Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Moscow Laying Groundwork for Alternative Patriarchate in Muslim Turkey

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 12 – The Moscow Patriarchate is taking its battle against the Universal Patriarchate over Ukrainian autocephaly to a new level: it is seeking to organize Orthodox parishes in Turkey in order to set the stage for the creation of a new patriarchate in the backyard of Patriarch Bartholemew.

            When Moscow spoke about an Orthodox Patriarchate in Turkey a few weeks ago, many dismissed that as an absurdity because there are so few non-Muslims in that country; but in fact, many of the oldest patriarchates in the world are in places where there are very few Orthodox believers – and Moscow clearly plans to add another one to it as part of its geo-religious game.

            Metropolitan Ilarion who heads the Moscow Patriarchate’s office for external relations says that given the break with Constantinople Russia has “not other way out then to send priests of the Russian Orthodox Church to Turkey” and organize Orthodox parishes there (rusk.ru/newsdata.php?idar=82345 and mospat.ru/ru/2018/11/12/news166483/).

            The Russian hierarch acknowledges that there are only about 2,000 Orthodox believers among Turkish citizens, but there are now “tens of thousands of Russian-speaking residents” of that country, “not counting the constant flow of Russian tourists.”  They want to know where they should go to pray.

            Up to now, Illarion says, Moscow restrained from taking independent action out of deference to the Constantinople Patriarch but now that the latter has violated the canonical territory of Russia, Moscow no longer feels the need to hold back. Instead, it is sending its own priests to Turkey to support the faithful.

            Apparently, the first case of this took place yesterday when a priest from Russia held an Orthodox service in the church on the territory of the Russian consulate general in Istanbul. That church had been jointly consecrated by the two patriarchs, Kirill and Bartholemew, in 2009 (ahilla.ru/rpts-napravila-svyashhennika-v-turtsiyu-okormlyat-russkoyazychnyh-pravoslavnyh/).

Only One Russian in Five Genuinely Believes Russia is a Great Power, Solovey Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 12 – Not only has foreign policy become a less effective mobilizing tool for the Kremlin but now “only 20 percent of its citizens consider Russia to be a great power,” Valery Solovey says, creating a situation where ever more of them are ready to ask questions and even challenge the regime.

            In an interview with SIA Press, the MGIMO analyst says that the powers that be are trying to act as if “everything is normal.” But in fact, this shift was already on view in the September elections where the center lost not four but eight races and covered that by using the power of office to hold on in four (siapress.ru/interview/83090).

                Initially, the Kremlin was alarmed, Solovey says; but now it has managed to convince itself that the situation is not all that bad and that it doesn’t have to take any radical steps as long as it gives the appearance of doing so, an attitude that recalls the anecdote about Soviet leaders on a train in which Brezhnev suggests covering the windows and pretending things are moving.

            “In my view,” the scholar continues, “this is a mistake because the situaiton is obviously poor.” So far Russians have kept their anger within bounds but if nothing is done that could soon change, especially because class conflict has re-emerged as a result of the ill-fated pension reform which took from the poor in order to be able to give to the rich.

            Moscow has assumed that it can do whatever it wants by putting out “hurrah patriotic” propaganda, but that assumption is wrong. “Compensatory propaganda lost its force by the beginning of 2016. After that, it continued by inertia and now it is ceasing to work altogether” as ever more Russians recognize that their country is no longer a great power.

                Given this shift in attitudes, the regime should be thinking about reforms; but instead, it is simply trying to hold on, and that in turn sets the stage for crises and even a revolution, caused as so often in the past not by the population or the opposition but by the authorities’ actions and inactions, Solovey continues.

            “As soon as society is able to throw a serious, obvious and significant challenge to the powers that be, we will right then see that a significant part of the elites will hurry to shift to the side of the people,” he says. That is what happens in every case, but until the challenge occurs, the elites will stay linked to the central power.

            “Suddenly” in Russia as elsewhere members of the elite “will suddenly declare that they were always with the people and against this or that action, that in fact they were critics of the pension reform, and that they only kept quiet. Now they will extend their hand to the rising people.” Until then, they will do nothing.

‘Post-Soviet Space’ No Longer Meaningful Concept, Diplomatic Academy Historian Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 12 – The countries which emerged after the collapse of the USSR are moving in so many different directions that “the post-Soviet space” used by many since 1992 no longer is meaningful, according to Sergey Zhiltsov, a historian at the Moscow Diplomatic Academy which trains many of Moscow’s diplomats.

            In a commentary in yesterday’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Zhiltsov says that these countries have become ever less similar, sometimes because of their own desires and sometimes because of the efforts of outside powers who are seeking to create cordons sanitaires around the Russian Federation (ng.ru/dipkurer/2018-11-11/11_7349_frontier.html).

                “For Russia,” he continues, “the greatest threat” is presented by Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia whose governments have adopted “an anti-Russian course” and who are “drifting toward the EU and NATO” and breaking “political, economic and cultural ties with Russia.”  Elections in all three do not give much hope for a radical change in their direction.

            But they are not the only former Soviet republics who have moving in different diections and undercutting the meaning “the post-Soviet space” once had, a region that is increasingly divided between those who have placed their bets on Moscow and those who increasingly are doing so on the West.

            Western sanctions against Moscow since 2014 have intensified this process and thus mark “the beginning of a new state of development in the relations of Russia with the independent states.” Western attention to and support for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia is creating “a principally new geopolitical situation” around Russia.

            That sets the stage for “the intensification of the confrontation between Russia and Western states,” Zhiltsov says.

            “Unlike during the Cold War, when the USSR established on its borders a belt of friendly states connected by a system of military-political and economic relations, Russia in the emerging situation is in a less favorable position. The cordon sanitaire the West has created out of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine exists in the immediate vicinity of Russian borders.”

            The West would like to add Belarus to this group, but up to now, Minsk has shown an unwillingness to go that route, linked as it is closely to Moscow.

            In short, Zhiltsov says, what has occurred is the reemergence of a conflict of two blocs, one led by the EU and NATO and another led by Moscow, but including different countries and some closer to Russia. Russia has sought to respond, but it lacks the financial resources to oppose the West everywhere.

            “Nonetheless,” the diplomatic historian argues, “in recent years, Russia has achieved definite successes in preserving its influence on the post-Soviet space. In particular, it has launched and developed the integrative project of the Eurasian Economic Union.” But that does not involve all the former Soviet republics.

            Consequently, confrontation is increasing, and “there is ever less basis for speaking about the geographic integrity of the post-Soviet space which represents a mosaic of individual countries some of whom have been drawn into the anti-Western policy of the West,” Zhiltsov says in conclusion.