After more than a year of Vyacheslav Baskakov flexing on his account, the Instagram influencer gods have finally granted him the exposure that he craved—as the past week has proven. However, such a blessing becomes a bit complicated when you already have quite enough God in your life, which is definitely the case for Baskakov, who moonlights as a Russian Orthodox priest when he’s not posting photos of Gucci and Louis Vuitton swag, from bamboo-handled It bags to LV-monogrammed pool slides.
There’s plenty more where that came from, though it’s certainly more difficult to discover now that Baskakov’s account, @archpriesttver, has been deleted, having sufficiently sent the Russian Orthodox Church into an uproar. Unfortunately, the outrage is not owing to jealousy or indignation that Baskakov would choose to stunt with such flashy goods in the midst of a renaissance of Phoebe Philo–era Céline. Instead, each and every luxury item is apparently evidence that Baskakov is guilty of the cardinal sin of attempting to be chic, which the church prefers to view as leading an “immodest and unrestrained lifestyle,” according to the spokesperson who announced that a disciplinary committee has been charged with investigating Baskakov’s posts, as well as attempting to “return him to his senses.”
He has, at the very least, already sensed that it was time for him to atone. Taking full responsibility for the photos, which he said date back to at least a year ago, Baskakov has since issued a public apology and offered his penance: “I am very ashamed and I bear full responsibility for this,” he said in a “penitential letter” sent to and published by Ahila, a Christian news outlet, continuing with statements quite unlike those usually made in a confessional box. “I will suffer penance and shut down the Instagram since I can’t behave myself humbly and appropriately.”
According to Baskakov, he started out posting with good intentions. His effort to be “an open person,” however, ended up backfiring, leading him astray to the practice he’d been “warned of”: constantly posting on social media. It’s no surprise, then, that through those posts, he also took up the common practice of glamorizing his life; most of that swag, apparently, wasn’t even his in the first place. “The majority of the pictures were taken inside shops,” he clarified. “No priest can afford such things.”
All that’s understandable enough—and certainly a better excuse than the one that the head of the Russian Orthodox Church came up with when held accountable for his own swag-related misdeeds, in 2009. In attempt to circumvent the scandal, the church issued perhaps the first-ever statement in its centuries-long history to address an “absurd mistake by the photo department”—a phrase intended to explain how they ended up releasing a photo of the bishop featuring a reflection in the exact shape of a Breguet watch, worth an estimated $30,000, that he owns, yet no corresponding watch on his wrist.
But Baskakov wasn’t finished. Writing from a hospital, he gave yet another excuse for his transgressions, citing a doctor’s past suggestion to treat his trigeminal neuralgia with a “change of scenery”—including, um, wearing different clothing—as the reason why he began changing up the shoes and scarves he wore with his usual cassock. Alas, it was the flex that ultimately led to his undoing. The church, it turns out, doesn’t care that Baskakov actually sewed Gucci–like buckles onto his own inexpensive shoes instead of buying the real thing. (Though if they let him reactivate his account, there’s certainly a chance that Alessandro Michele, ever on the prowl on Instagram, might.)