One has to wonder whether there’s something in the Russian ‘blood’ that yearns for authoritarian rule. From the Tsar to the Communists to Putin. Here a Putin version of an old Soviet joke
Stalin appears to Putin in a dream, says: “Valdimir Vladimirovich, I have two pieces of advice for you. One: Kill all your enemies, without fear or favor. Two: Paint the Kremlin blue.”
Putin: “Why blue?”
The Russian Orthodox Church, pals of the Tsars, got left out in the cold by the Communists. Putin has invited it back in, and the embrace between state and church is firm. From Time
Indeed, rather than first give thanks to God in his speech, the head of the ROC, Patriarch Alexy, paid homage to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Patriarch emphasized that the reunification could happen only because the ROCOR saw in Putin “a genuine Russian Orthodox human being.” Putin responded in his speech that the reunification was a major event for the entire nation.
Nationalism, based on the Orthodox faith, has been emerging as the Putin regime’s major ideological resource. Thursday’s rite sealed the four-year long effort by Putin, beginning in September 2003, to have the Moscow Patriarchate take over its rival American-based cousin and launch a new globalized Church as his state’s main ideological arm and a vital foreign policy instrument. In February press conference, Putin equated Russia’s “traditional confessions” to its nuclear shield, both, he said, being “components that strengthen Russian statehood and create necessary preconditions for internal and external security of the country.” Professor Sergei Filatov, a top authority on Russian religious affairs notes that “traditional confessions” is the state’s shorthand for the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Church’s assertiveness and presence is growing — with little separation from the State. The Moscow City Court and the Prosecutor General’s Office maintain Orthodox chapels on their premises. Only the Orthodox clergy are entitled to give ecclesiastic guidance to the military. Some provinces have included Russian Orthodox Culture classes in school curricula with students doing church chores. When Orthodox fundamentalists vandalized an art exhibition at the Moscow Andrei Sakharov Center as “an insult to the main religion of our country,” the Moscow Court found the Center managers guilty of insulting the faith, and fined them $3,500 each. The ROC had an opera, based on a famous fairy tale by the poet Alexander Pushkin, censored to the point of cutting out the priest, who is the tale’s main protagonist. “Of course, we have a separation of State and Church,” Putin said during a visit to a Russian Orthodox monastery in January 2004. “But in the people’s soul they’re together.” The resurgence of a Church in open disdain of the secular Constitution is only likely to exacerbate divisions in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Russia.
From the Telegraph (Feb 08)
The president, a proud adherent, has allowed the Orthodox Church to regain much of its Tsarist-era lustre and has won the enthusiastic support of religious leaders in return.
With his hand-picked successor almost guaranteed victory in the March 2 poll, Mr Putin is determined to maintain the arrangement by holding on to the reins of power as prime minister.
The relationship might seem odd. It was the KGB, after all, that led persecution of the Church in Soviet times, when priests were regularly jailed, tortured and executed. Neither this nor accusations that Mr Putin is restoring many of the attributes of Soviet rule seem to bother Alexei.
Although he has never confirmed it, the patriarch, like the president, is a former KGB agent codenamed Drozdov, according to Soviet archives opened to experts in the 1990s.
Many in the Orthodox hierarchy are also accused of working as KGB informers, a fact that critics say the Church has never fully acknowledged.
“Essentially, the Orthodox Church is one of the only Soviet institutions that has never been reformed,” said one priest, who declined to be identified for fear that he could be defrocked. That fate already befell another colleague, Gleb Yakunin, in the 1990s when he called on Church leaders with KGB links to repent.
Yet it is not just the KGB that binds the Church and the Kremlin. In the Tsarist era, the Church was a committed supporter of the imperial rallying cry “orthodoxy, autocracy and nationhood.”
Critics say that Mr Putin, who draws as much of inspiration from imperial Russia as he does from the Soviet Union, has adopted the same mantra - making the president and the Church ideal bedfellows.
Both have blossomed from the relationship. The number of Russians who identify themselves as Orthodox has doubled in the past decade, with two-thirds of the 140 million population proclaiming the faith - quite a feat after seven decades of official atheism.
Yet most Russians say they follow Orthodoxy for national rather than moral reasons. Deeply patriotic and with a declared intention of making Russia great again, the Church has milked the sentiment.
Priests are regularly seen on television sprinkling holy water on bombers and even nuclear missiles, a blessing that reinforces Mr Putin’s own militaristic philosophy.
The Church has even supported Mr Putin’s repression of democracy, with a senior bishop last year comparing human rights activists to traitors.
When a prison chaplain suggested that the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a personal enemy of the president, was a political prisoner, he was promptly defrocked.