Friday, July 19, 2019

Moscow Readies Response to West’s ‘Morality Wars’ against Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – The Federation Council’s Temporary Commission for the Defense of State Sovereignty has called for organizing NGOs to defend the Moscow Patriarchate at home and Russia’s “spiritual sovereignty” on the entire “canonical space” of the Russian Orthodox Church in response to the West’s “morality wars” against Russia.

            The West’s “morality wars” against Russia, members of the commission say, are being conducted within the canonical territory of the Russian church by “pseudo-religious organizations financed from abroad.” To counter this, the commission said Moscow must “fight fire with fire” by setting up NGOs of its own (

            Over the two years of its existence, the temporary commission has compiled a “Black Book of Interference from the Outside in the Internal Affairs of Sovereign States” and now proposes to act on that in response to Western actions in Ukraine, Georgia, and other former Soviet republics which the Russian church and the Russian state view within its droit de regard.

            Three aspects of this discussion are noteworthy. First, this is perhaps the clearest indication yet that the Russian state is lining up with the Moscow Patriarchate on the question of canonical territory and putting the power of the government behind the church hierarchy to fight any move to undercut Moscow’s sway in neighboring countries.

            Second, the plan to create a network of NGOs – or in fact GONGOs – suggests how concerned both the church and the state are about Moscow’s loss of influence over believers in the former Soviet republics and its decision to take decisive action to try to hold on to its positions in these countries.

            And third, this focus on religion speaks volumes about how the Kremlin really views what it calls “the Russian world.” It is not just a matter of language, which in any case many who speak it no longer look to Moscow, but of culture defined in religious terms. Thus, despite its failures in Ukraine, Moscow and its church are clearly planning to go on the offensive.

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