Life Goes On in Moscow: An update from the Chaplain of St Andrew’s Moscow

Life goes on as usual in Moscow.

There are some goods we cannot get, prices have gone up, but shops and cafes and bars are full, and museums and theatres are open.

But everything has changed. 

Russia is cut off and has cut itself off from the west. Social media has been closed down. There is a 50% possibility that YouTube will now be closed. 

There has been a massive exodus of Western companies and westerners, and also of many Russians. We’ve lost at least 40 members of our congregation.

Travel is also more difficult.  I've just returned from the UK. Sadly, my father died last week, but I am grateful that I was able to see him before he went to be with his Lord. But a 4 hour flight has become a 12 hour flight

And there is a different view of reality.  

The story I heard in the UK is very different to the story that people are told here: There are some very nasty people (Nazis) in Ukraine and we need to go and get them (in Russian, the word for nationalist and the word for Nazi begin with the same four letters), there was a war in Donbas we needed to bring to an end, NATO is moving eastwards and threatening our survival, Ukraine wanted to have nuclear missiles, they were a tool in the hands of the US, the 2014 Maidan was a western backed state revolution, and Bucha, Kramatorsk and other instances of brutality are either fake news or Ukrainian atrocities committed on their own people for propaganda purposes.

What is truth?

At times it feels completely surreal: You do not know where you are. Up is down, left is right, black is white. 

And if someone is against what is happening in Ukraine, then they are unpatriotic, discrediting the Russian armed forces, a fly to be spat out of the mouth, to use one of the president's more colourful illustrations. So people will only talk about what is happening with those who they think will sympathise with their view, and even then they will talk in code. 

What is scary is that it is illegal not just to protest against the conflict, but to challenge that version of reality. You can be put in prison for using the wrong word to describe the military operation, or for standing outside a public space holding a blank piece of paper. 

Pray for Ukraine, but continue to pray for the people of Russia. 

Pray for us here that as the state increasingly controls the message that we hear, we will not succumb to some matrix like dream world, that we will stay awake and that God will raise up prophets who will speak His truth. And as you pray that for us, pray it also for yourselves.

Easter is coming. The message that I will be preaching on Sunday is that Jesus is risen from the dead and he is with us. He is among his people. He knows our weakness and our fear, our challenges and our compromises. And as we allow his word to come into our hearts, and as we receive him in bread and wine, we are confronted by a truth - that is so much more solid, much more real than the shadow versions that we all listen to and then love to share. It is the truth of the holiness of God, the love and power of God and that in the end life conquers death, and the victory will belong to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Revd Canon Malcolm Rogers,
Chaplain of St Andrews, Moscow,
The Archbishop of Canterbury's Representative to the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia
Area Dean of Russia and Ukraine