Staunton, July 23 – One of the more interesting but neglected aspects of the current Duma campaign is the large number of priests and mullahs who are running either in single member districts or on party lists. Few are likely to win, Aleksandr Soldatov says; but they are promoting ideas that may lead to new and even more repressive legislation.
As the Novaya gazeta commentator notes, these candidates overwhelmingly come from marginal groups which link extreme nationalist themes and religion – and in which nationalism may be more important than religious faith – and are not connected either with the systemic parties or the traditional religious organizations (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/07/23/kogo-nam-bog-poshlet).
Many of them – and Soldatov surveys about ten of these candidates – favor a theocratic state, one in which either Russian Orthodoxy defines the country or Islam comes to define public life much as it has done in Iran. As such, there is little chance that they will win over a large number of voters.
But two things make their appearance important, the commentator says. On the one hand, religious ideas are among the only ones that Duma candidates can discuss with relative freedom, thus allowing religious leaders the opportunity to promote ideas about an increased role for religion and nationalism in Russia.
And on the other, they are a testing ground for these ideas. If such people garner much support, that will be a sign to the powers that be that the Kremlin can advance policies resembling the proposals of these figures even if as now seems likely none of these often marginal figures will ever see the inside of the Duma.