Sunday, December 21, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Instability Leading Russians and Ukrainians to Turn to Sects, Orthodox Missionary Warns

Paul Goble


            Staunton, December 21 – Social and political instability is a breeding ground for sectarian religious groups, with those who feel threatened by war, falling standards of living, and uncertainty about the future often turning to radical sectarian groups because the latter “promise an easy answer to all problems,” according to Vitaly Pitanov.


            Pitanov, head of the Russian Orthodox Stavros Missionary Center and someone who has frequently written about sects, long a Russian Orthodox concern, says that the situation in Ukraine has already driven many there into the arms of the sectarians and that it will do the same in Russia as well (


            “What is now taking place in Ukraine will begin in Russia tomorrow; there are all the preconditions for that,” Pitanov says. For sectarians to gain ground, there is no need for a war because it is already clear in Russia, “there is a mass impoverishment of people” and many fear that their lives are beyond their own control.  Such people turn to sectarians.


            According to the Orthodox missionary, “sects in Russia have a glorious future,” especially since neither the government nor the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate appears to have “any understanding of this threat” or how to counter it. Instead, both make loud declarations and engage only in “the stormy imitation of activity.”


            Many in the government and clerical hierarchies believe that they can struggle with sects via the courts or by gathering compromising information about the sectarians and then distributing that through the media.  But experience shows that “the effectiveness of such measures is minuscule.”


            If the population is to be protected from the spread of sectarian groups, what must be done is to counter their ideological appeals by working with the worldviews of others before they can be recruited.  Pitanov says his organization is doing that but has little financial support and therefore can “do little.”


            He says that he would like the government to “more actively support” what he and others like him are doing. If that doesn’t happen, however, then Russia will face “exactly the same situation regarding the spread of destructive cults which we see in the neighboring country” of Ukraine.



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