New Russian Orthodox Patriarch elected!

MOSCOW (AFP/AP/MNS/CNS) — The Russian Orthodox Church has selected 62-year-old Metropolitan Kirill as its new patriarch, an outspoken figure who analysts say could prove a headache for the Kremlin.

A bell on Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral tolled 16 times late Tuesday evening, signaling the election of Metropolitan Kirill as the 16th Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Metropolitan Kirill, 62, was born Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev in Leningrad to a clerical family. His father and grandfather served time in Soviet prison camps and later became priests.


A seasoned operator after long service as head of the church’s foreign relations section, Kirill was elected on Tuesday by an overwhelming majority in a ballot of church leaders in Moscow’s ornate cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

The more than 700 delegates at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior had to choose from a shortlist of three candidates chosen by the Archbishops’ Council on Sunday. One of the three, Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk, credited with reviving the Orthodox church in Belarus and treading a careful path in relations with the Belarussian president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, withdrew his name shortly before the vote on Tuesday.

Kirill, Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, received 508 votes in a secret ballot of the Church Council in Moscow while his challenger Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk won 169 votes. The Kremlin, most notably Prime Minister Putin had wanted the more politically conservative Metropolitan Kliment for the position.


Outside the cathedral, members of the Orthodox corps of Nashi, a pro-Kremlin youth movement, held banners in support of church unity. “The Holy Spirit will point out the worthy one,” read one.

For the first time, the delegates included members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, an émigré group based in Manhattan that split after the Bolshevik Revolution and reunited with Moscow in 2007.

“I accept and thank the Church Council for my election as Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia,” Kirill said solemnly after the results were announced, before leading the congregation in an Orthodox liturgy.

Addressing the incense-filled gathering earlier, Kirill had made a strident call for church unity and urged the faithful to resist Protestant and Catholic proselytizing, dampening hopes of a transformation in poisonous ties with Rome.

About 700 bearded and robed bishops and laity from both Russia and diocese abroad had the right to participate in the first such vote of the post-Soviet era, following the death of Alexy II last month.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin both congratulated Kirill, news agencies reported.

“Medvedev voiced hope for further strengthening of the dialogue between church and state in developing the country and boosting spiritual values,” Medvedev’s spokeswoman Natalya Timakova was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Putin, who is himself an Orthodox believer, telephoned Kirill to offer his congratulations, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov added.

Kirill’s comments echoed the tough approach of his predecessor, who resisted attempts by late Polish pope John Paul II to reach out to Catholics in ex-Soviet lands and who refused to countenance a papal visit to Russia.

In the post-Soviet era “the most active proselytizing was by missionaries of all manner of Protestant denominations but we also noticed with bitterness representatives of the Catholic hierarchy,” Kirill said.

“We must attentively follow developments and where necessary quickly and decisively react to threats,” added Kirill, who after Alexy’s death was appointed “Guardian of the Throne” temporarily in charge of the church.

Metropolitan Kirill, who has hosted his own weekly television programme “Words of a Pastor” for the past 10 years, is seen as something of a loose cannon in political circles, analysts say.

“Among the bishops, he’s the only real politician. If I were president, I’d be afraid of such a man,” said religious affairs expert Sergei Filatov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, referring to Kirill.

Russia’s politicians “can’t tell what he’s going to do. If (the economy) all goes pear shaped they don’t know what Patriarch Kirill would do. They’d prefer someone they had control over,” said religious affairs analyst and journalist for the Forum 18 religious news agency Geraldine Fagan earlier.

Kirill, whose crushing victory had been widely predicted, takes over a church that went from strength to strength under Alexy after being repressed in the Soviet era.

Prime Minister Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev both attend church on feast days, as do other Slavic leaders such as Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko.

The church’s relatively rapid election of Kirill, without resorting to a run-off, and the withdrawal of a third candidate just before voting began were indicative of its desire to make a show of unity at a crucial moment.

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is a symbol of the church’s resurgence. Dynamited under Stalin, it was then replaced by an open air swimming pool before an exact replica was rebuilt in the 1990s.

In an interview with the Trud newspaper published Monday, Kirill said the church was thriving but could still play a greater role in daily life, including education.

After hearing of the election the Roman Catholic Church announced that the Vatican will send at least two officials to Russia for the ceremonial installation of Metropolitan Kirill as Patriarch of Moscow. Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, will attend the February 1 ceremony along with the secretary of the council, Bishop Brian Farrell. The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, might also attend. The Vatican nuncio in Russia, Archbishop Antonio Menini, will be on hand, as will Moscow’s Archbishop Paolo Pezzi.

Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI commented that “it was with joy that I learned,” he said, “of the election of metropolitan Kirill as the new patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. For him I invoke,” he continued, “the light of the Holy Spirit, for generous service to the Russian Orthodox Church, entrusting him to the special protection of the Mother of God.”

The Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church have been split for over 1,000 years however there is increasing sentiment in the idea of healing much of that rift.

After Alexiy II’s death Kirill had served as acting head of the Church. Kirill is scheduled to be “enthroned ” on Sunday, February 1 and will be broadcast live on state television and radio.


Moscow celebrates a new President!

An American president at that.

Even while Russian newspapers declined to headline the story on the day of the historic Барак Обама (Barack Obama) election victory, the average “Russian in the street” not only knows about the new American President, but seems very interested in learning more about him.  One Russian website,, features regular updates about the new USA president. 


(The photo caption reads “President USA” in Russian Cyrillic.)

Following the longstanding diplomatic tradition between the two countries, Russian dignitaries, foreign ambassadors and other VIPs came to Spaso House (official residence of the U.S. ambassador in Moscow) for the official U.S. inauguration party in Moscow. 

And in a scene uncommon since the reelection of Bill Clinton, whom ordinary Russians saw as a fellow “party animal,” Russians met to celebrate the American presidential inauguration too. One of the biggest parties for expatriots took place at the Starlite Diner, the American restaurant near Moscow’s Oktyaberskaya Metro station.  Starlite appeals to Americans with a smoke-free atmosphere and typical American food favourites.  

Spaso House has been the residence of American ambassadors in Moscow since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and the former Soviet Union in 1933. It stands one mile west of the Kremlin at No. 10 Spasopeskovskaya Square, not far from the Garden Ring Road (Sadovoye Kol’tso) and the Arbat, an ancient region of Moscow.

The festivities at Spaso House in Moscow began with remarks by U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow Eric Rubin who told guests that opportunities  for  improving relations seemed huge with the chance to start a new chapter between the two nations.


The time difference of course makes such a celebration more interesting.  Moscow is a half day ahead and so a 6pm start for something happening at 10am back in Washington fit right into Muscovite party plans.  Perfect timing!


Russians are genuinely entrigued by Barack Obama. Imagining an African American president freely elected by a majority of non-black voters is a new concept for Russians, but especially those among the youth who also are awestruck by President Obama’s own relative youth and his engaging and appealing persona. The Embassy reception displayed flowers, banners, American flags, tables with caviar on toast, shishlik, mushroom pastries, dumplings in creme sauce, fresh fruit and veggies, all kinds of wine, beer, Beringer champagne and shots of Russian wodka.

Across Moscow there were reports of similar parties in private apartments.  That in itself in mindboggling.  Russians, in their own homes, celebrating a new American president!

There are lessons which the Russian people can absorb from what they see unfold on television screens.  First is the 44th transfer of power, peacefully and with purpose and meaning, to an opposition party.

Then second, there is no doubt that historically folks in the Kremlin have viewed large crowds as a threat.  Whether the Romanovs’ in Saint Petersburg or the men who have ruled from Moscow, the sight of 2+ million people converging upon the capital would be a reason for fright and terror. 

But this is just another American inauguration taking place.  It’s not that big a deal.  And instead of being met by riot police (in Russia the dreaded OMON), the 2 million citizens gathering in Washington were met with the weapons of hospitality: food vendors, port-a-potties, expanded taxi, bus and subway schedules, first aid stations, and a Capital city which had rolled out the red carpet welcome mat for those attending.


The idea of such celebrations across Moscow is enough to make one smile.  Perhaps there is hope that our two nations can unite in areas where we share common interests and ideals.

That would be cause for even bigger celebrations.

Russia and Obama…a new start?


As Monday’s issue of the Russian newspaper PRAVDA pointed out, “In the past history of Russian-American relations, few doubted the effectiveness of regular face-to-face meetings in establishing goodwill and gaining support for U.S. / Russia cooperation. If nothing else, the goodwill resulted in greater business ties and cultural exchanges between the two former foes.”

In less than 24 hours he’ll be sworn in and the Obama campaigsn’s Michael McFaul has identified numerous areas where increased cooperation between the U.S. and Russia is not only wise, but indispensable to protect the country’s strategic interests.

These key issues range from cooperation on nuclear weapons proliferation, Iran, the proposed missile defense shield, exploration and militarization of outer space, the Arctic, the environment, energy cooperation, the war on terror, democracy building, and trade cooperation.

It should be noted that good relations between Russia and the USA are vital to our country’s relationships. These two giant countries have too much in common to allow themselves to slip into a repeat of the cold war..

In both good times and bad times, it is for this reason, the U.S. has maintained dialogue with Russia open even in moments of great crisis. For instance, during the Georgian aggression, top U.S. brass met with Russian generals to discuss security and related issues.

Russia does not want special treatment, but Russia does deserve to be treated as a equal contributor when it comes to the global economy and fighting terroristm.  We have worked together in outer space, and that is about as close as one can get to another, so this really is an achievable idea. 

As one diplomat point out today, beginning in the 1930s right on through the Cold War and beyond, the USA and Russia have maintained relationships and respected each other in order to assure world security. Now is the time to repair relationships with both sides working harder to mend fences and face world problems together.


New Year’s “Wish List”

moscow-1I’m going to shock some here but those who know me best understand my belief that it was a longterm mistake to encourage Ukraine and Georgia regarding NATO.  For many reasons:

– A large country like Russia will naturally have a zone of influence on it’s neighbors.  Naturally this should extend to Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, etc.  That doesn’t mean that a large country should bully it’s small neighbors however. Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and the other former republics should feel that Russia is a good neighbor and not a tyrant.

One can understand how former Soviet pact nations have joined NATO so readily.  As a protection against centuries of Moscow domination! Russian has nice phrases about attracting more bees with honey, but in it’s history has preferred to extend an iron fist rather than a friendly handshake to its smaller neighbors.

The Baltics however have historically been a part of Europe and their sphere of influence is more naturally situated toward the EU.  They have legitimate greviences against Russia, most arising from the Soviet debacle, but I believe that those relationships can be normalized over time.  But not as long as Russian youth demonstrate in the streets because some old monuments, which the majority find offensive, are rightly thrown into the junkpile of history.

– Specifically regarding Georgia, I blame Stalin.  It was that murdering tyrant who divided Ossetia into North and South.  Why?  Sadly, to dilute their culture and language.  It was Stalin who redrew the borders and placed the “new” South Ossetia within the borders of Georgia to divide Ossetians.  He is also ultimately responsible for the mess in the other disputed Georgian republics also.

– The world is a better place with a strong, competitive and prosperous Russia.  Russia’s natural influence is the East and the world needs a strong and stable influence in the East.  60% of Russia is in Asia.  Russia covers the entire northern border of the Asian continent.

– I even believe in a strong and healthy Russian military.  Which they certainly don’t have now and that is why Mr Medvedev and Mr Putin are desperate to “reform” it.  Unfortunately corruption is the biggest reason why it cannot be reformed now, an admission by the Kremlin.  But ultimately it is Russia who stands on the border between the Muslim East and Christian West. The West needs a strong, powerful, healthy Russian military presence as a deterent from those who advocate militant Islamization.

– I believe Russia will need to invest heavily in it’s military technology.  So many discoveries and inventions will come from this which will benefit not only the military but also the Russian people. The benefit to the economy would be immediate and the long term effects would be lasting.  Unfortunately however, Russia is not governed by civilized people.  It is now run by a committee of Oligarchs who are fattening their own bank accounts with little regard for the babushka selling tomatoes on the street.  Corruption at the highest levels will siphon off any investment the country would now make in it’s people.

– I dream of a democratic Russia.  It doesn’t have to be modeled after the USA or the UK.  It should fit Russian needs.  But you can’t have a country where civil rights, property rights and individuals have no voice and where the rule of law, both moral and constitutional, is a joke.  And today it is a joke.  One man cannot appoint all the governors and mayors, outlaw opposition parties and NGO’s, limit legal demostrations to one person at a time, and send OMOH (federal riot police) to jail babushkas and teenagers who don’t agree with Kremlin policy while calling it’s a “managed democracy.” 

Were Mr Putin honest, he’d simply declare himself Tsar just as Иван Грозный (Ivan the Terrible) and let the chips fall.  But he knows that the people who put him in power wouldn’t give away such a title so lightly.

– I dream of a Russia with a free and honest press.  And no, RUSSIA TODAY is neither free nor totally honest.  I know many Russian journalists, born and living in Russia, who love Russia, but also love life and are deeply afraid to speak and write how they truly think and feel.   

– I hope of a Russia which will someday invest in it’s people and infrastructure.  It is “third world” to have no border to border modern highway system.  The rail is wonderful and should always be a part of Russia’s modern transportation system, but it’s shouldn’t be Russia’s ONLY national transport system.  Building highways will provide jobs and stimulate growth and commerce in small towns and regions which are hanging on barely to survive economically.

Revamping Russia’s medical care and hospital system, “third world” in about 80% of the country, will help Russia raise falling birth rates.  Russia needs to stem the population loss.  When the life span of a Russian male averages 57 years old, something is terribly wrong!

Russia should spend BILLIONS on bridges, schools, libraries and orphanages as quickly as possible to improve the life of her people.  But not today.  Corruption would drain the coffers dry before any work could be done.  If ‘Vladimir Grozny’ can send in the OMOH (federal riot police) against babushkas and kids, could he also use those brutes to help straighten out crooked police, politicans and oligarchs?  But such would come too close to home so don’t expect that anytime soon.

However, we who love Russia can dream and hope for a better day.

Happy (old) New Year!

Today is 13 January and New Year’s Eve!

Well the “old new year” that is.

Today is new years eve on the old Julian calendar still observed by the Orthodox.

I am so ready to:
– take down the seasonal decorations.  Day after tomorrow the tree can be put into it’s box and back in the closet until next year.

– those little cute Christmas bell dishtowels can be packed away.

– I’ll be given permission to take that string of lights off the balcony and pack them away.

– The Christmas cards taped to the door can come down and thrown in the recycle bin.

– The “Merry Christmas” sign on our patio gate can be packed away until next year.

But first, one more little celebration, not as big as the current new year’s eve, but a celebration still the same.

Note to self:
– go ahead, polish off the rest of that vodka bottle tonight.  Ya don’t drink dat much anyhows.

– day after tomorrow move this thread and merge it with last’s years Christmas thread to use parts of it again next year.

– wish everyone a…..

Happy Old New Year!


Счастливого Рождества!

Счастливого Рождества, Merry Christmas!

Last night our family gathered at the Moscow church were we worship and enjoyed a typical Orthodox midnight Christmas Even service.  Finally, after 40 days of fasting and anticipation, 7 January had arrived.  It’s Christmas in Russia!  As it is in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and other Slavic Orthodox countries.

Рождество – это так прекрасно.  Yes, Christmas is so beautiful. 


The Holy Supper

Christmas, just like New Years, is celebrated over two days.  Ukrainians and Russians have been fasting for 40 days and the last meal eaten on Christmas Eve keeps most of that fast–no oil, no eggs or dairy, no meat (except at this meal there is fish), and almost no alcohol (one small wine toast).

 But don’t worry, the food is both delicious and plentiful!

One should TOTALLY fast from all foods from Noon to the evening feast.  Some believers fast all day before the evening feast.



There are several themes running thru the “The Holy Supper:”
– A white tablecloth reminds the family that Christ was wrapped in cloths at this birth, and the white represents his purity.

– Straw or hay is spread around the table settings as a reminder that the Saviour of the world was born in a humble manger.  Our family puts little bit of straw in a bowl which is passed around the table as each person takes a handful to “decorate” around his/her place setting.

– Three candles in the center call to mind that his birth was at night and likely by candlelight.  The 3 candles represent the fact that with his birth was the idea of the “trinity.”

– There are 12 foods to serve, in a variety of colours, and these represent the 12 Apostles.

– When the family approaches the table they each take a piece of bread and eat it, a symbol that the family will share this meal together as part of a sacred holiday.

– Next everyone takes a small piece of garlic, dips it into honey and eats.  This combination of bitter/sweet is a symbol of how life is, yet a family together can support each other in those times.

– Next the host (or a priest if present) says an Orthodox prayer for the meal.  Then before being seated a small toast of wine is made (the only alcohol during the meal).  Wine is a symbol of Joy in the Christian Scriptures and this is the season of joy.

– Then the host (or a priest if present) sprinkles lightly some church ‘holy water’ over the gathered food as a blessing.

Traditionally, the “Holy Supper” consists of 12 different foods, symbolic of the 12 Apostles. Although there is also some variation in the foods from place to place and village to village, the following is a good summary of what is typically served.

In some families, the father begins the Christmas meal by leading the family in the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessings of the past year and for the good things to come in the new year. The head of the family greets those present with “Christ is Born!” – the traditional Russian Christmas greeting – and the family responds with “Glorify Him!” The Mother then draws a cross with honey on each person’s forehead, saying a blessing – “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, may you have sweetness and many good things in life and in the new year.” The Lenten bread (Pagach) is then broken and shared. The bread is dipped first in honey to symbolize the sweetness of life and then in chopped garlic to symbolize life’s bitterness.


The twelve foods are:
– Mushroom soup with zaprashka; this is often replaced with Sauerkraut soup
– Lenten bread (“pagach”)
– Green cabbage leaves stuffed with seasoned sauerkraut, tomatoes, or peppers stuffed with rice/vegs.
– Pickled herring with marinated onions
– Baked cod
– Fresh Apricots, Oranges, Nuts, Figs and Dates
– Beet and potatoe vinigerette Salad
– Kidney beans (slow cooked all day) seasoned with shredded potatoes, lots of garlic, salt and pepper to taste
– Peas
– Parsley Potatoes (boiled new potatoes with chopped parsley and margarine)
– Bobal’ki (small biscuits combined with sauerkraut or poppyseed with honey)
– Red Borsch which reminds us of the sacrifice still to come at Easter.



The (Christmas) Nativity Feast
On Christmas morning many families will go to church and on the other hand many will stay home.  The balance of the day will be spent in final preparations for the bigger feast, the traditional Christmas Day feast.

This feast is literally designed to “break the fast” of the previous 40 days.  So as you can imagine there will be lots of meat, oil, dairy, and of course alcohol for toasting! It doesn’t have to be as elaborate, but it usually is and most certainly there are dishes with meal and oil!

Russian Kutya or Sochivo:

Sochivo is wheat Lenten kasha with dried berries and honey. It is served as a principal dish at Christmas Eve.  Christmas Eve is called Sochelnik in Russian. The name is derived from the food eaten by monks on this day – “sochivo”, made of boiled wheat or rice and honey.

It is forbidden for orthodox Christians to eat or drink anything on that day before the first star in the sky appears.

Boil rice. Add some honey and fresh fruits or canned fruits. Mix it.

Also you can use dry fruits but before adding it to rice you should boil it too or just put dry fruits for 5-10 min in very hot boiled water and they will be soft.

Our family likes to sprinkle chopped nuts (walnuts, etc) on top before serving.