Sunday, November 27, 2022

Young Muscovites Turning Away from Russian Orthodoxy to Follow Eastern Religions, New Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 26 – New research by the Moscow Institute of Sociology shows that trust in the Russian Orthodox Church among residents of the capital is now the lowest in two decades, that the level of their religiosity has fallen and that many of the young are turning away from the church and choosing to follow Eastern religions or other “non-traditional” faiths.

            Unless the patriarchate changes course, Stanislav Stremidlovsky, a political scientist who specializes on cultural affairs, argues, Russian Orthodoxy’s current approach isn’t working and the church will lose its dominance at least among urban Russians and perhaps more generally (iarex.ru/news/87759.html).

            Patriarch Kirill has bet that his outspoken patriotism and slavish following of Putin’s militarist course will be enough to keep his church’s position, but the new study strongly suggests, the analyst says, that he is wrong and that the church needs to find a new approach, one more in tune with the views of its ever-small flock.

Kremlin Demand for Changes in Republic Constitutions Exacerbating Border Disputes in North Caucasus

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – The Kremlin is insisting that republic constitutions be brought in line with the Russian one and drop among other things provisions that specify that the heads of republics are responsible for defending the borders of those territories, a role Moscow believes only the Russian president should have.

            But even the proposed elimination of such provisions is raising fears that the Russian government plans to amalgamate republics or otherwise change the borders among them and that in turn is leading ever more people in the North Caucasus to focus on border disputes in the region (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/383405/).

            As a result, what the Kremlin undoubtedly viewed as a simple housekeeping measure is rapidly becoming another source of tensions in the North Caucasus and possibly elsewhere, exactly the opposite of what those in Moscow can have wanted but now must be prepared to address because of their own actions.

            Their representatives in the North Caucasus are already having to scramble. After protests in Karachayevo-Cherkessia, the authorities there have promised to hold public hearings about dropping the territorial defense provision of the republic basic law, hearings that will certainly be heated.

            Until all the issues about such changes are fully aired, the Congress of the Karachay People have proposed placing a moratorium on any changes in the republic’s constitution. And its leadership has even questioned the legality of Moscow’s insistence on this or any other change in the region’s basic law.

Death of Belarusian Foreign Minister Plays into Putin’s Hands, Nevzlin Says

Paul Goble     

            Staunton, Nov. 26 – The sudden death of Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei at 64 very much plays into the hands of Vladimir Putin, Israel-based Russian commentator and opposition politician Leonid Nevzln says, because the Kremlin leader wants to “liquidate” Alyaksandr Lukashenka and gain full control of Belarus’ armed forces for use in Ukraine.

            Makei’s death certainly weakens Lukashenka and thus plays into Putin’s hands, he continues, and thus it can’t be ruled out that Russia’s special services played a role in his exit from this life. After all, the commentator says, they are “no strangers” when it comes to organizing sudden deaths that help Moscow (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=638263E877DE7).

            Even if they didn’t – and there is as yet no evidence to suggest otherwise -- Makei’s death will disorder Minsk for some time and that will make it easier for Putin to bring pressure to bear on his often recalcitrant ally.

Polls Show Many Russians Favor Putting Up Statues of Stalin but Few Residents of Volgograd want His Name Returned to Their City

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – Forty-eight percent of Russians say they support putting up statues of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin while 20 percent oppose such actions, a change from a decade ago when only 25 percent backed erecting such monuments and 36 percent said they were opposed (levada.ru/2021/08/04/stalin-tsentr-i-pamyatnik-stalinu/).

            But in Volgograd, independent surveys suggest, the population is opposed to restoring Stalin’s name to their city and making it again Stalingrad, as it was called between 1925 and 1961 (t.me/vashdozor/3590 and t.me_vig/26897). Nonetheless, officials are pressing ahead with plans to do just that (kavkazr.com/a/dremuchee-proshloe-prihodit-na-pomoschj-volgogradu-hotyat-vernutj-imya-stalina/32146841.html).

            Activists say that few people want to change the name as they have gotten used to Volgograd but that the authorities, both to curry favor with the militarism of the Kremlin and to hide their own failures feel they have no option but to try to shore up their positions by drawing on figures from history.

To Be True to Itself, Russia Must Stop Viewing Itself Between East and West and Instead Position Itself as ‘the Geopolitical North,’ Moscow Scholars and Officials Say

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – Many people think that if Russia turns away from the West, it can only become part of the East, but in fact, if it is to be true to itself, Moscow scholars and officials are now saying, it must stop thinking of itself alone an East-West axis and instead position itself as ‘the geopolitical North.”

            That position was articulated most clearly by Aleksey Overchuk, a Russian deputy prime minister, a month ago at a conference in Baku. He argued that Russia no longer is positioning itself along the East-West model others use and that it is “no longer in the East of Europe but in the North of Eurasia” (youtube.com/watch?v=W4ARaFso_qI).

            Strategic Cultural Foundation commentator Vladimir Mikheyev surveys these various statements at fondsk.ru/news/2022/11/25/rossija-gotovitsja-stat-geopoliticheskim-severom-57776.html and points out that seeing Russia as the new global North will allow Russia to reduce the threat to it from any clash between the West and China.

            What makes such remarks intriguing is that they are a sign that many who want Russia to be anti-Western do not want to fall under Chinese influence and are searching for a conceptual way out. Whether that is possible remains to be seen, but these efforts are a sign that at least some in the Russian capital are worried.