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The KGB and the Russian Orthodox Church

The fourth session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in 1990. Patriarch Alexy II speaks to the deputies. (TASS / Dmitry Sokolov)

By Vladimir Popov (Former Soviet State Security Lieutenant Colonel)
July 8, 2020 Anno Domini
Translated from the Russian

At the height of World War II, on September 14, 1943, the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) was formed in the Soviet Union. The name of the new organ was suggested by Joseph Stalin himself. The tasks of this structure included the relationship between the state and the church.

It was a crucial year of the Great Patriotic War, which was preceded by a period of defeats for the Red Army. In the territories occupied by the Germans, the German occupation authorities contributed to the revival of religious activity persecuted under Soviet rule. And Stalin believed that the church as an institution could be revived and used by the Soviet government both in the USSR and abroad.

Notable and significant was the appointment of a security officer to the post of chairman of the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church. Here is his eloquent biography:

Georgy Grigorievich Karpov (June 7, 1898, Kronstadt – December 18, 1967, Moscow) – Soviet statesman, major general of the NKGB (1945). From September 1943 to February 1960 – Chairman of the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church under the Council of Ministers of the USSR.

In the organs of the Cheka since 1922. In 1922-1928 he served in the Special Department, and in 1928-1936 – in the counterintelligence department and the secret-political department of the plenipotentiary representation (PP) of the OGPU in the Leningrad Military District – UGB UNKVD in the Leningrad Region. Deputy Head of the UNKVD in the Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (1936).

In 1936-1937 – deputy head, since July 1937 – head of the secret-political department (then – the 4th department) of the UGB UNKVD in the Leningrad region, authorized by the 2nd department of the GUGB NKVD of the USSR. Head of the Pskov regional department of the NKVD of the Leningrad region (1938-1939). Head of the department of the 2nd department of the GUGB NKVD of the USSR (1939-1941). Deputy Head of the 3rd Department of the 3rd Directorate of the NKGB of the USSR (February 1941 – June 1941).

He met the Great Patriotic War as a State Security Major. Head of the 4th department of the 3rd manager of the NKVD of the USSR (July 1941 – May 1943). From February 1943 – Colonel of State Security. Head of the 5th Department of the 2nd Directorate of the NKGB-MGB of the USSR (May 1943 – May 1946). Head of the “O” department of the USSR Ministry of State Security (May 1946 – August 1947). Since August 1947 in the reserve of the Ministry of State Security of the USSR. In March 1955 he was dismissed from the KGB at the Council of Ministers of the USSR.

In January 1960, by the Party Control Commission under the Central Committee of the CPSU, he was expelled from the ranks of the CPSU for violations of socialist legality; in March 1960, he was reinstated in the CPSU with a severe reprimand.

It was established that “Comrade Karpov, working in 1937-1938 in the Leningrad administration and the Pskov district department of the NKVD, grossly violated socialist legality, carried out mass arrests of innocent citizens, used perverted methods of investigation, and also falsified the interrogation protocols of the arrested”.

In particular, according to the recollections of Alexander Tammi, arrested in 1937 in Leningrad, “Karpov first thrashed [him] with a stool, and then strangled him with a leather belt, slowly twisting it … Karpov participated in the interrogations of the theoretical physicist Matvey Bronstein, who was shot in February 1938 on fabricated charges “. For these illegal actions, a large group of investigators from the Pskov district department of the NKVD was convicted back in 1941, and Karpov “at that time was recalled to Moscow to the central office of the NKVD.”

The final wording was as follows: “Comrade Karpov deserves to be expelled from the CPSU for the violations of socialist legality committed in 1937-1938, but taking into account the prescription of his misconduct and positive work in subsequent years, the Party Control Committee confined itself to Karpov with a severe reprimand to the registration card “.

Retired since 1960. Buried in Moscow at the Novodevichy cemetery.

Russian president Boris Yeltsin looks up to the top of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral as Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II stands next to him prior to the Orthodox Christmas service in Moscow on January 7, 1996. At right, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. (VLADIMIR MASHATIN/AFP via Getty Images)

In the mid-1960s, through the merger of two bodies subordinate to the Council of Ministers of the USSR – the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Council for Affairs of Religious Cults (formed on May 19, 1944), the Council for Religious Affairs was created under the Council of Ministers of the USSR. The Council made decisions on the registration or deregistration of religious associations, on the opening and closing of prayer buildings and houses, liaised between the government of the USSR and religious organizations in the USSR and abroad, since the Soviet state formally declared its non-interference in the affairs of the church and other religious organizations.

All clergymen in the USSR, in order to carry out their activities, had to have registration of the Council, which controlled the governing bodies of all religious organizations, including the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. Deputy Chairman of the Council Valentin Fursov, reporting to the Central Committee of the CPSU for the period 1974 – early 1975, wrote that “The Synod is under the control of the Council. The question of the selection and placement of its … members was and remains entirely in the hands of the Council … explanatory work with members of the synod, establish confidential contacts with them.”

The term “confidential contacts” is a professional one in the activities of the special services and it is not accidental that it appears in this report. Until the disappearance of the state called the Soviet Union from the world map and the abolition of the power of the CPSU in the country, the positions of deputy chairmen of these religious organizations were occupied by officers of the current reserve of the KGB of the USSR, who were employees of the 4th department of the 5th department of the KGB of the USSR.

Their subordination in the department of cover was only nominal. As the former chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs (1985-1990) Konstantin Kharchev recalled, “I had a deputy to whom the churchmen carried cognac in boxes and who sometimes“ dragged them by the hair. ”They depended on him whether or not he would allow the trip for border, whether he wants to be assigned to a good hospital.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with the Russian spiritual leaders of different religious confessions, chairman of Buddhist community Damba Ayushev (L), Mufti Sheikh-Ul-Islam Talgat Tadjuddin (2ndL) and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II (2ndR) during a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Public Military Foundation at the Kremlin in Moscow 21 February, 2001. (AFP via Getty Images)

After the fall of Soviet power, the existence of a large number of agents recruited by the state security from among the leaders-hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church became public knowledge. Today it is no longer a secret that the former patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexy II, for decades was in the Soviet security apparatus under the operational pseudonym Drozdov, as well as the current patriarch Kirill, who worked for state security under the pseudonym Mikhailov. Here is an excerpt from an open letter from Priest Gleb Yakunin to Patriarch Alexy II (A.M. Ridiger):

“One of the results of the irrepressible claims of the Moscow Patriarchate for church property located in independent Estonia was, in addition to the split with Ecumenical Orthodoxy, the publication in the media of some archival materials about the activities of one of the ROC functionaries and at the same time a KGB agent named Drozdov, who started , as it has now become known, his career as an informant in the Estonian SSR.

In 1991-1992, while working with the archives of the allied KGB as part of the parliamentary commission to investigate the causes and circumstances of the Emergency Committee, among the reports of the 4th department of the 5th State Security Directorate, data on the activities of agent Drozdov, who was already one of the leaders of the patriarchy, was found. ..

Earlier, according to the results of the activities of the Commission of the Supreme Soviet, archival information was already published that agent Drozdov was awarded a diploma of the KGB of the USSR in February – March 1988 …

Comparison of the biographical data of A.M. Ridiger with the official biography of Agent Drozdov gives strong reasons to believe that they are talking about the same person. It is difficult to doubt the consubstantiality of agent Drozdov and Patriarch Alexy II … “

Former major general of the KGB, former head of the K (external counterintelligence) department of the KGB of the USSR, and then the first deputy head of the USSR KGB for Leningrad and the Leningrad region, Oleg Danilovich Kalugin, in an interview with Dmitry Gordon, also talked about the state of the former the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Alexy II, who died in 2008, and the current Patriarch Kirill “(the program” Visiting Dmitry Gordon “, October 1, 2013).

In 2012, in an interview with the Ukrainian magazine, Patriarch Filaret, in the world Mikhail Antonovich Denisenko, said that “all bishops, without exception, were connected with the KGB. All without exception. In Soviet times, no one could become a bishop, if not gave the consent of the KGB. Therefore, to assert that I was not connected with the KGB would be untrue – I was connected, like everyone else.”

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – NOVEMBER 4, 2017: Patriarch Kirill (L) of Moscow and All Russia and Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar at a ceremony to lay flowers at the monument to Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky in Moscow’s Red Square on Russia’s National Unity Day. Mikhail Metzel/TASS (Photo by Mikhail MetzelTASS via Getty Images)

Pavel Protsenko graduated from the Gorky Literary Institute a year later than Vigilyansky. Unlike his classmate, Protsenko did not “make friends” with foreign journalists, “metropolitan people” and Proffers. But he was a dissident and was interested in the history of the persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church.

And how much more dramatic was his fate in comparison with the fate of Vigilyansky: for his interest in the ROC in 1986, Protsenko was arrested by the KGB. A number of famous Soviet writers came out in his defense. However, on November 18-19, 1986, Protsenko was sentenced by the court to three years in general regime camps for “slandering the Soviet state and social system.” In 1987, after perestroika began in the country, Protsenko was released and fully rehabilitated. In an interview with Radio Liberty, Protsenko said:

“A commission was created to investigate the anti-constitutional activities of the State Emergency Committee. It was headed by Lev Ponomarev, and Gleb Yakunin, People’s Deputy of the Supreme Council of Russia, took an active part in it. In particular, they started looking for documents that speak of the anti-constitutional activities of the KGB in the church sphere. They worked out everything. two months.

During this time, they found a small number of documents, which listed the nicknames that the KGB gave to the hierarchs of the church. Moreover, as a rule, these nicknames were not tied to surnames, since they were given by operational workers …

But thanks to some analytical work, it was possible to decipher some of the nicknames. Two months later, the chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Khasbulatov, was visited by the then Patriarch Alexy II. Yevgeny Primakov, at that time the head of the foreign intelligence service, also met with him. After the meeting of these three people, the activities of the commission were urgently terminated. After that, a number of publications appeared with the decoding of the names of agents.

First of all, I would like to say about such a prominent figure of the then Orthodoxy as Metropolitan Philaret of Kiev (Denisenko) – as a number of researchers have established, his nickname was Agent Antonov. But besides him, there were a number of clergymen: for example, the Abbot was Metropolitan Pitirim, the head of the then publishing department. And for example, agent Restorer – this was the famous Metropolitan Chrysostom, now Vilnius. ”

Radio Liberty. Security officers on the march. Power and the Church. May 29, 2015

Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia (C) and President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev (R) before talks. (Photo by TASS via Getty Images)

From the examples given, it is clear how it was possible to make a career in the Russian Orthodox Church in Soviet times. In today’s Russia, even more so. It is indicative that, under the former Patriarch Alexy II and his successor, Patriarch Kirill, in the position of an adviser (including on economic issues) of the already mentioned Deputy Chairman of the USSR KGB, Major General Valery Fedorovich Lebedev, curator of the 5th line of the USSR KGB. In some documents, Lebedev even began to be referred to as a professor of theology.

In addition, he headed the Orthodox Television Foundation and was the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Moscow Patriarchate’s cable television and radio company Free People’s Television (SNT). Appointments to positions important for the Russian Orthodox Church were held only with his approval. So Vigilyansky could not be the head of the patriarch’s press service if he was not involved in cooperation with the Russian state security.

The dominance of state security agents in the ROC was observed at all levels of the church hierarchy. This conclusion, in particular, was reached by the commission of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Russian Federation, which was investigating the State Emergency Committee. The document published by the Commission stated the following about the role of the ROC:

“The commission draws the attention of the leadership of the ROC to the anti-constitutional use by the Central Committee of the CPSU and the KGB of the USSR of a number of church bodies for their own purposes by recruiting and sending agents of the KGB into them. So, through the department of external church relations, agents designated nicknames Svyatoslav, Alamant, Mikhailov, Topaz, Nesterovich, Kuznetsov, Ognev, Esaulenko and others.

The nature of the orders they carry out testifies to the inseparability of this department from the state, to its transformation into a hidden center of the KGB agents among believers. Through agents, international religious organizations were kept under control, in which the ROC also participated: the World Council of Churches, the Christian Peace Conference, the Conference of European Churches … The Chairman of the KGB of the USSR Andropov reported to the Central Committee of the CPSU that the KGB was controlling the relations of the ROC with the Vatican.

Such a deep infiltration of intelligence agents into religious associations poses a serious danger to society and the state … As the coup d’etat of August 19-21, 1991 showed, the possibility of using religion for anti-constitutional purposes was real. The visit of Metropolitan Pitirim (Nechaev) to the outlawed state criminal Pugo on August 21, 1991, is of deep concern.

In diplomatic language, this is de facto recognition. The breeding ground for such a visit was the fact that the publishing department of the Moscow Patriarchate was controlled by agents of the KGB. In the reports of the 5th Directorate of the KGB of the USSR, through the publishing department, agents Abbot (from the hierarchs) and Grigoriev are constantly mentioned, who often traveled abroad and, obviously, held (occupy) high posts in this institution.

The undoubted fault in the current situation lies with the CPSU and the state bodies accountable to it. But there is no doubt that the religious associations themselves do not know the whole truth about their employees. Lustration of church agents could be a harsh, even cruel act in relation to a church that has already suffered a lot. The commission believes that it would be better if the believers themselves find a way to cleanse themselves of the introduced anti-constitutional elements.

But, unfortunately, the church leadership has not yet expressed an official attitude to the problem of its depoliticization. Deacon Andrei Kuraev, an assistant to Patriarch Alexy II, declared publications about the commission’s materials a persecution of the church and even a “triumph” of the KGB itself (Moskovskie Novosti, No. 10, 1992). However, Archbishop Chrysostomos of Vilnius essentially denied Deacon Kuraev and spoke about his 18-year collaboration with the KGB. (“Rossiyskaya Gazeta” No. 52/388 for 1992).

In the absence of an official point of view of the leadership of the church, the commission recommends that the canonical and civil statutes prohibit secret cooperation of senior church officials with state bodies, as well as study the previous activities of their governing bodies and international departments in light of the compliance of these activities with the constitutional principle of separation of church from state.

For its part, in order to eliminate the danger of using the church for anti-constitutional purposes, the commission proposed amendments to the current legislation prohibiting the involvement of clergymen in operational-search activities. However, the practical implementation of this provision can only be achieved with a ban on both sides – both from the state and from the church itself. The Commission expresses the hope that the ROC will be able to overcome the difficult legacy of the past. 1992 year. Chairman of the Commission, People’s Deputy P. Ponomarev.”

It should be noted that the church authorities did not at all seek to “overcome the difficult legacy of the past”, an example of which is evidence of the deep infiltration of agents of the Soviet-Russian special services into the environment of the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church: Alexy II is a KGB agent Drozdov.

The current patriarch (Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad) Kirill Gundyaev is a KGB agent Mikhailov. Metropolitan Methodius of Voronezh – KGB agent Pavel. Metropolitan of Kiev Filaret (Denisenko) KGB agent Antonov. Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk is a KGB agent Ostrovsky. Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) is an agent of the KGB Svyatoslav. Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and Yuryevsk Pitirim – KGB agent Abbot. Metropolitan Yuvenaly (Poyarkov) – KGB agent Adamant. Archbishop Kliment of Kaluga is an agent of the KGB Topaz.

From the words of the famous Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, it is known that since studying at Moscow State University, he has been a parishioner of the Church of the Holy Martyr Tatiana at this higher educational institution. The temple was returned to the church on January 22, 1995. Maxim Evgenievich Kozlov was appointed rector of the temple by the decree of Patriarch Alexy II.

Kozlov graduated from the Faculty of Philology of Moscow State University, where he specialized in the Department of Classical Philology (Ancient Greek and Latin). During his student years, Maxim Kozlov worked as a freelancer in the publishing department of the Moscow Patriarchate.

At this time, the future father Tikhon (Shevkunov) and Vladimir Vigilyansky, who later became a priest, also worked there. For many years the head of the publishing department of the Moscow Patriarchate was Metropolitan Pitirim of Volokolamsk and Yuryev (in the world Konstantin Nechaev), who was an agent of the 4th department of the 5th department of the KGB of the USSR. Speaking about him, Father Tikhon emphasized: “ I respect Father Pitirim and will not throw a stone at him. ”

The highly experienced KGB agent of the USSR, the Abbot, who was Metropolitan Pitirim, naturally selected the employees of the department he headed in accordance with the recommendations of the curators from the state security. The friendship of Tikhon’s father with intelligence general Leonov is also an example of his stay in the intelligence apparatus of the Russian special services, since former officers, and even more so generals of the special services, do not make friends with random people, preferring to deal with proven and reliable agents.

When Fr. Tikhon was the governor of the Sretensky monastery in Moscow, Vladimir Vigilyansky served in this church as a deacon. In 2012, Father Vladimir (Vigilyansky) replaced Archpriest Maxim Kozlov in the place of the rector of the Church of the Holy Martyr Tatiana at Moscow State University. And Archpriest Kozlov in the same 2012 was appointed rector of the Church of St. Seraphim of Sarov on Krasnopresnenskaya embankment in the prestigious “Moscow City”. Thus, the FSB of Russia received an additional agent enclave to the number available in this large business center.

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