Documentary Highlights Orthodox Nationalism in Russia

Russian news announcer:

Today Moscow celebrated Paratroopers’ Day and the Orthodox Christian festival of St Elijah. The Federal and Moscow governments have decided to make it a joint holiday and to bring the paratroops and faithful together on Red Square because St Cyril is the patron saint of the paratroopers. The festivities demonstrated the union of the Holy and military spirit and was held with the approval of President Vladimir Putin. The president’s approval reflects the co-operation between the civil and church authorities…From now on, the church and army will celebrate their holidays together…Both sides are showing the way ahead: Patriotism.

Just one scene from Nino Kirtadze’s excellent documentary For God, Tsar and the Fatherland (also known as Russia’s Village of Fools), which gives us a window into Orthodox nationalism in contemporary Russia. A trailer can be viewed here; it was broadcast on BBC Four last week. The filmmakers take a “fly on the wall” approach, and they focus on Durakovo, a work camp and religious community where young Russians go to learn Orthodox values from a bear-like character named Mikhail Fedorvich Morozov. Morozov explains that he enjoys the support of the church hierarchy, and that his board of trustees includes Sergei Nikolaevich Baburin, the deputy speaker in the Duma. He also boasts in conversation that someone from State Security has paid him a visit; Barburin suggests gently that he ought to be more discreet. One scene shows Mikhail Morozov giving a sermon to his interns, mostly young people to whom he has given purpose and direction:

Let me speak seriously of my vision of the world: God is in heaven and the Tsar is on earth. There is no such thing as democracy with God. Everything is clearly hierarchical and everyone has his place. Everyone serves God…I like our president…and you have to obey him. It is your duty. Because there is only God-given authority…The democracy we had here [under perestroika] and the way it was imposed on us, well, we also saw what was happening. It brought only disaster and lawlessness…All this only leads to one thing – destruction…Today, more than ever, our country needs a vertical of power. If you don’t want to obey, fine, buy yourself a ticket to another country.

One of those who is under Morozov’s influence explains that he first met him at the Novospassky monastery in Moscow. A young boy at the camp tells the camera that

We sold our country to the Americans…The last thing to survive all this was the Orthodox Church.

Scenes at Durakovo are contrasted with Baburin’s activities in the Duma, such as a press conference where he explains that

Gorbachev opened the floodgates during perestroika, when freedom of speech was raised to the level of complete irresponsibility. And now that permissiveness is disappearing. Today the state controls television and radio. Now we are happy.

Ruminations on “imperial Russia” follow. Baburin also stresses the need to make links with Iran and Venezuela, and he meets a Venezuelan delegation.

Not encouraging developments…

(Incidentally, the documentary is profiled on the Why Democracy? website along with a number of other programmes that were recently broadcast by the BBC, including Bloody Cartoons, about the Danish Muhammad cartoon furore. However, if you’d like a bit of bathos rather than extremism and sinister nationalism, I would particularly recommend a viewing of The Kawasaki Candidate.)

One Response

  1. […] growing symbiosis between the Russian Orthodox Church and the state, which I blogged most recently here. This includes a cult of Putin, and a few months ago the church where his parents were baptised […]

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