Behind the Orange Curtain

by Moral Straightjacket

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Thematically spanning nearly two
centuries and two hemispheres, this collection of songs is both the result
of and testament to poor decisions.


released July 2, 2013



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Moral Straightjacket Irvine, California


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Track Name: I. S. Belliustin
"In 1839 Ioann S. Belliustin, just graduating from the seminary inTver, faced an agonizing decision: either to enter the St. Petersburg Academy for further study, or to accept the proposal of a rural priest to assume his position in the village of Vasilino. At a time when clerical positions were virtually unobtainable, with hundreds of youths idle in the diocese, the priest's proposition was tempting indeed. The parish was a rather large one, including some 1,500 serfs and a wealthy landlord; the parish church possessed slightly more than the usual amount of land (nearly 100 acres) and yielded a 'fair income' from parishioners for the ministration of religious rites. The retiring priest, sixty-seven years of age, had an eighteen-year-old daughter, Anna; if the seminarian agreed to marry the girl and provide for the priest and his family, the position was his, together with the family's small wooden house built on church land. The offer proved irresistible. On 17 September Belliustin married Anna, on 12 October he was ordained, and on 27 October he performed his first mass in the Church. Born himself into the clergy, married to a priest's daughter, educated entirely in Church schools, he now bore the Church's mission to the very heart of rural Russia.
The years 1840-1842,' Belliustin later wrote, ‘were the worst years of my life.' As a rural priest he earned his support mainly by performing rites for small fees and by conducting processions on great holidays to the parishioners' homes, collecting eggs, flour, and a few kopecks at each stop... 'Rural life,' Belliustin wrote, 'with its exhausting labor, petty concerns, with its filth, endless needs, useless and often futile labor, was anything but pleasant and joyous.' After twelve years in church schools and the seminary, he knew nothing of agriculture and 'simply did not know how to go about much of this.' His formal schooling, where he mastered classical languages and the fine points of theological issues, proved useless: 'Twelve years of study gave absolutely nothing, or almost nothing, for this [rural pastorship]. What is the use of memorizing ancient languages?... I was very well versed in the literature of Greeks and Romans, but what was the point?...
Exhausted by field labor, ignored by peasants, oppressed by landlords, abused by superiors, the priest grew profoundly despondent. 'The clergy,' he wrote, 'is now a [mere] apparition, a shadow... Humiliated, depressed, beaten down, it itself is already losing consciousness of its own significance.' From his own travels and wide network of acquaintances, he knew the problem was hardly unique to his village, his diocese: 'Everywhere, in all corners and parts of Orthodox Russia, it is all the same. Oppressed and trampled, mired in a hopeless and ruinous swamp - such is the lot of our clergy in the north and the south, in the east and the west.' He dreaded that his sons would become priests and decried his inability to send them elsewhere; it is terrible, he wrote, 'to know that my own children must follow this ruinous path and to see no means to guide them onto some other path.' Though he dreamed of 'tearing himself free of this fatal environment, known as the <clerical rank,>' he could not overcome the harsh penalties imposed for voluntary defrocking and thus remained a priest, albeit unwillingly. To his son he wrote, 'What is the result [of my life]? Not a single happy day to this very moment.'"
Track Name: Abd
There is a god, a material god
There is a god, an ethereal god
There is a god and I serve Him, this inconsistent god
There is a god and I resent him, this repressive god

There is a man, a good man, but still an ignorant man
There is a man, a flawed man, but an educated man
There is a man, not free, tied to the land and beliefs passed down
There is a man, not free, tied to the books in which knowledge is found

There is a plan, passed down from God to man
There is a plan, attributed to God but made by man
There is a plan, and it has enserfed this man
There is a plan, and it has ensnared this man