How does the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) differ from Western confessions? You might mention things like filioque or papal supremacy, and that would be God’s own truth. But it wouldn’t be the whole truth.
For the ROC, in the person of Patriarch Alexis II (a career KGB operative, like all the post-war patriarchs), issued in 1997 a blessing to the singer Zhanna Bitchevskaya, thereby making her an official performer of ROC songs.
Unofficially, her patriotic, religious and nationalist oeuvre has deeply endeared her to my friend Vlad, who developed an affection for religious songs, or indeed religion, at the time of his first presidential campaign in 2000.
Until that momentous event, Vlad’s biographies, including the book First Person Singular he had dictated, had never mentioned any inchoate religious feelings, unlike, for example, his affection for German beer. Yet already in 2000 Vlad decided to turn Russia into an eerie amalgam of Third Rome, Third Reich and Third World, for which undertaking a public demonstration of religiosity was de rigueur.
Incidentally, that campaign was bankrolled by Boris Berezovsky who subsequently fell out with Vlad and hence came to a sticky end in his London exile, proving yet again that Vlad’s enemies can run but they can’t hide.
Bitchevskaya (I wonder how she abbreviates her surname) is still going strong at 71, performing and recording non-stop, a sort of ROC round the clock. She ought to be congratulated for staying on the same wavelength with her church and her state.
Actually the two entities have been one and the same since Peter I’s reforms, which effectively turned the ROC into a department of the state and, usually, an extension of its secret police.
Both before and after that fusion, the Russian state and the ROC have always been united in their pathological hatred of the West. This is a shame, for, unlike the state, the ROC is after all a Christian institution and, as such, ought to preach love, not hate.
The ROC’s record of hatred isn’t automatically attributable to its Byzantine origin, as some commentators suggest. After all, Greek and Coptic churches have the same provenance, and yet they don’t openly preach anti-Western invective.
No, this trait is peculiarly Russian – it’s the leitmotif of the country’s whole history. And you can trust Zhanna ‘Bitch’ to keep her finger not only on her silvery guitar strings but also on the nervous pulse of Russia.
The Russophones among you can confirm this observation courtesy of YouTube. But for the benefit of my linguistically challenged readers, allow me to translate a few bits and pieces from her lyrics (many, incidentally, written by the arch-monk Roman) and writings.
“Russia will be free again, and the world will fall down at her feet!”
“Russia spits on the power of Americas and Europes!”
“May you all [Westerners] croak!”
And then, in a different genre, that of journalism: “When we cross ourselves, we spit on the West thrice. And say, ‘I deny you, Satan’. All filth, all the refuse of the disgusting Antichrist comes from the West. That’s why everything that comes from the West should be expunged from our heads, our homes. Don’t dance to the West’s tune!”
“I do what God has put into my hands, my mouth, my soul. The songs I sing lead people to the church, to God.”
In other words Zhanna ‘Bitch’ is God’s apostle. Hence it stands to reason she should have healing powers: “The head physician of Moscow’s oncological centre once told me, ‘Zhanna, I must tell you something important: some patients in the last, fourth stage of cancer recover having heard the records of your songs by the arch-monk Roman. Not all, but some.’”
It’s then incomrehensible that every Russian cancer patient who can afford it still seeks treatment in the West. They could save themselves a lot of money and trouble by staying in Russia and listening to Zhanna ‘Bitch’ intoning ‘May you all croak!’ at the West. Or watching her clip We are Russians, Russians, Russians where Zhanna’s voiceover accompanies the footage of Russian bombers firing missiles, which is then cut to wide shots of burning American cities.
I do hope the Putin groupies among my Ukip friends will read this. They just may change their view of Vlad, he of staunch faith and nationalism. (‘Nationalism’ is seen as a desirable quality in some quarters – the distinction between that and patriotism is lost.)
Underpinning both his ‘faith’ and nationalism is visceral hatred of everything the West stands for. And the art of Vlad’s favourite performer faithfully imitates the life he fosters in Russia.