Head of the Russian Orthodox Church (2009 - to date)
GUNDYAEV, Vladimir Mikhailovich (b. 1946 in Leningrad) is a Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. After receiving eight-year school education in 1962, he worked as a geologist for three years, then, in 1965, he entered the Leningrad Theological Seminary and the Leningrad Theological Academy, which he graduated in 1970 (officially listed as Monk Kirill from April 3, 1969). In the same year, he became the personal secretary of the then Leningrad Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church Nikodim (Boris Rotov). Already in March-April 1968, he participated in the 3rd All-Christian Peace Congress in Prague; in July of the same year, he was a member of the 4th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Uppsala (Sweden). He became an adviser at the annual meetings of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and vice-chairman of the youth commission of the Christian Peace Congress.
In 1971, he received a much higher position, becoming the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate at the World Council of Churches in Geneva. At the end of 1974, at the age of 28, Gundyaev became the rector of the Theological Seminary and the Academy he had just completed in Leningrad, and six months later he was appointed head of the Diocesan Council of the Leningrad Diocese. In 1978, he also managed all the parishes of the Patriarchate in Finland and at the same time became deputy head of the Department of External Church Relations (DECR) of the Patriarchy. In 1984, Gundyaev became Archbishop of Smolensk and Vyazma, and in November 1989 he also headed the DECR. On February 25, 1991, he received the title of Metropolitan. In May 1993, he became co-chair of the ultra-conservative and anti-Western World Russian People’s Sobor. The day after the death of his predecessor, Patriarch Alexy II (Ridiger), on December 6, 2008, by secret ballot, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church elected him locum tenens of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
Having taken ultra-conservative positions in church and political issues, from the very first days of his de facto patriarchate, he rejected any reforms in his church. It was such a stance that made him a virtually uncontested candidate for the position of patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in the eyes of the Russian authorities. On January 25, 2009, the Russian Orthodox Church Council of Bishops chaired by Gundyaev, elected him the new head of the Moscow Patriarchate. In this regard, noteworthy, that, starting in May 1927, the leadership of the Patriarchate, previously “ideologically unstable,” turned out to be completely loyal to the Soviet authorities. Since September 1943, when repressions against the clergy in the USSR have calmed down, appointments to top posts in the church have become impossible without coordination with the Communist party officials. This is a very controversial issue as the Russian Orthodox Church also owns a huge number of parishes outside the Russian Federation. However, the Soviet leaders at least pretended to distance themselves from the daily life of the church in the USSR and did not interfere in it directly. In the Russian Federation, in turn, the Russian Orthodox Church’s interference in the political and secular life of the country and top officials officials’ impact on church affairs have reached tremendous proportions under Gundyaev.
Organizing a criminal business. In 1993, he participated in the business of importing cigarettes, while the federal budget had a huge deficit and state employees did not receive salaries and pensions. He avoided taxes, was engaged in the oil export business through the Ministry of Economic Relations without customs duties. According to various estimates, all this activity brought Gundyaev 1.5-4 billion dollars. For example, Gundyaev owns a villa in Switzerland, palaces in Gelendzhik (next to Putin’s palace) and Moscow neighborhood, an apartment in the famous House on the Embankment in the center of the Russian capital, a personal fleet, and a Breguet watch worth about 30 thousand euros.
Undermining the secular nature of the Russian state, enshrined in its Constitution (namely, the imposition of “spiritual” censorship in secular areas of culture and undermining the secular nature of the state education system in the Russian Federation). Gundyaev does not accept the idea of separating the church from the state (prescribed in the Russian Constitution) and the secular state system as a whole. Gundyaev and his hierarchs were the main lobbyists for the introduction of the so-called “Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture” course in schools and the creation of departments of theology in universities, including technical ones.
Complicity in the aggression of the Putin regime against Ukraine and the occupation of the territories of foreign states. So, the leadership of the Security Service of Ukraine reported that the structures of the Moscow Patriarchate helped the Russian special forces to prepare the annexation of Crimea. The clergy provided cover for the first groups of Russian saboteurs, and after the annexation, they launched a militarist indoctrination of young Crimeans.
The full support of the Putin regime in both foreign and domestic policies. The clerical obscurantism has the full support of Gundyaev and the entire leadership of the ROC MP. After his intronization in 2009, Gundyaev put forward the idea of the “Russian world.” With the full support of the Russian Orthodox Church, the government adopted a law that criminalizes “insulting the feelings of believers” in 2012. Propagandists of the Russian Orthodox Church, led by Gundyaev, intensified attacks on small religious denominations and groups, including Christian ones, which they arrogantly call “totalitarian sects.”
Corruption It is unclear, for example, how Gundyaev turned out to be the owner of a huge and luxurious apartment in the House on the Embankment in the center of Moscow, where, since 1931, the secular government and party officials of high rank lived. He uses huge amounts of funds from the state budget for personal purposes. For example, Gundyaev uses the expensive services of the enormous staff of the Federal Security Service (FSO) of Russia, which should protect only high-ranking secular, but not church leaders of the country.
Work for the KGB. Unfortunately, the lustration of former employees and informants of Soviet punitive agencies did not take place in the 1990s. This fully applies to the highest hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church. Historians who worked with the archives of the Soviet security and party agencies found out that the KGB agent nicknamed Mikhailov conducted trips outside of the USSR at the exact same time as Gundyaev, and they concluded that Gundyaev and Mikhailov are one and the same person.