Staunton, May 26 – Having lost the trust of the Russian people, the Putin regime has sought to instill faith in its place because unlike trust which presupposes doubt, faith is unquestioning and does not necessarily need facts, Nikita Isayev, director of the Moscow Institute of Real Economics and leader of the New Russia Movement says.
For that effort to replace distrust with unquestioning faith, the Kremlin sought to make use of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. But its bet that the church could help it achieve such faith among the population has collapsed largely because the church’s own mistakes (mk.ru/politics/2019/05/26/rossiyane-teryayut-prezhnyuyu-cerkov.html).
“Until recently,” Isayaev argues, “the Russian Orthodox Church in fact was immune from any expressions of dissatisfaction: all conflicts which arose because of its broadening powers were blocked at the root.” But now this has all changed – and changed because of the church’s involvement with the state.
Most Russians retain a positive image of the ROC MP as a whole and even support building more churches. But at the same time, ever fewer people remain indifferent to the ROC’s activities.” They may have a positive view of the church as a whole, but 15 to 20 percent of the population now objects to what the church does in particular cases.
Of course, some are opposed to building new churches in their backwards. But “dissatisfaction has arisen on another basis: the financing of such efforts and the behavior of particular representatives of church leaders.” Given the difficulties Russians face, the actions of the ROC MP are now being viewed “through the prism of money.”
Russians can’t understand why there is no money for schools or pensions, but there is always plenty to build new and far from inexpensive churches. And they are asking where this money comes from and why it is being spent this way. It doesn’t come from the state directly but from companies doing business with the state – and Russians have reason not to like them either.
Many who went into the streets of Yekaterinburg to protest plans to build a cathedral in the city’s main square were animated not just by a desire to save this green space but also by anger at the link up between the church, the state, and the corporations which have been financing such things.
And news reports suggest, Isayev says, that money continues to pour into the ROC MP and is then handled corruptly with officials stealing huge sums, spending more on themselves and so on. (For numerous egregious examples, see novayagazeta.ru/articles/2019/05/25/80650-patriarh-i-ego-okrestnosti).
This has happened because the church is increasingly part of the state and the corporations know they have to pony up. Russians can see that too and are angry at all three. As the church has become enmeshed, it has become ever less a religious body and ever more an ideological and profit center. Thus, Patriarch Kirill spoke against abortions not on moral ground but rather to promote the state’s interest in population growth.
“These are very dangerous tendencies,” the activist says, “because the sense of being driven into a corner which they are producing, one where an individual feels he has nothing to lose is one of the most powerful preconditions for the manifestation of aggression – and in this case against the powers that be.”
The further fusion of the state and church is only intensifying the division between the people and both of these institutions, the analyst continues. The population feels it is losing the church which in the past focused more on the population rather than on the needs of the state and not gaining the state.
According to Isayev, “the path of the civilized world is from faith to trust because trust makes possible the uniting of the society, and correspondingly, its successful development as a result leads to the strengthening of the state.” But “our powers that be, unfortunately, have chosen the reverse path,” one that leads “only to degradation.”
“The price of the loss of social trust will be too high … no faith will replace it,” no matter how many churches the ROC MP builds – and Kirill says it has been erecting three a day (znak.com/2019-05-26/patriarh_kirill_zayavil_chto_rpc_stroit_po_tri_hrama_v_sutki) – because this isn’t happening out of Christian concerns.
Worse, Isayev says, the Russian people can see all this; and so the bet the Kremlin placed on the ROC MP is not only not paying off. It is proving counterproductive in the extreme.