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CHAPTER 8 - STALIN'S CONCORDAT - THE TURNING POINT OF HISTORY

There was such a culture of secrecy during WW2 that many aspects of it have still remained hidden. A case in point is the circumstances surrounding the consecration of Metropolitan Sergei as Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in September 1943. It is now clear this was an act of propaganda aimed at winning support from Russia's allies, by suggesting that Stalin had in effect liberated that church. To set this in context we must first of all consider events in America following Hitler's invasion of Russia.  By  September 1941 the Germans were sweeping towards Moscow, and in this dire emergency Stalin appealed to President Roosevelt for military supplies. There were two schools of thought in the USA at the time. There were those like Roosevelt, who thought the best way of preventing Germany from breaking out further, was to provide this assistance. Opposing that school were the 'isolationists', many from European Catholic countries. Having settled in America, they were reluctant to be drawn into a European war on the side of Stalin, who for years had been persecuting Christianity. Had not Pope Pius XI in his encyclical 'Divini Redemptoris', condemned Communism as 'intrinsically evil' and warned that ‘those nations which helped communism would be the first to fall beneath its oppression’? So their attitude was ‘let the dog's fight it out.'

The isolationists were well-represented in Congress, and as such they posed a threat to the lend-lease bill which Roosevelt was presenting in October. So when he met the Soviet Ambassador on September 11th, he ‘explained in some detail the difficulty of getting the necessary authority from Congress on account of the prejudice or hostility to Russia and the unpopularity of Russia among large groups in the country who exercise great political power in Congress, and suggested that… if Moscow could get some publicity back to America regarding freedom of religion within the next few days, it might have a very fine educational effect before the next lend-lease bill comes up in Congress.' (Foreign Relations of USA 1941 Vol. 1: US State Department.)

Thus Roosevelt urged Stalin to do something that would suggest he had freed the Church, and events would suggest that this bore fruit later… However, before Stalin had time to act, Roosevelt had found another way round his predicament. He sent an envoy, Myron Taylor to Pope Pius XII, urging him to issue a statement qualifying his predecessor's encyclical urging Catholics not to assist the Communists.30

Manipulating the Church

Roosevelt's argument was that Hitler posed an even greater threat to religion than Stalin, and that as Russia was under attack - it had a right to military aid. This appeal put the Pope in a dilemma. If he took sides in this war, he would be compromising his role as Christian pastor. Instead, he instructed his Secretary of State to authorize the US hierarchy to issue a statement of their own to the effect that Pius XI had been attacking Communism, not Russia, and had not intended his encyclical as a blueprint to political leaders in the event of a war. Immediately, the American Bishops began work on this statement. The news of this development presented the isolationists with a dilemma. If they continued obstructing Roosevelt’s bill, they would be opposing not only their President, but their Bishops as well. They were 'out on a limb.' By October their opposition waned, and the bill was passed by a large majority. 31

Throughout the war, Roosevelt needed to win Congress over to his policies, and he had succeeded this time. But giving supplies to Russia did not commit the Americans themselves: they weren't going to lose their lives. But when it came to Stalin's demands for an allied invasion of France, it was a different question. The invasion force was to be composed mostly of Americans and so from now on, their lives were at risk. Roosevelt now faced another problem. Here he was, poised to take charge of the greatest invasion in history, and unless he had the backing of the people, who were to lose sons in this invasion, they could dismiss him at the next election - which as fate would have it was to be held in the aftermath of the invasion, in November 1944.

Harry Hopkins

During 1943 Stalin kept on demanding a 'second front'. It was clear that the Russians were forcing the Germans into retreat. But Stalin wanted more: he wanted the allies to invade France so as to draw the German ‘fire-power’ from his borders, and enable the Red Army to occupy Eastern Europe. Churchill for one foresaw the danger. But it did not take much for Roosevelt, already duped by Stalin, to be influenced by his presidential ‘aide’, Harry Hopkins, into believing that Stalin had no ambitions in Eastern Europe. But wartime ‘Venona’ intelligence reveals that Hopkins was a Soviet agent who had been recruited for this very purpose. 32

The situation was such that, from 1943 onwards, Stalin had set his sights on territories that would form an expanded empire and so make Russia a dominant power. Because Churchill recognised the danger, he devised a plan to pre-empt that strategy. That plan would have succeeded but for one thing: it depended on American support, and at a crucial moment, Roosevelt withdrew that support. Churchill saw his opportunity in July 1943 just after the allies had invaded Sicily. The Italians suddenly dismissed Mussolini and surrendered to the Allies, thus removing the one political obstacle to their occupation of Italy. Churchill then won Roosevelt's approval to attack the Italian mainland. He hoped to press this attack through to the Balkans and eventually Vienna, thus cutting off the Red Army advance, before it could occupy Eastern Europe.33 Therefore, when the Allied force landed in Italy on September 3rd 1943 – history hung in the balance. Stalin realised the strategic possibilities: instead of invading France as he wanted, his allies were landing in Italy in an attack that threatened his advance.

This must have focused his mind on how to forestall that strategic threat. For after arranging a ‘summit’ with his allies at Teheran in November, he set an operation in motion to provide what Roosevelt had asked for ‘some publicity regarding freedom of religion’. On the very day he heard of the landings in Italy - 4th September - he summoned the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Sergei and offered the Church new concessions in return for its support. When Sergei agreed, Stalin authorized him to hold a Synod in order to elect a Patriarch, an office previously suppressed. The Synod met on 8th September and duly elected Sergei - who was enthroned on the 12th.34 Meanwhile Sergei had cabled the Archbishop of Canterbury in England, and invited him to send a delegation from the Church of England to mark the event. So on 15th September Dr Cyril Garbett Archbishop of York and two clergy, fly out to Moscow with a message of support from the Anglican Church. The climax of the visit was a celebration of the Orthodox Liturgy in which Sergei was accompanied in the sanctuary by Dr Garbett, vested in his Cope and Mitre.35

Religious Liberty!

During the visit, the Orthodox Bishops issued a 'message' in which they 'appealed to Christians throughout the world to do everything in their power to hasten victory over Germany, hoping that by the efforts of Christians in all allied countries the long-expected second front will at last be established and will bring nearer victory and peace at this favourable time when our own Red Army is victoriously pushing the enemy from our land. ' (Keesing's Archives). The Western press reported positively on these events: thus on September 5th the New York Times proclaimed 'Step To Restore Church In Russia Is Announced'. On the 6th in an article headed ‘Real Help from West – Russia’s Need, Says Acting Patriarch After Seeing Stalin’, Sergei declared ‘I am not a military expert, but it seems to me that the time for the complete annihilation of Hitler has arrived. If the Red Army alone was able to drive back the Germans, it is not difficult to predict how speedily the war will terminate when our troops receive some real help from the Allies'.

A tool of the atheistic State

Following the news of Sergei's enthronement, this same paper commented on 14th September: 'The Moscow Ceremony... encourages the hope of a common meeting ground between Russia and the democratic world not on-the basis of any one religion but on that of religious liberty.'  The London ‘Times’ commented on 17th: 'The appointment of the Patriarch and the official welcome given to the Archbishop of York as the representative of another national church may be held to signify the acceptance of Russia of another of the ‘four freedoms' - freedom of every person to worship God in his own way everywhere in the world.'

Then on the 24th ‘New York Times’ reported  Archbishop Garbett as stating 'he was convinced that there was the fullest freedom of worship in the Soviet Union'.

Through this propaganda, and allied wishful thinking, the world was duped into thinking Russia had changed, and Stalin won support from his allies.

But as Cardinal Mindszenty later revealed, it was all a deception: 'The news of this reconciliation between the regime and the Church was spread throughout the country and the world… The Communist Party readily shook the proferred hand of the Russian Orthodox Church. Abroad, this concord aroused hopes that the Communists were beginning to accept democratic principles and were on the road to “bourgeois” respectability. In reality, nothing of the sort was taking place. The Church did not have its internal freedom restored, but was subordinated to a government bureau. In other words, it was straitjacketed into the system of the atheistic state.’36

Stalin’s public gesture

Stalin’s Soviet biographer lends weight to our hypothesis:

'Suddenly on 4th September 1943… Stalin decided to receive the church leaders.. The next day Pravda reported the meeting and announced that Metropolitan Sergei would convene the Council of Bishops to elect a new Patriarch... Stalin took this step (because) he was preparing for the summit conference at Teheran at the end of the year and it was his intention to press again for the opening of a second front and also to seek an increase in aid... Having received a number of messages from the Dean of Canterbury, Stalin decided it was time to make a public gesture to demonstrate his loyalty to the church... He believed the West would acknowledge that signal and that it would evoke the desired response'. (Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy: General Dmitri Volkogonov, Wiedenfield & Nicolson)

A lesson learned

And thus at Teheran a few weeks later, Roosevelt announced to Stalin the date of D-day and so committed his troops. Since they were to spearhead the invasion, he now became in effect the war-leader, and Churchill was forced to take a subsidiary role. Stalin immediately urged Roosevelt to withdraw his troops from Italy and re-deploy them elsewhere. And because Harry Hopkins had persuaded him that Stalin had no ambitions in Eastern Europe, he agreed. The troops were re-deployed in a pointless attack on Southern France, sabotaging Churchill's plan for a pre-emptive strike on the Balkans.

His intention to push through into that region is revealed in the following:

Lord Moran (Churchill’s doctor): in ‘Winston Churchill: the Battle for Survival’, Constable 1966: August 4, 1944: “This morning, when I went to the PM’s bedroom, he did not bother to hide his cares... “Good God, can’t you see the Russians are spreading across Europe like a tide: they have invaded Poland, and there is nothing to prevent them marching into Turkey and Greece!” And then he made an impatient gesture: it was as if to say: what is the point of talking about this? How could I tell him where it would all end? The American landings in the south of France are the last straw.. He can see ‘no earthly purposed’ in them: “Sheer folly,” he calls them. ‘If only those ten divisions had been landed in the Balkans... but the Americans would not listen to him: it was all settled, they said.’


In ‘The Struggle for Europe’ (Collins, 1953) Chester Wilmot quotes US General Mark Clark as stating ‘A campaign that might have changed the whole history of relations between the Western world and the Soviet Union was permitted to fade away...Not only in my opinion, but in the opinion of a number of experts who were close to the problem, the weakening of the campaign in Italy in order to invade Southern France, instead of pushing on to the Balkans, was one of the outstanding political mistakes of the War. ..Stalin knew exactly what he wanted in a political as well as a military way; and the thing he wanted most was to keep us out of the Balkans... It is easy therefore to see why Stalin favoured ANVIL at Teheran... There was no question that the Balkans were strongly in the British minds, but...the American top-level planners were not interested... I later came to understand, in Austria, the tremendous advantages that we had lost by our failure to press on into the Balkans... Had we been there before the Red Army, not only would the collapse of Germany have come sooner, but the influence of Soviet Russia would have been drastically reduced.’  (note: ANVIL was the plan to invade southern France in August 1944).


In his book ‘Eisenhower At War’ (Collins ‘86) David Eisenhower states: ’Churchill had doubts about downgrading the Italian front on military and especially on political grounds, lest  Stalin construe the Allied commitment to France to be a blank cheque... ANVIL was in effect a commitment to the Russians that the Allies, in sparing no effort to establish themselves in France, would not attempt to reinforce their Italian front with the aim of pushing it eastwards... Churchill opposed ANVIL almost to the end’.


The stage was now set for the Communist take-over of Eastern Europe. Stalin had provided what was asked of him: some publicity indicating that the Church in Russia was free. By so doing he had ‘squared the conscience’ of the American people, and removed opposition to proceeding with ‘D-Day’. So this act of propaganda secured Stalin's post-war aims, and surely in the process  would have shown the Russians that the way to deceive the world again would be by through the same means - an object lesson that clergy in the West could influence governments and so promote strategic aims. They could safeguard those interests under cover of the ‘cloth’ and so without detection.

Soviet ‘religious’ proselytism

Once the war was over, the Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) were sent out by Stalin to induce their counterparts in the newly-occupied territories of  Eastern Europe – to submit to State diktat and follow their lead in supporting Soviet policies. This is implied by Trevor Beeson in his book on the Church in the USSR ‘Discretion and Valour’:

'Having secured the dominant position in Eastern Europe at the end of the war, the Soviet government contrived to secure the emergence of communist regimes in every other Eastern European country. In the aftermath of war it proved not too difficult for determined Communists minorities to seize power, and where the political situation was unfavourable to Communist take-overs the presence of the Soviet army was a powerful means of persuasion. Before long the Soviet Union has achieved its aim, and was supported on its Western borders by a large group of satellite states. But not all the inhabitants of countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia were convinced Communists, and many of them were far from happy with their position in what was, in effect, an extended Soviet empire. In those satellite countries where there was a large Orthodox community, the Moscow Patriarchate began to exercise a powerful influence. Thus at a time when church leaders were unable to move outside the 'Iron Curtain', the ecclesiastical traffic between Moscow and the Balkan capitals became significant both for Church and State. 37

Transmission belt of the Party

This coincides with the setting up within the Moscow Patriarchate of a Department of External Church Relations, in 1946 – ostensibly under the control of a ROC bishop, but effectively run by the NKVD, and later the KGB. We can link the establishment of this ‘office’ with the deployment of the ROC bishops to the newly-occupied territories, by considering the following. After Stalin had secured Sergei’s consent in 1943, to promote Soviet propaganda, he set up a ‘Council for the Affairs of the ROC’, in order ensure that only   clergy willing to promote this propaganda were promoted and that all church activities were monitored by the state. As Cardinal Mindszenty stated ‘The Church did not have its internal freedom restored, but was subordinated to a government bureau. In other words, it was straitjacketed into the system of the atheistic state.’38

It is clear that the Council for the Affairs of the ROC was set up to control the internal affairs of that Church, and this was done so that it would become an effective weapon of propaganda. This argues a need in 1946, for the setting up of a further bureau, again under state control, to supervise the sending out of ROC prelates to induce their Orthodox counterparts to accept the Soviet ‘diktat’.  It necessitated a ‘schooling’ facility, where these prelates were given instruction, a ‘supervisory’ facility, to monitor their activities, and a ‘debriefing’ facility, to assess the success of their ‘mission’.  Logically all these would have fallen within the remit of the ‘Department of External Church Affairs’ (DECR).   

The Soviet Ecumenical Movement

The outcome of this was evident later with the submission of the leaders of all the Orthodox churches in Eastern Europe to Soviet state control. A few years later, in 1958, the same churchmen all took part in a special ‘front’ called ‘Christian Peace Conference’. So the propaganda activities of the ROC in the Second World War now became expanded in the launch of what was in effect a ‘Soviet-controlled ecumenical movement’. Control by the Soviet state can be established by the fact that the effective NKVD ‘controller’ of the ‘DECR’, Alexei S. Bujevsky, (officially the ‘lay secretary of DECR’) went on to take office in the ruling committee of Christian Peace Conference. Later he took office in the ruling Executive of the World Council of Churches, when all the ‘Eastern bloc’ churches comprising CPC, joined the WCC in 1961: the entry being arranged by the ROC Prelate who led CPC – namely Metropolitan Nikodim. The following year he arranged the ‘Rome-Moscow Agreement’ under which the Vatican Council Fathers undertook to offer no criticism of Russia or Communism in their sessions.39 But significantly when it was announced in September 1990 that CPC was closing down.. in the era of 'glasnost', the statement from Moscow made no reference to the part the ROC had played in promoting its propaganda, or in securing the compliance of their Orthodox counterparts.40  While the West heard apology after apology by the Russians, for everything from assassinating the Tsar to more recent KGB activities, there was a total silence from the ROC on its former subservience to the State. No expression of regret for acting as its agents in persuading other church leaders to submit also, and thus extending the Soviet empire. Is that not strange?

What could explain this? One plausible explanation is that the relationship between the ROC and the state – is intact, that the ROC remains subservient. Furthermore for it to acknowledge its subservience to the state in the Soviet era, would inevitably draw attention to the activities of CPC, whose effect on politics in the West remain. Just as Archbishop Garbett acted in effect as an instrument of Soviet propaganda, there are still clergy in Britain who had ties to the CPC and who continue to promote those Soviet aims. I refer for example to an Anglican Canon who spearheaded a campaign for the abolition of Trident, and was also instrumental in setting up the devolution movement in Britain: a movement which, through progressive weakening the United Kingdom, may undermine the long-term British commitment to nuclear deterrence, and is the subject of this book. We can establish that the person to whom CPC members in Britain deferred in Moscow was A. S. Bujevsky, who had been appointed to the ‘Department of External Church Affairs, by Stalin himself. 41  Nothing better epitomises the fact that while Russia appears to have changed, some Soviet policies continue to be promoted in the West.

Before we consider how a minister of religion has exerted such an influence over British politics, it is important to reveal how the Soviet front CPC came to be established in Britain – and how it functioned ‘under the cover’ of the ecumenical movement. According to Dr Julian Lewis in 1985 ‘It was with the formation of the so-called Christian Peace Conference that Soviet manipulation of religion for political ends came fully onto the international stage. The CPC is the youngest member of a network of 13 major international front bodies co-ordinated and controlled by the International Department of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party’ (‘The Red Faces of Religion’, Salisbury Review 1/1985). It had been set up in 1958 in a strategy to deploy Western churchmen as agents of propaganda in order to bring about the abolition of nuclear weapons. By 1964 a ‘Regional Group’ was launched in Britain, with Anglican Canon Paul Oestreicher, a Secretary of British Council of Churches, playing a key role. He was later followed by the subject of this enquiry, Canon Kenyon Wright, who played a significant role in politics. Like other members of this front, he held office in the ecumenical organization. Such linking enabled them to promote Soviet aims under cover of the ‘churches’ without the source being apparent. Thus Wright was General Secretary of Scottish Churches Council, SCC – while being later appointed co-ordinating secretary of the entire front (Church of Scotland journal Life and Work’ September 1990). But all fronts were controlled by the KGB, what does this imply about the man appointed over CPC as its co-ordinating secretary?