Staunton, September 20 – Russian Orthodoxy like every other faith includes fundamentalists, some of whom are even prepared to take extreme and illegal actions against others in the name of religion, however much Moscow officials like Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky may be surprised, Stanislav Minin says.
Orthodox fundamentalism has a long history going back to the Black Hundreds at the end of tsarist times and including any number of actions in recent decades, the Nezavisimaya gazeta expert says. And in recent years, the Orthodox fundamentalists had confidently assumed that the Kremlin was on their side (ng.ru/ng_religii/2017-09-20/10_428_revolution.html).
But now that the Russian authorities appear to be turning against the opponents of the movie Mathilda and arresting some Orthodox fundamentalists who say they want to transform Russia into an Orthodox totalitarian state, Minin suggests, there is a danger that the radicals will conclude they need to take even more violent action to force the state to again follow them.
“The government itself seems very strong,” he continues, “but when the foundations of statehood begin to shake,” questions arise about just how strong, the commentator says. And thus, while the Kremlin has done a great deal not to allow an Orange revolution in Russia, it has done less to block the threat of a revolution of “an entirely different color.”
Medynsky this week expressed surprise that Orthodox fundamentalism exists because he said that for that religioin it isn’t “characteristic.” But in fact it is, Minin says, from the Black Hundreds of the pre-1917 years to the actions in the 1990s of Metropolitan Ioann (Snychev) and his Rus Pravoslavnaya calls for canonizing Ivan the Terrible.
More recently, the commentator says, there was the movement of Bishop Diomid who accused the Moscow Patriarchate of being insufficiently pure in its faith, the activists opposed to registration numbers for citizens, the Orthodox flag bearers, and the recent spate of criticism and forced closings of concerts, exhibits and films the radicals don’t approve of.
The increasing radicalism of Orthodox fundamentalists and their willingness to use violence, Minin says, has occurred “not because something new has appeared in Russia.” The people involved have been around, but until the Mathilda flap, “they had been accustomed to having the authorities listen to them.
Now, these people have problems with the powers that be and have decided that it is necessary to “shout more loudly.”
Publicly, the Moscow Patriarchate is opposed to such fundamentalism on both principled and practical grounds, the observer continues, but “radicalization is affecting the church establishment too which inevitably begins to view conservative practitioners as too soft, inclined to compromise and insufficiently involved in defending the purity of the faith.”
It is of course possible that the Mathilda episode involves some power struggle within the political elite and that the fight in public is anything but spontaneous. However that may be, the genie has been let out of the bottle, and the regime is going to have to decide whether it is really going to defend itself against those who attack the secular principles of the Constitution.
Doing so comes with a price given the Kremlin’s desire to position itself as the defender of all things conservative; but failing to do so, failing to defend against both attacks on secularism and attacks on good order, can open the way to the further rise of those who don’t want a secular state at all but rather something far more monstrous.