NARRATIVES: 1. Vladimir Putin is better than the Putophobic and Russophobic propaganda portrays him and has sacrificed himself for the Church. 2. Russia has nothing to do with communism, which is not a Russian product, but a Western one. 3. The official discourse in Romania is a Russophobic one. 4. The history of Russia's hostile actions towards Romania is false. 5. Russophobia is used to hide the lack of patriotism, the transformation of Romania into a colony of the West, the undermining of the traditional values of Romanian society. 6. The fight against corruption liquidated the poles of power in Romania.
LOCAL CONTEXT / ETHOS: Vladimir Putin's image is now associated by many with Russia's aggressive policy and the risk of it invading Ukraine again, triggering a new war in Europe. At the same time, Putin's image has suffered as a result of news of his regime's numerous anti-democratic slips, so attempts are now being made to beautify that image. The Archbishop of Thomis, Theodosius, is one of the most controversial figures of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Theodosius signed an agreement with the former political police (Securitate) and was involved in several criminal cases . With the onset of the Covid pandemic, Theodosius became a voice of the Corona-skeptics and anti-vaxxers of the Romanian Orthodox Church and has repeatedly refused to abide by the regulations in force.
Theodosius has made many controversial statements over time, some of which the very Orthodox Church distanced itself from. On the other hand, the Archbishop of Thomis is appreciated by the Kremlin-affiliated press, which praises him as one of the main figures of sovereignism in Romania .
The Archbishop of Tomis has been declared by Sputnik the public personality of the year 2021 and the man of the year 2020.
The excerpt about Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev is part of a broader answer given by the Archbishop to a listener (the entire excerpt can be found in the recording of the show, starting at minute 26'31), who wanted to know if using bank cards is a sin, as they have chips. The question refers to a conspiracy theory circulated in the ultra-religious circles, according to which the chips are marked with the “sign of the Beast”, number 666. The leader of this trend was Iustin Pârvu, a clergyman and abbot of Petru Voda Monastery, also associated with the Legionary Movement - there are recordings on the internet in which, on the occasion of his 92nd birthday, nuns are singing to Iustin Pârvu the hymn “Holy Legionary Youth” .
Iustin Pârvu, who passed away in 2013, is seen as one of the early opponents of the so-called “biometric dictatorship” (another conspiracy theory that largely overlaps and is sometimes confused with that of “the sign of the Beast”). And is also associated with the current anti-vaccination movement promoted by ActiveNews. This online publication, which promotes various corona-skeptic and anti-vax conspiracy theories (the Great Reset), claims that Iustin Pârvu had prophesied the chip implantations and the emergence of the Green Certificate .
Theodosius - also promoted by ActiveNews - distances himself from the conspiracy theory regarding the “sign of the Beast” and claims that he told Iustin Pârvu, to whom he says he was “very close [...] and I confessed to him, and he confessed to me too”, that, beyond its symbolic meaning, the number 666 is a common one and its mere use or pronunciation cannot do any harm, as evidenced by the fact that the number is written even in the Bible.Theodosius makes a digression from his explanations of the number 666 in which he begins by mentioning that the end of the world is now being spoken of (he does not say explicitly why he made the switch, but 666 appears as a sign of the Beast in Revelation), mentions St. Nicholas, a Russian apostle born in Smolensk, who in his opinion founded the first Christian mission in Japan in the 19th century – which is false information, given that Catholic missionaries had arrived in the Japanese archipelago in the 16th century -, moves on to the Russian presence at the “Holy Mountain” (Athos) and the “sacred places” (Israel and the West Bank) and then makes the statements about Putin and Medvedev that were also taken over by Sputnik. Theodosius further distances Putin and Medvedev from communism and says that communism was “planted” by the West and “Marx and Engels are not from Russia. They have a different origin”.
PURPOSE: To clear the image of Vladimir Putin especially in the eyes of Orthodox believers, but also to present the Russian leader as a victim, a target of “Russophobia” and Putophobia. To shift attention from Russia's aggressive actions and justify its position in the context of the current crisis on the borders of Ukraine. To beatify history in order to distance Russia from communism, but also to hide its many hostile acts in the relationship with Romania.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: Many authoritarian leaders and dictators have over time sought to publicly emphasize their pious side and approach religious authorities in an attempt to increase their popularity and gain legitimacy. One such example is Saddam Hussein, who, although a member of a secular political movement and ordered measures to secularize Iraqi society in his early years in power, changed his mind after becoming an outcast for the international community following the invasion of Kuwait. In his quest to gain the support of the Muslim world, Saddam gave religious leaders more freedom, ordered that Allah al-akbar be written on the Iraqi flag (in his very own handwriting, they say), had the Qur'an written in his own blood and ordered the building of more mosques. This piety displayed by the dictator does not mean that he is no longer guilty of the mass crimes he committed, nor that he stopped committing those crimes after he wrote Allah al-akbar on the flag - on the contrary, some of the biggest ones were committed after that episode.
Similarly, the fact that Vladimir Putin allowed funds to be allocated to the Church and encouraged the construction / equipping of some establishments did not smooth the nature of his regime. The Russian Orthodox Church is one of Vladimir Putin’s major allies , and Patriarch Cyril had ties to the KGB, whose member Vladimir Putin used to be as well. The relations between the Kremlin and the Church have strengthened as Putin's authoritarian regime has become stronger and more and more measures have been taken against the opposition, civil society and the independent media. In fact, the Church is a source of legitimacy meant to make up for the loss of democratic legitimacy. The relations with the Church have not prevented Vladimir Putin from engaging in a series of wars and aggressions throughout his rule: the bloody campaign in Chechnya, the war against Georgia, the intervention in Syria, where Russian warplanes bombed civilian targets too, including hospitals, the invasion of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is an authoritarian leader whose internal opponents have on many occasions been assassinated or imprisoned and whose armed forces have committed aggression and war crimes, all of which are acts that run counter to the values promoted by the Church.
While it is true that Marx and Engels were not Russians, the idea of a communist regime is associated with Russia, the country in which communist ideology was applied as interpreted by local leaders, starting with Lenin. The latter initiated the Bolshevik revolution, was the supreme leader of the communists during the civil war, and the founder of the USSR was Russian. Russia was the dominant force, which gave the most union leaders during the existence of the USSR, and the USSR is the power that forcibly imposed communism in Eastern Europe and also supported various communist organizations in the West. Nowhere in the Western states has power been taken over by local communist movements that claim to have ideologically stemming from Marx and Engels.
Even though Vladimir Putin could not have been one of the communist initiators, because of the time he was born in, the Russian leader comes from a family of communists – Putin’s grandfather worked as a cook for both Lenin and Stalin, his father worked for the dreaded NKVD - he himself was a member of the Communist Party and an officer of the dreaded Soviet intelligence service, the KGB, and expressed his admiration for the USSR, whose dismemberment he described as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the twentieth century. Russia's aggressive policy under Putin's rule, the wars against Georgia and Ukraine, or the demands for NATO to pull back its forces to the pre -1997 lines show, in fact, that Putin is claiming exactly the territory of the Soviet empire.
Romania's political discourse is termed as Russophobic because Romania has adopted the position of its Western allies and partners, criticized Russia's aggressive policies, and advocated for the restoration of historical truth about Russia's relations. These have been marked by aggression, hostile acts and territorial plunder starting with the annexation of Bessarabia in 1812, the seizing of the counties of southern Bessarabia in 1871 - although the United Principalities had just fought as Russia's ally in the war against the Ottoman Empire – the confiscation of the Treasury, the invention of Moldovanism to justify territorial claims on Romania, the territorial robbery that followed the Soviet pact with Nazi Germany, etc.
The false narratives about sovereignism, western colonization or traditional values are part of the usual arsenal used by Moscow both in its official propaganda and in the media and online media campaigns consisting of fake news and disinformation.
The fight against corruption did not target the structures of the Romanian state or its balance, on the contrary, its purpose is precisely to build a strong rule of law, in which the powers are separate, citizens are equal before the law and different interest groups - basically criminal groups – are not above the law.
OFFICIAL REACTIONS: The Romanian Orthodox Church has distanced itself from Theodosius’ statements about Putin in a message that reads: “As it is already known, Archbishop Theodosius often provides “sui generis” opinions, including on topics that are not related to the church. By virtue of the eparchial autonomy he enjoys and which he often chooses to use in an original way, he is of course entitled to express himself freely on any subject, without this meaning that he is speaking on behalf of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Especially when he voices his preferences or various affinities in relation to certain people”.