‘I’m not a numerologist, but…’ Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov, reputed to be Putin’s personal confessor, presents a confused jumble of geopolitical ideas
In a new interview with the Russian journalist Ksenia Sobchak, Orthodox Christian bishop Tikhon Shevkunov (reputed to be Vladimir Putin’s personal confessor and “spiritual guide”) shared a series of dubious and ill-founded opinions about Russia’s special place in the world, the West’s imminent clash with China, Ukraine’s doomed statehood, and other ideas barely compatible with rationality and informed governance. Paying tribute to Ksenia Sobchak’s father, the former St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, Shevkunov invoked Anatoly Sobchak’s prejudices against Ukraine, voiced back in 1994. Meduza has condensed Shevkunov’s remarks, keeping them in the first person and staying close to his tone and rhetoric. Here’s our summary of the opinions shared by the man entrusted with Vladimir Putin’s spiritual well-being.
To me, a war is a tragedy and a wound that never heals.
More and more often, I’m tormented by the thought that we hadn’t done everything in our power to keep it from happening. I remember the words of your father, who had been a genuine Russian liberal. It was in this spirit that he taught his apprentices back in 1992, when he warned about what we are now witnessing.
Apart from Sobchak, Orthodox elders also warned about the impeding war between Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainian elders in particular had been talking about that war since the 1940s. We had been warned, but prophecies are only believed when we see them materialize. But until they do, they seem like crazy rubbish.
We supported the Ukrainian people even when they decided they were “Europeans.” But there were further interested parties who began fostering a hostility against all that is Russian. We had also been graciously invited to join the European community, which got everyone excited, apart from those who knew history. And history tells us that, in the eyes of the West, Russia had always been a means to an end, as opposed to an end in itself. That time around, we were supposed to be the means of balancing China. Of course, I cannot prove this with specific examples, but the general picture is very clear: the conflict of China and the West is inevitable, and the West had been hoping to shield itself with Russia.
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The West at large (which includes both specific countries and supranational forces that influence even the most powerful people, like the U.S. president) has always behaved in this way. It helped organize the 1917 revolution, and when Nicholas II abdicated the throne, the British Prime Minister Lloyd George said that one of the goals of the First World War had been met. But our own national elites are even more culpable than the West. Our current State Duma is so manipulable because it’s a successor to the government that organized the coup d’état in 1917.
The Bible tells us about the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. The captive Jewish people were completely content with their slavery, because there were cauldrons full of meat in Egypt (we call them McDonald’s in contemporary parlance), and Moses had to lead the Jews out of captivity practically by psychological force. And what did he do next? He led them round and round a tiny patch of desert for 40 years, until the very last of the former slaves had finally died. I’m not a numerologist, but it’s been almost 40 years since the start of the perestroika.
No one in Russia wants to revive the Soviet Union. Empires don’t come back. It’s true, though, that the only thing that Russians know how to build are empires. But this definitely isn’t what Russia is doing in Ukraine. It’s definitely not expanding its territory at the expense of another state. No, what we’re doing there is battling against savage, terrible, infernal fascism.