Staunton, September 13 – In order to unite the Russian population around him, Vladimir Putin clearly wants to demonstrate once again his power to bring order to the state, Irina Pavlova says. He would have preferred to do so by suppressing a liberal rising, but he will be quite content to do the same against Orthodox radicals.
In her blog, the US-based Russian historian argues that the Kremlin created conditions for a liberal “rising” earlier this year but that Russian liberals proved “too conformist, law-abiding, and incapable of really aggressive anti-government actions. Consequently, Putin is looking elsewhere (ivpavlova.blogspot.com/2017/09/blog-post_13.html#more).
Putin’s preferences were clearly signally by Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov, Putin’s spiritual guide and a rising star in official Russian Orthodoxy, ten days ago in Yekaterinburg when he delivered the message that “any uprising must be put down” and that liberals represent “the most extremist” and “most dangerous” force in Russia (youtube.com/watch?v=84T1tbzXgfI).
But the liberals did not oblige in this case by acting in a way that would allow Putin to demonstrate once again that he is on the side of order rather than chaos, Pavlova argues, and thus again must be the choice of an overwhelming number of Russians in the upcoming presidential elections.
And consequently, she says, “the powers that be have given carte blanche to the actions of Black Hundreds forces, thus placing its bets on radical Orthodox society. Duma deputy Natalya Poklonskaya has played “an important provocatory role” in this, but “future historians will recall all her links with the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church and the FSB.”
And they will also take note that “as if by command,” now “a whole series of articles” have appeared in the Russian media attacking the more extreme aspects of this movement and describing it as “an Orthodox ISIS.” Among these are articles by Aleksandr Soldatov (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/09/12/73792-pravoslavnyy-halifat) and Yuliya Latynina (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/09/11/73786-pravoslavnyy-terrorizm-layt), and a television comment by Vladimir Solovyev (youtube.com/watch?v=9RdPA_c8qoE&t=6499s).
In each case, Pavlova says, the message is the same and the one the Kremlin wants delivered: “better state-controlled force than chaotic” violence arising under other banners that could challenge stability. And in the case of Solovyev, there was the following addendum: “the state must react” to what is going on.
According to the Russian historian, “we are thus witnesses to a situation either provoked by the authorities directly or at least supported by it of uncontrolled chaotic force in the country.” For the immediate future, there may be even more incidents of this kind of force, something that will only generate more demands for imposing order.
“And then the powers that be all in white will arrive on the scene with government repressions against these extremists in the broadest sense of this word and impose order.” That would be an entirely appropriate lesson on the 100th anniversary of October 1917, she says, and it would certainly generate support for another Putin term.