Cross and Russian Flag to be Raised at North Pole

Interfax Religion reports that some Russian Orthodox clergy are headed for the North Pole to perform a religious service:

“Archbishop Ignaty of Petropavlovsk and Kamchatka will head the Divine Liturgy. Two priests and a deacon will also participate in the expedition,” representative of the Petropavlovsk Diocese in Moscow Fr. Alexander Terpulov told Interfax on Friday.

A 2-meter wooden cross and Russian flag will be set at the “zero point” of the North Pole.

The report adds that this is not the first time that Orthodoxy has reached the North Pole: a priest named Viktor Smetannikov has previously performed prayer services at both Poles. Smetannikov is a controversial figure; according to this 2001 report, from the FSU Monitor,

In June 2001, a local newspaper reported that Father Viktor Smetannikov, the deacon of Novosibirsk’s Church of the Shroud of the Most Holy Mother of God, was transferred from his post by a decision of the Novosibirsk Russian Orthodox diocese. The paper reported that Father Viktor is well known in the city for his ties to local “national-patriotic semi-militarized organizations” and that under his leadership, the church published the “openly antisemitic” newspaper Pokrovskie vesti. However, it appears that the diocese’s decision was motivated by allegations that Father Viktor improperly used donations on a variety of projects.

It seems likely that Smetannikov’s trips to the Poles had a “national-patriotic” aspect, and Ignaty’s expedition is clearly also politically-charged, coming a few months after Russia deposited a flag on the seabed at the North Pole as a symbolic claim to the resources there. As the New York Times noted in August:

That claim, which has no current legal standing, rests on a Russian assertion that the seabed under the pole, called the Lomonosov Ridge, is an extension of Russia’s continental shelf and thus Russian territory.

Russia submitted its claim in 2001 to an international commission, which has ruled that the available data is not sufficient to support it. But Russia has pressed on.

Ignaty (actually a bishop rather than an archbishop, according to other reports) is also apparently famous for celebrating “the first Divine Liturgy under Arctic ice onboard of the submarine – the Tomsk atomic strategic cruiser.”

Name variations: Ignatius, Bishop of Petropavlovsk and Kamchatka; Ignatii, Bishop of Petropavlovsk and Kamchatka

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