Staunton, May 24 – A group of Yekaterinburg activists who backed the idea of erecting an Orthodox cathedral in the city’s main square have not accepted defeat. Instead, they have announced plans to form “a Christian political party” to continue to fight for what they want, a plan at odds with Russian law and one likely to provoke inter-confessional conflict.
Russian legislation does not permit the formation of political parties based on religion, nationality, or region, but it is entirely possible in the current environment that Russian officials will pay no more heed to that legislation as far as this proposed group is concerned than they do with respect to other laws and constitutional provisions.
Perhaps even more serious, however, the formation of such a party could prove “an explosive mix,” some local observers say, creating a political group that like the Christian Democrats in the West might prove far more attractive to the Russian people than any of the current alternatives (ura.news/articles/1036278125).
And it could certainly trigger or exacerbate conflicts between Orthodox Christians and Muslims not only in Yekaterinburg but elsewhere. The Muslim community in the Urals city has reiterated its demand that the city keep its promise to allow the Muslims to build a mosque in the center of the city (doshdu.com/2019/05/24/в-екатеринбурге-после-конфликта-с-хра/).
Muslims elsewhere in the Russian Federation almost certainly would respond to the appearance of a Christian party with demands that they be allowed to form one or more Muslim ones. This risk of that could be enough to keep Russian officialdom from allowing this proposed party to take shape.
Oksana Ivanova who emerged during the protests over plans to build a cathedral in the central park of Yekaterinburg as a leader of the pro-construction faction tells the URA news agency that “not all Orthodox” feel comfortable in expressing their views openly and her organization will help their voices to be heard (ura.news/articles/1036278125).
She adds that she “studied the ideas of Christian socialism for many years while in the university, writing a diploma focused on an analysis of the social-economic appeals of Russian religious figures of the 20th century such as Sergey Bulgakov and Nikolay Berdyayev.” The time has come for their ideas to be pushed forward.
Ivanova continues: “I think that Orthodox lay people have the right as citizens to unite so that their voice will be heard by society and the powers that be and allow us to better hear one another. To say what precisely that should be, a party or something else, I now am not prepared to say. I am not a political scientist.”
She says that she expects the Church will bless such an undertaking. But if one of the hierarchs opposes it, Ivanova continues, she would have to rethink what she is doing because as an Orthodox Christian, she would not want to do something that would harm the church in any way.
Ivanova says that she is guided by a vision. In her mind’s eye, the cathedral is already in the square, and that explains both her passion and the pathos of her public statements.