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Patriarch Kirill, Vladimir PutinCross-posted on Ricochet.

Having long lost out in his efforts to woo Russia’s liberals, and increasingly struggling with opposition in Russia’s metropolitan centers, Vladimir Putin has instead being appealing to Russia’s ‘silent majority’.

I wrote about this for National Review a week or two ago, noting how this latest pivot by Putin has been winning him some (mistaken) approval on the right over here too.

Meanwhile, the Washington Times has more on Vladimir Putin, conservative:

“Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a recent keynote speech. “Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.”

In his state of the nation address in mid-December, Mr. Putin also portrayed Russia as a staunch defender of “traditional values” against what he depicted as the morally bankrupt West. Social and religious conservatism, the former KGB officer insisted, is the only way to prevent the world from slipping into “chaotic darkness.”

…Mr. Putin’s views of the West were echoed this month by Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow, the leader of the Orthodox Church, who accused Western countries of engaging in the “spiritual disarmament” of their people. In particular, Patriarch Kirill criticized laws in several European countries that prevent believers from displaying religious symbols, including crosses on necklaces, at work.

Well, Kirill may be a thoroughly disreputable figure but he is (broadly speaking) right about the stupidity of not allowing people to display religious symbols at work. That said, this claim, to put it mildly, is a stretch:

… Other figures within the Orthodox Church have gone further in criticizing the West. Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, a church spokesman, suggested that the modern-day West is no better for a Christian believer than the Soviet Union. Soviet authorities executed some 200,000 clergy and believers from 1917 to 1937, according to a 1995 presidential committee report. Thousands of churches were destroyed, and those that survived were turned into warehouses, garages or museums of atheism.

To argue that Christians in the West today are treated in a manner in any way comparable to that is to insult the memories of those murdered (not to speak of the countless others subjected to ‘lesser’ persecution) for their faith in the Soviet Union, and to trivialize their fate.

Back to the Washington Times:

…The Kremlin’s encouragement of traditional values has sparked a rise in Orthodox vigilantism. Fringe groups such as the Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers, an ultraconservative movement whose slogan is “Orthodoxy or Death,” are gaining prominence.

Patriarch Kirill has honored the group’s leader, openly anti-Semitic monarchist Leonid Simonovich, for his services to the Orthodox Church. The Banner Bearers, who dress in black paramilitary uniforms festooned with skulls, regularly confront gay and liberal activists on the streets of Moscow.

Although Mr. Putin has never made a secret of what he says is his deep Christian faith, his first decade in power was largely free of overtly religious rhetoric. Little or no attempt was made to impose a set of values on Russians or lecture to the West on morals.

However, since his inauguration for a third presidential term in May 2012, the increasingly authoritarian leader has sought to reach out to Russia’s conservative, xenophobic heartland for support.

It has proved a rich hunting ground.

Indeed it has.

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Nov/13

3

Vladimir & Kirill

Fili, Mar 93 (AS)There were some here in the US, particularly a few on the Religious Right, who failed to appreciate the extent to which the Pussy Rioters’ decision to stage their brief event in a cathedral was not just some childish blasphemy, but a very deliberate protest against the way in which the Russian Orthodox church was using, and being used by, the Putin Regime, a process which some might consider to be rather more of a descration than a few seconds of mime near an altar.

Now here’s this from Window on Eurasia:

President Vladimir Putin at Valdai and Patriarch Kirill at the more recent World Russian Popular Assembly chose exactly the same themes: “isolationism and the opposition of Russia to the West, Russia’s moral supremacy over other countries and especially ‘rotten’ Western democracy, and Russia’s special path as a great power.”

Taken together, Roman Lunkin, a leading Russian specialist on religious affairs at the Institute of Europe of the Academy of Sciences, says, these constitute “a farewell to democracy,” something that Kirill has been promoting since long before he became patriarch but that until now Russian leaders would not have permitted themselves to say so explicitly…

In speech after speech…Kirill has spoken about the unique qualities of the Russian people and about “the need to build a corporate Orthodox state on the basis of the concept of ‘Russian civilization.’” Earlier, he spoke about democracy only as “the harmonization of the interests of the authorities and the people.” Now, he has dispensed with that.

Moreover, this year as he has in the recent past, the patriarch rejected the notion of universal human rights and said that “the observance of traditional moral values and way of live” must have “primacy,” even if that requires the use of force by the state itself, views that have attracted many Russian nationalists to his side, even if they are not especially religious.

And, Lunkin continues, “it is no accident that the patriarch cited the philosopher Ivan Ilin who spoke for the establishment of a corporate-social strata national-orthodox state” and who infamously but consistently “greeted at the outset national socialism in Germany” under Adolf Hitler.…

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Aug/13

3

Mission to Moscow (Theocon Edition)

repin_processionThis is about a piece that comes from the Daily Beast, so a few caveats are in order, even if we ignore a headline (“Why American Social Conservatives Love Anti-Gay Putin”) that may not be the work of James Kirchick, the article’s author.

I doubt, for example, whether this “many” is accurate:

Many of those self-same religious conservatives who cheered wildly when Ronald Reagan denounced the “Evil Empire,” are citing Russia as the world’s foremost defender of traditional values.

“Many”? Really?

And this is ludicrous:

Russia today under the heel of President Vladimir Putin is arguably less free than it was in the late stages of the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev.

Uh, no.

The direction of change in the late-Gorbachev era (unless, say, you were a Lithuanian border guard), might have been more favorable than it is in Russia today, but, for all the reversion to authoritarianism seen in recent years, Russia is still infinitely more free than it was in 1989-91.

But…

On June 30, Putin signed into law a now infamous measure banning “non-traditional relationships propaganda,” a catch-all term which legal experts say prohibits everything from gay pride parades to gay couples holding hands in public.

The law had earlier passed in the Duma by a vote of 436-0.

Back to the Daily Beast:

“Russians do not want to follow America’s reckless and decadent promotion of gender confusion, sexual perversion, and anti-biblical ideologies to youth,” Peter LaBarbera, of the outfit Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, proclaimed on his website.

“You admire some of the things they’re doing in Russia against propaganda,” Austin Ruse, president of the U.S.-based Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, told the Associated Press last month, before lamenting, “on the other hand, you know it would be impossible to do that here.” Ruse recently traveled to Russia, and wrote a piece for the Daily Caller entitled, “Putin is not the gay bogeyman,” in which he defended the draconian legislation.

“Openly gay ambassadors are now placed in largely religious countries,” Ruse complained. “Gay celebrations are now held in U.S. embassies, even in countries like Pakistan where such parties are calculated to deeply offend legitimate religious sensibilities and beliefs.” Of course, Christians are also discriminated against in Pakistan. Presumably Ruse also opposes the U.S. Embassy’s Christmas Party, which is similarly “calculated to deeply offend legitimate religious sensibilities and beliefs”?

…Scott Lively, an American conservative activist largely credited for inspiring legislation in Uganda that would impose the death penalty on homosexuals, praised the Russian legislation on his website, writing, “I can’t point to any country of the world today that is a model for the rest of the world, except perhaps for Russia, which has just taken the very important and frankly necessary step of criminalizing homosexual propaganda to protect the society from being ‘homosexualzed [sic].’” In 2007, Lively traveled across Russia on a 50-city tour, during which he recommended the very measures included in the Russian bill. Lively is the author of a book entitled “The Pink Swastika,” which argues that German Nazism was a gay conspiracy.

So supportive of Russia are social conservatives that many of them plan to travel to Moscow next year for the 8th international conference of the World Congress of Families, which proclaims on its website that, “Ideologies of statism, individualism and sexual revolution, today challenge the family’s very legitimacy as an institution.” Russia, the organization proclaims, is known for “its historic commitment to deep spirituality and morality.”

Well yes and no at an individual and cultural level. But the use that the czarist state made of religion was not so much about “spirituality and morality” as it was about creating an ideology that both cemented an idea of Russianness across very disparate peoples, and provided a justification for absolutism, a notion that was reduced to the formula “authority, orthodoxy and nationality” under Nicholas I.

Kirchick, again:

Social conservative love for Vladimir Putin’s Russia should not come as much of a surprise. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia eventually reverted to an authoritarian system that more resembles the governance of the Tsarist period than a modern liberal democracy. Russia is now heavily influenced once again by the Orthodox Church, which has essentially become a state religion and has openly declared its support for Putin’s gangster regime. Writing in Newsweek last year, Peter Pomerantsev reported that the Church has “been critical in helping Putin recast the liberal opposition’s fight against state corruption and alleged electoral fraud into a script of ‘foreign devils’ versus ‘Holy Russia.’” Shorn of its communist atheism, Russia is now a reactionary’s paradise. Those who sensed authoritarian tendencies lurking within the American religious right have had their suspicions confirmed by such vocal support for the Russian dictator.

The idea of a monolithic “religious right” is absurd, but nevertheless…

This preference for the strong, righteous hand was visible in the saga of Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk rock collective whose show trial last year after a “blasphemous” performance in an Orthodox Church became an international cause célèbre. While everyone from Madonna to Amnesty International protested, the Russian Foreign Ministry boasted that the harsh sentencing of the group to two years in prison demonstrated that it was Moscow which today stands for “Christian values” forgotten in the “postmodern West,” a point echoed by American social conservatives. “In an ironic reversal in time, as America has declared war on the church and Christians, Russians have come back to the church,” the Reverend Austin Miles wrote on the website of the Christian Coalition. “While America has allowed itself to be kicked into the gutter, Russia, the former Communist Soviet Union, has picked up the baton, rapped some knuckles and proclaimed sternly: ‘Do not foul religion or the church.’” What he and other defenders of Putin forgot to mention, however, was that the Pussy Riot protest was specifically aimed at the Church’s open and unapologetic collaboration with an undemocratic and oppressive regime.

Indeed it was (something that, as I noted here, appeared to have been forgotten/ignored by at least two Republican congressmen, Reps Rohrabacher and King).

At this point it might be worth linking again to a post I put up here in January.

Here’s an extract:

Vladimir Putin’s attempt to blend social conservatism and Russian Orthodoxy into the mix that is (nominally: the reality is rather grubbier) the ideology of his regime continues. The Guardian has the details.

First, we have an unpleasant piece of anti-homosexual legislation (in wording, context and intent far broader—and far nastier than the “Section 28” that was, to say the least, one of the Thatcher era’s less glorious achievements):

“The law in effect makes it illegal to equate straight and gay relationships, as well as the distribution of material on gay rights. It introduces fines for individuals and media groups found guilty of breaking the law, as well as special fines for foreigners.”

And then we have this:

“Minutes after passing the anti-gay legislation, the Duma also approved a new law allowing jail sentences of up to three years for “offending religious feelings”, an initiative launched in the wake of the trial against the anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot.”

There ought, of course, to be no ‘right’ not to be offended. What’s particularly interesting about the latter law, however, is the way that it borrows from western neo-blasphemy legislation…

For a glance at where Putin’s efforts could lead, this post by Andrew Sullivan on an incident of bullying recently video-recorded in St. Petersburg is well worth reading. As he notes, it is “a scene reminiscent of fascist states in the early 1930s”, down, I might add, to the undertone that Sullivan also detects…

This is not something to be cheering on.

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Jun/13

13

Symbiosis

Serebryany Bor, Mar 93 (AS)Vladimir Putin’s attempt to blend social conservatism and Russian Orthodoxy into the mix that is (nominally: the reality is rather grubbier) the ideology of his regime continues. The Guardian has the details.

First, we have an unpleasant piece of anti-homosexual legislation (in wording, context and intent far broader—and far nastier than the “Section 28” that was, to say the least, one of the Thatcher era’s less glorious achievements):

The law in effect makes it illegal to equate straight and gay relationships, as well as the distribution of material on gay rights. It introduces fines for individuals and media groups found guilty of breaking the law, as well as special fines for foreigners.

And then we have this:

Minutes after passing the anti-gay legislation, the Duma also approved a new law allowing jail sentences of up to three years for “offending religious feelings”, an initiative launched in the wake of the trial against the anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot.

There ought, of course, to be no ‘right’ not to be offended. What’s particularly interesting about the latter law, however, is the way that it borrows from western neo-blasphemy legislation. Back at the time of the Pussy Riot trial, I noted this:

An interesting angle to this whole case is that the women have been charged under Article 213 (2) of the Russian criminal code: “hooliganism” motivated by religious hatred or hostility. The language of western political correctness, not to speak of Islamic efforts to suppress free speech, have, it seems, found an echo in Moscow, the Third Rome.

The echo is even louder now.

And while I am on this topic, I ought to mention that there was a spot of bother over at the Corner over the unfortunate (let’s be kind) intervention of a GOP congressman into the Pussy Riot controversy. My contributions to the fracas are here and here.

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Feb/13

3

The Return of Alexander III?

Alexander III, St Petersburg, July 2000 (AS)Yet another reminder of why the Pussy Rioters went to the Cathedral.

The Moscow Times reports:

President Vladimir Putin said Friday that the Russian Orthodox Church should be given more say over family life, education and the armed forces in Russia, as he celebrated the leadership of its head Patriarch Kirill.

Faith runs deep in Russia after the fall of the officially atheist Soviet Union, and Putin has looked to the largest religion in the country for support since he began his third term as president after a wave of protests against his rule.

He has also tried to mix spirituality with his own brand of patriotism in order to unify the officially secular country where ethnic and political fault lines are beginning to show.

“At the heart of all Russia’s victories and achievements are patriotism, faith and strength of spirit,” Putin said in the Kremlin’s gold-encrusted Alexeyevsky hall, celebrating the fourth anniversary of Kirill’s accession as patriarch.
Putin’s relationship with the church has strengthened since band members of protest punk band Pussy Riot entered Russia’s Christ the Savior Church last year and sang a vulgarity-laced song, urging the Virgin Mary to “cast out Putin.”

Without giving specifics, Putin said a “vulgar” understanding of secularism must be swept away to give the church, and other religions, control over more aspects of Russian life.

“While preserving the secular nature of our state, and not allowing the over-involvement of the government in church life, we need to get away from the vulgar, primitive understanding of secularism,” he said.

“The Russian Orthodox Church and other traditional religions should get every opportunity to fully serve in such important fields as the support of family and motherhood, the upbringing and education of children, youth, social development, and to strengthen the patriotic spirit of the armed forces.”

Putin has praised the church’s spiritual values in their own right, but he has also turned to religious understanding to counteract ethnic tension in cities such as Moscow, which have large Muslim migrant populations from the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The church in turn has praised Putin’s leadership. Shortly before the Pussy Riot performance, Kirill likened Putin’s time in power to a “miracle of God.” Putin was then-prime minister and in the midst of a campaign for the March 4 presidential vote…

Russian Orthodoxy is a part of what makes Russia Russia, and that is something that can work for the good (in charitable, cultural and educational activities and the like), and as a social glue for a nation still fragmented by the disaster of the Soviet experiment. But the church’s seemingly instinctive support for authoritarianism and its willingness to work with an increasingly illiberal state in the marginalizing those who do not fit a certain notion of Russianness is, to say the least, disturbing.

As I’ve noted here before,”Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality” was an ideology developed under Nicholas I (reigned 1825-55). It reached some sort of zenith under the penultimate (and last tough-guy) Czar, Alexander III (reigned 1881-94).

It seems to be on the way back.

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Jan/13

27

The Dukhovnik

Kolomenskoye, Feb 91 (AS)Here’s a must-read in the FT that sheds yet more light on Putin’s relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church:

…Father Tikhon wields influence in the church far above his modest rank of Archimandrite, or abbot, due primarily to his contacts in the Kremlin. The story that travels with him, which he will neither confirm nor deny, is that he is the confessor to Vladimir Putin. The only details he gives is that Putin, sometime before he became president at the end of 1999 (most likely while he was head of Russia’s FSB security service from 1998 to 1999) appeared at the doors of the monastery one day. Since then, the two men have maintained a very public association, with Tikhon accompanying Putin on foreign and domestic trips, dealing with ecclesiastical problems. But according to persistent rumour, Tikhon ushered the former KGB colonel into the Orthodox faith and became his dukhovnik, or godfather.

Father Tikhon does appear to have a very intimate knowledge of Putin’s religious life: in 2001 he gave an intriguing interview to a Greek newspaper, saying Putin “really is an Orthodox Christian, and not just nominally, but a person who makes confession, takes communion and understands his responsibility before God for the high service entrusted to him and for his immortal soul”.

He also would appear to have influence – he has campaigned almost single-handedly for anti-alcohol legislation in Russia, and achieved surprising results: just before the New Year, Russia’s parliament banned alcohol sales after 11pm…

…A secular state according to its 1993 constitution, Russia recently flirted precariously with religious law in last year’s strange prosecution of punk band Pussy Riot, which transformed them into global martyrs after they were given two-year prison sentences (one has since been set free), guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.
Prosecution documents state that the laws broken by the three defendants – who performed “Blessed Virgin, throw Putin Out!” wearing Day-Glo balaclavas in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral – were articles 62 and 75 of the Quinisext Council, held under the emperor Justinian in the seventh century. According to these articles, access to the solea and pulpit of Orthodox churches is reserved for clergy. While the final sentence by the judge in the case dropped references to the Quinisext Council, it did cite as expert opinion the fourth-century Council of Laodicea, according to which: “The solea and ambon have special religious significance for believers.”

…“The Russian church created Russia,” says Father Tikhon. “Russia can sometimes be an obedient child, and sometimes a child that revolts against its parents. But the church always has felt responsibility for Russia.”

No wonder Pussy Riot headed for the cathedral…

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Aug/12

18

Idiots

Cross-posted on the Corner:

As a piece of political theater, the protest in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior has turned out to be an outstanding success, but that’s only thanks to the overreaction by the authorities. It’s safe to say that most Russians did not approve of the form that the demonstration took, and the three women themselves now say that it was an “ethical mistake” to have done what they did in the cathedral. Under the circumstances, all the government had to do was impose a light punishment. That would both have signaled its own restraint and its distance from actions that genuinely offended many Russians. Call it a ‘silent majority’ strategy. As things turned out, that sort of subtlety was beyond a regime still steeped in its Soviet heritage. Its heavy-handedness has backfired against it within Russia as well as without.

That’s not to say that Putin’s opposition won’t still be giving him assists.

Radio Free Europe reports:

Ukrainian activists from the Femen movement have cut down a cross in central Kyiv in a gesture of solidarity with the [Russian trio]…The cross — erected during Ukraine’s 2004-05 Orange Revolution in memory of the victims of communism — was located near the International Center for Culture and Arts in Kyiv. A topless Femen activist used a chainsaw to cut down the cross.

Femen said in a statement, “On the day of the sentencing, the Femen women’s movement expresses its support and respect . … By this act, Femen calls on all healthy forces of society to mercilessly saw out of their heads all the rotten religious prejudice that serves as a foundation for dictatorship and prevents the development of democracy and women’s freedom.”

Femen is a controversial group, but quite often a force for good. Not on this occasion.

Such an act of vandalism will anger many, religious or not. It is also an insult to the memory of the millions of Ukrainians who suffered and who perished under Communism, not least in 1932-33’s Holodomor, the monstrous man-made famine that Stalin added to the tools he was using to break the back of the Ukrainian nation.

The Kremlin has denied that the Holodomor was genocidal (it is argued instead that it was part of a wider Stalinist tragedy).

Putin will, I suspect, not have been too sorry to see that cross fall.

· · · · ·

Aug/12

18

Two Years

Cross-posted on the Corner:

Two years: That was the jail term imposed on those three Russian ladies who performed under a name infinitely less obscene than their sentence:

The Guardian reports:

The judge said in the verdict that the three band members “committed hooliganism driven by religious hatred” and offended religious believers. The trio were arrested in March after a guerrilla performance in Moscow’s main cathedral calling for the Virgin Mary to protect Russia against Vladimir Putin, who was elected to a new term as Russia’s president two weeks later. Russian police have rounded up… protesters, including the former world chess champion Garry Kasparov and leftist opposition group leader Sergei Udaltsov after one of the most closely watched court cases in recent Russian history.

High Tory blogger Cranmer weighs in, throwing in a characteristically canonical note (I’ll have to take his word for its accuracy) as he does so:

In summing up the prosecution case, Judge Marina Syrova confirmed the tangential theological argument that prayers in a Russian cathedral may only be offered by a priest and not by ‘ordinary members of the public’, so [the] professed protest-as-prayer was contrary to church rules. But this is simply not true: Orthodoxy permits laity to lead public prayer. Perhaps it would not bestow the honour upon rabid feminists, but there is no canonical prohibition. The Judge observed: “It was a small act but maybe not a very elegant act but they consider that it is the country which is sick. For them, individuals are not important, they consider that education in Russia is still in the Soviet mould. And that there is still cruelty in the country and that prison is a miniature of Russia itself.”

If education is no longer in the Soviet mould, justice certainly appears to be. Putin’s Russia has regressed to the Soviet era: he is forging another oppressive kleptocracy which routinely persecutes the unorthodox and crushes dissent. It might even feel like theocracy. Some of the prosecution witnesses were not actually in the Cathedral at the time of the protest, but told the Court they were offended by the YouTube recording. The Judge described them all as ‘good Christians’, based on nothing but their ‘right’ testimony. Thus the actions of [these women] ‘degraded the moral feeling’ of the victims, who are the Orthodox everywhere for all time.

And here’s the Daily Telegraph’s Michael Weiss:

Despite the fact that this trial sought to portray [the defendants] as a trio of Satanic lesbians – the judge reading her verdict said they were peddling “homosexual propaganda” – their real crime was hitting Vladimir Putin in the one place he’s seldom hit: his cynical manipulation of Russian Orthodoxy. According to Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, authors of The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB, the clerical establishment is barely distinguishable from an apparatus of state security. “Russia’s brand of orthodoxy is based on the concept that Moscow is ‘the Third Rome’ (after Rome and Constantinople) and on a belief in Russian uniqueness. Being ‘unique’, Russia sees itself as surrounded by numerous enemies that the FSB must combat…The FSB helps to protect the Orthodox sphere of influence against Western proselytizing, and in return the Church blesses the security service in its struggles with enemies of the state.”

…In its role as helpmeet of the prosecution, the Church cited John 10:33 …a verse that was even included in [the defendants’] criminal file: “For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” It should be a fair sign of how demented, stupid and self-destructive Putin’s regime has become that it now readily identifies its victims with Jesus Christ.

And for a somewhat contrarian view, try Brendan O’Neill, also at the Daily Telegraph, who argues that the Western campaign doomed the women by making it impossible for Putin to climb down. I’m not convinced, to put it mildly. If I had to guess—and what else can I do—the intense foreign scrutiny has meant that the sentence was less than it would otherwise have been. It may also keep them alive.

When it comes to this, however, O’Neill has a point:

The fashionable Western support…had all the hallmarks of a cause célèbre. First there was the campaigners’ selection and elevation of just one foreign instance of shocking censorship to the exclusion of all others – such as Rwandan president Paul Kagame’s branding of anyone who criticises him as a “genocide ideologist” who can be locked up, for example, or nearby Scotland’s recent passing of an anti-football fan bill that can also send people to prison for singing songs (though sectarian rather than punk ones).

Quite.

Europeans and (as Mark Steyn can, literally, testify) Canadians should ponder the extent to which their own hate speech legislation resembles the law under which Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have been jailed. Americans, as always, should give thanks for the First Amendment.

· · ·

Aug/12

17

Turning the Other Cheek

Cross-posted on the Corner:

Tomorrow is verdict day for the naughtily-named Russian trio that staged a brief demonstration in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior (and have been jailed since March).

The Guardian reports:

Guards at the cathedral broke up the peaceful protest, ripping off activists’ masks, twisting their arms behind their backs and kicking at least one photographer in the face as he tried to take a picture.

The original protest was in poor taste, and the trio’s often bizarre politics, a sort of feminist twist on an absurdist-anarcho-leftism with some connection to (doomed) moverments in the early Soviet Union, are not always endearing. Nevertheless it’s worth reading what one of the defendants, Yekaterina Samutsevich, had to say (during the course of her closing statement) about the way that the Putin regime has coopted not only the modern Russian Orthodox Church but also its historical reputation as a victim of the Soviet state. It’s a subtle point, carefully made.

It may be that the tough, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, the bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more convincing, transcendental guarantees of his long tenure at the helm. It was here that the need arose to make use of the aesthetics of the Orthodox religion, historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.

How did he succeed in doing this? After all, we still have a secular state, and shouldn’t any intersection of the religious and political spheres be dealt with severely by our vigilant and critically minded society? Here, apparently, the authorities took advantage of a certain deficit of Orthodox aesthetics in Soviet times, when the Orthodox religion had the aura of a lost history, of something crushed and damaged by the Soviet totalitarian regime, and was thus an opposition culture. The authorities decided to appropriate this historical effect of loss and present their new political project to restore Russia’s lost spiritual values, a project which has little to do with a genuine concern for preservation of Russian Orthodoxy’s history and culture.

An interesting angle to this whole case is that the women have been charged under Article 213 (2) of the Russian criminal code: “hooliganism” motivated by religious hatred or hostility. The language of western political correctness, not to speak of Islamic efforts to suppress free speech, have, it seems, found an echo in Moscow, the Third Rome. That the Russian law can also be read as a part of a wider effort to protect the country’s believers from a return to the vicious anti-religious persecution of the Soviet era only adds to the ironies surrounding this case, as does the often-heard allegation that both Russia’s president and its patriarch both used to work–how shall I put this—for a certain malevolent organization.

In any event, five months in jail is more (much more) than enough.

· · ·

Aug/12

14

Free The Pussy Rioters (3)

Der Spiegel’s new cover uses the plight of Pussy Riot to suggest where Russia is headed: “on the way to a perfect dictatorship”:

And the Russian Orthodox Church is playing along. Appalling.

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