Staunton, September 29 – The fanatics opposed to the Mathilda Film “are only one of the manifestations of the growing movement which one can call Orthodox Jihadism,” Igor Eidman says, a movement that divides the world between the followers of the true faith and everyone else and some of whose leaders are prepared to start a nuclear war in support of their cause.
In a Kasparov.ru commentary, the Russian commentator who lives in Germany and broadcasts on Deutsche Well says that many of its adepts believe conflict between “the correct ‘Russian world’ and the rotten West” will “inevitably involve military clashes” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=59CCDCE82DD9E).
They are not afraid of nuclear war, he continues, and “the only thing which one of their ideologues Archpriest Dmitry Smirnov [former head of the Patriarchate’s office for work with the siloviki] fears is that there won’t be found people who ‘have enough courage to push the nuclear button,’ because ‘the people have been spiritually diminished’” by the powers that be.
In the 1990s, Eidman writes, Orthodox fundamentalists were a marginal group. “Their rise began under Putin when arrived in office the most militantly inclined part of the Russian ruling elite, the so-called ‘siloviki.’ Among these ‘hawks’ are many who spring from the special services.”
Such people because of their background and training are filled with “hatred to Western and democratic values” and favor aggressive moves in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere. Indeed, it was in the Donbass where the Orthodox fundamentalists were able to form “the Russian Orthodox Army of the Donbass,” a seedbed for Orthodox jihadism.
(“It is interesting that in parallel with the increasing activity of Orthodox fanatics, Putin’s Chechen satrap Kadyrov has created in his republic what is in fact an Islamist state” with all the features seen elsewhere when Islamist groups take power, Eidman says.)
“Why is Putin allowing all this?” the Russian commentator asks rhetorically. On the one hand, it is clearly because there is a great deal of support for Orthodox Jihadism within the ranks of his regime. And on the other, it pays him political dividends at home and abroad by allowing him to present himself as a moderate at least compared to them.
“’If Putin goes, things will be even worse,’” many in Russia and abroad say, according to Eidman, with some adding “’without Putin, there will be a war: only his tough authoritarian power is capable of reining in the extremists of all kinds.” But all this is “only propaganda” and distracts attention from the policy role such Orthodox Jihadists play.
According to the commentator, “Putin’s ideological worldview and that of his entourage is based on the theory of the eternal opposition of Russia and the West. According to it, Russia is the defender of traditional values and morality, based on the Orthodox faith.” And that is why the “rotten” West tries so hard to destroy “the last bastion of Christian traditions.”
Such messianic and apocalyptic views, Eidman continues, and the re-militarization of the country suggest that “the country is being prepared for a big war.” Consequently, what is most worrisome is not the activity of “’the new Jihadists’” so much as “the strengthening of their influence” on the ruling stratum because that carries with it “the heightened risk of war.”
Two other articles this week provide additional details on this phenomenon. In the latest issue of Neprikosnovenny zapas to be posted online, Viktor Shnirelman of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology traces the ways in which Orthodoxy and radicalism have converted in Russia in the last decade (magazines.russ.ru/nz/2017/3/kto-i-kak-oskorblyaet-chuvstva-pravoslavie-i-radikalizm.html).
And in a report on the URA.ru news agency portal today, Roman Silantyev, a specialist on Islam close to the Moscow Patriarchate, points out that 24 of the 27 groups the Russian government has banned as extremist have religious roots. “Almost all are Islamist,” two are Buddhist, and five have “a Russian origin” (ura.news/articles/1036272434).
These groups are responsible, Silantyev says, for approximately one terrorist act a week in Russia. Consequently, banning them isn’t enough. Instead, he says the Russian government must adopt even tougher anti-extremism measures, especially but not exclusively against groups based on Islamist ideas.