Very bad news for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard at Stalker Zone
Since the moment a coup d’etat took place in Kiev in February, 2014 I have claimed and I still claim, irrespective of who exactly will head the state and what political force will bear responsibility for governing the country, that the Kiev regime will go along the way of further radicalisation until it develops into an open terrorist dictatorship.
This is the law of history. It is just as inevitable as the sunrise in the morning. The sun rises irrespective of whether you believe in its existence or not, and also irrespective of whether you see the process of it rising or the sky is clouded.
The only alternative to the degeneration of the regime into a terrorist dictatorship is the disintegration of the country – which couldn’t cope with its problems – before the regime manages to pass through all the stages of degeneration. This, by the way, isn’t the best option, because then the natural annihilation of Nazi-oligarchical structures won’t take place in full. They will remain in the post-Ukrainian society and will have a toxic influence on any political systems that will appear on the ruins of Ukraine.
Having imposed martial law in ten regions of Ukraine and the internal waters of the Sea of Azov, Petro Poroshenko took the penultimate step towards implementing the option of preserving power that involves force. The regime convincingly showed its inability to preserve the controllability of the country within the framework of even a quasi-democratic procedure. The hidden terror of the SBU and nazi “death squads” is already insufficient. It is necessary to officially refuse to observe “democratic rights and freedoms” not only concerning “separatists” and “vatniks”, but also patented Maidan “patriots”.
We shouldn’t be deceived by the relative success of the opposition, which managed to reduce the term of martial law to 30 days and to limit its action to some of the territory of the country. We are dealing with Ukraine, and there, as is known since the time of Yushchenko, laws are being sniffed in order to feel their spirit, but not to carry out their letter.
Thus, reading the provision on a legal regime of martial law and trying to assume the further actions of Poroshenko and the opposition, we have to recognise that the law will be interpreted by the parties in a way that is profitable for them. In particular, the opposition will pretend that no martial law is present because it wasn’t declared in the capital.
Poroshenko has many more possibilities. The compromise reached in the Rada was in his favour, regardless of how it seemed to the opposition. The most important thing is that martial law was introduced, albeit partially. Now he has an opportunity to use in his decrees the wording “on the basis of the law on martial law”, and then he can demand whatever he wants.
For example, martial law gives the chance to restrict the activity of destructive political forces and media outlets. After all, they come out to the streets and work all over Ukraine, and not just in concrete regions. And this means that a media agency or, let us assume, a party, will be shut down completely, and not just their affiliates in the regions where martial law was imposed. In the same way, should there be the desire, it is also possible to extend the action of any other provisions of a legal regime of martial law on the spur of the moment all over the country without changing anything in the Rada’s decision.
One more pleasant bonus for Poroshenko: introducing martial law or a state of emergency is always simpler than cancelling it. Governmental bodies get used to working in an uncontrolled regime, and bureaucracy and politicians start understanding the charm of a dictatorship, because they are a part of this dictatorship. The work of the opposition is complicated, and, therefore, it loses its position day after day. Thus prolonging martial law will be easier for Poroshenko than introducing it.
As I already said, Poroshenko took the penultimate step towards establishing an open terrorist dictatorship and solving the problem of elections by force. It is penultimate not because martial law is imposed not everywhere and not forever, but only due to the lack of a final decision on the beginning of the forceful suppression of the opposition. Poroshenko still hesitates. Either he simply, as usual, is afraid or (although unlikely) he understands that he can crush the opposition and establish a dictatorship, but can’t remain at the head of this dictatorship for a long time. Dictators must possess at least some – ideally high – popularity among the people, who hand over absolute power to them for the destruction of “parasites”, “compradors”, “fifth column” , etc. A dictator with a zero rating is nonsense. But a dictatorship is a control system that is very convenient for bureaucracy. That’s why changing the dictator is easier for state apparatus (even if it is for an officer of his bodyguard, if no politicians will remain by then) than abandoning the dictatorship because of his personal weakness and unpopularity.
Nevertheless, regardless of how afraid Poroshenko is and regardless of how he plays for time (by all accounts, he should’ve done what he is doing now back in July-September, 2014), the logic of historical processes approaches the next, last step. If it isn’t Poroshenko who will do it, then it will be done by someone else instead of Poroshenko and against Poroshenko. If the opposition manages to come to power, it also won’t abandon martial law and will govern using exactly the same methods and with the same result that it currently criticises Poroshenko for.
However, the fate of Nazi-oligarchical spiders in the jar isn’t very interesting for us, not because they are people bad, but exclusively because it was predetermined in 2014 when they seized power. They can stretch the agony out across time (which will break the fates of individual people living in physical time, but will be absolutely imperceptible on the scale of the historical time in which states live), but they can’t cancel their inevitable end or change the form or the substance of their actions.
It is much more important how Poroshenko’s actions will affect the anti-Maidan opponents of the present regime. I write “anti-Maidan” because they include a wide range of groups and persons professing different – often diametrically opposite – views, which often are even warring with each other. Irrespective of their convictions, the most authentic communists (not to be confused with the “Communist Party of Ukraine”) are also exposed to the same danger, as well as the more radical left-wing, the monarchists, and the pro-Russian liberals chanting “Putin betrayed” — in general, supporters of the spectrum of political views that aren’t represented in the Rada and are pushed out of the political field, but which, if they were legalised, would occupy a place in Parliament to the left of the center (even if they are supporters of the restoration of the monarchy of Romanov, because they can’t sit next to the nazis occupying the right flank). These forces in Ukrainian society bear the conditional name of left-wing and pro-Russian. I use the term “anti-Maidan” because not all of them are left-wing and not all of them are pro-Russian, but all of them are opponents of Maidan and the current regime.
And so, before expanding the methods of a terrorist dictatorship towards combatting the Maidan opposition [read here for more info – ed], the authorities need to fine-tune them on the anti-Maidan. Firstly, a considerable part of the anti-Maidan opposition, or at least those who remained active and try to fight, cooperates with forces opposing Poroshenko in the legal sphere, and not only with so-called representatives of the Southeast [so-called opposition politicians who claim to represent the Southeast – ed], but also with inveterate Tymoshenko supporters (which isn’t surprising, since some “representatives of the Southeast” work for Tymoshenko, and others work for Poroshenko). I.e., by striking a blow to them, the regime deprives the opposition of some of their propaganda opportunities. Perhaps the work of these people isn’t really noticeable, but it mobilises against Poroshenko wide layers of the convinced opponents of the regime that otherwise would be apathetic and excluded from active politics.
Secondly, the Maidan opposition can’t not support – at least silently, but most do it publicly – repression against the anti-Maidan. This will split the united oppositional front of Maidan and anti-Maidan that is being formed against Poroshenko.
Thirdly, in the political space direct repression as a method of political struggle will be legalised and consecrated by the support of the opposition. I will once again emphasise that the difference from today, when repression is also being applied, will be that from its hidden form – assuming the formal observance of legislation, albeit with numerous perversions – repression must become an open, independent, and self-sufficient measure of influencing political opponents. Even in 2014 and even in Dnepropetrovsk, where Filatov and Korban publicly bragged that they buried hundreds of opponents of the regime in plantations, repression had no open character – murders happened secretly, although the murderers didn’t even hide the fact that they happened. Korban and Filatov also understood the illegal nature of their activity, like how the employees of the SBU understand the illegality of their actions – abducting and torturing opponents of the regime. Now all of this, except torture, will be consecrated by the law.
I, of course, don’t want to say that the regime will immediately start to execute objectionable people directly on the streets (although this isn’t that far away in reality), but arresting somebody without a sanction or a criminal case, referring only to the decision of the administrative authorities and official imprisonment (with a specific term or with an arbitrary term) without a court ruling, can quite become common place already tomorrow. Those activists who now demand from the SBU to show a search warrant, refuse to let police officers or representatives of the SBU into their apartment, and don’t respond to summonses, and so on, quickly learn what a search or arrest by military patrolmen, perhaps together with the legalised “civic activists”, represents. And all of this will be “lawful”.
But the biggest danger threatens the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed]. This is the only all-Ukrainian structure enjoying huge authority and the support of the population practically in all regions of Ukraine. This structure, despite all the attempts to remain out of politics, openly mobilised in opposition to Poroshenko, having refused to support autocephaly and to unite with schismatics. Poroshenko, who doesn’t believe that people can have sincere convictions, and who trades his “faith” left and right, considers that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church hierarchy is similar to himself in every possible way. That’s why he treats their refusal to support his autocephalist aspirations in the same way the Roman emperors who took themselves for gods treated the refusal of Christians to make a sacrifice in their temple. Poroshenko is sure that they will play hard to get or maybe raise their price, and thus intends to break them.
Martial law doesn’t just definitively free his hands, which weren’t really that bound earlier, it also seriously limits the possibility of the church to judicially resist. Until now the hundreds of thousands of orthodox believers ready to stand in defence of their temples and monasteries, in the same way that they went to the Religious procession, was the argument that tipped the political scales and forced the authorities to be very cautious when using force against the church. In the conditions of martial law any street protests are forbidden. And because martial law was declared not in all regions, then, firstly, in the beginning it is possible to take away all the temples and monasteries of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 10 regions (especially since this is indeed the Southeast, which sympathises with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church most of all) and then repeat the process concerning the others. Secondly, de facto nobody will prevent Poroshenko from expanding the ban on meetings and demonstrations to cover the entire territory of the country (especially if this measure is directed against “separatists”, “vatniks”, and the “Moscow church”). Thirdly, if rallies will happen in region that aren’t covered by martial law, this will give Poroshenko a reason to demand the expansion of martial law across the entire territory of the country and the prolongation of its period of validity (he will justify it by referring to the need to combat the “mutiny of the Moscow fifth column”).
Suppressing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s resistance to his plans is important for Poroshenko not only because he considers the reception of autocephaly to be a serious argument in his electoral campaign (it’s unlikely that he still hopes to receive Tomos). What’s much more important for Poroshenko is controlling an authoritative and branched structure that can be used as a mechanism to collect votes. Poroshenko knows very well that in the villages people generally vote “according to what Father says during the church service”. He needs the orthodox Fathers to not be silent or shirk campaigning for the “president-peacekeeper”, but to preach every day that Poroshenko is the only worthy choice among believers of Christ.
Poroshenko can’t preserve power and life by the usual democratic methods. He is afraid, but he is already half a step away from giving the official order to start jailing and killing political opponents. Giving the order to repress the church is easier for him than giving the order to repress Tymoshenko — the Maidan public will treat it with understanding. At the same time, in his eyes the church is a more terrible enemy than Tymoshenko. The church has a higher approval rating, and it resists more persistently and for sure won’t flee abroad.
Repressing anti-Maidan political activists and media persons is an essential and important part of Poroshenko’s hyping campaign, but it, being less noticeable from outside, has considerably less importance than repressing the church. Clashes with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church can’t but publicly take place. I.e., the format of terrorist reign will be fine-tuned on the Maidan public and will have to receive its support. And when activists of Maidan parties come into the crosshairs, it will only be left for them to be surprised, afflicted, and say: “Comrades! There’s been a tragic mistake. I am on your side, comrades!”. But this will happen only then.