Electronic tax codes - a topical theme for fundamentalists
Russian Orthodox fundamentalism (hereafter simply :fundamentalism;) - a perception of the world based on extremely mythologized notions about the pre-revolutionary Orthodox monarchy - is very widespread in the Church. Moreover, fundamentalism in the RPTz has been on the rise since the early 1990s, and there are no grounds for believing that this rise will stop in the near future.
Orthodox fundamentalists are basically opposed to liberals and Westerners, perceived by them as almost the same. The concept of "the worldwide Kike-Masonic conspiracy" with its spear-point aimed precisely against Russia is to some extent characteristic of practically all Russian Orthodox fundamentalists. And when the theme of "globalization" became popular in the West and then in Russia too, these assumptions naturally gave birth to a specific Orthodox anti-globalism.
This anti-globalism was first evidenced by statements against the commodity bar code, in which our fundamentalists - prompted by like-minded Greek ones - discovered the number 666. Hegumen (presently Achimandrite) Tikhon (Shevkunov), Father Superior of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, became the main herald of this new trouble from the West which is regarded as nothing less than the advance of the Anti-Christ as early as in 1998. Given that Sretensky Monastery is one of the Church's largest publishing houses, the propaganda has proved to be rather successful. In the Church's press and parishes believers began to passionately discuss whether it was admissible for the Orthodox believers to buy bar-coded goods.
Then they began to discover "the Seal of the Anti-Christ" in all kinds of codes, first of all on all kinds of magnetic cards (credit cards and so on). And the taxpayer's individual number [Individualniy Nomer Nalogoplatelshchika - INN], which according to the Ministry of Taxes' plans should be given to each resident of the country, was considered the most obvious case. Besides, in the consciousness of the majority of fundamentalists, INN for some reason merged with the bar code and the belief spread that "the Number of the Beast" was somewhere inside INN as well.
A powerful campaign was unleashed against INN in autumn of 1999. Hundreds of parishioners, monks and even father superiors of monasteries were signing petitions with the demand not to introduce INN. The motivation in all cases was Apocalyptic, so the heat of passions at once became very high. Certainly, the actions in favor of the canonization of the last Emperor Nicholas II and family, and against "the heresy of ecumenism" continued too. But anti-INN campaign was aimed directly against the policy of the state authorities, that fact giving it an additional impetus in the radical environment and creating an additional problem for the leaders of the Church.
The Synod tried to stop the new campaign by making a compromise proposal. The Synod's Decision of March 7, 2000 ruled that INN was not "the Seal of the Anti-Christ", but repeated the assertion that the bar code contained the number 666. Without arguing against the introduction of INN in essence, the Synod actually asked the authorities to condescend to the most superstitious believers and introduce - no less! - a system of bar codes different from the rest of the world.
It was no surprise that the Synod's decision did not stop the campaign, but it was surprising that the campaign was actually suspended for a few months. And beginning in the autumn of the year 2000, after the Bishop's Council fulfilled the fundamentalists' main demand to canonize Nicholas II and his family, the campaign was resumed on a much larger scale. One observer has aptly called the movement "INN Jihad" .
At this point references to the authority of some elders, primarily that of Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov), Confessor of Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra - the main monastery (and the main Ecclesiastical Academy) of the country, became the strike-force. Father superiors of monasteries were taking more active stands and some (differently oriented) politicians traditionally lobbying for the interests of RPTz and, of course, radical nationalists joined the campaign. Official consultations on the theme entitled "Globalization and personal codes as an issue of the worldview choice of a contemporary human being" were held in the State Duma on January 23, 2001.
A summary of opinions voiced since autumn of 2000 produces a rather homogeneous picture. It was alleged that, firstly, the number 666 is "implanted" in the bar code including the one used in taxation-related document circulation. Secondly, the act of giving a person a unique number to stay with him or her for their whole life substitutes his or her Orthodox Christian name. Thirdly, a uniform computer registration leads to total control over the people; the introduction of INN is just another step on the path toward such control. And, fourthly, the computer systems are all compatible with the global standards, making it possible (a version - suggesting) to include the registry of Russian citizens into the world registration system controlled by the mystical global forces of evil - by the West, "the new world order" "the world Jewry leaders" or directly by the Anti-Christ . One has to admit that bar codes were not mentioned then as often as before and attention was focused on the idea that globalization inevitably leads to the kingdom of the Anti-Christ, while the mission of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church is to defend national and religious identity in the face of such a dangerous trend. Therefore it was less important whether INN was literally "the Seal of the Anti-Christ" and whether there were the sixes in the bar code. The important thing was not to take a step back in the global confrontation .
In addition sometimes there were calls "to escape into the wilderness", cases of refusal to give the Eucharist to those parishioners who "accepted INN" etc., and thus some grounds for accusations of a split emerged. Some went as far as making barely disguised calls to overthrow the authorities .
Such radical moods of the fighters against INN caused a delimitation within the ranks of the Orthodox anti-globalists. Comparatively moderate opponents to globalization believed that INN was not the boundary at which it was necessary to make a mortal combat stand. More precisely they believed it was both possible and necessary to bargain with the state on that issue, but it was not worth bringing relations with the authorities into sharp conflict and subjecting themselves to the risk of real persecutions for the sake of INN.
Elder Archimandrite Ioann (Krestyankin), a person of the greatest authority among conservatives, produced the most convincing arguments in favor of a moderate position. In his especially video-recorded late January appeal, that fact being extremely unusual in itself, he reminded believers: "... And what can be said about control and total spying, with which they frighten simple-minded people so much? When and in what state was there no secret office? All was... and all is... and will be... but nothing prevents a believer from seeking salvation". In the same appeal Elder Ioann sharply spoke against the INN fighters' split-provoking manner of speech .
Many Orthodox fundamentalist leaders including Archim.Tikhon (Shevkunov), once the initiator of the entire campaign, the implacable opposition activist Konstantin Dushenov, Editor-in-Chief of "Rus Pravoslavnaya" ["Orthodox Rus"] newspaper, Sergey Grigoryev, Editor-in-Chief of "Russkaya liniya" ["Russian Line"], and others turned out to be in solidarity with him too. But they used to add also the argument that a refusal to be obedient to the state was obviously non-patriotic, as it implied that Putin's regime was a God-fighting one. And that went (and goes) counter to the hopes they pinned on Putin as "their" president. Yet their arguments were accompanied by emphases that in general the opposition to liberal and anti-Christ globalization must be continued. As far as one can judge, Archim.Kirill (Pavlov) took a similar position .
Few have stayed in the ranks of the staunch fighters. It is necessary to mention a Saint-Petersburg priest Alexey Masyuk and the Editor-in-Chief of "Svyataya Rus" ["Holy Rus"] newspaper Konstantin Gordeyev, as well as Father Rafail (Berestov), an Athos Mountain Elder. With such obvious non-equilibrium of forces the outcome of the struggle was predetermined.
A broadened session of the Theological Commission held on February 19-20, 2001 in Troitse-Sergiyeva Laura adopted a Final Document which definitely denied any Apocalyptic meaning of bar codes and INN and condemned the split-bound spirit of the fighters against INN, while as concerns the threat of globalization it said only that "processes of globalization... may be used by a malicious will to enslave people and human communities".
Besides, the Minister of Taxes and Charges Gennady Bukayev personally promised as early as on January 31, 2002 that his employees would not force people adopt their INNs: the number is mandatory only for businessmen (and, of course, organizations). For INN opponents who get their incomes otherwise than from business, tax registration is possible without INNs.
Respectable Orthodox Anti-Globalism
The radicals were defeated and since then have displayed almost no activity for some time . But the more moderate Orthodox anti-globalists are still active to make up for that.
In addition to the above-mentioned individuals, these include very many of the elders and father superiors of monasteries. One can see that even by reading the officially published statements made at the Theological Commission session , though not all judgements contrary to the opinion of the Patriarchate were published . Archim.Kirill (Pavlov), who was absent at the session, did not sign the Final Document either .
The Saint Petersburg Ecclesiastical Academy headed by Bishop Konstantin (Goryanov) on May 3-4, 2001, together with two secular institutes, held a conference titled "Spiritual and social problems of globalization". The conference adopted a final document which was carefully drafted and has already become a theoretical basis for further development of the movement. It is therefore worth giving a rather extensive citation from it:
"1. The ideology of globalization is in opposition to the Christian world outlook and incompatible to it; it takes root and is propagandized in secular society and the Church through the efforts of the world elite and it expresses its interests. Globalization becomes an embodiment of the utopian idea of mondialism about the creation of a unitary, supranational and rigidly controlled community on Earth...
3. The historical calling of Russia as a country preserving the Orthodox faith, culture and traditions is not recognized and is rejected by mondialists. Yet the values mentioned are important for the whole world.
4. Changes in the traditional system of values, destruction of national culture, Christian morals and senses, primitivization of the people's thinking and universal work to make them accustomed to "voluntary-compulsorily" acceptance of digital identifiers (personal codes) replacing a human name in all state-public relationships are presently the main manifestations of the globalization process in the Russian Federation. <...> As Confessor of Svyato-Troitskaya Sergiyeva Laura Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov) noted with justice and precision, "By accepting INN a person is incorporated into the system of evil"... "
It is possible to find some differences in this document as compared to the Final Document of the February plenary session of the Theological Commission, but on the whole we see just more definitely and resolutely reformulated provisions of "The Bases of the Social Concept":
<> :In the field of culture and information, the globalisation has been conditioned by the development of technologies facilitating the movement of people and objects and the acquisition and distribution of information... This process, however, has been accompanied by attempts to establish the dominion of the rich elite over the rest of the people and of some cultures and worldveiws over others, which is especially intolerable in the religious field. As a result, there is a tendency to present as the only possible a universal culture devoid of any spirituality and based on the freedom of the fallen man unrestricted in anything as the absolute value and measure-stick of the truth. The globalisation developing in this way is compared by many in Christendom to the construction of the Tower of Babelon.
<...> The spiritual and cultural expansion fraught with total unification should be opposed through the joint efforts of the Church, state structures, civil society and international organisations for the sake of asserting in the world a truly equitable and mutually enriching cultural and informational exchange combined with efforts to protect the identity of nations and other human communities.
<...> efforts should be made to achieve such a world order which would be based on the principles of justice and the equality of people before God and exclude any suppression of their will by the centres of political, economic and informational influence;.
It is not surprising that no reprimands, at least public ones, have come from the Synod.
Patriarchate, state and fundamentalists around the INN - the present position
INN opponents' influence on the state is in general very small, of course. They are supported by literally few State Duma deputies: Alexander Chuyev, Anatoly Greshnevikov, Alexander Shulga. But it was in many respects due to their efforts that on February 15, 2001 the Duma rejected a draft law "On the Basic Documents of the Russian Federation Certifying the Identity of a Citizen of the Russian Federation", because it suggested such innovations as a citizen's personal code and magnetic record of passport data. The draft was not saved even by the fact that it was submitted by a wide and authoritative group of deputies ranging from liberals up to communists. A new draft submitted to the Duma in April does not contain anything "mondialist".
But that success is the only one. Without wide and organized support the antiglobalists cannot deter the Government with its initiatives aimed at further modernization of the economy, which implies improvement of accounting systems as well. For example, on January 29, 2002 the Government approved a whole program of information modernization called "Electronic Russia".
The aforementioned deputies were also very active in the practical negotiations held by the Moscow Patriarchate with the Ministry of Taxes and Charges. The matter is that, despite Minister Bukayev's assurances, cases of pressure on the taxpayer with the demand to acquire their INNs are still numerous enough. It is hardly caused by a purposeful policy of the Ministry, but rather by the momentum of the bureaucratic machine trying, naturally, to simplify its work as much as possible. While the Patriarchate, in its turn, trying to pacify the conflict, acts against those breaches. And, as there are no principled contradictions between the Patriarchate and the Ministry, it is quite possible to discuss the breaches together. There is also the problem of INN being assigned without a citizen's knowledge: if that citizen is an INN opponent, he or she cannot get rid of the number.
During those consultations they managed to prevent a serious crisis caused by an instruction of the Ministry and the Sberbank (Savings Bank) of Russia of September 10, 2001, prescribing from January 10, 2002 to indicate mandatorily the INN when paying taxes, fines and other citizen's payments to the state. That measure would have concerned the overwhelming majority of the citizens, including the INN opponents. The instruction was revoked on December 24 after negotiations with the Patriarchate's representatives.
There are attempts as well to solve the problem in principle - by means of amendments introduced into the Tax Code. The is Alexander Chuyev's project to shift a person's name to his file at the tax inspection office, but officials are totally uncomfortable with it, as the files have already had their numbers, which still do not create a single system of accounting. By now Chuyev and some other deputies have joined Anatoly Greshnevikov's project obliging the taxmen to assign INNs only if they have a citizen's written consent. And the Ministry proposes an option more convenient for it - to make those not wising to use INNs to come themselves and conclude a special agreement with the Ministry. But so far all the projects are far from the Duma's consideration.
Meanwhile, since the summer of 2001 radical opponents of the INNs have again stepped up their activity. And that time their actions were aimed against the Patriarchate, rather then against the authorities, and most of all rather against the moderate fundamentalists who shy away from "the INN Jihad ". The Synod members' statements in support of the USA after September 11 added fuell to the fire.
On July 17, 2001 meetings in Moscow and Saint Petersburg adopted appeals to the Patriarchate with a request for "a prompt convocation of the full-fledged Local Council", as Church leaders themselves do not resists globalization. Since then the appeals have been actively disseminated among the Orthodox public. And at a meeting held on October 4 in Moscow by the Movement "For the Right to Live without INN" , the agenda contained, among the others, the following:
<>"12. The RPTz leaders as promoters of the globalization ideology inconsistent with a Christian world outlook (as exemplified by the lobbying by the RPTz leaders for the digital identification and "theological" reasoning for the so-called retaliation strikes).
13. The role of the Church sponsored media holdings ("Radonezh", "Russkiy Dom" and other) in the manipulation of public opinion and in the information support to realization of the globalist scenario in Russia" .
After the appearance of the above-mentioned instruction on taxes and the INNs the radicals held on December 5, 2001 a totally unprecedented action by arranging a meeting near the building of the Patriarchate in Moscow. Three activists including leader of the Union of "Christian Revival" Vladimir Osipov were given an audience by the Patriarch's closest associates Metropolitan Sergius (Fomin) and Archbishop Arsenius (Yepifanov), and handed in an appeal to the Patriarch (who, by the way, himself, as they said, renounced using his INN). And on December 15 the radicals picketed the entrance to the Temple of Christ the Savior, where on that day the Moscow Eparchy (Diocese) Meeting was held. Then, after they were not admitted inside, they made crusade walks around they temple.
Those attacks forced Patriarch Alexis, usually temperate in his statements, to say on December 14 publicly:
"...INN rejection on religious motives is a problem created on an empty space. <...> There is an impression that those people persevere not just due to their ignorance, but have been possibly bought by somebody to bring confusion into the others' conscience " .
But it is impossible to just ignore the radicals, as they are, albeit indirectly, supported not only by the rank-and-file priests or some elders. On October 17, 2001 three Archbishops of the Urals, namely Metropolitan of Chelyabinsk Job, Archbishop of Yekaterinburg Vikentiy and Archbishop of Tobolsk Dimitriy, made a joint statement, wherein they indicated that the continuation of the practice of assigning the INNs against the will of the Orthodox citizens might lead to a new turmoil . However, as Metropolite Sergius (Fomin) said, later they "practically renounced their position " . But it is well known that the RPTz bishops do not make sharp statements by chance. Archbishop Vikentiy said:
"The believers... do not accept the INNs because of their unwillingness to join the system that is to oppress our Fatherland. In the end that might lead to the power of anti-Christ, as predicted in the Revelation of St. John ... , as yet it is early to talk about the seal of Anti-Christ, but the people do not want to make even the first steps into that system " .
It is indicative that on December 24, 2001 the Theological Commission again had to hold a meeting on the INN theme with officials' participation, on the one hand, and INN moderate and radical opponents - on the other . And again that theme had to be discussed at the Synod session on December 26-27. The theme continues to be very hot.
Yet, no new decisions were made that time either. In one year the Patriarchate's position had not changed: the Church is prepared to endlessly hold talks with the authorities on a relaxation of the problem and amendments to the law, it "urgently suggests for the numeration not to be related to a person, but to be assigned to a personal account or some other document wherein a taxpayer's incomes are fixed" , but it is emphatically against any conflicts.
A new round of the Patriarchate-radicals confrontation has not changed the balance of the forces, but rather aggravated the confrontation. If the events continue to develop that way further on, one cannot rule in the future a secession of some part of the radicals from the Patriarchate. But that will not happen, as long as the radicals have not depleted the capacity to expand their influence and have not lost hopes for their victory. And such hopes still remain against the background of the general tendency toward a consolidation of fundamentalist trends within the Church.
This paper was prepared with the support of grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the British Academy.