The interview of the Russian Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov), who is often referred to as Putin’s closest clergyman, demonstrated the fiasco of another line, associated with the church’s elders and other informal authorities, which in many respects is opposite to that pursued by Patriarch Kirill. In other words, absolutely all trends in Russian Orthodoxy have suffered a “stunning fiasco.”
That’s according to theologian Kyrylo Hovorun.
The first observation is physiognomic. I knew Tikhon and spoke with him more than once. He’s always been a self-confident gentleman. And the Tikhon I saw in that interview is no longer so confident in himself so he intuitively squeezes into his chair. Plus there’s a slight tremor of his hands, which, however, can be explained as the moral suffering of the last months, but also an “old Russian disease.”
Another observation is linguistic. He speaks intelligently. But this is only a shape. In terms of content, it is a cocktail of conspiracy theories in the spirit of QAnon, which in America resonates well with cab drivers (in my experience, there were several). For all their cultural differences, their view of the world rests on the same horizon.
Metropolitan Tikhon has long played the role of a conservative and many perceive him as such in his natural form. However, this is a game aimed at a liberal audience, which he would like to turn into what he thinks is a real ideology. He is a missionary of conservatism, who shifted to it from liberalism and returned to his people with a sermon. He defined himself at the beginning of the conversation: “liberal in the highest sense”, although he said this about Sobchak. And through Sobchak, he now appeals to his fellow Russian liberals.
That is why his apologetics of the war is not the core z-orthodoxy preached by Patriarch Kirill. This is subtle manipulation mixed with empathy for the victims that Patriarch Kirill does not display.
At the same time, Tikhon speaks more clearly than the patriarch about Russia as an empire, asserting that this is its essence. And thereby confirms the thesis that the “Russian world” is a neo-imperial project, which will be a threat to peace as long as it remains so.
In fact, Tikhon creates a narrative for the vulnerable intelligentsia to reconcile them with the war. I think that the narrative spread by Metropolitan Tikhon is more dangerous than the straightforward propaganda of Patriarch Kirill. We will have to deal with him even after the collapse of Putinism. Although I am not sure that Tikhon, like other z-bishops, will survive this collapse.
Just as the sermons and decisions of Patriarch Kirill became a fiasco of currents within the Russian Church related to Metropolitan Nikodim and betting on formal power, so does Tikhon’s interview demonstrate the fiasco of another current, associated with the elders and other informal authorities, the one which is in many respects opposite to Kirill’s. In other words, absolutely all currents in Russian Orthodoxy have suffered a stunning fiasco.