Russian Conference Slams “Western Culture”, Calls for Slavic and Orthodox Ideology

Interfax reports on yet another religious conflab in Russia: this time, it’s the “XI Meeting of the World Russian People’s Council”, at the Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. As with previous Council meetings, it provided a forum for the Russian Orthodox church and others to make pronouncements on Russian values and Russia’s place in the world.

The meeting’s focus was on wealth and poverty, and a message from Putin offered some platitudes on the subject:

‘It is obvious, that effective solving of these problems depends not only on economic growth or technological progress. Our society’s moral condition and ability to defend each person’s rights and interests are very important,’

The message was delivered just days after the suspicious “suicide” of Moscow journalist Ivan Safronov.

In opening comments, Metropolitan Kirill ruminated – in slightly obscure terms – on the Russian national character:

The Russian Orthodox Church welcomes ‘serious attempts to comprehend Russia’s originality through the prism of her spiritual and historical tradition…Among those attempts we may count such concepts as sovereign democracy, real sovereignty, Russian project, and empire conception rethought,’

Kirill followed this up with a rather less esoteric discussion of Russian energy pricing:

‘When Russia is asked questions about the price formation at her market, including energy resources prices, so she also should not hesitate to ask the same kind of questions…We do not make any attempts to influence price forming policies of transnational corporations, so why should Russia make excuses and explain her internal market price forming policies?’

Russia has used energy pricing as a means to leverage in a number of countries. A recent report in Businessweek gives a bit of background:

…Moscow has long sought to use its energy resources to regain the influence it lost with the breakup of the Soviet Union. But the headline-grabbing shutoffs of oil to Belarus and gas to Georgia and Ukraine in the past year are only the most visible part of the story.

For the last several years, the state-controlled gas monopoly, Gazprom, has been trying, with limited success, to get significant stakes in gas distribution networks in Central and Eastern Europe, while private Russian operators have been buying gasoline retailers across the region…

However, the spat with Belarus – whose dictator Alexander Lukashenko was been honoured more than once by the Russian Orthodox Church for his pan-Slavic sentiments – has apparently been controversial in Russia, where some hope for a future in which Belarus is united with Moscow. Political scientist Alexander Tsipko spoke on the subject:

‘If for the elite ruling in Russia this world is of no spiritual and moral value, as it was illustrated by the gas war on Belarus, what can the Russian Church do in this circumstances?’ the scientist wondered.

Earlier, Tsipko called the current period of the Russian Orthodox history ‘very dramatic.’ The recent gas conflict with Belarus may ‘result in her leaving the Russian Orthodox world’ and the collapse ‘of the still unborn Union State,’ he said.

Tsipko also called for the church to enjoy more support from the state:

‘The Russian Orthodox Church is indeed the only one spiritual and organizing power in the former Soviet Union, which is able to consolidate others. But we all clearly understand that the church is not self-existing and her initiatives need to be backed by the state,’

Orthodox privilege was also demanded by Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin:

…Ideological neutrality of the state is ‘rather mythical than real now’ as the modern Western society is ‘ideologized’ and often ‘values the idea more than the human person,’ Fr. Vsevolod said. ‘That is why the very issue of religiously neutral state is misleading and ‘intends to clear the way for other ideologies,’ he added.

‘So the Orthodox tradition has full right to demand ideological preferences from the state, and the society may demand having their ideological preferences reflected by the state policies,’ he noted.

Unity of the people and authorities is natural for the Orthodox world while ideas of economical and political competition or ‘dirigible conflict’ give way to the consolidation of the society, he said.

Other speakers also stressed the spiritual side of things:

Mikhail Leontyev, a well-known TV observer, has urged to realize in Russia an economic model based on values traditional for the country rather than copying the Western one.

‘Our culture, civilization and values have nothing to do with the culture which claims to be Christian. We know that ‘in God we trust’ is inscribed on the dollar but I have an impression that it is not our God’, he said…

An unsubtle swipe at feminism and gays followed:

‘The refusal of liberal communities to reproduce themselves is a doom because, motivated by hedonism, they destroy the very basis of reproduction of human beings as species’, he noted.

Singing from the same song-sheet was Ukrainian communist leader Petr Simonenko:

“We have seen with our own eyes and realized and experienced what ‘Western culture’ is. People hoped naively that they were given access to the ‘silver tap’ pouring out the pure spring water of Western culture. In real fact however, a huge cloaca has been opened to let out the ‘mass culture’ sewage”…

Simonenko stressed that the Slavic culture was now defiled… [and] also noted that ‘it is impossible to overcome the systemic spiritual crisis growing into national disasters both in Ukraine and Russia without preserving our common history and culture, our Slavonic languages, our Slavic humanistic traditions’.

Other religious traditions represented at the Council raised similar issues; according to Valery Engel of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia:

“Russia is a Eurasian civilization, which can develop a mega-civilization pattern that rests on values of traditional religions tomorrow,” he said, calling on the Russian Interreligious Council to launch a discussion on the principles and basis of the Eurasian ideology.

Farid Asadullin of the Russian Council of Muftis added that

“We share the approaches of the Russian Orthodox Church on the importance of understanding Russia’s civilizational characteristics,”

The Council of Muftis also used the occasion to reveal a conspiracy against Russia:

‘…The rapprochement between Russia and the Islamic world has given no rest to our opponents, since our unity threatens their global plans of world domination…The rapprochement between Russia and the Islamic world has given no rest to our opponents, since our unity threatens their global plans of world domination…the enemies of Russia and Islam have allotted considerable financial resources [and]…they are preparing a number of propagandistic actions aimed to stir up inter-ethnic and interreligious conflicts and to discredit the Russian Federation in the eyes of the world Muslim public.’

One wonders if by “rapprochement”, the Mufti was referring to the plan to sell Russian arms to Iran and Syria, using Belarus as middleman (Lukashenko and Ahmadinejad have had some cosy meetings). That was the subject that Ivan Safronov was working on when he mysteriously fell to his death.

One Response

  1. […] discussed the Council previously in 2007, and Kirill more generally here. WRPC conferences have also been promoted in the USA by the World […]

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