Sunday, June 9, 2024

Russia Cannot Allow Religion or Ethnicity to Divide Country Lest West Use Those to Destroy It, Polonsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 5 – “The single hope of [Russia’s] existential opponents is the disintegration of the country,” Andrey Polonsky says. Such people fasten on this or that historical event and seek to play up ethnic and religious differences in the hopes of a repetition of the destruction of the USSR.

            The best defense against such attacks on Russia is the preservation and expansion of mutual understanding and respect among the country’s various religions and ethnic groups, something that has existed since Soviet times but that must constantly be protected, the Moscow historian says (

            That is because there is always the danger that legitimate concerns and even anger can grow into something worse, Polonsky continued, as has happened in some cases after the Crocus City Hall terrorist attack when legitimate anger at Central Asians involved with that grew into hostility toward Muslims as a whole.

            Everyone needs to remember that “any support for anti-Islamic attitudes at the day-to-day, ideological or political level becomes an act against Russia, one directed at undermining the national security of the country,” according to Polonsky, given that for centuries, Russia has been “not only an Orthodox but a Muslim country.”

            In tsarist times, the military gave out special medals and orders to Muslim soldiers; the state arranged for halal food for those in uniform; and the government built mosques and provided pensions for mullahs and imams. As a result, Muslims remained loyal to the tsars after others had turned away, Polonsky says.

“More than ten percent” of the population of the Russian Federation are Muslims, he continues; and today, “orthodox and Muslims, Buddhists and believers of all faiths are natural allies when one is speaking about the struggle against the denial of any identity, not only religious and national but also gender, historical and others as well.” (emphasis supplied)

“But in order to be allies, all must value their compatriots” and not view them in an way as somehow lesser,” Polonsky says.   

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