Sunday, April 14, 2013

Nationality in Russia Defined By Religion

from Paul Goble: "Nationality in Russia Increasingly Defined By Religion"

Commentary by Sbn. Konstantin Preobrazhensky follows below

EXACTLY A TRUE AND correct an analysis!

Thursday, April 11, 2013
Window on Eurasia: Nationality in Russia Increasingly Defined by Religion, Moscow Scholar Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, April 11 – A most dangerous trend in Russian social and political life is “’the nationalization’of religion,” transforming it from one ethnic characteristic among many into“the most important component of ethno-national identity” and “the basis for the development of nationalistic attitudes,” according to a Moscow scholar.

This trend is particularly threatening because it holds not only for Islam but also for Orthodoxy and “all [the other] faiths of Russia, including the shamanism of the northern peoples,”according to Tatyana Koval, a professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (

From Soviet times on, observers have talked about “ethnic Muslims,” people who are members of traditionally Islamic nationalities but who know little about the faith and do not consciously follow its precepts. But Russians have been less prepared to use the same terminology for other religious groups, even though it is obviously relevant.

Koval focuses her remarks on the Russian Orthodox. She notes that “the overwhelming majority of Russians – some 75 percent – call themselves Orthodox but at the same time almost half of them do not believe in God.” And that“ethnic principle,” which holds that “Russian means Orthodox,” is also supported by the Russian Orthodox Church.

By routinely speaking about “the cultural canonical territory,” the Church “in other words” is accepting the idea that “attachment to religion ‘by blood’ does not require either the presence of faith as such or knowledge about the bases of doctrine or even about religious practice or fulfillment of the commandments.”

Instead, Koval says, this idea“reanimates archaic aspects of consciousness and easily can become an instrument of political mobilization and a means for unity against any common, if dreamed up ‘enemy,’ a milieu for the development of aggression and force committed ‘in the name of God,’ ‘for the defense of faith and the church,’ and so on.”

A similar pattern holds for most other religions in the Russian Federation at the present time, she continues, and this “gives birth to ethnic conflicts under religious banners,” something that makes them more difficult to address or overcome and thus more dangerous for both individuals and society as a whole.

This is just one of three ways that“the religious renaissance in Russia” is not unifying people in that country but rather “in many respects dividing” them, the scholar says, as the events of the last year have shown. The situation has become so dire, she suggests, that many researchers in this area are now speaking of “two peoples and two churches.”

The second divisive tendency is “the politicization of religion,” the scholar argues. In recent years, Koval says,“the Russian Orthodox Church has ever more become not only a religious instrument but an important independent political player both on the territory of Russia and in the world, in the first instance on the post-Soviet space.”

The ROC “ever more recalls a closed corporation” with a distinctive authoritarian and imperial program, interested in “a symphony with the state,” a rejection of democracy in favor of monarchy, and the promotion of a “Russian world” geopolitical project. And it has as a result, “politicized the issue of the number of Orthodox believers.”

With a slight delay, the Church has constructed within its hierarchy “a power vertical” and “a year ago,” it appeared to many in the Russian Federtion that there was “a new power tandem, the President and the Patriarch,” especially since “a number of senior government officials” were brought it to head “religious organizations and foundations.”

And third, the Higher School of Economics professor says, by focusing on political activity rather than the care of its flock, the ROC has promoted “the ideologization of religion.”Orthodoxy in this conception “plays the role of an ideology” which “is becoming almost ‘obligatory’ for many in the leading political parties and state structures.”

This ideology can be defined as“statist” and oriented toward a “great power” point of view. That represents a major departure from the early 1990s and means that the Church is increasingly oriented “toward anti-democratic ideas and authoritarian forms of rule” in the Russian Federation.

At the same time, the social activity of the Church has declined, and as a result, “it is losing out to other religious organizations above all Protestant ones in the organization and mobilization of believers” who are interested in acting on their religious convictions by helping the poor and the disadvantaged.

All three of these trends “are becoming especially dangerous under the conditions of the colossal gap between external religiosity and complete ignorance of the bases of the faith among Russians,” Koval says, and as a result, “we see not the rebirth of the Orthodox faith,  but religious syncretism, the rebirth of paganism, archaic faiths, magic and witchcraft.”

(In yesterday’s “Rossiiskaya gazeta,” director Andrey Konchalovsky makes exactly the same point, arguing that at the present time, most ethnic Russians are in fact pagans regardless of what they tell each other or themselves (

The ROC has made this situation worse by distorting underlying Christian values, stressing the sinful nature of man and his inability to overcome it “without the help of Church pastors and government bureaucrats” – a sharp contrast to Western Christianity with its stress on a natural moral law.” As a result, the ROC says that “’secular humanism’” is “the main enemy.”

This is “a mistake in principle,”Koval says, “because namely secular humanism and a sincere faith can be the main allies in the struggle with the real enemy of the common good – anger and hatred, the destruction of life … the demeaning of human dignity and the undermining of justice.”

Unless the ROC changes its social doctrine to bring it “into correspondence with constitutional” ideas and supports love, mercy and forgiveness rather than “the establishment of detachments of “Orthodox militants and similar groups,” she concludes, “the spiritual and moral recovery of society will hardly be complete.”

Another slant

Commentary by Sbn. Konstantin Preobrazhensky 
Dear Brother Daniel:

Paul Goble is a typical American humanitarian scholar.  What do I mean?  It means that sometimes Americans can not see a difference between reliable and false Russian sources.  That is why Putin is deceiving America so successfully, by the way.

Paul Goble refers to a Tatyana Koval, a professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. But who is she? I have never heard such a name as an authority in religious matters. Why should I believe her? And also Paul Goble refers to the following phrase of this doubtful professor: "From Soviet times on, observers have talked about “ethnic Muslims.”

It is simply not true!  There was no such a phrase in Soviet historical science and journalism! I say it as a former Soviet historian and journalist myself.  Sometimes it was used, but in a different context: "Muslim peoples".  But it was related only to foreign Muslims! It could not be related to the Soviet Union, where all the nations were supposed to give up all religion! And to great extent they have done it!

None of the Soviet historians or journalists could dare using such a phrase as, for example, "Uzbeks are ethnic Muslims".

Such a phrase could cost a writer his career!  He could be expelled from the Communist Party and lose a position as a Professor.  He was allowed to say only the following: " Uzbeks are a Soviet nation, a part of a new historical integrity, the Soviet people.  Unfortunately, some part of Uzbeks did not get rid of the relics of religion, but they are doing it now very successfully."  And a Head of Kazakhstan was reporting proudly to the Central Committee of the Communist Party: "The Kazakh people have given up religion very easily!"  And it was not a falsehood either! As Islam had gotten a very weak spread in Kazakhstan.

And also the phrase by this doubtful historian, Tatiana Koval, is incorrect from a historical point of view! Because the oldest nation of the so called "ethnic Muslims" of Russia, the Tatars, are not only Muslims! A part of them are Orthodox Christians.  They are called "Kryastchens", which means "baptized". They exist since 17th century!  In Kazan and other places of Tataria they have Russian Orthodox churches, where the sermon is delivered in the Tatarian language.

Shame on the so called Professor Tatiana Koval!

And I am very much disappointed with the fact that Paul Goble, such an outstanding scholar, could write such an nonprofessional article.

Please, dear Brother Daniel, make my comments public and forward them to Paul Goble.

In Christ,
Subdeacon Konstantin (Preobrazhinsky)-

Comments of Archb. Chrysostom of Etna, on this article by Paul Goble: 

March 30, 2013 (Old Style)
St. John Klimakos
To: Exarchate Clergy, Faithful, and Friends:
From: Archbishop Chrysostomos

Ελογία Κυρίου.

Two matters from questions and correspondence that arrived while I was away from the monastery, and which I will try to answer, now, following my return last evening.

First, further to the issue of Putin's Oligarchy and his mistreatment of minorities, both ethnic and religious, therein—about which I received a number of notes and some very interesting material—a recent report by Paul Goble (see the link below) makes some tangential observations which contribute to that conversation. Putin's régime has posed very effectively as one that promotes the religious and cultural values of Orthodoxy. As you all know, I dispute this as a false claim, since an Orthodoxy that claims its primacy in the context of denying personal and civil rights to minority ethnic (cultural) and religious groups is not an authentic Orthodoxy. If we adhere to the Patristic ideals (and Orthodox have admittedly not always done so historically ), we do not preach primacy in an exclusionary context and at the cost of usurping the  civil freedom of the non-Orthodox. Thus, the obvious and undeniable favoritism shown by Putin's government to its "official" Orthodox Church is reprehensible. 

Moreover, even if one were to argue for certain perquisites and special consideration for one religion over another, by virtue of preserving the dominant cultural or national traditions of a nation of ethnic group, Putin assuredly does not grant this consideration to Orthodox by virtue of their adherence to the Faith and traditions of their ancestors. After, all his government openly persecutes Orthodox groups, such as our Sister Church under Metropolitan Agafangel, that are separated over matters of genuine spiritual tradition on account of the innovations, history of collaboration with the Soviets by its Hierarchy, and political orientation of the Moscow Patriarchate. These groups are treated manifestly unjustly and experience undeniable persecution, despite their traditional Orthodox confession. Contrived "officialdom" visited upon a body by a political entity of questionable Orthodoxy itself does not constitute a viable criterion for Orthodox legitimacy. 

The fact is, as any rational and intelligent observer can determine, that Putin's Oligarchy has simply enfranchised the Moscow Patriarchate as an instrument of its internal and external political policies. Through it, the State strives to create political solidarity and an international presence outside Russia, the latter goal through the enlistment of Russian Orthodox religious communities into its quasi-imperialistic aims by exploiting their ethnic and nationalistic sentiments. Were this not so, it would welcome the traditional opponents of the Moscow Patriarchate as rich contributors to the revival and preservation of Orthodox tradition in an increasingly religiously diverse Russia.  Putin's Oligarchy, however, is interested, not in religious tradition, but in using the power of religious tradition for its political purposes.

As the article below affirms, almost half of those who are part of the "rebirth" of Orthodoxy in Russia, while claiming to be Orthodox, do not believe in God! This statistic alone offers very powerful reinforcement for my argument that Putin—himself the clumsy product of a false claim to religious belief and a commitment to democratic values, as anyone familiar with multi-national intelligence reports of his actual activities as a KGB officer (read: virtual thug) in the former German "Democratic" Republic (East Germany) knows—is not in the least interested in Orthodox religious traditions, but is using the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate to further his sundry political agenda. The sanitized religious leader of Russia (with his supposed outstanding intellectual achievements and his doctoral degree in Economics) is as much a creation of the Soviet legacy that lies at the foundation of his Oligarchy ("Russia") as the Moscow Patriarchate, with its active promotion of an Orthodoxy stripped of belief in God!

Naive westerners who have not lived or worked in an Eastern European country are quick to imagine that Putin's Russia is either a democratic state (to those who have basic reading abilities and a rudimentary knowledge of social and political trends in Russia today, this is comical), or have bought into the myth that Putin is recreating the old Russian Empire (if so, assuredly without its solid Orthodox foundations and the virtues in its leader and people necessary for a monarchical system to work effectively and justly). Putin's Oligarchy operates on murder, corruption, and duplicity in a state founded by former KGB agents and cutthroats who do not deserve, whatever their political clout in a greedy world in which politics has become dirtier than one could ever have imagined, the honor of being called leaders or statesmen. A number of Russian journalists and film makers have made this quite clear in exposés that have reached the West of late, and they unequivocally point out that Putin's Oligarchy is not a democracy. Putin's "Orthodox" Russian State is also not Orthodox, for the greater part, and does not in any way convey the values and inner spiritual core of the Orthodox ethos that once transformed Russia.

The second matter that I would like to address is pertinent only to our Greek-speaking faithful. …...

** Ironically, if one wants to find something akin to unintelligent inconsistency, keep the Stalinist formula for writing in mind while reading the prolix and pleonastic tomes of Marxist political theory or the surviving poetry of Stalin himself, who wrote verses with a beauty that today's effete critics would dismiss as romantic and which the equally unskilled critics of his own creation might have called "bourgeois".

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