Archpriest Novopashin’s bizarre ramblings against “cults” continue. They are absurd—but not inoffensive.
by Massimo Introvigne
FECRIS is the largest European organization fighting religious minorities it labels and stigmatizes as “cults.” It is actively supported by the French government, and one of its most active affiliates has been for decades its Russian branch RATSIRS, whose President is the notorious Moscow anti-cultist Alexander Dvorkin, while Novosibirsk Orthodox Archpriest Alexander Novopashin serves as Vice President. Since RATSIRS is a fanatical supporter of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, FECRIS has tried to downplay its relationship with its Russian branch, whose name has disappeared from FECRIS’s website. However, Novopashin emphatically proclaims that he and RATSIRS are still “representing FECRIS” in Russia.
A typical example of the Russian FECRIS and Novopashin’s propaganda is an interview he gave to Novosibirsk’s “Social Media News” on April 11. The Archpriest claims that the United States have created inside the Russian Federation a network of “cultist sleeping cells” ready to be activated to create internal chaos and undermine Russia’s war effort.
Novopashin’s paranoid theory is that, “In Russian cities, so-called ‘sleeping cells’ of cultists are organized, which, at the command of the American intelligence services, will be instantly activated. This may include, for example, bringing cult members to the streets to support riots.”
He names among the “cults” involved the Misanthropic Division, Maniacs Killer Cult, and Columbine. Novopashin quotes another notorious Russian anti-cultist, Roman Silantyev, who in 2009 was appointed Alexander Dvorkin’s deputy as head of the Expert Council on Religion at the Russian Ministry of Justice, who “unequivocally considers these threats as the result of the use of information and psychological weapons against our country.”
There is only one problem with these “cults,” as Bitter Winter has repeatedly noted. They do not exist. They are figments of Silantyev’s and the Russian FECRIS’ imagination. Absurd as they may be regarded by scholars of new religious movements, these theories are however dangerous. Political dissidents and young women and men whose only crime is to like heavy metal music or a lifestyle not in accordance with the precepts of Patriarch Kirill have been arrested as members of these imaginary “cults.”
Novopashin, however, claims that there is hard evidence that such “cults” have been created by the United States in cooperation with the “Ukrainian Center for Information and Psychological Operations (TsIPSO, a division of the Armed Forces of Ukraine)… whose main task is to wage a mental war aimed not only at misinforming the population, causing panic, but also at destroying self-consciousness and the Russian ethos.” The evidence of the creation and promotion of these “cults” by the American and Ukrainian governments, which “some may regard as unlikely, or almost impossible,” is, according to Novopashin, the attitude of the Ukrainians who, rather than welcoming the Russian Army, have resisted it for more than one year.
“The aggressive psychological impact on the Ukrainian people that has not stopped for a minute for several years, the instillation of alien ideas through social networks, television, and the state education system has led Ukrainians to mental degradation,” Novopashin says. “This is how cults operate,” he concludes.
In another interview, Novopashin refers to members of Pentecostal churches and “neo-pagan” movements—which, at least, really exist—as currently “undergoing special training in Ukraine” by the U.S. intelligence, preparing them to enter Russia and commits acts of “sabotage” there. “American intelligence agencies use cults in their projects to change the regime in countries whose policies do not suit them, which have the audacity not to follow the lead of the American government, Novopashin said. So, indeed, neo-Pentecostals (as well as neo-pagans) were trained in Ukraine for subversive work in Russian territories.”
Again, these theories would be just laughable if Pentecostal and other believers were not arrested in Russia after having been denounced by the Russian FECRIS as Ukrainian and American spies.