03 April 1996 14:31:00

THE MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE AND ANTI-ESTONIAN DISCRIMINATION by Lawrence A. Uzzell, Keston News Service Did the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow act as an instrument of forcible Russification during the Soviet occupation of Estonia?  According to figures supplied to the Keston News Service by a 75-year-old Estonian priest, the answer is Yes.  FR AUGUST KALJUKOSK told a Keston representative visiting Tallinn on 25 March that during the five decades of communist rule, the Moscow Patriarchate's Estonian diocese closed more than ten times as many Estonian-speaking as Russian-speaking Orthodox parishes.  The diocese ordained more than twice as many ethnic Russian as Estonian clergy, he said--in addition to bringing in dozens of immigrant clergy ordained in Russia. Fr August retired as a parish priest in 1992, but continues to take an active interest in Estonian church history.  He has kept records of the fate of every Orthodox parish in the country, and of every individual ordained in Estonia during the last five decades to the Orthodox diaconate or priesthood.  Here is what those records show: On the eve of the first Soviet occupation in 1940, the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church had 158 parishes--23 of which were Russian-speaking.   Twelve of these were destroyed by military action during the next five years.   Wartime Bishop PAVEL closed another 3 parishes, all Estonian.  Bishop ISIDOR , postwar head of the Estonian diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate, closed another 3--again, all Estonian.  His successor ROMAN closed 15 more in the early 1950s--of which 1 was Russian, 14 Estonian.  Bishop IOANN closed another 7 in the late 1950s--1 Russian, 6 Estonian.  The diocese's longest-reigning bishop during the Soviet period, who served from the 1960s until the restoration of Estonian independence, was ALEKSI, now Patriarch of Moscow; he closed 34 parishes, of which 3 were Russian and 31 Estonian. Thus the total for the entire occupation period, not including parishes destroyed by military action or monasteries, comes to 62 parishes forcibly closed by the Soviet regime and the Moscow Patriarchate--more than one- third of the parishes in existence before 1940.  Of these 62 parishes, 57 were Estonian-speaking and only 5 Russian-speaking. Fr August's figures for clerical ordinations are less dramatic, but in some ways more interesting.  In 1940 Estonia had 180 Orthodox clergymen.   According to Fr August, by the mid-1950s 137 of these were no longer serving in Estonia: 23 had fled abroad, and another 114 had been forcibly secularised, exiled, or killed.   Of these 137 clergy removed from church work, at least 100 were ethnic Estonians. Fr August's charts show that Bishop Pavel ordained a total of 22 individuals during his tenure--some to the diaconate, some to the full priesthood, some to both.  Of these, 20 were Russians and 2 Estonians.  Isidor ordained 17-- including 8 Russians and 9 Estonians.  Roman ordained 7, of which 3 were Russians and 4 Estonians.  Ioann ordained 8, including 4 Russians and 4 Estonians.  Aleksi, the future Patriarch, ordained 46, including 36 Russians and 10 Estonians. Thus the total number of ordinations for the entire occupation period comes to 100--of which 71 were Russians and 29 Estonians.  According to Fr August, the 71 Russians include only 34 capable of speaking Estonian. What is most striking about the charts is that they show anti-Estonian discrimination intensifying in the last half of the occupation.  During his long tenure Aleksi ordained a lower proportion of Estonians than any of his predecessors except Pavel--and 16 of the 20 Russians ordained by Pavel could speak Estonian, while only 5 of the 36 Russians ordained by Aleksi could do so.  Moreover, Aleksi brought another 23 Russian clergy into his diocese who had no Estonian connections--deacons or priests born, raised, trained and already ordained elsewhere in the Soviet Union. Aleksi also had more and longer periods than any of his predecessors during which no Estonians at all were ordained--including a gap of more than a decade, from 1971 to 1982.  Nor did his behaviour significantly change during the 'perestroika' era, when state pressure on the church was rapidly easing: in the last half of the 1980s he ordained 16 Russians and only 3 Estonians. Asked about the issue of discrimination, FR LEONTI MOROZKIN, press secretary to ARCHBISHOP KORNILI of the Moscow Patriarchate's Estonian diocese, told Keston that 18 Russians and 18 Estonians were ordained to the priesthood during the Soviet period.  But his figures seem incomplete: Fr August's charts show a total of 63 ordinations to the priesthood alone during that period, plus dozens more to the diaconate.   Keston asked Fr Leonti how many previously ordained Russian clergy were brought in from outside Estonia; he said he did not know. Estonia now has only 17 native ethnic Estonian Orthodox priests--and about one-third of these are elderly retirees, no longer serving in the parish ministry.   One of them told Keston that 'if the Soviet occupation had lasted another decade, Estonian Orthodoxy would have become extinct.' (END)