Staunton, February 13 – Yesterday, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta pointed to a problem that is seldom discussed but represents a potential time bomb under the Russian Federation: the presumption of religious organizations to speak on behalf of those nations that do not have their own ethno-national statehood within that country.
In a lead article, the paper addresses the case of the ethnic Russians who do not have an ethno-national territory of their own and of the ways the Russian Orthodox Church has acted on the presumption that in the absence of the institutions such territories have, it can speak for the ethnic Russians (ng.ru/editorial/2018-02-12/2_7170_red.html).
The relevant passage in the editorial is as follows: “Sociological data cast doubt on the adequacy of the Church’s representation of the national interests of the Russian people. We remind that in the absence of other institutions of national representation, the Russian Orthodox Church formed the World Russian Popular Assembly that has functioned for more than decade.”
“The very same concerns other nationalities of Russia which do not have their own national-territorial formations. Today, they in fact are represented by religious groups” rather than by anyone else, the paper says.
“Besides this,” the editors continue, “doubts arise as to the utility of elbatoring public identity via the broad application of religious elements. If even the most numerous ethnos is not absolutely equivalent to the dominant religious tradition, then the current designation of ‘spiritual-moral ties’ is false.”
And the editors say, “it is possible that this explains why the imposition of a religious component in education is not leading to an improvement of morality among Russians and especially among the young. To the contrary, the cynicism of the younger generation is growing as the role of the Church has been elevated.”
The paper’s editors do not address the plight of other ethnic groups that do not have ethnic statehood there, but its conclusion that the Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t adequately reflect the ethnic Russian nation might be extended to others for whom other religious groups, including Muslims and Protestants, might claim to speak for those lacking territories.
And thus its message, whether intended or not, is two-fold. On the one hand, the Kremlin would be better served if the ethnic Russians had some kind of territorial formation within the country that could support alternative representation of Russians, however difficult such an entity would be to carve out and however threatening it would be to the country as a whole.
And on the other, it represents at least an implicit warning to the powers that be that doing away with existing non-Russian republics could open the way for religious groups – and Muslim ones in the first instance – to speak for the nations on which these were based but who would then lack representative institutions.