Russian Groups Come Together For Anti-Gay Protests Outside Moscow Embassies

Interfax reports on plans for a protest against gay marriage outside the French embassy in Moscow, including a handy round-up of the groups involved:

Apart from Russian Mothers, the protest is expected to involve representatives of the God’s Will organization, Family and the World, the Trade Union of Russian Citizens, the Association of Orthodox Experts, the Eurasian Youth Union, the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, the Union of Orthodox Citizens, the Orthodox Action Corporation, the Christian Solidarity Foundation, and the Coalition for Morality.

Some of the same groups recently held a protest outside the US embassy, in protest against the imposition of American values.

Russian Mothers is headed by Irina Bergset (var. “Irina Bergseth”). She was formerly married to a Norwegian, and she alleges that Norwegian authorities gave custody of her sons to her ex-husband despite her claim that he was a child sex abuser. Bergset also paints a lurid picture of Norway in general as a country that  promotes paedophilia, and her accusations include the bizarrely grotesque claim that her younger son was gang-raped while being forced wear a “Putin suit”.

Bergset further claims that social service interventions involving mixed Russian-Finnish families in Finland are due to “the ideology of feminism”, and in March, she organised a “Protect the Children” rally following the death of a Russian adoptee in the USA. An apparently critical account in English of some of  her claims appeared in the Moscow Times piece, which unfortunately is behind a subscription-only paywall; her ex-husband was interviewed in Russian media here.

God’s Will, meanwhile, came to notice in March, when it protested against evolution at a natural history museum; I discussed the group and its leader Dmitriy Enteo here.

Details of “Family and World” are scarce, although Bergset announced recently that:

…three organizations “Family and World”, “Russian Billion” and “Russian Mothers” representing parental and pro-family [groups] from 52 regions of the Russian Federation, and also a number of regional public organizations, declared the intention “to create in the nearest future active political family and parental structure”, namely fraction at Great Fatherland party.

The Trade Union of Russian Citizens (website here) famously attempted to sue Madonna for $10 million after she spoke in favour of gay rights at a concert in St Petersberg (the lawsuit was dismissed).

The Association of Orthodox Experts appeared on this blog in 2010, when it declared that the Iceland volcano eruption might be God’s wrath against gays and pagans.

The Eurasian Youth Union is headed by Alexander Dugin; according to a profile from the School of Russian and Asian Studies:

Dugin is a former member of the nationalist group Pamyat, which bills itself as a “People’s National Patriotic Orthodox Christian Movement” that sought to preserve Russian culture from a perceived Masonic/Zionist/Western threat. Dugin was also, however, one of the authors of the original political platform of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation when that party was formed as a successor to the banned Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

…the political program of the Eurasianist Youth Union… can be seen as a short, radical, and fiery expression of Dugin’s thought. The young Eurasianists would establish a new Eurasian empire wherein all cultures would be given the powers of local government to maintain their own laws and enforce their own values. To achieve this, they must fight against primarily the US, against liberals in Russia, and against a host of other enemies including “incompetent bureaucrats” and the “debased media.”

The Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia is perhaps a bit of an odd one out here, with an apparently progressive agenda; however, political divisions are not always clear-cut, and Patriarch Kirill’s eulogy to Hugo Chavez should perhaps be remembered here.

The Union of Orthodox Citizens has also appeared on this blog more than once – there is an overlap with the Association of Orthodox Experts in the person of Kirill Frolov. In 2012 it announced plans to form an Orthodox political party in collaboration with Dmitry Merkulov’s “Tsarist Russia”. According to RIA Novosti (which calls Merkulov’s group “Autocratic Russia”):

The new party will work to reinstate religious instruction in schools and emphasize traditional spiritual, moral and cultural values.

Valentin Lebedev, head of the Union of Orthodox Citizens, said the Russian Orthodox Church is currently under fierce attack because it is “the last pillar of Russian statehood, traditions and culture.”

The Orthodox Action Corporation opposed a gay Christian meeting in St Petersberg in 2011;  The Moscow News reported:

The movement to block the “sodomite meeting” was supported by Orthodox Action Corporation that includes academics and theologists from all over Russia, such as Deacon Andrei Kurayev, head of National Strategy Institute Stanislav Belkovsky and head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Vsevolo Chaplin.

The Christian Solidarity Foundation is perhaps the local branch of Christian Solidarity International, headed by Dmitry Pakhomov; in August last year he took part in a press conference on Syria, alongside figures that included “Nashi youth movement commissar Konstantin Goloskokov”, and he was a leading voice in the campaign to have members of Pussy Riot imprisoned; Gazeta reported:

The initial response of the church was restrained. However, two days after the incident in the Church of Christ the Savior, a missionary school rector at the Church of St. Thomas, Dmitry Pakhomov, and the co-chairman of Orthodox public movement “People’s Cathedral,” Oleg Kassin, both appealed to the Prosecutor General’s Office. A criminal case was then opened against Pussy Riot for “hooliganism” and the police began a search for the girls.

(I discussed Kassin here)

The Coalition for Morality (or the “Morals Coalition”, or just “For Morality”) is headed by Ivan Dyachenko; in October he led an anti-Pussy Riot protest outside the Moscow City Court while band members were appealing their prison sentences. Dyachenko explained that his fellow protestors were wearing white gowns because they wanted the defendants to be assessed by mental health professionals – a suggestion that of course has a particular resonance in Russian history. He has also complained that their sentence was too short, as “much more time is needed for the convicts to realize their mistake and show repentance”.

The group also gained attention in March, when it complained to the authorities about a newspaper article by Pavel Gusev, head of the Union of Journalists of Moscow. According to Itar-Tass, the group describes itself as “combating the violations of the rights of people and ‘the rights of our children’ and called for the protection of morality and the preservation of the Russian historical and cultural heritage.

Several of the above groups have also come together to form a “Christian Defence” group; according to Pravoslavie:

The association is currently comprised of the Association of Orthodox Experts, the international foundation “Christian Solidarity”, the charitable foundation of Protection of Family, Motherhood and Childhood, the Institute for Demographic Research, and the medical educational center, “Life”.