Conquest doesn’t always come by way of direct invasion and occupation; subtler methods, such as sustained psychological and spiritual warfare, have proven even more successful at suborning target populations. Vladimir Mikhailovich Chernyshev, head of the Faculty of the History of Western Confessions and lecturer at the Kiev Spiritual Academy, answers questions from the publication The World and We regarding anti-traditional sectarian religious movements in Ukraine and how they function as agents in a wider geopolitical game. Translated by Mark Hackard.
Are cults acting on the territory of Ukraine used for political ends by foreign states?
If we are to speak of totalitarian cults in general, then yes, this is undoubtedly a global geopolitical project. Therefore we can’t even talk about one individual sect. The entire spectrum of totalitarian, destructive cults and so-called “new religious movements” are a global project to destroy our Slavic mentality and culture. And in the 1990s, when all political barriers had been shattered, what had accumulated and concentrated in the West over decades in this sphere filled practically the entire space in a turbid current, penetrating into all spheres of our society. And, of course, we can’t just talk about some individual cult. There’s a mass of them, of the most varied tendencies.
Can we designate among them the cults operating in the most systematic and destructive way?
If we’re speaking about the quantitative advantage of some cults on Ukrainian territory, then there are without a doubt two – the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Concerning Scientology, as is known, one of Ukraine’s political leaders, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, or at least his family, belongs to the Church of Scientology. Another well-known figure, Aleksandr Turchinov, is a representative of the Charismatic movement.
Despite all the diversity, dissimilarity of external forms, and doctrinal disagreements, a majority of the sects have a common lineal indicator – they’re purely practical, and their most important task is finding new means of mental transformation, changes in the psyche, changes in interrelations between the conscious and subconscious, i.e. in actuality shattering our mentality, our culture, and our integral perception of the world.
Sunday Adelaja is a famous Nigerian who arrived in Ukraine and created an enormous cult here, the Embassy of God. It’s actually a state within a state, an enclave with its own employment and security services and infrastructure. It’s located in the bowels of the state, but lives according to its laws. Their last adventure was to found the bank “King’s Capital.” It was a total Ponzi scheme that robbed people; apartments were handed over as collateral. Today that money has yet to be found, and masses of people ended up on the streets, became homeless, and some committed suicide. And the most surprising thing is that his interests have been lobbied in the Rada. Adelaja himself speaks Russian well, but for the sake of exoticism he imitates a certain accent. This is one of the biggest cults, with just an affiliate in Ukraine, while the cult itself is scattered around the world.
The second sect that is in fact qualitatively equal is the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is a well-known pseudo-Christian organization that is impossible to call Christian because it rejects all basic doctrines – the Holy Trinity, the Divine-Human essence of Christ, the sovereign existence of the soul from the body, etc.
Beyond that there exists a multitude of other cults that are both in Russia and Ukraine. These are, of course, Scientology, a pseudo-scientific destructive cult, the “Church of Christ” Boston Movement, the New Apostolic Church, the Moonies, Mormons, and others.
It’s said that this cult colonization began with the actions of the wife former president Yushchenko Katherine Chumachenko, who was an initiate of “Native Ukrainian National Faith” (RUN-Vera). Is this cult active now, what influence does it have, and how much is it connected to the United States?
It’s true, RUN-Vera does operate on the territory of Ukraine. This is a pagan cult. Its numbers are not great because it’s nevertheless very strange and exotic, but a series of Ukrainian leaders are part of it.
But its role in comparison with the Embassy of God is still a lesser one. As is known, that cult has been visited by Timoshenko and practically all famous Ukrainian leaders. And they’ve even prayed there for victory in elections. The former mayor of Kiev Chernovetsky was one of the most well-known adepts of the sect and part of its structures. Therefore the intertwining of political interests and cult movements is indeed something we witness here.
What is the role of sects in events on the Maidan and subsequent events in Ukraine?
In reality the entire range of cults existing in Kiev supported the Euro-Maidan. They came out with their symbolism, fed people as possibilities allowed, rendered them aid, carried out loud demonstrations to attract attention. And not only the sect world – the schmismatic Kiev Patriarchate also participated in these processes very actively. Such marginal, destructive forces worked at full power to support the Euro-Maidan.
Do you agree with the assertion that many cults are an instrument in the hands of American and other foreign intelligence services?
Unconditionally this is so. For example, the Mormons, whom we cannot of course wholly relegate to destructive sects. Not delving into doctrinal details…the representatives of this organization are very courteous, study the language, and come over on their own money, for example, for two years to Ukraine. They familiarize themselves with our culture, mentality, way of life, etc. And then, when they’ve fulfilled their mission, they return to the US. And it is a commonly known fact that they are then recruited as CIA officers because they’re invaluable sources of information. They pass all of this along through proper channels first-hand.
There is yet another of the most large-scale cults initially formed as a political project linked to the Korean intelligence services – the Moon Unification Church.
The most important factor is that these cults might not be rigorously managed from the sidelines, but it’s enough that they compose a certain unity, a kind of religious avant-garde that envelops, swallows, attempts to dissolve and demarcate Christianity. It’s sufficient that cults are present on our soil, and already by their presence they carry out their destructive work. And no grand administrative parallels or additional levers are necessary because they in themselves will conduct their ruinous activity like a kind of virus, living at the expense of society and demolishing it as a healthy organism.