Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 177

According to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Aleksy II, “all the forces of Hell are rising up against every attempt to advance toward the [Russia-Belarus] Union.” Aleksy spoke those words in Vitsyabsk on an official visit to Belarus from September 24-27. Aleksy blessed President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s efforts to promote the Russia-Belarus Union, and pledged continued support by the Orthodox Church for “the integration of the fraternal peoples.” The patriarch and the president agreed that the Orthodox Church is the “main force capable of uniting these peoples.” He listed them as “the Great Russians, the Little Russians and the White Russians… building a common house in Orthodox unity.”

The state ideology of Tsarist Russia used those terms to designate Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusans, respectively. It also held both that the Orthodox faith forms a basis for political unification, and that the Russian Church had a mission to promote such unification as an auxiliary of the state.

Lukashenka, a former political commissar in the Red Army and still a declared admirer of the Soviet system, is not above manipulating Orthodox symbols and pan-Slavist rhetoric for political purposes. He will probably find such tactics increasingly useful to his effort to keep personal power amid a deepening economic crisis. His claim yesterday that, under his rule, “Christian values are the pillars of the Belarusan state” is also illustrative of that manipulative undertaking (Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, September 25-27).