NEW YORK: September 8, 2009
The Synod of Bishops Comments On Protopriest George Mitrofanov’s Book, The Tragedy of Russia. Forbidden Themes in the History of the 20th Century
During its September session, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia discussed the polemics revolving around the book published this summer by a church historian, Professor of St Petersburg Theological Academy Protopriest Georgy Mitrofanov, titled Tragedija Rossii. “Zapretniye temy istorii XX veka [The Tragedy of Russia. “Forbidden” Themes in the History of the 20th Century]. The book is a compendium containing published articles and sermons written and delivered by Fr George from 1990-2000.
We are saddened by the glaring vitriol in the arguments surrounding this book, and the contentious and disturbed spirit expressed by some of the critics of this book.
Since the matter involves a compendium which includes the works of Fr Georgy written over almost a decade, we will allow ourselves to touch upon only one of the topics, the historiosophical and historical evaluation of General AA Vlasov. It was this topic that set off the more painful disputes among Russian Orthodox Christians both in the Fatherland and in the diaspora.
The tragedy is indeed a great one surrounding those who are commonly called “Vlasovites,” that is, the participants in that movement upon which the Russian Freedom Army [Russkaya Osvoboditel’naja Armija, ROA] was founded. In any case, it must be examined without bias and with complete objectivity. Without such an approach, the science of history becomes political propaganda. It seems to us that for a better understanding of what happened in Russia, and with Russia, in the critical years of the last century, we must avoid a black-and-white juxtaposition of historic events. These events by their very nature were so complex, so self-contradictory and multi-layered, that an attempt to characterize them with one label is doomed to failure. In particular, calling the actions of Vlasov treasonous is in our opinion a superficial simplification of what happened. In this regard, we fully support Fr Georgy’s effort to approach this question (in fact, a whole series of questions), with a suitable yardstick for this problem.
In the Russian Diaspora, where some of the survivors of the ROA found themselves, General Vlasov was and remains a symbol of resistance to godless bolshevism in the name of the rebirth of Historic Russia. Under the circumstances they found themselves in, could General Vlasov and the “Vlasovites” have done anything else? We hope that future Russian historians view those events with more fairness and objectivity than we see today.
Yet to the question “Were General Vlasov and his supporters traitors to Russia?” we can answer, no, not at all. Everything they did was for the sake of the Fatherland, in hopes that the defeat of bolshevism would lead to the rebuilding of a powerful national Russia. Germany was viewed by the Vlasovites solely as an ally in their struggle against bolshevism, but they, the Vlasovites, were prepared if faced with the need to use armed resistance against any colonization or division of our Homeland. Paraphrasing the famous words of the late Russian philosopher Alexander Zinoviev, General Vlasov and his followers, while “taking aim at communism” took all imaginable measures “not to hit Russia.” And this attitude, these efforts were not muted among the Vlasovites, and so those in Germany and other countries who hated Russia did all they could to prevent the creation of a battle-ready Russian Freedom Army, let alone a Russian national government.
An in-depth study of the history of the ROA and its founders, we trust, will confirm our statements, founded on undisputed facts and confirmed by eyewitnesses, of whom, alas, the majority has already departed to their ultimate destination.
But until historians can speak their final word, we must not angrily and mercilessly berate our brother, even if his words contain what causes some indignation and disagreement. “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”