Staunton, September 18 – Many have forgotten that in 1978, everyone in Iran and the West was certain that the shah was in complete control of the situation and that Ayatollah Khomeini in exile in France “was not much more serious” than Russians today think that Aleksandr Kalinin is with his calls to transform Russia into an Orthodox Iran.
But a year later, the shah was gone, and Khomeini had taken power and begun creating a totalitarian Islamic state, Yevgeny Kiselyov points out, a development that became possible because “when it suddenly became clear” that Khomeini mattered, “the genie already had broken out of the bottle and it was already too late” (echo.msk.ru/blog/kiselev/2057260-echo/).
Four days ago, the journalist notes, Kalinin, head of “a mysterious organization, the Christian State Holy Rus’ which still isn’t banned in Russia” said the wave of anonymous calls in Russia was the work of the opponents of the controversial film “Mathilda.” (For Kalinin’s article, see meduza.io/feature/2017/09/14/pravoslavnaya-strana-dolzhna-byt-takoy-kak-iran).
“It is possible” that Kalinin’s assertion is simply a bluff, the journalist says. There may not be that kind of coordination, and those who believe as Kalinin does that Russia should be a totalitarian Orthodox Christian state in the same way that Iran is an Islamic state may not be numerous.
But what if they aren’t? Kiselyov asks. “And what if the authorities by appealing to traditional values like Orthodoxy, autocracy and nationality and other bindings and by exacerbating anti-Western attitudes” have created a monster that not only threatens them but threatens the country as a whole?
“With my own eyes, I saw how in Iran in 1978, the Islamic revolution began.” Initially, the unrest was dismissed as marginal; but after the fire in the Rex Theater in Abadan in which at least 377 people died, Iran “was very quickly seized by mass protests and demonstrations in which an ever greater role played backers of the Shiite fundamentalists – Ayatollah Khomeini.”
That led to the overthrow of the authoritarian regime of the shah and its replacement by “a regime of Iranian mullahs who were more harsh, intolerant, [and] bloody than the one they ousted and that “transformed Iran into a threat to international stability and security … as an exporter of Islamic fundamentalism and the supporter of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.”
It subsequently came out that the fire at the Rex Theater and at other theaters as well was carried out by supporters of Aytaollah Khomeini and at his instigation because he viewed them as disseminators of Western abominations, in much the same way some Russian Orthodox activists view the film Mathilda.
Of course, there are big differences between Iran in 1979 and Russia in 2017 and “historical parallels don’t work.” Moreover, most are confident that “the Kremlin and the FSB control everything.” That may be so, Kiselyov says; but what happens if as in Iran 40 years ago it suddenly isn’t true any longer?