Russian Orthodox Deacon Defends Pussy Riot

TAMBOV, Russia — Sergei Baranov keeps his clerical robes hanging neatly in his closet, but he believes he will never again wear them inside a Russian Orthodox Church.

Baranov, who had led a quiet life as a deacon in the small city of Tambov, became an Internet celebrity last month when he asked to be defrocked in an open letter to the Moscow patriarchate, saying he was outraged by the church’s stance against three members of the punk band Pussy Riot.

The feminist rockers were sentenced to two years in prison after singing a “punk prayer” against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral, a stunt that divided Russians.

Even some of the devout who did not approve of the women’s high kicks at the cathedral’s pulpit in February spoke out against the trial and what appeared to be the church’s heavy-handed involvement. Baranov gave them a strong a public voice – and gave up his calling in order to back up his beliefs.

Baranov told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he supports the band’s stunt and does not regret his resignation.

“Everyone prays as they can,” Baranov said of the Pussy Riot members. “And with their act they exposed the ills and blisters of society. We should have done that a long time ago.”

The Pussy Riot trial had given courage to Baranov, who said he had long been critical of the church’s stance but that the girls’ actions had shown him that the church is ripe, if not overdue, for serious reform.

Baranov was far away from the discontent still simmering in Moscow after the trial. But he managed to further ripple the waters with the help of Facebook, as his letter accumulated over 4,000 likes and almost 2,000 re-posts within several days.

The Internet has mobilized countless opposition voices like Baranov’s throughout Russia, this time helping a small-town cleric draw attention to what he sees as the ills of the Orthodox Church, its conservatism and its open support for Putin.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post

  • September 18, 2012
  • |
  • Activism
  • |
  • LAURA MILLS | AP