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Sretensky stavropeghial monastery
Sretensky stavropeghial monastery


The interview which was recently given by the Father Superior of Sretensky monastery Archimandrite Tikhon to 'Profile" magazine receives much heavily biased comments in the mass media, and the meaning of his utterances is often rudely distorted. We publish the full text of the interview from the 'Profile' No. 35.

The correspondent of the 'Profile' magazine Sergey Cherepov talks with Archimandrite Tikhon.

S. C. Very Reverend Father, lately a lot is said about your influence on President Vladimir Putin. Under what circumstances did you meet?

Father Tikhon Lately I have with much interest learned from quite a number of articles about my special closeness to the President, about my supposed influence on him, about my participation in solution of Church and even state problems. Basing on these newspaper 'facts', analysts in their turn make conceptions, global prognoses, and so on and so forth... What can be said about that? First of all, in social and political circles there is an unshakable conviction that somebody directs the President of Russia. Unfortunately it has been that way for the last fifteen years. Parties of influence changed, but it wasn't particularly difficult to determine them. But/however something different takes place today. Both those, who for many years have controlled the former President and those, who have served their interests (not forgetting their own) hectically look for and can't find the source of influence on Putin. Who controls him? The oligarchs? No. His family? No. The military, the FSB? No. The West, the international circles, the media? It's a pity, but no, too. And they have found at last! It turns out, it is Fr.Tikhon, your humble servant!

But the essence of the question is that Putin is simply independent, and this quality of his(him) strengthens more and more, being a cause of joy for some, and driving others into panic. Lord willing, this President will be directed only by God, own conscience, his love for Russia and good judgment. Our ancestors, who didn't destroy, but united Russia, called all this in sum 'statesmanship'.

As for your question, I can say that I had met Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin before he became President. He is an Orthodox man, who wouldn't conceal his convictions. Everyone could see in the news on TV that his wife and daughters were with him at the Nativity service in St.Petersburg. Many are glad about this. Some can't understand it, are annoyed and even resentful about it. It's one thing for a state man to stand importantly holding a candle in church, paying habitual tribute to the 'spiritual climate'. This is normal, they can understand it. And now suddenly here is sincerity.

So, in this case both Vladimir Vladimirovich and all those, who in innermost life of their own souls through doubts, denials, deep spiritual meditations ascend to the knowledge of God, are far from being lonely. Dostoyevsky wrote: 'The scoundrels ridiculed me for what seemed to them lack of education and retrograde faith in God. These dolts haven't ever even dreamed of the denial of such strength which I put in the Inquisitor and in the previous chapter, and the whole of the novel serves as an answer to that. After all, not as a fool, a fanatic, I believe in God. And these wanted to teach me, and laughed at my backwardness. Their silly nature hasn't ever seen the most powerful denial I had gone through. And they would teach me.'

As for spiritual questions, which may arise before any Christian, believe me, the President has someone to solve them with. He is closely and warmly acquainted with the Patriarch. Not long ago, on his trip around the western region, Putin has visited Pskovo-Pechersky monastery and Archimandrite John (Kriestyankin), the elder of deepest spiritual life, who had endured concentration camps, has gone an enormous path as a monk, who is a man of great spiritual ability.

S. C. Don't you think that under the current circumstances the state may try to use the Church in its own interests? Take the war in Chechnya for instance. Orthodoxy implies non-resistance to evil by violence. And even Sergius of Radonezh didn't bless Dmitry of Don to battle with the Tatars at first in 1380, rather he suggested offering them money, jewelry, and then said Sergius, God would reward Dmitry for his humility. And only when Dmitry said that he had done all this, but the Tatars demanded more, Segius blessed him. Don't you think that warlike-patriotic slogans are alien to Orthodoxy and Christianity? There is no commandment regarding patriotism, there is a commandment saying: 'Thou shalt not kill'

Father Tikhon The idea, that the Church appeals for docility to evil, unfortunately, took root long ago and it is absolutely false. In reality there is nothing more alien to Orthodox Christianity than the assertion that one shouldn't oppose evil. It's another thing to be patient and tolerant, opposite to demonic aggressiveness, as Christ wants us to be, and for fulfilling this patience, for peace-loving, for heroic self-sacrifice for peace, He promises us His help.

If we turn to your example from the Russian history, then really, only it were not Venerable Sergius, but Metropolitan of Moscow Kiprian, who asked Dmitry of Don to do everything in his power so that to avoid the war and bloodshed. And Russians actually not once or twice 'turned the other cheek' trying to keep peace. And when all means had been exhausted, St.Sergius of Radonezh blessed the Duke to fight, and even, as it's known, gave him two of his monk-warriors.

It is an incredibly delicate question. The commandment of love for your enemy is the personal feat of a Christian-zealot, who sees even in a man darkened by anger the image and likeness of God. It is a great and difficult feat- to love a man even in his most distorted state, forgive even the greatest evil, brought personally to you. And to not resist evil, directed personally toward you, is the highest level of self-denial, which is within few people's intelligibility and capacity. It is absolutely different, when a Christian confronts with the evil, directed towards his neighbour or the whole of society. Here he not only may, but must do everything to curb this evil.

The spiritual follower of St.Sergius-Seraphim of Sarov, when thugs came to him, and, having beaten him within an inch of his life, robbed him, didn't even raise his hand against them, though he was a man of great physical strength. But at the same time he blessed warriors to defend their Fatherland, not only persuaded, but urged to stop rebels, who encroached on the foundations and spiritual principles of the state. Connivance at evil (which was, by the way, one of the causes of divergence between Lev Tolstoy and the Orthodox Church) is a sheer spiritual and moral crime.

As for Chechnya, Russia has foregone a lot, when it consented to sign the Agreement of Hasaviurt. It was the same attempt to 'pay off' as in the time of Dmitry of Don. And it proved unsuccessful as well. The invasion of Chechnen rebels of Dagestan in November of 1999 literally forced Russia to unsheathe its sword again. Russian patriotism has always had defensive character. 1,5 centuries ago the famous Moscow Primate Metropolitan Filaret deduced a measured formula, which defined the view of the Church on patriotism as a religious duty: 'Love your enemies, beat the enemies of your Fatherland, treat God's enemies with disdain.

S. C. But as history has showed, the rapprochement of the State and Church may have negative consequences. The problems of this or that power automatically falls on the shoulders of the Church. If we remember 1917 - along with the Empire the society had been deprived of its religious foundation. What do you think about this?

Father Tikhon To begin with, the Russian state and Russian Orthodox Church were born almost simultaneously, and the Church became in essence the builder of the state. In periods of the most terrible upheavals and sedition it was the Church that saved our country and statehood, fought for the independence of Russia. It was to a certain extent revealed even when the unprecedented persecution was in full swing, in the years of the Great Patriotic War. That's why the process of mutual attraction is natural in its essence. Those, who shout that the Church shouldn't dare interfere in social life and influence on the development of the state, have vague idea of what Russia is. This rapprochement is not the result of somebody's will, but has ontological roots.

Of course, there were periods, when the state attempted to subjugate the Church, use it for its own, sometimes purely pragmatic or even iniquitous interests. Certainly, some members of the Church may fall and oppose God and their own conscience, but on the whole one can't make the Church betray itself and Christ. That's why we call it 'the Holy Church'. This year we celebrate 2000 anniversary of the Nativity of Christ. During this time all countries have gone through their rises and falls, radical transformations, revolutions and counter-revolutions for dozens, if not for hundreds times. Rather often the formation of new states and directions of their development turned out unpredictable. The Orthodox Church has always remained itself.

S. C. Fr.Tikhon, the Sretensky monastery and you personally take an active part in publishing activity. You in particular are the member of the editing board of 'Russky dom' magazine. It's interesting, that in the magazine one can find materials, the authors of which unmistakably hint at the necessity of giving back to Russia Christian sacred possessions which now are in Istanbul. In this connection here is the question- what do you think of other religions?

Father Tikhon Must say I can't remember where in the 'Russky dom' they called for war with Turkey. Maybe you have in mind a well-known utterance of Dostoyevsky: 'He is not Russian, who doesn't dream of Constantinopole.' But here refer your complaints to Fiodor Mikhailovich.

To reproach the Church for 'rootless cosmopolitanism' and 'Great Power chauvinism' is to exploit painfully familiar cliches. Enmity between nations has always been censured by the Church. And it has again been especially emphasized at the recent Bishops' Council.

By way of proof let me at least remind of the fact, that our Sretensky monastery has seven times organized the collection and delivery of aid to Chechnya. The last time we've collected so many things and so much food, that two huge air-liners IL-76 couldn't hold it all. More than 50 thousand of Orthodox people of all nationalities, at times brought the last of what they had for our soldiers, for Chechnen children and refugees. In Chechnya itself, even during the most difficult months after the Hasaviurt peace agreement, we met the perfect mutual understanding and support of the Muslim leaders.

S. C. What do you think of technological and other catastrophes that have fallen upon Russia? Why does our country undergo such trials exactly in the time of the spiritual revival ( last ten years are often considered as 'the second baptism of Russia')?

Father Tikhon So it looks like the spiritual revival is the cause of our disasters? It would be correct to put it the other way round: one of the consequences of the calamities that have fallen upon us recently is the unprecedented spiritual revival.

The first wave of the Church revival rose in the years of the Great Patriotic War. The people, having disregarded the whole of the godless atmosphere, turned to God and forced the government to make changes in its anti-religious politics. In general, when social, political or military cataclysms take place and the people are/get/ convinced of the futility of placing reliance on secular authority, on customary social institutions, when everything under your feet turns quaky and unreliable, then people re-examine their lives. And many of them not only through faith, but also through experience come to the conclusion, that everything in this world may betray and deceive, but God is faithful to the end.

As for technological catastrophes, then it goes without saying that there is industrial decay in the country, but also a closer examination shows, that they are often someone's 'handiwork'. Someone forgot a spanner in a rocket engine, someone decided to perform a risky experiment on the off-chance and someone carried out fire precautions anyhowUnbelief and spiritual lifelessness, drugs, alcohol and cupidity are the first to destroy the soul of man, ruin personality. A sequence, leading to great misfortunes, begins here. On the other hand, it must be admitted, that blinded by ambitions mankind creates technological monsters, which it proves incapable to handle. Thoughtlessly wasting energetic resources of the planet, disfiguring the fragile ecology of the world and intruding into the genetic structure of living creatures, people rarely think of tomorrow's consequences of their violence against nature and themselves. The risk of technological catastrophes would lessen considerably only as a result of spiritual revival, when man realizes the necessity of self-discipline and inevitable responsibility before God.

S. C. Moscow is full of rumours about your past as an actor. Please tell us of your profession before entering the monastery. What made you leave the secular life?

Father Tikhon With really special interest I hear of my actor's past, if we take into account that I graduated from the scriptwriting faculty of the State Cinematography Institute and my speciality was 'literary work'.

Still in the Institute I was astonished that all the people I revered, who I respected and admired - Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Shakespeare, Pavlov, Siechenov, Filatov(and I grew in the family of medics), Kant, Goethe and many others- they all were believers, although in their time atheism was much more sophisticated than in our Young Pioneer childhood. And those figures, who I didn't feel any respect to- for example, the founders of the socialist state and their successors, whose portraits hung in the students' lecture-halls,- everything was simple for them, as for a 5th grade pupil: there is no God and we all descend from Darwin. So I faced the dilemma of who I was with in this question. With Dostoyevsky, Kant and Pavlov or with Suslov, the Young Pioneer leader and all progressive mankind? At that time in our Institute we had remarkable teachers who made us think. Among them were Yevgeny Grigoriev, Merab Mamardashvili and Nikolai Trietyakov.

Immediately after graduating from the Institute, almost twenty years ago, I visited the Pskovo-Pechersky monastery and something, which is impossible to describe, had opened before me. Since that time my life changed dramatically. I had been a novice for nine years, until my mother blessed me to take monastic vows.

S. C. The confessor of the President is at the same time the keeper of many state secrets. They say, you have an armoured executive class 'Audi-8' , personal guards etc at your command.

Father Tikhon Why, that's fine! I understand that someone wants to create an image of Cardinal Richelieu, surrounded by the Guards, who is weaving plots and making intrigues. As a graduate of the faculty of scriptwriting I can fully appreciate this dramatic manoeuvre, but as a human being I'm getting tired.

Once we took the humanitarian aid to Grozny and there was an attempt to kidnap me. The rebels pursued us for several hours; and in spite of the fact that we had an entire military detachment with us, they would have caught us if it wasn't for God's help.

I have a 7-year-old 'Audi-6', which is consecrated and, therefore, spiritually armoured.

S. C. The Sretensky monastery is in close proximity to Lubyanka square. It is known that among its parishioners there are members of the FSB (as well). And maybe 'parishioners' who are 'on duty' can be found there - at least in Soviet times they were really concerned with the Church at the Lubyanka. Do 'secret services' show the same interest nowadays, what can you say?

Father Tikhon Speaking about the parishioners you probably mean the political commentator of the 'Russky dom' programme, Nikolai Leonov, the general-lieutenant of intelligence service, professor, Doctor of History, the man who is a model of decency, culture, honour and splendid analytical mind for me. Meeting him several years ago was a real revelation for me and had destroyed the stereotype of a man from the secret service.

As for the special interest of the FSB and control over the Church life, then today it is over. When at the end of the 80s KGB employees tried to recruit me, I refused easily, and there was no heroism in it - still it was 1988, not 1938.

S. C. It is known that you stand up for some limitation of freedom of speech. But the Lord created man free, gave him the right to choose between good and evil. Don't you think that 'tightening up the bolts' may bring to violence of the inalienable right of man - to freedom.

Father Tikhon Today in Russia we talk not of the possible limitations of the freedom of speech, but of the real everyday criminal abuses of this freedom. Who are those that shout of the threat of 'limitations' most of all? Those, who have monopolized information and turned the media into real weapons, which are meant not only for manipulating the public conscience, but also aiming at ruining personality and society. Here are the ready examples: the recent tragic explosion in the underground. What does the mass media do? Make millions of TV-watchers hour after hour, day after day look at agony victims of the explosion writhing in death, demoralizing people, spreading the effect of the explosion all over the country, creating panic and doing terrorists a priceless favour.

You speak of the 'tightening the bolts'. But all parts of the state machine are so loose, that it is simply sad to see this rushing enormous train, from which something keeps falling off all the time, and the passengers go into hysterics at the sight of a spanner. 'Tightening the bolts' is an expression of Trotsky, a well-known specialist on stripping of the thread, from which save us Lord. Putting the loose state mechanism, including informational structures, in order, is of vital necessity at the moment.

Another example. The other day on the state (!) TV channel they showed a film, where drug-addicts save humanity from the invasion of aliens with the help of heroine!

There is a center called 'Overcoming' under patronage of our monastery. Its aim is to help drug-addicts, and we know what is the price of freedom from this horror at least of one person. And now the television shows such a 'heroic' film. Any comments needed?

Yes, God created man free. But true freedom is far from being self-destructive arbitrariness, it is the 'ability and possibility to choose and fulfil the best' quoting St.Filaret of Moscow. What direction -of arbitrariness or of freedom the state will support, determines if it survives or not, whether its citizens will be happy or doomed to degradation and extinction.

As a matter of fact the expression ' freedom of speech' has become such a cliche, that no one would seriously think it over. Tell me, would you use obscene words in society? At a memorial dinner would you smirk and tell nasty things of the deceased? Or would you start singing funeral chants at a wedding? You see, all these 'conventions' seem to limit freedom of speech.

Any human society is based on certain limitations.

The whole of the state infrastructure is nothing but the limitation of the rights of man. Take the Criminal code, the Taxation order and so on. This is the limitation of evil and iniquity.

In spite of any prohibitions man will have the right and possibility to choose evil anyway, nobody will take away this right, don't worry. But the state must protect its citizens from aggressive foisting this evil upon them.

Of course, I'm for limitation of abusing speech of freedom, as well for limitation of drugs and alcohol turnover, for limitation of abortions - and everything which causes loss of health, degradation and ruin of nation. And the opportunity to watch vileness on TV, the right to be duped, the ability to develop a brutal cruelty and the lowest instincts in oneself - this is not freedom. Plainly, it is an absolute slavery.

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