Wave of Clergy Killings in Russia

Twenty-six Orthodox priests murdered since 1990, including 39-year-old Alexander Filippov on Tuesday


Peter Fedynsky

The second murder of a Russian priest in as many months has prompted a call by the Orthodox Church for Russians to think about their country's spiritual and moral condition.  The killings follow more violence this year directed against Muslim clerics in Russia's troubled Caucasus region.

Tuesday's shooting death of 39-year-old priest Alexander Filippov is alleged to be the act of two intoxicated men in the village of Satino-Russkoye near Moscow.  His widow is quoted as saying Filippov had reproached the suspects for relieving themselves at the entrance of their apartment building.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, called Filippov a bright and clean-living individual who leaves behind three daughters.

Kirill says the priest was killed because he was not indifferent to disgusting human behavior and took a principled stand against it in accordance with his calling.

The Interfax News Agency says a total of 26 Orthodox priests have been murdered in Russia since 1990.  Many others have been assaulted.  They include Vitaly Zubkov, who was kicked and beaten last month, just days after the murder of his friend, Father Daniil Sysoyev in Moscow.  Sysoyev had received death threats for his outspoken criticism of Islam and attempts to convert Muslims to Christianity.

News reports quote Orthodox Church Spokesman Vladimir Legoida as saying that recent events show Russians must think of the spiritual and moral situation they live in.

The head of the Religion and Law Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Roman Lunkin, told VOA many Russians call themselves Orthodox Christians but have no idea about the obligations required by organized religion.  He says Russian spiritual leaders themselves often set the wrong example by mixing church-state relations.

Lunkin says church leaders send a signal that to call oneself an Orthodox, it is enough to maintain close ties with the state or government officials and to participate in official ceremonies.  He says this reveals an absence of true faith, adding that priests often begin with the construction of a church building, instead of first organizing a community of believers.

Lunkin says communism stripped many Russians of religious faith, and with it any respect for priests and churches.

Lunkin recalls an incident several years ago when a priest began building a church in the Ivanovo region north of Moscow and arrived one morning to find that local residents had dismantled the structure for its bricks because there was no organized community in that village and no one knew what Orthodoxy was.  He adds that local hooligans who killed the priest considered themselves to be Orthodox.

Russia's Islamic community has also been rocked this year by several high-profile killings of Muslim clerics in the Caucasus.  They include Akhmed Tagayev, deputy mufti of Dagestan, and Ismail Bostanov, rector of the Islamic Institute in the southern Karachai-Cherkessia region.

Some observers link those murders to Islamic militants who are fighting pro-Kremlin authorities.  The deputy head of Russia's Mufti Council, Damir Khazrat Gizatullin rejects any connection. He told VOA he attributes the violence to incivility throughout Russia stemming from 70 years of communist rule.

Gizatullin says people in Russia do not know how to listen to one another, to give others the right away on the road, or to understand the foundations of spirituality and religion.   This, he concludes, leads to current situation, which follows 70 years of alienation from the spiritual roots and traditions of Russia.  He says people now fail to realize that members of the clergy and all others are protected by the Almighty and by the law.

He says Communists also made the mistake of focusing on the construction of buildings at the expense of community.

Gizatullin says Soviet authorities wanted to construct more living space for people, but toilets and other communal structures were forgotten.  He says there was no time, no energy, and no resources for such things, and now Russia is reaping those elements of Soviet life.

Murders of prominent Russians are not limited to the clergy.  Investigative journalists and political activists have also been victims.  Most of the killers remain at large.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs