Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, September 19, 2016

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

I recall introducing the study of Russia with a comment that went something like this: "Before the revolution there was an absolute ruler who governed a country that preserved authentic civilization and absolute truth. After the revolution, Russia was governed by an absolute ruler who preserved authentic civilization and absolute truth. The rulers, the civilization, and the truths were different, but that hardly seemed to matter.

Since Putin made the Russian Orthodox Church part of the ruling coalition, the custodians of pre-revolutionary absolute truth are back in the power elite.

Expanding Russian Influence, Faith Combines With Firepower
New Parisian dome
The golden main dome of a new Russian Orthodox cathedral now under construction on the banks of the Seine shimmers in the sun, towering over a Paris neighborhood studded with government buildings and foreign embassies…

The prime location, secured by the Russian state after years of lobbying by the Kremlin, is so close to so many snoop-worthy places that when Moscow first proposed a $100 million “spiritual and cultural center” there, France’s security services fretted that Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, a former K.G.B. officer, might have more than just religious outreach in mind…

Putin
Mr. Putin has… mobilized faith to expand the country’s reach and influence… the Russian Orthodox Church helps project Russia as the natural ally of all those who pine for a more secure, illiberal world free from the tradition-crushing rush of globalization, multiculturalism and women’s and gay rights.

“The church has become an instrument of the Russian state. It is used to extend and legitimize the interests of the Kremlin,” said Sergei Chapnin, who is the former editor of the official journal of the Moscow Patriarchate…

Andrei Eliseev, the Nice cathedral’s Moscow-educated and multilingual senior priest, denied accusations by his foes in the émigré community that he works for Russia’s security agency…

But he said he nonetheless has a duty to serve the state, explaining that the Russian church has effectively been a government department since Peter the Great took control of religion in the early 18th century.

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