30 July 2013

Fr Vsevolod Chaplin steps up for Snowden

Russia Today reports:
Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin has praised Russian authorities for not caving in to pressure from abroad, saying granting asylum to US whistleblower Edward Snowden would help prevent the establishment of a ‘global electronic prison camp’.

“It is encouraging news that Russia is demonstrating its independence in this case as it has in many others, despite the pressure” said the head of the Holy Synod’s Department for Relations between the Church and Society.

Vsevolod Chaplin added that the Snowden saga has been broadly discussed both on the domestic and international level, with Russia’s position potentially bolstering its image as a country upholding “the true freedom of ideals.”

The Russian cleric further argued that Snowden’s revelations confirmed the existence of a pernicious problem discussed by Orthodox Christians for many years – “the prospective of a global electronic-totalitarian prison camp”.

“First they get people addicted to convenient means of communication with the authorities, businesses and among each other. In a while people become rigidly connected to these services and as a result the economic and political owners of these services get tremendous and terrifying power. They cannot help feeling the temptation to use this power to control the personality and such control might eventually be much stricter that all known totalitarian systems of the twentieth century,” Interfax news agency quoted Chaplin as saying.

The church official added that in his view true democracy remained an unreachable ideal.

“Any political system fixes the domination of a few over many. In the twentieth century the harshest forms of such political power used brute force, but now they are using soft power, through total data collecting and through soft persuasion of people, first through slogans but then through legal acts,” Chaplin explained. He noted that currently the soft power system was promoting such topics as declaring the western political system as the only viable option, making religion a marginal trend, and sidelining both criticism of market fundamentalism and leftist political platforms.

Chaplin urged Russian authorities to defend “real freedom, the freedom from the global ideological dictate and from the electronic prison camp.”

The cleric also offered a possible solution – the development of its own electronic communications system that would be independent from foreign-based mediums. “The nation has the brains for this and I hope we will also have a will,” Chaplin declared.

Russia is currently considering Edward Snowden’s request for temporary asylum and the former NSA contractor still remains in the transit zone of the Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

The Russian Justice Ministry on Tuesday sent a formal response to a letter from US Attorney General, who assured Moscow that Snowden would not face the prospect of death or torture if handed over to the United States.

The Russian ministry did not provide the details of its reply to the press.
Note here that Fr Chaplin is not being the sycophant of Russian political power that he is often portrayed as being in the Western press (like Time Magazine, which gives him the moniker of the ‘Kremlin’s point man’ and hideously goes on to liken him to Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson). I have noted before how Fr Chaplin falls well to the left of Edinaya Rossiya on economic issues; indeed, his views on issues like progressive taxation and tighter regulation of business (however modestly stated) correspond well with some of the smaller left-wing opposition parties in Russian politics (like Spravedlivaya Rossiya). He is in this case also leagues ahead of the Russian government in calling for Snowden to receive asylum, and indeed critiquing theologically the technologies which have allowed the modern state to achieve such power as it has, and abuse it in the way which it already clearly has. His voice is a conscientious one in Russian politics, and as such it is sorely needed.

Отлично, Fr Chaplin! Keep fighting the good fight, keep staying the course and keep keeping the faith!


  1. Great post. I have noticed that the Western media paints everybody in Russia as a Kremlin stooge unless they are hardcore neoliberal oligarchs. In that case, they are freedom-loving heroes.

    There are many critics of United Russia who are also critical of the West, so they do sometimes side with the Kremlin, but not always, which is what you would expect from fairly independent political groupings. But the Western media does not do nuance when it comes to Russia.

  2. Hi John! Many thanks for the comment!

    I was having a discussion on Facebook with a friend of mine from GSPIA concerning Fr Vsevolod and the ROC hierarchy generally; she says she prefers Metropolitan Hilarion to Fr Vsevolod, whom she sees as a reactionary.

    Apparently there is a wide range of opinions too within the Church as well, and not everything is a black-and-white issue with them. The ROC are not as allergic to interventionist economic policy, for example, as the OCA here, so it seems to be more than just a 'secular Western media' problem. There is something in our political culture which lends itself far too easily to Panglossianism and Gnostic heresies, it seems...