Comment on The Times’ article Putin and Stalin exalted beside angels in Russia’s ‘pagan temple’ by Marc Bennetts in Moscow
The appearance of Stalin on the wall of an Orthodox church seems surprising at first. However, if we reflect a little, we will see that it is far from being an isolated incident. The Communist takeover of the church hierarchy and organised religion has been carried out during the first few years of dictatorship in each of Communist countries.
Those who believe otherwise, have been indulging too much in fairy tales. Communists themselves pretended to have been unable to control the church in some countries, notably in Poland, which is utter nonsense. The Polish pope John Paul II invited the Red Army Choir to the Vatican for celebrations of the 26th anniversary of his pontificate in 2004. The video from the Choir’s performance can be viewed on Youtube. The last song performed that October evening was “Oka”, the anthem of the Communist-controlled Polish forces formed in the Soviet Union in 1943.
The church in Communist hands is an excellent tool of intelligence.
Putin going to church does not signify the triumph of religion. Quite the opposite. It represents the triumph and confidence of Communist intelligence.
Comment on the article Virtual Vatican: Video game that lets you play Pope by Tom Kington in The Times, April 23, 2020.
Funny, that game makers haven’t come up with a pre-1990 ‘East-European democratic opposition to communism’ simulation and ‘East-European democracy post-1990’ simulation. I understand that games of this kind might be accidentally revealing too much.
Games like the one mentioned in the article are an excellent tool for shaping cognitive horizons of young persons. Very useful politically to train and shape ways of thinking of the youth in countries of the West.
Here is one scenario. You are a young cleric in postwar Poland. You are recruited by the Communist security service. You already have had some theatrical schooling. Your aim is now to rise as high as possible in the church hierarchy, while continuously serving your Communist handlers. You win the game if you (1) become pope, (2) you manage to celebrate the 26th anniversary of your pontificate with a concert of the Red Army Choir in the Vatican without raising public suspicion. Allow for the variant of first being recruited by the Communists and then becoming a cleric.
This game scenario has the obvious fault of being unrealistic. The game should be played in a collective mode. In other words, you need to control and influence actions of the clerics (one is not enough), political officials in different countries and security operatives. You win, if (1) one of the clerics progresses to be a pope and celebrates the 26th anniversary of his pontificate with a concert of the Red Army Choir broadcast to both Italy and Russia, and (2) some dozen years later he is declared saint in a falsified canonization carried out at a turbo-speed. So, to summarize, the aim is to go all the way.
This game has, in fact, been played in real life.
Book review. Comments on The Human Factor: Gorbachev, Reagan and Thatcher and the End of the Cold War by Archie Brown review by Dominic Sandbrook, March 22 2020.
Ah, the Clueless and the Mythmakers, in other words Russian and East European Centre, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford.
John Paul II was Communist collaborator.
John Lewis Gaddis is wrong. John Paul II celebrated the 26th anniversary of his pontificate on October 15, 2004 with a performance of the Red Army Choir specially invited to the Vatican for this occasion. The concert was broadcast to Italy and Russia. The last song that evening, performed as encore, was Oka, the anthem of the Polish Communist troops formed in the Soviet Union in 1943.
The views of some of the leading historians are hopelessly naive.
Communists took over full control over the Catholic church in Eastern Europe and the Vatican happily played along. There was no chance for an anticommunist priest to rise through the ranks of the church hierarchy. Just see what happened to the Hungarian Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty. He was stripped of his cardinal title by the pope Paul VI for staunchly resisting Communist takeover of the church in Hungary. This decision has not been reversed by John Paul II.
There is also plenty of other evidence, also from everyday life, that conclusions reached in the hallways of University of Oxford or Yale University are simply wrong.
Communist ideology and its practical implementation in many countries are radically different from the western experience. Describing and interpreting it is a cognitive challenge. Looking for truth in the minutes of the Politburo meetings will not get you very far. You may just as well read Pravda.
Communism did not collapse and the Cold War has not been won by the West. If you think you have won but do not understand how it exactly happened, you are in serious trouble.
Another comment following Niall Ferguson’s article in The Sunday Times.
One reader asked me,
Interesting and challenging views in your comment. Do you have a reference or evidence for the Pope refusing to pray for the Polish victims of NKVD massacres?
If I remember correctly, the information about the reluctance of John Paul II to pray for the murdered by the NKVD, appeared in the closing chapter of “The Triumph of Provocation” by Józef Mackiewicz (1902-1985). The book appeared in Polish in 1962. In 1982 Mackiewicz wrote one more chapter dealing with the then-recent events in Poland. Cardinal Wojtyła was elected pope in 1978.
Since I don’t have the book with me, I can’t give you a precise quote. Józef Mackiewicz was very critical of the Vatican’s raprochement with the Communist regimes under Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI.
The Vatican envoy who negotiated church’s concessions with the Communist regimes in the 1960s and 1970s, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, was elevated to the position of the Vatican’s Secretary of State by Pope John Paul II. This decision implies John Paul’s approval for the Vatican’s earlier policy towards Communists, in which Casaroli played a key role, as well as approval of the degradation of the Hungarian anti-Communist Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, in which Casaroli again must have played a key role. As I wrote in an earlier comment, Pope Paul VI stripped Mindszenty of his title of Cardinal. Absolutely abominable decision which was the result of a long process. John Paul II must have approved and applauded.
The English edition of The Triumph of Provocation was published by the Yale University Press in 2009. It is interesting that the book was not translated for 47 years. When it appeared finally in English, the editors tried to alter the book’s message by adding a misleading commentary.
My second comment on Niall Ferguson’s article Aftermath: the fall of the Berlin Wall — and its lesson for China 30 years on in The Sunday Times.
Pope John Paul II, whom the author mentions, did not oppose Communists. He collaborated with them. He celebrated the 26 anniversary of his pontificate in October 2004 with the special performance of the Red Army Choir, known otherwise as the Alexandrov Ensemble. The concert took place in the Pope Paul VI Auditorium and was broadcast on tv to both Italy and Russia. The last song performed that evening was “Oka”, the anthem of the Polish Communist Army formed in the Soviet Union in 1943. You can view the video of it on Youtube. This army was later the backbone of the Communist dictatorship in Poland.
The key figure in the Catholic church who staunchly opposed Communism was Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, the Hungarian Primate, imprisoned by the Hungarian Communists from 1948 to 1956. From 1956 to 1971 he was a special guest of the American Embassy in Budapest, where he was granted asylum. Pope Paul VI stripped Mindszenty of his church titles, including the title of the cardinal, in 1973. The Vatican basically wanted Mindszenty to stop speaking against Communism and resign voluntarily. I recommend reading Mindszenty’s “Memoirs” published in 1974.
In Poland, just like in Hungary and other Communist countries, the church was firmly under the regime’s control. It benefited Communists to present the church hierarchy as a collection of independent figures opposed to the dictatorship. There was simply no way they would allow the advance of an anti-Communist on the ladder of the church hierarchy.
Pope John Paul II refused to pray for the thousands of Polish officers murdered by the Soviet NKVD in 1940.
So, instead of a thoughtful analysis, we have a mindless repetition of a fairy tale about the fall of Communism and Pope John Paul II alleged magical role in it.
The fall of the Berlin Wall plays a role analogous to that of a pretty lady accompanying an illusionist. Communism has not fallen and there is plenty of evidence that it didn’t.
My second comment following the article Benefits boom pushes Polish populists to victory by Oliver Moody in The Times, 14 October 2019.
Cardinal Wojtyla wouldn’t have advanced to the top of the church hierarchy without Communist support. The church in Poland quickly lost its independence after WWII. The Communist control was total.
In October 2004, the Red Army Choir gave a special performance in the Vatican during the celebration of the 26th anniversary of his pontificate. The last song performed that evening was “Oka”, the anthem of the Polish Communist army units formed in the Soviet Union under the Soviet control. There is nothing accidental about it. The performance was televised to Italy and Russia. Press correspondents noted that the pope was ‘visibly moved’. Ha ha. Visibly moved, sure.
He did come to the Vatican from a ‘faraway place’ indeed as he declared in his speech right after becoming the pope.
He did not want to pray for the Polish officers murdered by the Soviet NKVD in Katyn in 1940.
‘Very instrumental in the downfall of the Iron Curtain’. These are just empty slogans.