Russian Orthodox Church may soften its stance towards Tolstoy

The excommunication of Russian writer Leo Tolstoy in early 20th century "should not be interpreted as the anathema, but just the attestation of the fact that the writer's beliefs very seriously disagreed with the Orthodox teaching," official spokesman for the Moscow patriarchy Father Vsevolod Chaplin said commenting on Count Tolstoi's great-great-grandson's request to lift the anathema from his illustrious ancestor. At issue is a letter written by Vladimir Tolstoy, the manager of the writer's country estate and museum at Yasnaya Polyana, addressed to Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II. His letter particularly noted that the Russian people have to choose between "national genius and national religion." Count Tolstoy's descendant has not yet received an official response from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Patriarchy's spokesman told Interfax, however, that the two things should not be confused. "I think all people in our country, including the believers, respect Tolstoy as a writer," Father Vsevolod said. However, "when [Leo Tolstoy] expressed views contradicting the Church's teaching and spirit, the Church, naturally, had the right to say that these views could not be considered orthodox," he said. "Perhaps it makes sense to reassess Leo Tolstoy's works and the period of his life between his excommunication and death," Father Vsevolod added.

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