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Prince Alexandre Troubetzkoi on Russia, the KGB and the Kremlin

His family wrote some of the finest pages of Russian history. It counts numerous painters, sculptors, ministers, scientists, lawyers, writers, generals, linguists, philosophers, diplomats and clerics. Nowadays, they are outstanding businessmen, economists, CEOs, while somehow still historians. A distant relative, Sergei Troubetzkoi, a man of progress and a freethinker, took the lead of the Decabrist movement, fomenting a coup to impose the values of the Enlightenment in a country still practicing serfdom and censorship.

His granduncle was the first rector elected at the University of Moscow setting a long tradition of independence in Russian Academia. His grandfather Evgeny was a prominent professor of Law at the same university and initiated with his granduncle Grigori the Synod 1917-18 re-establishing the patriarchate of Moscow under Metropolitan Tikhon.

Even though it stood most of the time for monarchism, the name Troubetzkoi also very often meant sure troubles for autocrats.

Far from being attached to reactionary values, and wherever they stood politically, the Troubetzkois were first in line to defend freedom of thought and expression, and not only in the arts. They paid great tribute to these values throughout the centuries. After the failed coup, Sergei and his brother Peter Troubetzkoi were deported to a labor camp in Chita, a region which hosts another famous prisoner nowadays: Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Like his ancestors, Prince Alexandre Troubetzkoi is not shy about taking a stand. But in some cases, it does not really happen where one might expect it. For example when he feels that the current Russian Administration is unjustly accused of robbery, (as in the case of the Russian Orthodox Church of Nice which the Russian Federation claims to be its property after the expiration of its lease) he is ready to lecture extensively about international law, putting the weight of his name in the balance. Who would dare argue, except for Alexis Obolensky, the son of a "Soviet aristocrat" having renounced his title, who now claims that the Russian authorities have no right to own a property on French soil that was never theirs, and are thus attempting to "rewrite history."

And Prince Alexandre Trubetzkoi knows better than anyone else: history is a serious issue in these circles.

He explains in an exclusive interview with WSN the historical meaning of the ceremony of reunification of the Orthodox Church and why he persists on defending the interests of the Russian Federation and its President against all his critics.

Interview with His Highness Prince Alexandre Troubetzkoi

"I prefer a President demonstrating his faith, God will judge his sincerity. It benefits the Church much more than the Kremlin."

- You have always advocated the reunification of the Orthodox Church abroad with the Patriarchate of Moscow, why?

- I have advocated the reunification from the very moment the Russian Church became free, after the fall of communism. This position was reinforced by the message of Patriarch Alexei II who called for that union, while proposing the option of a local self-governed church according to the conditions of the statutes in the Synod of 1917.

I used to belong to the Patriarchate of Constantinople for a long time. But I considered that the time to leave had come because the Russian churches "provisorily" affiliated with Constantinople according to the agreements of 1933 between Patriarch Photios III and Metropolitan Euloge had lost their meaning due to the renewal of the Church in Russia.

- Can you relate to the hesitations of certain members of the White emigration who are critical of the political background of the Patriarchate of Moscow?

- Regarding the antecedents of the Russian Church, the act of repentance, if such a thing was necessary, was clearly expressed through the canonization of new saint martyrs. Besides, I refer to the position of Bishop Basile Rodzianko from the Orthodox Church of America who used to say: "When I am told about the relation of the Russian Church with the KGB, I do not want to hear anything about it. During the toughest times of the Stalinist regime, the Russian Orthodox Church has managed to keep its fold together, in expectation of the moment when each and every Christian would openly be able to exercise his faith in Christ". In its approach, the current Russian Church abroad has been able to overcome this debate on "sergianism," thus adopting the position that an act can be condemned, but not to men as such in the context of the persecuted church.

- You have met the conciliating tone of the Orthodox Church of Serbia with satisfaction, can you elaborate?

- I congratulate the Orthodox Church of Serbia, as well as other patriarchates (Antioch, Romania, Bulgaria, the Church of Cyprus, but there are others too) which have expressed their joy over this act of union, contrary to the Exarchate of Paris, affiliated with Constantinople, which displayed the following position: "It is fine, but it is not our business". In Paris, the Serbs are organizing a thanksgiving, followed by a debate and a reception today (May 17th) in their Church, St. Savva.

- Is the common act signed in Moscow on May 17th a way of wiping out the past, saying "all forgiven and forgotten?"

- The canonical act is the result of prayers and negotiations which lasted over four years. It is neither a matter of wiping out, nor of forgetting or forgiving. It is a matter of revisiting a relationship, sharing communion between two entities, separated during eighty years following the events of the 20th century in Russia, and still claiming their attachment to the Russian Orthodox Church. President Putin said in his speech that after the revolution, there had been no winners, only losers: The Russian civil society and the Orthodox Church.

From my side, I would like to add that there is still a winner, it is the Russian Orthodox Church which is now reunited.

- How do you assess the relations between the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Kremlin which are viewed as very close?

- The relations between the Patriarchate and the Kremlin seem natural in Russia. The relations between the state and the Church used to be much stronger during the Czars' times. He was the head of the Church since Peter the Great. Under the Soviet regime, these were relations between a state and a persecuted Church. Today the Church has its influence on the state which seems to me stronger than the one of the state on the Church. One symbol follows the next: the canonization of the Imperial family, the funeral of Empress Maria Fedorovna, the rebuilding of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior which was destroyed by Stalin, the introduction of priests in the army and in prisons, the teaching of religions at school, et cetera.

The Church possesses a strength much more powerful than any regime. It plays in favor of the Church, not of regimes. Therefore, I prefer a president demonstrating his faith, God will judge his sincerity. It benefits the Church much more than the Kremlin.

Nathalie VOGEL
"World Security Network"
June 21, 2007