List of Belarusian Orthodox concordats and highlights from the Border Guard pact (2003)
In the old Soviet Union the Border Guard was part of the KGB, the secret police, and kept citizens from fleeing the country. In post-Communist Russia and Belarus the Border Guard has adopted the new state ideology — the Orthodox Church — but remains politicised. Here are excerpts from the Agreement between the Belarussian Orthodox Church and the Belarusian Border Guard.
In addition to the 2003 General Agreement between the Belarussian Orthodox Church and Republic of Belarus, there are four other agreements with government departments listed below.
♦ with the Penitentiary Committee of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs (August 1999) http://www.church.by/resource/Dir0009/Dir0015/Page0030.html
♦ with the Border Guard (18 January 2003) http://www.church.by/resource/Dir0009/Dir0015/Page0029.html
♦ with the National State Teleradio Company of the Republic of Belarus (6 September 2004) http://www.church.by/resource/Dir0009/Dir0015/Page0028.html,
♦ with the State Committee on Aviation (18 December 2004)
As of 2010 there are also 14 Cooperation Programmes between the Belarussian Orthodox Church and various state bodies (including Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Defence) which appear to be a result of implementation of the General Agreement.
Under communism, the Border Guard was the elite and most politicised branch of the armed forces in the Soviet Union. After the end of communism the head of the Russian Orthodox Church signed a cooperation agreement with the security service back in March 1996 — despite the fact that both Patriarch Alexis II and the security service deny that Orthodoxy is the officially established religion of the Russian Border Guards.
Among other things it provides for the annual conduct of a special solemn prayer service "For Defenders of the Borders of the Fatherland," which is conducted in all churches of the Russian Orthodox Church on December 4 at the time of the church's observance of the Presentation of the Most Holy Mother of God. ("Alexis II asked the Lord to bless Border Guard", 19 November 1996, PDS Russian Religion News)
Following Russia's lead, the Belarusian branch of the Orthodox Church signed its own Cooperation Agreement with the Border Guard in 2003. In the highlights below, the sword-wielding archangel, St. Michael ("Mikhail"), is designated "Heavenly Protector of the Border Warriors". (Similarly, in Russia, Saint Barbara has been appointed the patron of the Strategic Rocket Forces. "Divine guidance" seems to be a backup system for steering missiles.)
From the Government side, the website of the State Border Committee of the Republic of Belarus, http://gkpv.gov.by/en/interacting_en/sdfgsdf-en, gives further details — in English — of this "concordat" with the Orthodox Church [accessed 15 January 2008]:
Taking into account great services of the Orthodox Church, its significance in patriotic upbringing of the young in February 2003 the State Border Troops Committee Director of the Republic of Belarus Lieutenant-General Pavlovsky A.A. and Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, the Patriarchal Exarch of All-Belarus Filaret concluded an Agreement on cooperation between the border troops and the Belarusian Orthodox Church.
In his speech during the ceremony of signing the Patriarchal Exarch stated, “The Agreement has not been unexpected for the Church, the Army or our society, it is a clear evidence of fruitful cooperation between orthodox communities and military detachments. It has become a great stride toward consolidation and development of our cooperation”.
Main directions of cooperation are: patriotic, moral and spiritual upbringing of servicemen, guaranteeing constitutional rights of a person, concerning the freedom of religion, rendering social assistance to servicemen, civil personnel of the border troops and members of their families.
Excerpts from the
Agreement between the Belarussian Orthodox Church
and the Belarusian Border Guard
(18 January 2003)
Patriotic formation of servicemen
♦ revival of Orthodox military traditions and rituals
♦ development of servicemen’s moral motivation for military service, selfless service to the Fatherland
♦ assisting commanders of formations and detachments of Border Troops in development of moral-psychological stability of service personnel in conditions of operational and service actions and in emergency situations
♦ participation, within the specific requirements of the border service, of the Belarusian Orthodox Church’s clergy in conducting rituals and ceremonial events dedicated to memorable dates of Border Troops, formations and detachments
♦ revival of the Orthodox tradition of fixing military church festive days for formations and detachments
♦ giving assistance to Belarusian Orthodox Church in conducting restoration, repair, reconstruction and construction of temples and other cult establishments by service personnel who voluntarily expressed such desire and at times free of service duties
♦ joint care and keeping in appropriate state of burial sites of fallen warriors.
♦ fixing the Day of Heavenly Protector of the border warriors, Mikhail, on November 21;
♦ consecration of the Memorial monument to warriors of the Belarusian border district perished within first days of the Great Patriotic War, military burial place in Ostroshitsy settlement in the Logoisk Region;
♦ annual participation of ministers of religion in festive ceremonies dedicated to the Day of a Frontier Guard;
♦ joint preparation and holding the first in history of a sovereign Belarus the All-Belarus Religion Procession, dedicated to the 60-th anniversary of the Great Victory. The Religion Procession started on March 19, 2005 from St Nocolai Garrison Church in Brest Fortress and having passed through the cities of Grodno (on March 26), Vitebsk (on April 2), Gomel (on April 10), Mogilev (on April 24) it was finished up on May 7, 2005 at the Cathedral Square of the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Minsk.
Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, the Patriarchal Exarch of All-Belarus Filaret, the State Border Troops Committee Director, Minister of Defence, Commander of the Interior Troops, representatives of local executive state bodies, diplomatic corps, veterans of the Great Patriotic War, border and interior troops servicemen and parishioners;
Assistance in preparation and holding some international social and political actions dedicated to the 60-th anniversary of the Great Victory, such as international “Relay-Race of Victory” and scientific conference “Lessons of the Great Patriotic War. Why are they being forgotten?”
Spiritual formation of servicemen:
♦ participation of ministers of religion in military rites;
♦ filling the libraries in border detachments, units and divisions with religious literature given by the Belarusian Orthodox Church;
♦preaching and holding discussions with border servicemen.
Guaranteeing constitutional rights of a person concerning the freedom of religion:
♦ Orthodox churches have been erected in the territory of two border detachments in Smorgon and Lida. On October 8, 2005 a ceremony of consecration of belfry took place in the Lida border detachment. The church and the belfry present a unique architectural complex which in its scale is an unmatched religious edifice in the territory of the military units.