Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Growing Official Intolerance in Russia Fraught with Dangers, Including Possibility of Global War, Yerofeyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 16 – Today, as every year since 1995, the world marks the International Day of Tolerance, a value shared by many peoples and cultures throughout history, Viktor Yerofeyev says. But unfortunately, it now divides the democratic world where it is a core value from authoritarian regimes like Russia which view it with suspicion and hostility.

            There are very few states in the world which proclaim their opposition to tolerance, the Russian writer says. North Korea is one. But there are many more authoritarian ones that in fact promote intolerance while denying they are doing so (dw.com/ru/виктор-ерофеев-чужда-ли-россии-культура-толерантности/a-51252369).

                Russia is among them, he continues, and is moving toward being among those states “which assert their national sovereign truth and do not really accept the values of tolerance.”  In this, they place themselves at odds with the West and thus open the door to “a fundamental conflict of the two systems, something fraught with catastrophes up to and including global war.”

            Historically, Yerofeyev says, tolerance has not been highly valued by Russians. “It is associated with weakness, ‘rotten’ compromises and the surrender of the position that ‘he who is not for us is against us.” Despite that, “many young people, the middle class, artists, scholars, and opposition groups share the principles of tolerance.”

             What is especially disturbing is that intolerance of others is growing at the official level. “Even in Brezhnev’s Soviet Union, the official ideology was more restrained because in the West, from the point of view of Marxism, lived not only ideological enemies but also workers and peasants who were brothers in terms of mentality.”

            The West has its problems with tolerance, of course; but they are different. There is the paradox of intolerance of intolerance, including arguments about its limits, and the danger that when it is insisted upon at all costs, it can become “repressive tolerance,” destroying the very values it is supposed to promote.

            “In Moscow,” Yerofeyev concludes, “the Center for Tolerance at the European Museum promote free dialogues about tolerance. They are what is needed for the future of Russia. Indeed, tolerance by itself will become the symbol of changes when and if, God willing, they take place.”


Russian Constitutional Court Recognizes Russians’ Right to Religious Services in Their Homes

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 17 – In a decision very much at odds with Moscow’s expanding anti-religious campaign, the Russian Constitutional Court has ruled that a Rostov oblast woman had the right to offer her home to Seventh Day Adventists to hold services, a decision that Aleksandr Soldatov says will affect the lives of “hundreds of thousands” of Russians.

            Following a hearing on October 8 of an appeal brought by the woman who was fined for allowing the Adventists to use her home, the Court three days ago overruled lower courts and said that she had the right to offer her home to religious groups for services, the commentator reports (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2019/11/16/82756-ot-hrama-do-haty).

            This is “quite a sensational” action for Russia today where typically “ever new limitations of the rights of believers are being introduced, if they do not belong to one of the four ‘traditional’ religious organizations,” Soldatov says, adding that the Constitution provides followers of both “traditional” and “non-traditional” faiths the same rights.

            In rejecting actions of local officials and overruling lower courts which supported them, the Constitutional Court employed language that is “almost philosophical” in nature, declaring that “the life of an individual is not only a material but a spiritual phenomenon” and that he or she must have the right to “satisfy” his spiritual needs “including religious ones” at home.

            The court did specify, however, that an individual could not modify his residence by putting up a minaret or cross outside, opening the door to much additional litigation; but its basic finding will certainly be used by many Russian believers to exercise rights that have been under threat.

            “Why does this decision concern hundreds of thousands of believers?” Soldatov asks rhetorically. Because “Russia in the 20th century has passed through the frightening experience of total religious oppression in the name of building an atheistic society. The peaks of this were in the 1920s and 1930s and at the beginning of the 1960s.”

            Each of these periods of oppression led to the formation of underground “catacomb” churches; and the current wave of repression against religion in Russia is having the same effect, Soldatov continues.  In this situation, especially as the reputation of the Moscow Patriarchate falls, “the number of home churches and prayer rooms will only grow.”
            That means in turn both that the nature of religious faith is changing from demonstrative behavior to personal and alternative actions and that the decision of the Constitutional Court represents a move to meet the needs of the believing part of Russian civil society, the commentator concludes.

Non-Russians Circulate 2012 Finnish Pamphlet Promoting Bilingualism

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 16 – Faced by mounting pressure against non-Russian languages, the VKontakte “Natural Multi-Lingual” group (vk.com/polilingvismo) has taken the unusual step of distributing via websites in some of the non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation a Finnish pamphlet promoting bilingualism.

            The 14-page Russian-language pamphlet, entitled “Multi-Lingualism is a Real Source of Wealth,” was written for immigrants to that Finno-Ugric country to encourage them to retain their native languages even as they learned Finnish. (The complete text is available on the Mari Uver portal at mariuver.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/mnogoyazychie-podlinnoe_bogatstvo.pdf).

            The first section of the pamphlet is devoted to “why your native language is important for your children”(mariuver.com/2019/11/16/rod-jazyk-vazhen/). It reads as follows:

“Your native language is important for your children for many reasons: it is the basis for the balanced development of their intellectual capacities and habits of emotional life, it is an important part of their ideas about their origins and roots,, it is a connecting link between children and those close to them, and  it is an instrument for the acquisition of new knowledge and creative thought.

“If a child masters the languages native to you, this will help strengthen his self-consciousness. If a child learns to value his roots, he will grow up as an integration personality open to other cultures

“You will help a child if you sow your open attitude toward various languages and explain that multilingualism is what should be strived for. You will support your child in mastering the Finnish language if you sent him to a Finnish kindergarten, school, or play group However, you should not independently instruct the child in Finnish.

“Your task is to speak with the child in your native language. No one can do this for you. And if your child gains the chance to grow up multi-lingual, this will be a plus both for him and for all your family.”