Odd religion and politics mix seen in ex-Soviet spy chief claim
Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police, "loved Christ very much", Argument i Fakty, a Russian weekly newspaper published in Moscow has reported ñ writes Sophia Kishkovsky for Ecumenical News International.
The words were attributed by the newspaper to Dzerzhinsky's sister Yadwiga who is believed to have died in 1949. "Christ's commandments were deeply rooted in his heart," the newspaper quotes her as having written of her brother, who organized mass arrests and executions and was known as "Iron Feliks".
He was also known for helping a huge number of orphans and homeless people who appeared after the Bolshevik Revolution and Russian Civil War.
By some accounts, as a young man Dzerzhinsky, who was Polish, wanted to become a Roman Catholic priest. He was distracted from religion after he began reading materialist philosophers, his sister writes, "but Feliks retained his respect for the person of Christ for a long time, maybe to his death - I don't know." Dzerzhinsky died in 1926.
The Argument i Fakty article portrays him as being weary of his job, which included overseeing economic reform during the tumultuous period known as the New Economic Policy, and especially frustrated by bureaucratic corruption.
A popular phrase attributed to Dzerzhinsky is that a member of the secret police "should have a cool head, a warm heart and clean hands".
A statue of Dzerzhinsky in front of KGB headquarters on Moscow's Lubyanka Square was torn down after the failed August 1991 coup attempt by communist hardliners against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. After the ascent to power of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, a former KGB officer, some politicians called for the monument to be restored and Dzerzhinsky's positive actions to be accentuated.
The portrayal of Dzerzhinsky in a positive light underscores what is sometimes seen as a strange intermingling of communism and religion in post-Soviet Russia. In recent years, some ultraconservative Russian Orthodox groups have suggested that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin should be declared a saint.
With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.
[Also on Ekklesia: Leader of non-violent Polish struggle to be honoured; Gorbachev addresses World Council of Churches on Chernobyl disaster; Orthodox leader criticises secularism, supports refugees; Russian writer attacks Western concept of freedom]