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Church and Military in Russia Have a Close Connection

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In the paratroopers, everyone is a Christian

This following text is a translation of parts of a longer article which recently appeared in Russian in RIA Novosti, the Russian news agency.  The article profiles several priests who also serve in the armed forces, discusses why men who feel the call to holy orders would also want to serve in the army, and discusses the military background of some of the top church leaders.  The general point of the article is that the Russian church and military are closely intertwined.

In the Russian paratrooper forces, everyone are believers they say. Father Michael is amongst the paratroopers, and though he doesn’t carry a weapon, his presence on the field of battle, and even in training gives courage to these brave troopers. Father Michael is a recipient of The Order of Courage, the medal "For Services to the Fatherland" of the II degree, and the Order of St. Sergius of Radonezh III degree. He was also a participant in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and the fighting in the North Caucasus, Abkhazia, and Kyrgyzstan.

Once, when no one wanted to jump from the plane, Father Michael went first and they all followed after him. This gives whole new meaning to their motto “No one but us!” By his words, 96% of the paratroopers are believers. Priests have always been side by side with them, and he hopes it will always be that way.

The paratrooper forces isn’t the only branch of Russia’s great military that have priests within its ranks. Archpriest Constantine Tatarintsev comes from a long line of military men, having been a lieutenant in the 840th heavy bomber aviation regiment. Though he wanted to be a pilot, he turned his eyes to science. Trained at Moscow Power Engineering Institute, he quickly learned how to fly and many a pilot has him to thank for their training on the flight simulator.

Perhaps his most famous student is Dzhokhar Dudayev, the future president of the self-proclaimed Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, whom he taught how to land a plain in the simulator. Unfortunately for the Chechen, after a minor catastrophic crash, not in the sky, but in the simulator, he mistook user error for an error with the simulator and then-lieutenant Tatarintsev had to prove to the colonel that the simulator was not the problem. Father Constantine managed to land the plane peacefully and beautifully.

Father Constantine blessing a helicopter.

Many high-ranking hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church were also servicemen. Metropolitan Hilarion, Chairmen of the Department for External Church Relations served two years in the boarder guards.

His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion.

"Actually, I was not a real frontier guard because I served in the orchestra of the border guards, based in Moscow, Medvedkovo." We were performing at concerts at border posts, "Metropolitan Hilarion told RIA Novosti.

Metropolitan Hilarion during the time of his military service.

For two years they passed the massive boarders of the CCCP, at each border post they gave concerts, talked with border guards.  Patriarch Kirill’s press secretary even served in the space forces, and His Holiness, being of the same mindset, was known for his pastoral care of soldiers, especially when he was Metropolitan of the holy city of Smolensk, during the troubling years of the 1990’s.

His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill inspecting the cabin of a military aircraft.


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