Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Orthodox Fundamentalism Becomes Dangerously ‘Respectable’ in Russia, Knorre Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 17 – Orthodox Fundamentalism has become “respectable” in Russia, according to Boris Knorre of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, thus completing what then-Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoy hoped for when he helped set up the World Russian Popular Assembly in 1993.

            Thus, the scholar is quoted by “Ogonyek” journalists Olga Filina and Sergey Meshcheryakov, “political religion is [Russia’s] new reality,” one in which “the church is being converted into a transmission belt of the state machine,” a game that is “very dangerous” for the country as a whole (kommersant.ru/doc/2841512).

            The article is devoted to last week’s 19th World Russian Popular Assembly, which as the two journalists point out, “enriched [Russian] political language with new terms” and mixed “a cocktail of ideological and behavioral principles whose basic components” are that Russia should be “not a civil but a ‘solidarist society,’” that current divisions between the left and right can be overcome by “’social monarchism,’” and that the movement seeks to be built on “immemorial” Russian values rather than on those borrowed from Europe.

            Summing up, speakers at the meeting said that “social monarchism” should replace “’sovereign democracy’” as the guiding principle for Russia’s future.  Not surprisingly, that provoked some strong reactions, including the one by religious affairs specialist Knorre already mentioned.

            Aleksey Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center said that this trend was intended to “turn away from everything foreign” and to use “without selection” everything that could be found at hand in Russian culture. “Thus Berdyaev suddenly turns up alongside Ilin, socialism becomes a synonym of monarchism, and so on.”

            “In a paradoxical way,” the specialist on religious issues says, “for the construing of this ‘specialness,’ the nuances and wealth of one’s own culture are to be sacrificed” in order to support the current regime.

            Irina Sadomirskaya, a professor at Sweden’s Center for Baltic and East European Research, agreed and pointed out that the main thrust of this new ideological approach is something that has been seen before, one that asserts that Russia’s “’specialness’” is threatened by the West and that “the Fatherland is ‘always in danger.’”

            Already in the early 19th century, Russian writers were taking this position, including Aleksandr Shishkov who “loved Europe” but called for opposing it, and Count Urarov who came up with the much cited slogan,, “Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality,” even though he was an atheist, a liberal, and didn’t read books in Russian.

            Today, the “Ogonyek” journalists suggest, last week’s conference offers the latest update of this idea, calling for “’social monarchism,’” something that combines the tsar and the CPSU and as well as only “combinations of the uncombinable” like concern for the tsarist remains with praise for Stalin.

            Aleksandr Rubtsov, the head of the Center for Research on Ideological Processes at Moscow’s Institute of Philosophy, said that the problem has its roots in the fact that spiritual leaders increasingly act “as if they were candidates for degrees in political science” and as if there were any final choices between East and West.

            In fact, “the balance changes,” and therefore it is absurd to act otherwise.  Those who talk about Russian “’specialness,’” he continued, forget that and they also forget that the words they use for that quality “in Russian mean “the possibility of ‘being oneself,’ a mark of freedom and not the imposition of any ideological doctrine about ‘how we are in fact.’”

            The worst aspect of this situation, Rubtsov continued, lies elsewhere: “No one seriously believes in monarchism but many want to please the bosses. So we may not have a tsar but on the other hand we will feed on this spirit and look at the current leadership as if it were God-given, infallible, and what is most important, irreplaceable.”

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