Repression in Belarus against those who disagree with the war against Ukraine is growing more and more and covers all layers of society – scientists, public figures, Christians of all denominations. The crackdown is aimed at instilling fear and stifling any criticism of Lukashenko’s regime and Putin’s policies. They are expressed in mass arrests of people who have declared positions on social networks or in another public place. Most of those arrested are released after an “educational conversation” in the militia, and a part remain “under administrative arrest”. Public figures are asked to publicly repent for the positions expressed. For those who refuse, the “administrative detention” is permanently extended – this is, for example, the case of Prot. Vladislav Bogomolnikov, who a few days ago received the sixth consecutive fifteen-day extension of his arrest. The priest, who was a member of the Diocesan Court of the Minsk Diocese and a professor of philosophy at the Minsk Theological Academy, refused to “publicly repent” of his views.
The action at the end of October at the Academy of Sciences of Belarus, where mass arrests and searches took place, received a strong response. In total, over forty officials were detained, including a member of the presidium of the Academy of Sciences.
On November 10, one of the popular Orthodox theologians in Belarus, Oleg Nagorny, was also arrested, charged with “inciting hatred against Russians” and “spreading fascist symbols.” A week after his detention, a government-controlled “Telegram channel” released a video of him looking very bad and admitting to posting “fascist symbolism”, although he is a consistent critic of totalitarian ideologies.
Oleg Nagorny is 41 years old and is one of the most famous sect scholars in Belarus, an author of online resources, a participant in most Orthodox events and forums in the country for the last ten years.
With the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Nagorny condemned the Russian aggression, and on the eighth day of it, he wrote an open letter to the famous Orthodox professor Alexei Osipov, who supported Putin, with the following words: “By supporting the military invasion of Ukraine, the Orthodox Christians of Russia and Belarus surrender their Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Christ… It seems to me that a Christian cannot justify immoral, criminal and armed “preemptive” aggression against another sovereign state, especially combined with war crimes and killing civilians, even in the interest of the survival of their state. And you?”.
In his publications, Oleg Nagorny also criticized the church policy of Patr. Cyril, who supports the war.
The General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime proposes to check his publications for “inciting hatred towards Russians” and to open a criminal case against him.
See his last article before his detention, published on his blog on November 5: “Why Russia is not a Catechon and does not have an extraordinary Divine Mission!”.
Dear Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ, how would you describe the spiritual state of a person who considers himself to be God’s special chosen one in Satan’s world – the only person in the city who is entrusted with guarding Christian morality by all means? At the same time he fornicates, drinks and doesn’t go to church often… But then he remembers that he was baptized as a child and that’s why he was chosen…
In court they ask this self-styled “Israeli”: “Why did you kill your neighbors?” And he answers: “How why?! I am on our street by God’s special choice, as I am the last stronghold of traditional Christian values that stands against the satanic conspiracy preparing the coming of the antichrist! The downstairs neighbor, for example, registered her profile on an LGBT site. How many times I have convinced her that this is an abomination before God, but she did not listen to me. So she has herself to blame… I had to go to extremes and I strangled her… And the neighbors across the street are visiting that house more and more often. And it is full of blasphemers and haters of morality! The neighbors were clearly under their influence! I felt that they wanted to attack me! So they had themselves to blame – I had to preemptively enter their house in the morning and shoot them…”.
And here in the world there is a whole country that thinks of itself in this way, judging by its propaganda!
Objectively speaking, it cannot boast of its own piety: in the ranking of corruption (extortion, theft, bad management) it is next to the countries of the Third World. By the number of abortions in absolute terms and per thousand people, it is traditionally at the top. In terms of alcoholism, it is one of the heaviest drinking countries in the world. In terms of the number of suicides per hundred thousand people, it is traditionally in the Top 10 – this year it is in ninth place between Suriname and South Africa… As for sexual promiscuity – fornication and cohabitation have long been commonplace. And in PornHub’s ranking, it firmly holds a position in the Top 20. I couldn’t find up-to-date data, but in 2005 the UN declared this country the world’s largest supplier of sex slaves…
This country calls itself Orthodox. Why? Because the majority of its citizens consider themselves Orthodox, but only thirty-six percent of them believe in life after death. In fact, only twenty percent of them are Orthodox.
Nevertheless, the propagandists of this country increasingly and more officially suggest that it is a God-chosen fortress surrounded by the forces of Satan. That the armed conflict that ensues is almost a cosmic struggle between the forces of God and the devil…
“This is a war not only of armies, of people – it is also a war of the spirit. This is very important. We can say that we see a horizontal confrontation: our army, our adversaries, us against NATO. Of course, not against Ukraine – there is nothing to talk about there. But this war has another dimension – vertical. This is the war of Heaven against Hell. It is a war of angelic armies, a war of the archangel Michael’s army against the devil. And this vertical dimension is ideology, it is the sphere of ideas, the sphere of the spirit in which the confrontation unfolds” (Alexander Dugin).
“There are different types of weapons. We have the ability to send all our enemies to hellfire, but that is not our task. We listen to the words of the Creator in our hearts and obey them. These words give us a sacred purpose. The goal is to stop the supreme ruler of hell, regardless of his name – Satan, Lucifer or Iblis. Because his goal is destruction. Our purpose is life.
His weapon is an artful lie.
And our weapon is the Truth.
That is why our cause is right.
That is why victory will be ours!”
Where does this conceit draw its ideological strength from, we are told by the Patrus himself. Cyril and other church speakers. They claim that today Russia fulfills the role of that “deterrent factor” (in Greek: κατέχον), which according to the thought of ap. Paul prevents the premature coming of the Antichrist into the world (2 Thess. 2:7).
The details in the personal theology of patr. Cyril in this matter are complicated. Essentially, he believes that “catechon” is a good thing that people do. And the Church and the state are the organizing principles of this good and in this sense, metonymically, they are also the “deterrents”.
“Is Russia preventing the coming of the Antichrist into the world and the end of human history?” This question cannot be answered with a yes or a no. The “deterrent” is certainly not a country by one name or another, and not even a people. The antidote to the spread of evil is good. If good is more than evil, evil cannot dominate. If the good in society develops constantly and is perceived by each succeeding generation, the space of good expands and all good is from God. Then the volume of evil shrinks, the sphere of evil’s dominion narrows, and it is not bound to any country or geographical space. However, when we speak of the revival of Russia as a spiritual phenomenon, we mean first of all the result of this revival. And it should lead to the strengthening of good interpersonal and social relations. If goodness becomes an affirming beginning in the life of our people, then surely Russia will be a “deterrent”, a “catechon” (Patr. Kirill in “The Shepherd’s Word”, No. 5, December 2015).
In the “dry remnant”, however, as applied to modern political ideology, Russia is a Catechon at war with the forces of the Antichrist. To argue this from the point of view of the exegetical approach of the patriarch, we must find in the Russians (or the inhabitants of the “triune Holy Rus”, if you will) some special religiosity and piety, compared to the rest of the world. In fact, this is exactly what the Holy One does:
“According to the patriarch, there lives in Russia a ‘pious people’ who oppose the Prince of Darkness. The patriarch compared the attacks of the West to “arrows”.
However, such claims are based on nothing but personal imagination. Above we quoted statistics according to which the actual “Orthodoxy” in Russia is about twenty percent. However, in terms of the depth of penetration of the various phenomena that the Church associates with the concept of “sin”, it is in one of the first places in the world.
For illustration, we can cite current data on alcoholism in “Saint Rus”. According to the World Health Organization, in the ranking of the most drinking countries in the world, published in 2022, Belarus takes first place, and Russia – fifth. Of the three countries of “Holy Rus”, only Ukraine is not among the most drinking countries in the world. And the main hotbed of anti-Christian forces, according to propaganda, the USA, is only in 25th place.
In this context, we would like to remind those who justify the invasion of Ukraine by the struggle of traditional values against LGBT debauchery that drunkards are condemned in the New Testament in the same way that sodomites are condemned:
“Don’t be fooled! Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor Malachis, nor Sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous persons, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
However, even in the countries that are most active in the fight against discrimination against homosexuals (in the language of Russian propaganda – “support non-traditional values”), the proportion of homosexuals varies from less than one to three percent. I am not aware of such competent research in Russia. However, in a 2014 survey conducted by the Center for the Study of Mass Electronic Consciousness (CSEMS), two percent of respondents openly identified as homosexual. And in a May 2019 Levada Center survey, “Three percent say they have a positive attitude toward sexual minorities.” In other words, Russia is no different from the rest of the world in terms of the prevalence of homosexuality, which has been declared an exclave of Satan.
Therefore, if we apply the interpretation of patr. Cyril on objective data, it is not possible to conclude that Russia (or “the triune Rus”) is God’s chosen “catechon”!
It remains to make a few remarks about why Russia, in principle, cannot be a catechumen.
Let’s look more closely at the New Testament text:
“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, only it will not be accomplished until he who now holds it back withdraws” (2 Thess. 2:7).
In the Greek original: “μόνον ο κατέχων άρτι Αμος…” (2 Thess. 2:7). Literally: “… only the one holding her now (άρτι) while [is]…”.
This means that a “catechumen” already existed at the time the apostle wrote these words.
Modern “catechon witnesses” use the following logic: many ancient interpreters see in the Roman Empire a “catechon”. And Moscow is the Third Rome. Therefore, after Constantinople, it was she who inherited from Rome the title “katechon”.
However, this logic does not work! It was easy for ancient interpreters to assume that the antichrist could not receive power until the emperors of the Roman Empire gave it to him. After all, the empire they write about existed in the time of the apostle. That is why his phrase “holding it now” easily applies to both the Western Roman Empire and its direct successor, the Byzantine Empire.
However, at the time when the Apostle Paul wrote these words, the Russian Empire and the Russian Federation did not exist! So there is no way they could be the “katechona” that existed as early as Paul’s time.
There is another nuance. Rome at the time of the Apostle Paul was not a fortress of traditional Orthodox values, but of traditional pagan values. Christianity was persecuted by the authorities, not supported. Therefore, when today’s apologists of the “Katekhona” see in Russia the successor of Rome, they should be aware that the purpose of the “Katekhona” in this interpretation is not to be the last fortress of Orthodoxy on earth, sunk in the conspiracy of the Antichrist. The early exegetes who were of the opinion that the “katechon” was the Roman Empire explained the mechanism of the restraint of the Antichrist without referring to the great election of God and the worldwide protection of Orthodox values.
“… When the Roman state ceases to exist, then he (the antichrist – note ed.) will come. And rightfully so. For as long as they fear this state, no one will soon submit (to the antichrist); but once it is destroyed, there will be no power, and he will try to steal all – both human and divine – power” (St. John Chrysostom).
And as for the superstition that the world will exist as long as Russia exists, and if it collapses, the Antichrist will come, it is actually a carryover of Tertullian’s interpretive assumption, but transferred from the Roman Empire to Russia:
“For the mystery of iniquity is already at work, only it will not be accomplished until he withdraws who now holds it back. What is this, if not the Roman state, whose fall and division among ten kings will be effected by the antichrist?” (On the Resurrection in the Flesh 24).
Meanwhile, the Roman Empire and Byzantium fell, but Paul’s prophecy about the coming of the antichrist did not come true. Therefore, by “catechon” the apostle did not mean the empire and its emperors.
Even Fr. Daniil Sisoev rightly asks: “How could the king of Constantinople, at the time of the decline of Byzantium, when his dominions were limited to the city and its surroundings, curb the evil that was running in the world?”. And also: “Why, after more than eighty years have passed since the assassination of the last Orthodox emperor, the antichrist has not yet come?”
1. Russia is not a catechumen and cannot be, since the catechumen already existed at the time of the Apostle Paul, but Russia is not.
2. The role of the catechumen Paul writes about is not to be the last state formation defending Christian values in the face of the world’s anti-Christian conspiracy.
Let us not forget that the apostle is writing these words to Christians who are being persecuted by the Roman Empire. And at that moment there are no Orthodox countries!
3. Russia has no special role or mission that elevates it above the other former, present or future empires and states of the world. As the first and second “Rome” fell, so the third may fall without eschatological consequences.
4. Self-exaltation, pride, conceit, self-sanctification, lust for power… the attempt to “evangelize” not with words, but with violence – these are signs of demonic darkness of any scale (be it of an individual, family, collective, nation).
As history warns, such an ideology can end up with the motto “God with us” on the belts of soldiers who go off to do apparently god-awful deeds.