Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Slavophiles winning in Russia

Historically, culturally, and politically, there have been two trends in Russia: those who promoted Russian genius and exceptionalism (Slavophiles) and those who saw Russia's future in Westernization (the Zapadniki). The "Greats," Catherine and Peter promoted Westernization. Lenin would also belong in that category. The last Tsar and now Putin fit into the Slavophile category.

How Vladimir Putin helped resurrect the Russian Orthodox Church
[T]he Russian Orthodox Church outlasted the official atheism of the Soviet Union and now, after almost a century in the wilderness, has regained most of the power and prestige it enjoyed under the Romanovs.

Many in the church credit that to a man they believe may also be inspired from above: President Vladimir Putin…

Mr. Putin oversaw the resurrection of the Russian Orthodox Church, including the reconstruction of some 23,000 churches that had been destroyed or fallen into disuse…

To the delight of the church leadership, Mr. Putin’s policies have also taken a sharply conservative turn since his return to the Kremlin last year for a third term as President. Once viewed as a liberal, Mr. Putin has in the past 12 months embraced the church’s positions on such sensitive issues as abortion and gay rights.

“There are no conflicts between the church and the state,” smiles Father Alexey Kulberg, an outspoken priest in Yekaterinburg…

On the surface, it seems an odd match. Mr. Putin, after all, was a long-time member of the KGB, the organization that spearheaded the Soviet Union’s repression of “counter-revolutionary” entities such as the church.

But Mr. Putin is that rare KGB agent who was baptized, in secret, as a child. Meanwhile, the head of the church, Patriarch Kirill, has been publicly accused of working for the KGB during the Soviet era…

Mr. Putin has made a proud show of his own faith, and the church has rewarded him with robust support in times of need. As street protests swelled in 2012 against Mr. Putin’s return to the presidency, Patriarch Kirill declared on television that “liberalism will lead to legal collapse and then the apocalypse.” Mr. Putin’s rule was a “miracle,” the patriarch said on another occasion…

Mr. Putin increasingly speaks of Russia as a civilization distinct from the West. It’s a view shared by the church, which blames “Western influence” for the spread of liberal ideas, like gay rights, in Russia…

“The church and the state are moving toward separating Russia from the West,” said Anna Gizulinna, a 52-year-old transgendered university lecturer who says she has faced increasing persecution at work since the passing of the anti-propaganda law. “They see the West as a danger and say they’re fighting to save Russian souls.”…
Romanovs
Father Alexey hopes that’s true. Sitting in his office under a portrait of the murdered Romanovs (the Russian Orthodox Church now considers Nicholas II a martyred saint), he says he’d like to see the country return to the “theocratic values” of tsarist times. He believes Mr. Putin might be the man to guide Russia there…

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