Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

Ukrainian Orthodox Church wanted to break ties with Russia – updated 12 October 2018


Ukraine secured approval yesterday to establish an independent church in what Kiev says is a vital step against Russian meddling in its affairs, but the Russian clergy fiercely opposes as the biggest split in Christianity for a thousand years.

A three-day synod presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, seat of the global spiritual leader of roughly 300 million Orthodox Christians, endorsed Ukraine’s request for an “autocephalous” (independent) church.

The synod will “proceed to the granting of Autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine,” a statement said.

The synod took several decisions to pave the way for Ukraine to set up its church, including rehabilitating a Ukrainian patriarch excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church for leading a breakaway church in the early 1990s. (source Reuters)


People can’t fail to have noticed  that President Vladimir Putin has found God. For a former KGB chief and a presumably a hard-line communist back in the day this is truly his road to Damascus. Or is it?

Like the Tsars he has used religion as a “soft power” approach to influence all the orthodox followers in the former Soviet Union using Patriarch Krill as his go-to church man. He is said to have his own confessor (that must be an interesting experience) and was recently seen wading in ice-cold water at Epiphany (but then he’s always bearing his chest isn’t he?).

But the Ukrainians have had enough and want to break from Moscow. They accuse the Russians of hacking and even an assassination attempt on Patriarch Filaret who has been particularly critical of Putin using the church for political advantage.

He accused him of using the church to spread “propaganda that defends Russia and Putin” on a visit to America last week. After Russia invaded eastern Ukraine he called Putin a “cynical liar” who would suffer “eternal damnation in hell“. In return his superiors in Moscow excommunicated him in 1997.

Sunday Times picture

Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the head of the orthodox church is expected to grant the Ukrainians self-governance (autocephaly) at next month’s synod. He too has been the subject of the hacking of his e-mails.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is very pleased about the chance of freedom from the Moscow and said he hoped that “no-one will try to turn it back”.

Moscow is understandably very unhappy, furious in fact, promising to cut off links with Constantinople (Istanbul) the heart of the orthodox faith for over a thousand years when it was capital of the Byzantine empire.

Patriarch Krill has suspended communications with Constantinople and has said he will no longer mention Patriarch Bartholomew in his prayers.

But that would be cutting off his nose to spite his face. Half of the orthodox followers – 100 million – are in Russia. Perhaps more worrying is that Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk ((similar to an arch-bishop) who is in charge of external relations in the Russian church has warned that “bloodshed would follow. Very christian!

But the former American Ambassador to Kiev, John Herbst, said that there are legitimate fears about how Russia would react as it would reduce Moscow’s “soft power”. And Moscow hasn’t just got Ukraine to worry about. Similar moves have been started in Belarus with the risk of it spreading to other former republics like Moldova and the Caucasus region. Archbishop Sviatoslav of Belarus said “Moscow has been doing everything to prevent the Ukrainian and Belorussian churches form receiving autocephaly“.

One of the reasons Moscow is worried that Ukraine will block access to Moscow’s control of holy sites including the monasteries in Kiev, the birthplace of Russian orthodoxy. There are many beautiful churches in Kiev – St Andrew’s, St Michael and Saint Sophia cathedral among others.

But the heart of it all is in the “Cave monastery” or the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. 

The Greek St Antony founded this lavrain 1051, after Orthodoxy was adopted as Kyivan Rus’ official religion.

It contains numerous architectural monuments, ranging from bell towers to cathedrals to the catacombs which St Antony and his follower Feodosy progressively dug out  and  where they and other reclusive monks worshipped, studied and lived.

When they died their bodies were naturally preserved, without embalming, by the caves’ cool temperature and dry atmosphere. The mummies survive even today, confirmation for believers that these were true holy men.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a guided tour of it with pilgrims from all over the world. Walking through narrow corridors hewed from the rock with only candles to light the way is not for the claustrophobic. You can see boxes and earthenware pots (marked with a stick-man symbol with upraised arms) of relics behind grilled alcoves as you walk along and hear monks chanting from somewhere in the depths – where only priests are allowed to go.

The main attractions of the Lavra include the Great Lavra Belltower, and the Dormition Cathedral, destroyed in World War II, and fully reconstructed in recent years. 

Other churches and cathedrals of the Lavra include: the Refectory Church, the Church of All Saints, the Church of the Saviour at Berestove, the Church of the Exaltation of Cross, the Church of the Trinity, the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, the Church of the Conception of St. Anne, and the Church of the Life-Giving Spring. The Lavra also contains the St. Nicholas Monastery, and the Kiev Theological Academy and Seminary andstrong stone fortification walls..

When I visited Kiev and toured this 28 hectare site I was intrigued to learn that all the revenue from tourists goes to the Russian church not to the Ukrainian one.

And it is big business. Apart from the usual tourist memorabilia (I bought a “Keep me safe ring”) they sell bibles, priests’ robes and all the paraphernalia used by orthodox priest. They even sell the onion domes to put on the church roofs.

So apart from a religious disconnect there are probably financial implications too.

Congratulations Ukraine on 25 years of Independence

UnknownToday marks the 25th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence.

After a failed coup in Moscow Ukraine declared its independence from the USSR on this day in 1991. 90% of the population voted for it on December 1 1991.

Google has marked the occasion with a blue and yellow logo – the colours of the national flag – and sunflowers, the ubiquitous national flower.ukraine-independence-day-2016-6196143744614400-hp2xCNV00009_5

I have happy memories of my three visits to Ukraine, twice to Kiev and once to Ivano-Frankivsk for a 3-day wedding! I’ve also been there for the Independence Day celebrations in the square ending in a firework display then a mad dash for the mini-buses as the street cleaners moved in to start the clean-up.

Here are a few photographs from Kiev showing the beautiful cathedrals in particular.CNV00006

St Andrew overlooking the river in Kiev


With Ukrainian friends. Lots of good food and vodka

With Ukrainian friends. Lots of good food and vodka (or harilka as they call it)






And BBC staff – could you please stop referring to THE Ukraine. We don’t say THE England or THE France do we. Get it right. It’s as bad as Russia referring to it as Southern Russia.

Previous posts on Ukraine here and here

#SpeakOut for Freedom


From http://www.sodahead.com

Now dreams
Are not available
To the dreamers,
Nor songs
To the singers.
In some lands
ark night
And cold steel
But the dream
Will come back,
And the song
Its jail.

By Langston Hughes

Russia: “Speak out for Freedom” – show of solidarity against repression

Amnesty International has launched a Week of Action, from 6 to 12 October 2014, to show solidarity with independent voices in Russia who speak out against the pernicious creep of repression in the country.

To mark the start of the Week of Action Amnesty International is publishing a new briefing, Violation of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly in Russia, which focuses on the following areas of concern:

  • Independent media in Russia – journalists threatened, harassed, physically attacked and even murdered with impunity;
  • Non-governmental organizations smeared, fined and forced to close down for independent…

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Chernobyl & Pripyat: abandoned cities in photos

Still on the Ukrainian theme….

Continental Breakfast Travel

Tours to Chernobyl are becoming increasingly popular, and are a must-do for anyone wanting a completely unique experience. It is, however, crucial to understand the gravity of what happened at the Chernobyl Power Plant and the Soviet Union’s attempts to both clean up, and cover up, the world’s worst nuclear accident.

One often overlooked piece of information is that Chernobyl is still inhabited by a few people  – against the wishes of the authorities. The name of the completely abandoned, and since ran-sacked city is Pripyat. Though we were told on our visit that everything in Pripyat had been left as it was on the day of the evacuation, there was without a doubt some staging and a liberal use of creative licence around the most commonly visited buildings.

Read more on my day trip to Chernobyl and Pripyat here.

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Sex Machine Museum? Huh?


Hellooooo ladies and gents! Robert from moolta checking in again to show you some other crazy things I ran into on my trip. While this one won’t be a story like the “Amster-dam good dares” post, I promise you it’s just as crazy.  Today my friends, you will get the inside scoop on the Prague Sex Machine Museum… prepare yourself.

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Cyber men on the rise

thief_coming_from_monitor_1600_wht_10122Unit 61398 has been identified as the source of a series of cyber attacks on the USA.

This anonymous but slightly sinister-sounding name refers to a unit of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army stationed in a 12-storey tower block in Shanghai. They are believed to be spearheading cyberwarfare against the West. The Chinese government, as you would expect, has denied it.

It’s been called the “cool war“, an undeclared war in cyberspace, by David Rothkopf, Chief executive and editor of Foreign Policy magazine. A retired CIA Director, Michael Hayden, has compared it to a new Hiroshima.

The source was identified not by the CIA, NSA or other combination of 3 letters but by a private security firm Mandiant (which is headed by Kevin Mandia, a retired military cyber-crime investigator and which probably employs former members of aforesaid spook agencies).

Mandiant identified some of the hackers working from Shanghai such as a former PLA Rear-Admiral known as Ugly Gorilla, another who uses Harry Potter as the answer to a security question, and one called SuperHard.

America is doing it too and the attack on the Iranian nuclear programme using the Stuxnet virus to damage centrifuges was attributed to them and/or the Israelis.

But let’s not forget Russia and other former soviet countries. Redundant KGB computer experts have to be employed somewhere. Russia has been accused of disrupting the Estonian internet system – allegedly to show it’s “near abroad” neighbours it still has control. It’s one step up from stopping trains at the border for maintenance (the tracks are different widths so they have to use bogies) and buying up the port infrastructure there.

The scary thing is that these hackers don’t have to target military assets to disrupt a country’s economy. Crashing the banking system, as they did in Estonia, or energy companies could be equally disastrous. When I heard that Microsoft software was used on US naval vessels, well you can imagine.

So the hackers don’t just focus on the military but on Western businesses too. Recently the New York Times was hacked after it reported on the wealth of a Chinese politician and the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post report similar attacks.

State sponsored hacking is just one source; there are eco-terrorists, criminals, and jihadis who would all love to take advantage of our reliance on computers. 

Personally not doing on-line banking makes me feel just a tiny bit more secure.