The Stalin “Icon”: Why Yet Another Moscow Patriarchate Denial Falls Flat

Recently (well, June is recent) NFTU had posted an article concerning the use of a “Stalin icon” in a religious ceremony formally commemorating the Soviet victory in World War II. However, there seems to be a dogged attempt to try to claim the Moscow Patriarchate has formally condemned the use of such images (it hasn’t, as they seem to have grown in popularity) or that the clergy involved around this “blasphemy” (their words– I agree it’s a blasphemy, but note this word was used in a number of official Moscow Patriarchate sites covering up) were not actual MP clergy (this is also, as usual, false– but we’ll get to that.)

The article in question was also confusing as there were conflicting reports as to who precisely the priest (or Bishop, as was originally assumed due to what appeared to be a panagia on the MP cleric, which appears to be confusion caused by another story of a Patriarchal Bishop laying flowers at Stalin’s memorial three weeks later), which led to calls on our own credibility, although we were merely citing others’ sources. (The cleric in the image, for the record, is either MP priest Constantne Chaykin, dean of the Tver region, or MP Hieromonk Athenogenes of the Russian Monastery of Mt. Athos. Ok, it’s the second guy for the fake “icon” story. But we’ll get to that!)

So as the typical defenses abound (“many clergy find this reprehensible!” is a common response, to which our answer is “considering the size of the Moscow Patriarchate, so what”) when a commenter presented a link to the website Sputnik News (a website which literally makes no secret of the fact that it’s run by the Russian government as an “alternative news source” complete with announced Federal Registration on their “About Us” page) which declares the Moscow Patriarchate “Outraged” in its headline for what is the typical Moscow meandering whenever their Soviet-loving flunkies get caught, well, loving the Soviet era. (Why, even the word “blasphemy” is there, like on the site! Oh, it’s the same Russian government source? Ok.)

In the article, the “outrage” seems to be a statement of fact: persecutors of churches cannot be featured on icons. Unfortunately, it seems fewer and fewer clergy in the Moscow Patriarchate seem cognizant of this fact. But of course, this doesn’t really settle whether or not the MP was “outraged”, so we really wanted to find out precisely who this renegade priest was with the picture.

It turns out it doesn’t matter.

One of the more popular newspapers in Russia which actually does investigative journalism, Komsomolskaya Pravda, wrote an article about this ridiculous “icon”, and had the source for the photos.

Outrage! This would be blasphemy to any Belgorod priest! (Source:

And– color me shocked– turns out there in fact wasn’t a priest of the Belgorod diocese in attendance. There was, however, the Moscow Patriarchate’s own Metropolitan of Belgorod, sitting right in front of this “outrage” the entire preceding conference. This apparently even upset fans of the good Metropolitan himself. But here in the podunks of America, where we have no idea what happens in Russia, most folks just eat whatever Sputnik News or RT hands them. (State says “outrage”, we say “truth”.)

The moral of the story: the next time you hear the dogged defenders of the Patriarchate citing anonymous “leaders” condemning stuff, double check who their Bishop is. And make sure he feels the same way. Because you never know what you’ll find in a picture.

Oh, and if you read Russian news but aren’t reading Komsomolskaya Pravda, give it a try sometime. It’s what Google Translate’s made for.