Updated March 12, 2006

Profiles in Subversion

Targeted Movement: Eastern Orthodox Christianity
Background on Infiltration:

Although earlier penetration of the Eastern Orthodox clergy undoubtedly took place before the twentieth century, the decisive breakthrough for the Communists came in the early years following the Russian Bolshevik revolution of 1917. The newly stabilized Soviet regime became emboldened in the wake of a succession of leadership in the Russian Orthodox Church, and on December 10th, 1925, arrested the new acting Patriarch, Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa. Yet despite confinement in Moscow’s notorious Butyrka prison1 and subsequent exile in the eastern Soviet Union, Metropolitan Peter refused to surrender control of the church to the Communist Party.

Acting deputy Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodsky was arrested next but quickly turned traitor, signing a declaration that effectively turned the church into an arm of the Soviet secret police. He was immediately released and officially placed in charge as the new “Patriarch,” ignoring all protests by his exiled superior. Upon Metropolitan Peter’s release, Soviet officials discovered that neither he nor the rest of the church hierarchy would recognize Sergius’ coup d’etat as legitimate. Metropolitan Peter was soon re-arrested and shot, and ultimately the same fate met all other leading Orthodox bishops.2 Since then, the Soviet Communists have rebuilt an entirely new church around the apostate Sergius and his hand-picked clergy of KGB agents.

The dialectical Soviet strategy had two prongs: smashing religion from the outside, and seizing absolute control from within. The open destruction began as soon as Metropolitan Sergius was solidly in control. “Religious leaders were imprisoned, churches closed, church property confiscated, religious monuments and relics destroyed. William C. Fletcher, an eminent Western scholar of religion in the Soviet Union, writes that ‘by 1939 the Russian Orthodox Church was on the brink of complete dissolution, and as an institution in society had virtually disappeared.’”3 Some 200,000 Russian churches were burned or otherwise destroyed.4

Meanwhile, the Soviet Secret Police formed two agencies for regulating the Orthodox church: the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, led by NKVD (secret police) General G.G. Karpov, and the Council for the Affairs of Religious Sects. These agencies had sole power over appointment and promotion of clergy within the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as total control over their religious activities. By 1966, the Committee for State Security (KGB, successor to the NKVD) combined those two agencies into the Council for Religious Affairs, managed by the KGB’s Fifth Chief Directorate.5 It is currently unknown to us whether these agencies have been further renamed since the KGB’s restructuring as the FSB (Federal Security Service), but they unquestionably continue to function in using the official Russian Church as a front organization for Communist activities. “In the USSR and in Russia today, the ROC [Russian Orthodox Church] has always been a tool of the State,” noted Soviet defector Major General Oleg Kalugin, former Chief of Counterintelligence of the KGB’s First Directorate, in a 2001 interview.6

Parallel subversion of Orthodox clergy throughout Eastern Europe and Communist-occupied areas of the Middle East have placed much of the larger Eastern Orthodox Church in Communist hands. From such positions, and with the help of Soviet spies operating in non-church institutions throughout the West, they have been well-positioned to infiltrate the rest of Eastern Orthodoxy with agents of influence and informants.

Links to Subversive Organizations:


Subversive Leaders and Other Infiltrators:

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Recent Subversive Activities:

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1. Shifrin, A., The First Guidebook to Prisons and Concentration Camps of the Soviet Union, 2nd ed., Bantam Books, New York, 1982, pp. 42-43.

2. Metropolitan Vitaly, “Letter to a priest concerning the origin and status of the Moscow Patriarchate,” www.monasterypress.com, June 25, 1998.

3. Barron, J., KGB: The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents, Bantam Books, New York, 1981, p. 140; Fletcher, W.C., Religion and Soviet Foreign Policy 1945-1970 and Nikolai, cited therein.

4. Shifrin, Op cit., p. 65.

5. Barron, Op cit., pp. 117-118, 140.

6. Interview with Oleg Kalugin, Aug. 3, 2001, as quoted in Dolskaya, O., “High Treason: The Luring of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad to the Moscow Patriarchate,” www.monasterypress.com, Oct. 2001.