Putin vs. the Priest: A Big Story About a Small Sermon

The Opinion video above tells the story of Father Ioann Burdin, a priest with the Russian Orthodox Church who ran afoul of his government soon after Russia invaded Ukraine.

His crime? Well, we don’t want to spoil the plot for you. Suffice it to say, Father Ioann’s tale shows the hazards of following your moral compass in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. (He’s still paying the price.)

The story also explores the often tragic absurdity of the modern Russian state, something that Father Ioann, in our conversations with him, described with a wryness and wit that informed our telling of his story.

To help capture this sensibility, we invited Gary Shteyngart, a Soviet-born American satirist and best-selling author, to serve as the video’s narrator. Born in Leningrad in 1972, Mr. Shteyngart immigrated to the United States when he was a child and grew up in Queens, New York. A critic reviewing his latest book for The New York Times described him as “a writer comparably superb at demonstrating absurdity and generating pathos.” That’s a fair summary of our intention with this video.