Saturday, July 18, 2020

Kremlin Cautious in Dealing with Shiigumen Because Many around Putin Like His Obscurantist Message, Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 16 – The striking difference in the way the Kremlin has dealt with Orthodox fundamentalist leader Shiigumen Sergey and with Sakha shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev. Igor Yakovenko says reflects the fact that many Putin supporters like the shiigumen’s message and view him as “one of us” while they have no such feelings about the Sakha shaman.

            Because his backers are in many cases acceptant of Sergey’s reactionary and even anti-Semitic words, Vladimir Putin is reluctant to come down hard on him, letting the Moscow Patriarchate take the lead; but because he is not so constrained in the case of Gabyshev, the commentator says, he backs repression (

            Given how much more radical the shiigumen’s words and actions are than those of the shaman, this difference says a lot about Putin’s own views, his perception of what the political market among his Kremlin aides will bear, and most important of all about how a large swath of such people actually think and feel.

            Shiigumen Sergey has seized a woman’s monastery by force and made it the bastion of his totalitarian sect. He has called for the ouster and trial of Putin, Patriarch Kirill and Russia’s chief rabbi Berl Lazar and other supporters of those three to be named later, the Moscow commentator says.

            In one recent video appeal – and the reactionary churchman uses the most modern technologies to his advantage – Sergey declared that Russia is now ruled by Rabbi Lazar whom he described as “the head of the fascist Chabad sect” and “an agent of the Mosad. He also said that the Khazar khanate, which disappeared 1100 years ago, nonetheless rules Russia today.

            A former interior ministry officer who served time for murder, Sergey has also denied the existence of the coronavirus, called Bill Gates “a fascist,” and demanded he be tried “like Hitler.” Among others he wants brought to trial for crimes against Russia is German Gref, Gates’ supposed agent in Moscow.

            After demanding that Putin and Kirill resign and hand over power to him, Sergey said that he will organize forces that will put Russia in order “in three days.”  If they and Lazar don’t surrender, the shiigumen continued, he will organize “a full-scale spiritual war” by the Russian people against them.

            All those statements and actions would seem to be more than enough for the Putin regime to adopt the harshest measures against Sergey. But that hasn’t happened.

            The Moscow Patriarchate has defrocked him but not moved to expel him from his monastery headquarters, and the Russian government has not blocked his messages from reaching a large audience by its usual means. Indeed, it seems almost to be protecting his possibilities in that regard, Yakovenko suggests.

            The reason for that unexpected attitude by officials, the commentator says, is that “Sergey’s obscurantism echoes quite well the obscurantism of a quite large part of the Putin entourage and its Kremlin servants.”  And Putin’s failure to move in this case if one compares it to that of the Sakha shaman.

            Gabyshev has been repeated arrested, his residence has been raised, and he has been placed for “forcible cure” in a psychiatric hospital and for doing no more and in fact quite a bit less than Shiigumen Sergey: The shaman called for Putin’s ouster and the restoration of democracy but didn’t seize any territory or threaten to raise an army against him.

            Indeed, stripped of their mysticism, Gabyshev’s ideas “on the whole more corresponded to the liberal-westernizer direction than to the great-power preservationist one,” Yakovenko says. And because of that, the Kremlin came down on him like a ton of bricks while allowing the shiigumen to continue to talk.

            “For the Kremlin,” the Moscow commentator says, “there exist two red lines.” The first is any “liberal-western opposition to Putinism … In Putin’s Russia, liberal and westernizer are synonyms for traitor. The second red line is excessive popularity which threatens to make anyone who has it into a threat who must be suppressed.

            The Putin regime will fall “suddenly and quickly” although no one can say exactly when or what will replace it, Yakovenko says. But one can say that it is “an irony of history” that the Kremlin leader today is “destroying with particular severity those forces which could guarantee Putin physical security” while allowing those who wouldn’t to continue to act.

            If Western liberals or even the Sakha shaman come to power, Putin could end up “in a quite comfortable cell in a prison in the Hague.” But if people like Sergey, who are “socially close to the obscurantists and Stalinists do,” Yakovenko concludes,  Putin may “envy the fate of Muammar Qadaffi.”

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