "The church should be interested in working with us. But, unfortunately, the laws do not so far provide any role for the state museums after these places have been handed over. Nor is there any clarity on the final aim of this process."

The church estimates that more than 70 percent of Russians are Orthodox, but critics say that statistic includes every ethnic Russian. An opinion survey conducted in March by the state-run Public Opinion Foundation found that two-thirds of respondents did indeed self-identify as "Orthodox Christian."

Violating separation of church and state?

But when asked if they observe religious rites and festivals, the vast majority answered no. For example, 80 percent said they do not attend church regularly.

"It's not at all clear that the church needs all these structures and, in any case, why is it being given all the most prominent ones, which have already been fully restored by the state museums?" asks Konstantin Mikhailov, coordinator of Arkhnadzor, an independent preservationist society. "Why don't they take some of the thousands of derelict churches around the country and restore them for use by believers?"

The church insists it will maintain public access and preserve the monuments to the level that state museums have.

"Novodevichy will be open to the public just as before," says Mr. Zvon aryov. "Of course, there are some special rules of life in a monastery, but that won't affect visitors.... The Soviets turned Novodevichy into a museum, but it can't go on that way. It has to be alive."

Some critics allege the Kremlin is violating the spirit of Russia's 1993 Constitution, which mandates separation of church and state, by restoring the Orthodox Church to its traditional czarist-era role as ideological pillar of the government. They say that the policy was authored by Putin, who turned away from democratic ways of securing public consent, and resorted to buying the backing of the church.

"The growing role of religious organizations can cause problems, but the majority of our society insists upon this," says Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin member of the State Duma's committee on religious affairs.

"Russia lacks fully developed institutions, and people don't fully trust the state, but they do believe the church can be relied on," he says. "Putin and Medvedev believe that sometimes the law has to be bent in order to solve problems. [Cooperation between Kremlin and church] is a practical necessity at this stage."
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Fr. Deacon Daniel
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« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2010, 09:09:47 PM »

You know I don't know a lot about Putin but I really like the guy. God bless him and the Russian Orthodox Church!
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« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2010, 09:29:11 PM »

You know I don't know a lot about Putin but I really like the guy. God bless him and the Russian Orthodox Church!

So do I.
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« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2010, 10:57:40 PM »

What I can't understand is why anyone would have an issue with returning the property to the entity it was taken from in the first place. Even a child could see that is the just thing to do.
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« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2010, 11:47:25 PM »

Pro-Georgian political propaganda moved to Politics:  http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,27946.0.html
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« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2010, 11:48:17 PM »

Dear Punch and Father Deacon Daniel:

I am sure that you are sincere in your admiration for Mr. Putin; but you must understand that others may have a different opinion of him.



I am sincere in my admiration for Mr. Putin.  I am also aware that others have differing opinions of him.  I don't let it bother me. It is differing opinions that make the world an interesting place.
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« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2010, 11:57:46 PM »

Quote
Dear Punch and Father Deacon Daniel:

I am sure that you are sincere in your admiration for Mr. Putin; but you must understand that others may have a different opinion of him.

Greetings Frost,

I am aware of Russia's tumultuous relationship with the Republic of Georgia. I lived next to a fellow parishioner, some years ago, who was Georgian and I have heard many stories. Although, he more specifically spoke about how devastating the Turks were to his country and the Orthodox Church / faithful.

Putin is not a model of sanctity but I do like what he has done and continues to do for the Russian Orthodox Church. If anything, let us pray that the Lord will grant more peace and stability to this region. It is not an easy situation over there and I am sure it is difficult for Putin himself to make the decisions he has regarding the Republic of Georgia. God bless them and keep them!

« Last Edit: May 28, 2010, 11:59:37 PM by Fr. Deacon Daniel » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2010, 12:09:55 AM »

What I can't understand is why anyone would have an issue with returning the property to the entity it was taken from in the first place. Even a child could see that is the just thing to do.

Problem is precedent: other properties have been owned by others for the past near century: what do you do with someone's home being on what was Church property?
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« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2010, 07:37:06 AM »

What I can't understand is why anyone would have an issue with returning the property to the entity it was taken from in the first place. Even a child could see that is the just thing to do.

Oddly enough, the Church does not actually want legal ownership of these monasteries and churches.

Up until now the Church has had all the benefits of their use, while the State (which owns them) has picked up the quite enormous bills for renovating and maintaining them.  Part of the reparation for the 80 years of destruction wrought by the State.

Now the Church itself has to face these great expenses.
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