Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Political Parties in Russia Best Understood as Quasi-Religious Sects at War with Orthodox State, Ignatovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 14 – A form of religious war, much like that in tsarist Russia, has reemerged between the state and opposition political groups, according to Yaroslav Ignatovsky. As a result, most of the latter can best be understood as quasi-religious sects led by a particular individual and fated to disappear when he exits the scene.

            The director of Moscow’s Politgen analytic center says that this explains how the state reacts to them, putting pressure on any that become larger but allowing those which are small to operate in the margins and marginalize themselves still further (

            To be sure, Ignatovsky continues, the parties and especially their members are not nearly as attached to the leader and his ideas as those in religious groups tend to be and the leaders themelves are more interested in making money through “the simulation of political activity.” But there are enough true believers among both to set the tone.

            And that tone defines the relationship between the party-sects and the regime given that “in Russia conflicts between religious groups on the one hand and the state on the other have always been defined as one between the state” which insists that it must control everything in the name of the one true faith and those groups which challenge that faith.

            In tsarist times, this meant that the state was the defender of Orthodoxy, and in Soviet times, it was the defender of Marxism-Leninism. Now, the state defends whatever the leader wants. But the religious quality of this conflict between the Kremlin and what it views as sects makes it especially fraught for both sides. 

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