Staunton, November 12 – Most opposition to the construction of Russian Orthodox Churches in cities in the Russian Federation falls under the NIMBY -- “not in my back yard” -- principle rather than reflecting any broader ideological agenda about religion or nationality, in sharp contrast to objections to the construction of mosques or even datsans.
But a situation in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, highlights the ways in which calls for the construction of additional Russian Orthodox churches can generate opposition not only on a NIMBY basis but in terms of nationalism and avoiding threats to inter-religious and inter-ethnic peace.
Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov recently signed a decree calling for the re-establishment of a Cathedral of the Mother of God in the center of Kazan. That has led to the formation of a group on Vkontakte against that project. As of yesterday, more than 4,000 people had joined (vk.com/club20327616 and sobkorr.ru/news/564311423C7B2.html).
The group has three distinct objections. First, it says that “property rights are the foundation of stability.” The project calls for the expulsion of many from their homes and thus should not be allowed on that basis alone. Second, it says that the current economic crisis is hardly the best time to spend money on such things and that no tax payer money should go for it.
And third, the group notes that “the goal of any church or mosque is to meet the religious needs of the population. In the district where the authorities propose to build the cathedral, there are numerous churches. There are no mosques there at all. And this creates an unbalanced situation.”
The group has also launched an Internet petition drive calling on Minnikhanov not to go ahead with this project. It is collecting signatures at change.org/.
This Tatar campaign is a mirror image of what has been happening in the Russian capital, where Russian Orthodox activists have blocked the erection of mosques; and consequently, it has the potential to lead to a situation in which the Muslim community may have found a way to bring pressure on the Russian authorities in Moscow to give way.