Saturday, September 28, 2019

Russian Government Heavily Subsidizes ROC MP and Its Allies but No Other Denomination, Documents Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 25 – Over the last four years, the Russian government has distributed 4.5 billion rubles (75 million US dollars) via regional affairs ministry and then by the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs to 78 parts or allies of the ROC MP but given nothing to any other religious group, according to Mariya Plyusnina of the Znak news agency. 

            Most of money distributed in this way has gone for the construction of spiritual centers in the regions, the journalist says; but some of it has been spent on the restoration of Orthodox churches and monasteries. (For her article, see; for a spread sheet showing the Agency’s distributions, see

            The decisions, at least nominally, about who gets what and how much are made by an Agency committee headed by director Igor Barinov. In the latest round, there were 33 applicants, 32 from the Orthodox Church and its allies and one from a pagan group in Karelia. All 32 Orthodox projects were approved and got money; the Blue Spruce group wasn’t and didn’t.

            One of the ways that many are excluded appears to be a requirement that applicants receive the backing of the leaders of the region or republic in which the money is to be spent, an arrangement that gives those officials a whip hand over church structures in their areas and likely guarantees that few non-Orthodox applications will go forward.

            Some of the recipients leave no doubt that the money is intended to support the Orthodox faith and not just inter-ethnic relations as Bsrinov and others have said.  And the sense that this money is for religious purposes, the Znak journalist says, is reinforced by the statements of officials that information about the program is “not for journalists.”

            Barinov maintains contact with the leaders of other religions, including Islam, despite the fact that his agency doesn’t give them money.  The head of one Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) in Sverdlovsk says that now that he knows about the program, he will try to extract money for his faithful as well.

            Ilya Shumanov of Transparency International says that these subsidies are just one of the ways that the Russian government subverts the provisions of the Russian Constitution regarding separation of church and state.  That is does so in this roundabout way suggests that those involved recognize that what they are doing violates the country’s basic law.

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