The Kremlin Gets Religion

The ominous rise of nationalism and xenophobia promoted by the Kremlin is gaining a religious aspect, a strictly Russian Orthodox one. The latest step comes when, in districts around the country, the next school year will include religious instruction even for elementary school students. This article at a Canadian site is one of the few providing coverage internationally. It also mentions the letter to the Kremlin from prominent Russian academics protesting the encroachment of the Church into Russian political life.

The letter, which included the signatures of Nobel Laureates Vitaly Ginzburg and Zhores Alferov, received moderate coverage in the Russian press. But the nearly hysterical reaction to it in some quarters is notable and reveals how the Kremlin is playing the religion card. A website of the Kremlin’s United Russia party put up a revolting doctored photo of Ginzburg behind bars, wearing a yarmulke, and with the number “666” on a prison uniform. They now claim that Other Russia, which has issued a statement supporting the scientists, “are joining in the persecution of Orthodox Christianity.”

We spoke out to defend Russia’s rich heritage as a multi-ethnic state, a state that must provide equal treatment to all religions and their followers. Forced indoctrination of our citizens in a religion is as horrific as the abolishment of religion by the Soviets. This sudden embrace of the Church by careerist and corrupt politicians is beyond cynical. They are also heading full speed toward conflict with the Muslim populations in North Caucasus, which serves the Kremlin’s purpose of manufacturing threats to the nation as the election season approaches. They call our support of the scientists strange, but it is only a continuation of our belief in democratic values and the words of our constitution. We sincerely wonder if the members of United Russia have ever read that document.