What does Tarkhan-Mouravi fail to see?
In the interview with Obieqtivi TV’s Gamis Studia (Night Studio) on November 1, 2019, Davit Tarkhan-Mouravi, one of the leaders of the Alliance of Patriots party, spoke about recent developments in the Georgian Orthodox Church and generally the challenges facing the church. He also touched upon the issue of Tskhinvali, noting that it is planned to merge the Tskhinvali Church with the Greek Orthodox Church as well as to seize it from Mother Church (Georgia) with the United States being involved in the process.
Davit Tarkhan-Mouravi, Alliance of Patriots: “Does not the U.S. Embassy know what is happening?! Of course, it does. Now, when it is appointing a special representative… What does the Church has to do with the U.S. special representatives?! But they did the same thing in Greece. So, Greece first recognized Ukraine … and is now talking about Tskhinvali that it is an independent eparchy and should move to Greece. I had stated that the same would happen in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali. Now, they will be seized from Mother Church and transferred to their [Greek] subordination. This is just what these people and these organizations are doing…”
Tarkhan-Mouravi’s statement, as if the Greek Orthodox Church will recognize Tskhinvali as an independent eparchy and then incorporate it, is a conspiracy theory. The only church, which has grabbed occupied Tskhinvali region, is the Moscow Patriarchate, which is still strengthening its influence on this particular territory.
The Greek Orthodox Church recognizes the Georgian Orthodox Church within its legal borders.
The Greek Orthodox Church recognizes the Georgian Church within the borders determined by the Georgian Orthodox Church. Moreover, the Church of Greece cannot make decisions independently as it is organized as a state church; so, the state should also be ready for recognition.
Hieromonk Father Leonide (Ebralidze) told the Myth Detector that the Church of Greece has quite good and friendly relations with Georgia. With its financial support, tens of Georgian students are studying at Greek higher educational institutions.
Father Leonide: “The Church of Greece supports Georgia and Georgian people and fully recognizes the canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Georgia, including in the occupied regions. It is, at least, ignorance to claim that the Greek Orthodox Church will start thinking about recognition of the Ossetian church in any form. Just because the Church of Greece represents a constitutional body of Greece, it is essential that the Greek government recognizes Tskhinvali’s independence and only afterwards the Church will be able to discuss the issue that, of course, is unreal.”
The only church having recognized the so called Alania Church is the Chrysostom Synod, which is not recognized by the Greek Orthodox Church as legitimate.
- Russian church and Tskhinvali
In 2003, the Eparchy of Alania was created on the territory of so called South Ossetia and it functioned independently till the 2008 war. Following 2008, the Russian church increased its interference in the eparchy that was largely driven by active cooperation between the South Ossetian de facto government and Russia.
The Russian church is the force, which is trying to separate the Tskhinvali church from Mother Church and is taking active steps in this direction.
- The Russian church is building new churches on the territory of occupied Tskhinvali.
Since 2016, the Russian Orthodox Church had been building a large church in Tskhinvali, spending 50 million rubles for this purpose. In 2017, Bishop Leonid of Vladikavkaz and North Ossetia visited the church and noted:
“Today I had an opportunity to visit the Church. Its dome and bell tower are already built. The church belongs to the 58th army. Russian servicemen, border guards and Russian embassy staff will visit it. Of course, its door will be open for all residents of South Ossetia.”
New church by Google Street View:
Dynamics of the church construction
- Russian Patriarch Kirill meets with the leaders of the so called South Ossetian government and congratulates them on winning the elections;
- Russian occupying forces in Tskhinvali do not allow Georgian church to conduct a church service;
- Following occupation, new military bases were built in Tskhinvali region next to Georgian church buildings that poses a potential threat to these buildings.
Speaking with the Myth Detector, Georgian National Committee of the Blue Shield brought an example of Kulbiti Mother of God Church and Dzelitskhoveli Church in Disevi. As seen on Google Earth satellite map, a Russian military facility was built next to the churches in 2011, posing a threat to Georgian church monuments. According to satellite images, the village itself has been completely destroyed.
- Russian Orthodox Church changes outward appearance of Georgia churches
For example, the Eparchy of Alania, with the help of Russian specialists, has arbitrarily rehabilitated Geri St. George's Church dating back to the 6th century. In September 2019, the South Ossetian news agency spread photos depicting the ongoing rehabilitation works, featuring the tiled church.
Following Constantinople’s recognition of the Ukrainian church, similar manipulations were also spread about Abkhazia, as if after Ukraine, Constantinople will also recognize the independence of Abkhazia church. In fact, like in case of Tskhinvali, in occupied Abkhazia the church is fully controlled by Russia.
- The Moscow Patriarchate does not recognize the full title of the Patriarch of Georgia. From the full name of Ilia II, the Russian Patriarchate omits the title of “Metropolitan Bishop of Bichvinta and Tskhum-Abkhazia.”
- All churches located on the territory of occupied Abkhazia (except the New Athos Monastery) are controlled by the Moscow Patriarchate.
- The Moscow Patriarchate sent about 15 priests to Abkhazia the majority of whom (with the exception of one priest) had been ordained by the Patriarchate.
- The Eparchy of Abkhazia is ruled by Russian Bishop of Maikop and Adygea.
- The medieval Church of St. George of Ilori has a Russian dome; its facades were whitened and Georgian inscriptions plastered.
- The only fresco depicting King Bagrat III in the Bedia church of Abkhazia was destroyed.
- An old baptismal font was destroyed in Dranda Cathedral and a mini pool was placed.
- The church dating back to the 8th century and an ancient settlement were destroyed in the village of Tsebelda in order to build a firing ground there.
Prepared by Irakli Iagorashvili
Regional Network of Myth Detector Lab