KESTON NEWS SERVICE
Issue 9, Article 14, 21 September 2000
Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.
SUMMARY: In response to the denial by a senior official of the Moscow
Patriarchate that Patriarch ALEKSI II had collaborated with the KGB during
the Soviet era, Keston News Service has reviewed all the available
documentary evidence from the various archives of the KGB (see text below)
and concluded that long-standing allegations that the Patriarch and other senior
bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church collaborated with the KGB are based
Thursday 21 September 2000
KNS RUSSIA: THE PATRIARCH AND THE KGB
by Felix Corley, Keston News Service
In response to the denial by a senior official of the Moscow Patriarchate that
Patriarch ALEKSI II had collaborated with the KGB during the Soviet era,
Keston News Service has reviewed all the available documentary evidence
from the various archives of the KGB (see text below) and concluded that long-
standing allegations that the Patriarch and other senior bishops of the Russian
Orthodox Church collaborated with the KGB are based on fact.
The Moscow Patriarchate's official spokesman Father VSEVOLOD CHAPLIN
issued the denial in an interview with the Russian news agency Interfax on 20
September while responding to an article that appeared earlier that day in the
London daily paper The Times (which was mainly about corruption within
today's Orthodox Church, not about the Patriarch's past ties to the KGB).
Allegations Aleksi had collaborated with the KGB were `absolutely
unsubstantiated', Father Vsevolod claimed. `There is no data indicating that
Patriarch Aleksi II was an associate of the special services, and no classified
documents bear his signature.' He added: `I do not think that direct dialogue
between the current patriarch and the KGB took place.' He conceded only that
`all bishops' had to communicate with the Council for Religious Affairs, which
`forwarded all its materials to the KGB.'
Interfax declared that Father Vsevolod `found it difficult to respond' about the
source of reports about Patriarch Aleksi's KGB codename `Drozdov', but
accused Father GLEB YAKUNIN (who left the jurisdiction of the Moscow
Patriarchate some years ago) as `one of the authors of these libels'. Father
Vsevolod believed that those accusing the Patriarch of having collaborated with
the KGB were those determined to weaken the position of Christianity in
general and the Russian Orthodox Church in particular.
Despite Father Vsevolod's vigorous denials, KGB material that Keston has seen
in Tallinn reveals that Aleksi was recruited by the Estonian KGB on 28
February 1958, just days after his 29th birthday. The report makes clear that the
KGB viewed Aleksi, then still a priest, as a high-flier. It had already earmarked
him as a future Bishop of the Russian Orthodox diocese of Tallinn and Estonia.
He was appointed to this post less than three years later.
Although referring to him only as `Drozdov' (it was very unusual in internal
KGB documents for any person, whether agent or victim, to be referred to by
name before the late 1980s), it is clear that Aleksi Ridiger, born in Tallinn on
23 February 1929, is the subject. No other priest of the Estonian diocese
matches the information in the document. The choice of the codename
`Drozdov' is also a clue: Aleksi graduated from Leningrad Theological
Academy in 1953 with a thesis on the 19th-century Metropolitan of Moscow
Other documents from the central KGB archives in Moscow (now held by one
of the KGB's successors, the FSB) reveal some of the tasks Aleksi was
assigned as an agent. These documents - which were produced by the 4th
department of the KGB Fifth Directorate (the department that controlled
religious affairs) - were seen by a number of researchers after the archives were
briefly opened in the wake of the failed August 1991 coup, but access was then
closed again after the Russian Orthodox leadership protested about the extent
of the revelations. Unfortunately, researchers did not reveal the full contents of
each report, confining themselves to brief and tantalising extracts from the
titles and text of the reports.
A 1983 report from the central KGB archives, for example, reveals that when
the monks of the Pochayev monastery in western Ukraine were complaining
about harsh treatment (including the beating to death of a monk) by the KGB
and the local abbot, YAKOV PANCHUK, in 1981-2, Aleksi was one of the
two Russian Orthodox leaders sent down there to conduct `educational work'
among the monks.
In February 1988, exactly thirty years after his recruitment as an agent, Aleksi
was given an award by the KGB in recognition of his long service for them.
All senior clerical appointments in the Soviet era were made by the KGB and
mediated through the government's Council for Religious Affairs (the public
face of the 4th department of the KGB Fifth Directorate) - and many junior
appointments besides. Aleksi's collaboration was nothing exceptional - almost
all senior leaders of all officially-recognised religious faiths - including the
Catholics, Baptists, Adventists, Muslims and Buddhists - were recruited KGB
agents. Indeed, the annual report that describes Aleksi's recruitment also covers
numerous other agents, some of them in the Estonian Lutheran Church.
Although in public the KGB never acknowledged its role in controlling
religious affairs in the Soviet Union, in private it made no secret of it. The
KGB leadership approved a briefing paper No. 48s `On the use by the organs
of the KGB of the possibilities of the Russian Orthodox Church in counter-
espionage measures within the country and abroad' on 28 July 1970. In 1982
the 4th department of the KGB Fifth Directorate boasted that through `leading
agents, the ROC, Georgian and Armenian Churches hold firmly to positions of
loyalty' to the Soviet state.
The documents Keston has seen are undoubtedly genuine and can relate only to
Aleksi, matching as they do so closely his identity and his known travels.
Keston has not seen the document he would have signed on being recruited nor
the archive record card drawn up for him (such as is available for Georgian
Orthodox Patriarch ILYA, KGB codename "Iverieli"). All such material was
removed by the USSR KGB from the Estonian KGB archives in the late 1980s
and if it still exists is undoubtedly in the archives of the Russian FSB.
Given the genuineness of the documents, the only doubt remains as to how far
Aleksi was aware that the officers he was working with represented the KGB.
However, it would be naive to believe that Aleksi could have attained such
high office in a religious organisation tolerated by the Soviet state without
being aware of the true affiliation of those he had to report to.
In view of the compelling evidence that Aleksi was recruited as a KGB agent,
it remains a mystery why such a senior figure in the Moscow Patriarchate
would deny it rather than initiate a serious debate as to whether such
collaboration had been inevitable and whether or not it had caused the Russian
Orthodox Church or others any harm. (END)
THE DROZDOV FILES
The following are all the known references to Patriarch Aleksi (KGB codename
Drozdov) in publicly-available KGB materials, as translated by Keston News
FROM THE ESTONIAN DOCUMENT
16 January 1959
KGB of the Estonian SSR
Report on agent/operational work of the 4th department of the KGB attached to
the Council of Ministers of the Estonian SSR for 1958
Work with Agents
Agent "Drozdov", born 1929, a priest of the Orthodox Church, with higher
education, candidate degree in theology, fluent in Russian and Estonian with a
weak command of German. Recruited on 28 February 1958, on the basis of his
patriotic feelings, to identify and work on the antisoviet element from among
the ranks of the Orthodox clergy, among whom he has links, and which
represent operational interest to the organs of the KGB. In recruiting him it was
borne in mind that after consolidating his experience with practical work he
could later be promoted via the possibilities at our disposal to the post of
bishop [the word "bishop" has been added by hand] of Tallinn and Estonia.
During the period of collaboration with the organs of the KGB "Drozdov"
positively recommended himself. During secret rendezvous he was punctilious,
energetic and convivial. He is well-oriented in theoretical questions of theology
and the international situation. He has a willing attitude to the fulfilment of our
tasks and has already provided materials deserving attention, which are
forming the basis for documentation of the criminal activity of a member of the
leadership of the Johvi Orthodox church TURKIN [possibly Churkin] and his
wife, who had abused their position to secure pensions for several citizens (by
taking bribes). Carrying out this measure was an opportunity to consolidate
"Drozdov's" practical work with the organs of the KGB.
In addition, "Drozdov" also provided valuable material for the case under way
against the priest [Valeri] POVEDSKY. At present he is working on improving
his knowledge of German.
After consolidating the agent's experience in practical work with the organs of
state security in the cultivation of agents, we intend also to use him in our
interests by sending him to capitalist states as a member of church delegations.
Chairman of the Estonian KGB [Col. I.P.] Karpov
Head of the 4th department Belyayev
Estonian State Archive, record group 131, file 393, pp. 125-6.
`To England as part of the ROC delegation to the meeting of the executive
committee of the Conference of European Churches were sent agents
"Drozdov" and "Peresvet". Information was received from the agents about
persons of interest to the organs of the KGB and the activity of that
organisation.' FSB Central Archive, f. 5, op. 16, por. no. 477, d. V-11011, p.
`In December of last year a group of monks from the Pskov Cave monastery
expressed their dissatisfaction with regulations in the monastery and
complained to patriarch Pimen about the superior of the Pskov Cave
monastery. By means of agents "Drozdov" and "Skala", educational work was
conducted among the monks of the Pskov Cave monastery. As a result of
measures taken the initiators were sent to parishes in the Pskov diocese (4
persons), 2 persons were left in the monastery and 4 persons were sent away
from the Pskov diocese. The situation at the present time has been normalised.
Comrade Zotov.' FSB Central Archive, f. 6, op. 6/16, por. no. 24, d. T-175, t. 1,
`To Portugal were sent agents "Drozdov" and "Remark".' FSB Central Archive,
f. 6, op. 8/16, por. 21/23, d. F-175, tt. 3,5.
`An order of the USSR KGB chairman was prepared to award to Agent
"Drozdov" the Certificate of Honour.' FSB Central Archive, f. 6, op. 11, por.
no. 148, d. Ch-175, t. 1, p. 209. (END)
Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.