Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Russian State Now Going After Atheists the Way Soviet State Did Believers

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 6 – The arrest of a young man in Yekaterinburg for two months because he sought to find a Pokemon in an Orthodox church and had video blogs in his possession of what the authorities said were of “a clearly expressed anti-clerical character” marks a dramatic shift in present-day Russian life, Andrey Kolesnikov says.

            In a commentary in “Gazeta,” he writes that “the ideocratic autocracy in view of the absence of ideas other than rising from one’s knees in a fortress besieged by the West is gradually being transformed into a theological autocracy” where people are punished for not being religious (gazeta.ru/comments/column/kolesnikov/10176029.shtml).

                “If Soviet power imprisoned people for dissent and even for simple disagreement, why shouldn’t the current authorities where the role of state agitprop ever more often is played by the Russian Orthodox Church in its officious way not begin to imprison those for militant atheism?” Kolesnikov asks rhetorically.

                The Orthodox hierarchy is officiously “taking on the functions of the state, and the state in in the person of its repressive organs is defending it from a 22-year-old youth whose mother is an invalid.” Where is Christian mercy in all of this?  It certainly isn’t being promoted by the Moscow Patriarchate which condemns the human rights enshrined in the Russian Constitution.

                Russia is thus being returned to the era of the early Middle Ages, he says, and “the politicization of Pokemons is taking place.”  Law and the presumption of innocence have nothing to do with what is happening.  Instead, it is all about using the power of the state to impose religious positions regardless of the law and the constitution, just as the Soviets did.

                What makes this so important, Kolesnikov says, is that it reflects “the atmosphere of intolerance which is being cultivated in [Russia] in recent years,” an atmosphere which has “made possible the murders of politicians and the imprisonment of young people who insist on their personal views about the world” and revived state-encouraged denunciations.

            Since June 2012, the journalist points out, the powers that be have adopted more than 30 new laws “which extend the rights of the competent organs and narrow the rights of civil society,” a trend that further undermines social morality and leaves people “defenseless before the giant state-church machine.”

            Sadly, he continues, “our political class in fact simply fears to the point of panic such people as [the young man in Yekaterinburg] because behind each such young person it sees ‘a Maidan’ and a threat to its square meters of housing, its Mercedes, its yachts, and its dollars in shoe boxes.”

            Indeed, in the current case, Kolesnikov says, one can take courage at least temporarily from the announcement by the Moscow Patriarchate that with regard to the Yekaterinburg case, “the Russian Orthodox Church ‘doesn’t want blood.’”  One can say “thank you” for that – but one wonders for how long.

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