Orthodox Movement Calls for Russian Scientist to be Prosecuted

From Interfax-Religion (again):

The People’s Council [“Narodny Sobor”], an Orthodox public movement, has appealed to the Moscow public prosecutor to try well-known scientist Vitaly Ginzburg for stirring up religious strife.

Ginzburg, a Nobel Prize winner who is in his nineties, had complained publicly about the influence of the resurgent Orthodox Church in Russian schools, and he argued that

‘by teaching religion in school, these… would like to ensnare children’s souls’

Ginzburg also recently co-signed a letter on the subject; Reuters reports:

The Orthodox church’s growing influence in Russia threatens to erode the separation of church and state and upset other officially-recognised religions, leading academics warned President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

“We are becoming increasingly concerned by the growing role of clerics in Russian society, by the Church’s penetration into all facets of social life,” several scientists, including two Nobel prize winners, said in an open letter to Putin.

(Indeed; on the academic front we’ve recently seen Orthodox nationalism corrupting standards in sociology and psychology)

…the letter, text of which was published in several national newspapers, implied criticism of the Kremlin chief for his overt sponsorship of church activities.

…The signatories included Zhores Alferov and Vitaly Ginzburg, who have won Nobel Prizes for science, and eight other distinguished scientists who are senior members of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Further details appear in English in the Russian press review section of the International Herald Tribune:

The never ending war between science and religion got kick start recently as Russian academics wrote an open letter to President Putin to protest against the interference of the Russian Orthodox Church in “all spheres of social life.” Vitaly Ginzburg, a Nobel Prize winner and coauthor of the letter, expressed revulsion at the Church’s forays into education, saying that this could have fatal consequences for young generations. “The Russian Orthodox Church persistently tries to make incursions into our schools. In some regions, they have already started teaching Theology,” he remarked indignantly in a telephone interview with the paper.

For the Orthodox activists of Narodny Sobor, the best way to deal with this is to have Ginzburg prosecuted. Back to Interfax:

‘I believe that through such statements in the press Vitaly Ginzburg incites religious enmity and insults dozens of millions of Christians in Russia’, Oleg Kassin, People’s Council coordinator, told the agency.

In this connection, he believes, the academician should be ‘tried for inciting religious enmity’.

This is a familiar rhetorical strategy in Russia these days; the Orthodox interpretation of “human rights” means the right of Orthodox believers not to be criticized or challenged; blasphemous artists should be imprisoned; gay rights protestors should be suppressed; and now critics of the church should be arrested.

This is not the only issue on which Ginzburg has spoken out in support of science; in May he complained that:

The pursuit of science in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia is driven by profit alone and there was less government interference even under Josef Stalin…

Putin had proposed bringing in a supervisory council of officials to oversee the Academy of Sciences, as a way “to reverse the continuing brain drain from Russia,” and “make research work lucrative”. Use of the academy assets was also a factor.

Ginzburg won the Nobel prize for physics in 2003; Alferov in 2000. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Ginzburg is an “ardent atheist”, and a strong supporter of both secular Jewish identity and the state of Israel. He has also attacked Alexander Solzhenitsyn over his views on the role of Jews in Russian history. This 1997 essay in Physics World describes his life under communism, and his slow disillusionment with the ideology.

Oleg Kassin of Narodny Sobor, meanwhile, is a rather less accomplished figure, with a background in far-right political activism. A 2000 report has some interesting details:

Russia’s neo-Nazi movement Russian National Unity (RNE) on Saturday officially announced the sacking of its long-time leader Aleksandr Barkashov and renamed itself in a bid to achieve political respectability.

Russian Revival, as the former black-shirted group is now known, is looking for representation in parliament, Russian NTV reported on Saturday.

Despite dropping Barkashov, who was pushed out on 21st September, and shedding Hitlerite trappings such as a swastika-like symbol, the organization continues to see as its main enemies “non-Russians and…Western civilization in the person of NATO”, the TV’s correspondent said.

A meeting of RNE regional representatives took the decision to reform on Saturday. They replaced Barkashov, who was accused of “Oriental occultism”, with Oleg Kassin, who told delegates that the movement had veered towards a personailty cult and was now turning to the Russian Orthodox Church for guidance.

Since then, Kassin has popped up in support of various Orthodox causes, such as a campaign to rebuild a monastery in Pushkin Square and against an art exhibition at the Sakharov Museum. According to a report from March Narodny Sobor represents “over 200 Orthodox Christian associations across Russia”.

Name variations: Vitaly Ginsburg; Vitaly Ginzburg; Vitaly Ginsberg; Vitaly Ginzberg; Vitali Ginsburg; Vitali Ginzburg; Vitali Ginsberg; Vitali Ginzberg

3 Responses

  1. There was a story about Roman Giertych and the League of Polish Families Herald Tribune yesterday:

    The League of Polish Families has also refused to distance itself from anti-Semitic statements made by the Reverend Tadeusz Rydzyk, the founder of Radio Maryja, a nationalist Roman Catholic radio station. Rydzyk has called Poland’s first lady “a witch” and her husband, President Lech Kaczynski, “a cheat who lets himself be influenced by the Jewish lobby.”

  2. […] 2007 they pushed for scientist Vitaly Ginzburg‘s prosecution for publicly criticizing the influence of the […]

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