How religion in Russia supports the genocidal war against Ukraine: a public dialogue was held in Ukrinform

18 April 2023

On Tuesday, April 18, Ukrinform hosted a public dialogue, “Genocidal war against Ukraine and religion: foreign and domestic political aspects.”

Organizers of the event were the National Holodomor-genocide Museum, the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, the public organization “Crimean Center for Business and Cultural Cooperation “Ukrainian House”, the editorial office of the newspaper “Krymska svitlytsia”, the humanitarian policy group of the Expert Network of the Crimean Platform, the Regional Council of Ukrainians of Crimea, Taurian humanitarian platform.

On behalf of the Holodomor Museum, leading researcher Andrii Ivanets and head of the historical research department Dmytro Bily participated in the event.

Andrii Ivanets was the moderator of the public dialogue.

Opening the event, he emphasized that Russia’s war against Ukraine has a genocidal nature. It is evident that there are public calls in the Russian Federation to exterminate Ukrainians. The Russian occupiers on the captured lands of Ukraine persecute and kill citizens with pro-Ukrainian views, exterminate the intelligentsia, and commit mass crimes against the civilian population (torture, rape, murder, kidnapping, deprivation of liberty, etc.); instead of the Ukrainian education system illegally liquidated, they introduce one that aims to change the identity of children and youth, destroy monuments of history and culture, especially those related to Ukrainian identity, loot and destroy Ukrainian museums, archives, theatres, libraries and churches. The Russian Federation is mass-deporting Ukrainian children from the occupied territories to its territory to change their identity. Russia is also purposefully destroying infrastructure and life support facilities in Ukraine, practically wiping the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol, Volnovakha, Shchastia, Severodonetsk, Bakhmut and others from the face of the planet.

In his report “Support of Russia’s aggressive and genocidal war against Ukraine by “traditional” religious organizations of the Russian Federation,” the scientist emphasized: “The high level of support for the aggressive war against Ukraine by the Russians achieved through massive and well-financed propaganda. To convey it, the ruling Russian regime uses all possible ways – authorities, mass media, the education system, as well as religious organizations. In this war, the Russian Orthodox Church showes itself as one of the most destructive forces, which openly supports the aggressive war of the Russian Federation and its de facto genocidal policy. This is one of the ideological pillars of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. And there are many examples of this.”

The same situation with Islam, the second most widespread religion in Russia after Orthodox Christianity. Some leaders of Muslim religious organizations in Russia directly call for the genocide of the Ukrainian nation. The Buddhist and Jewish religious organizations of Russia also support the Putin regime.

The scientist emphasizes that the world must respond to this, in particular, continuing and expanding the practice of imposing sanctions on religious leaders and activists who support the criminal policy of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine. Also, international interreligious forums could play their role, which would evaluate the actions of the aggressor state, statements and actions in support of it by Russian religious organizations, both from the point of view of international law and high moral standards.

Professor Dmytro Bily recalled that religion was a means of control for Russia for many centuries. “Putin’s regime will continue to use this instrument of terror against Ukrainian self-identification,” he said. — This fits perfectly into the concept of signs of genocide defined by Raphael Lemkin. To the destruction of the nation’s intelligence, the destruction of the nation’s foundation (the peasantry), the destruction of the nation’s future (which we can now see in the example of the removal of children), he adds the destruction of the nation’s soul, that is, the church.”

This is how Lemkin himself, the author of the work “Soviet Genocide in Ukraine”, writes about it: “Along with the attack on the intelligentsia, there was an attack on the Church, priests and the church hierarchy – the “soul” of Ukraine. Between 1926 and 1932, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, its metropolitan (Lipkivsky) and 10,000 priests were liquidated. In 1945, when Soviet power was established in Western Ukraine, a similar fate befell the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The fact that before the liquidation of this Church it was offered the opportunity to join the Russian Patriarchate in Moscow – a political tool of the Kremlin – indicates that the sole purpose of that action was Russification.”

The president of the Center of Religious Science Research and International Spiritual Relations Ihor Kozlovsky, a former prisoner of the Kremlin, spoke in more detail about the religious factor as part of Russian aggression.

According to him, when the Russians enter the occupied territory, they begin systemic repression aimed at displacing and destroying the active, conscious part of society and intimidating the passive one. “The FSB immediately creates a network to control the life of religious communities, this is a long-established tactic,” says Ihor Kozlovsky. In this system, a significant role is given to the creation of a network of informers among religious figures and believers who have already been intimidated. During his captivity, he himself witnessed how such informants provided data on all aspects of religious life in a particular community or settlement.

He also drew attention to the subversive activities of the UOC MP as a branch of the Russian Church in Ukraine.

“The state of Ukraine for a long time turned a blind eye to the fact that this religious community was becoming a bridge for the ideology of the “Russian peace” in Ukraine. There was even such favouritism of the UOC-MP in some regions. They felt like a state within a state. For a long time, no one paid attention to the language of hostility, to the narratives of the “Russian peace”, which were openly declared, and it created a certain system of impunity. And even now, in the conditions of war, in the minds of many church leaders and believers there is no awareness that they have become the leaders of this ideology. This means that their consciousness is occupied and it needs de-occupation. This is a matter of Ukraine’s national security,” Ihor Kozlovsky emphasized.