Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Revived Main Political Directorate in Russian Military to Focus on Ethnic and Religious Clashes

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 4 – In yet another indication that ethnic and religious clashes are an increasing problem in the Russian armed forces, a draft outline of the tasks of the revived Main Military-Political Directorate specifies that that organization will focus on monitoring ethnic and religious “extremism” in the military and combatting clashes arising from it. 

            The RBC news agency has obtained a copy of the draft order setting up that administration, one announced on July 30 and set to go into operation by the end of this month; and its journalists say the defense ministry has confirmed that the document it analyzes is genuine (

            According to RBC’s Inna Kodorkova, the new-old body will be involved with “the struggle against drug abuse, religious conflicts, the explanation of military policy of the Russian authorities, and be given control over the Zvezda television channel” and all defense ministry publications.

            It will work not only with serving military personnel but with young people in paramilitary organizations and subject to the draft, including those who seek to avoid service, and with veterans groups. And it will have primarily responsibility for carrying out “military-sociological research to assess the moral-political and psychological state of those in uniform.”

            But one of the new agency’s primary tasks will be the maintenance of discipline in the ranks and “preventing negative social processes” there, “including those on an inter-ethnic and inter-religious basis,” not only by instruction but also by blocking “negative” influences from beyond the military itself.

            Not everyone thinks all this is an entirely good idea.  Viktor Murakhovsky, the editor of Arsenal Otechestva, says that one of the risks of the new administration will be the restoration of deputy commanders for military-political work, a system that undermined discipline in the Soviet military by focusing on ideology rather than a single chain of command.

            That raises the question as to just what the ideology will be, the editor suggests, given the ban on an official ideology in the Russian Constitution and the lack of a state ideology at the present time. But the push for re-ideologizing the Russian military is likely to go forward. Officials at the defense ministry, speaking anonymously, say the push in that direction comes from Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu personally.

            And that raises a larger possibility, although  not one RBC or its interlocutors address.  There appears to be at least a possibility that this new “political-military administration” will be the seedbed out of which a new Russian state ideology will emerge, one more militarist and less social than its Soviet predecessor. 

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