Putin Critics Cause Nashi-ng of Teeth

Another Russian church leader has warned against any emulation of the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” in Russia. Last month it was Sergei Ryakhovsky, one of the country’s main Pentecostal leaders; this time it’s Vsevolod Chaplin of the Russian Orthodox Church, as reported in the Moscow Times:

“Russia has already lived through one colored revolution — a red one,” Vsevolod Chaplin said on Saturday in a speech to leaders of the Nashi youth movement at their summer camp on Lake Seliger, northwest of Moscow, Interfax reported.

“Russia will not survive a new revolution,” said Chaplin, who is the church’s deputy head for external relations.

Nashi, or Us, is seen by many as a Kremlin-orchestrated effort to build a bulwark against a potential popular uprising in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. The group gained attention shortly after its founding in April for its aggressively patriotic rhetoric and the staging in May of a rally in Moscow attended by 50,000 people…According to Nashi head Vasily Yakemenko, the movement currently has more than 150,000 members nationwide.

The article carries criticism from Lawrence Uzzell, of International Religious Freedom Watch:

“The Moscow Patriarchate is the last surviving Soviet institution both in terms of its statist mentality and its imperialist mentality,” Uzzell said. “In a sense it is an empire-restoring institution that is used by the Russian state as a vehicle for political interference in the affairs of countries like Ukraine.”

The Nashi youth group (which denies official links with the Orthodox Church) was in fact formed a bit earlier than April. Back in March Paul Goble noted some of its aims, as quoted from a Nashi leaflet:

“We want to work in order to ensure that true democracy will triumph in our country. Because at present, Russia is being governed according to the principles of the democratic society of the US. And as the practice of recent years shows, democracy in the US does not exist; instead, that country is ever more a mix of an aggressive dictatorship of power and anarchy in society.”

And it continues, “We must not allow ourselves to become the same. We are simply obliged to ensure the observance of all civil freedoms, to cure the bureaucracy of corruption and to stop the arbitrary actions of the force structures. In our view, the key posts in the state must be occupied by genuine practical specialists.”

Goble also notes the response of Boris Falikov, a Russian religion scholar:

He notes that various groups on the fringes of society have been encouraged by official backing for a struggle against foreign influences and now believe they can engage in violence against them without any risk of being punished for such actions – as many of them have been able to do in recent months.

“Foreign influence” was Ryakhovsky’s complaint against the “Orange Revolution”, it’s worth remembering.

In another article, Goble discusses Nashi’s tactics:

…”Nashi” leadership added that among those sympathizing with fascism and thus dangerous for Russia and especially the country’s youth are Duma members Irina Khakamada and Vladimir Ryzhkov, Yabloko youth leader Ilya Yashin, chess champion-turned-political activist Garri Kasparov, and Yukos co-counder Leonid Nevzlin.

The group’s efforts to attach the epithets fascist or fascist sympathizers to virtually anyone who opposes President Vladimir Putin’s current course has lead many of those placed on this latest Russian “enemies” list to dismiss it as absurd or as exemplifying the very problem that “Nashi” leaders say they are fighting against.

(Story tipped from Christianity Today weblog)