Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Power Vertical

From A Diarchy To A Troika?

Medvedev, Putin, and Kirill
Medvedev, Putin, and Kirill
Patriarch Kirill I has not been shy about flexing his political muscles since being enthroned in February. Now it seems he will be granted a semi-formal role in shaping legislation. is reporting that Kirill met on July 8 with representatives from the ruling United Russia party to hammer out the church's legislative role.

Here's how Andrei Isaev, a leading United Russia member who heads the State Duma's Committee for Social Policy, described the results:

We agreed to inform the church of legislation that we are working on that is of interest to the patriarch. These bills will be sent to the church so they can study them and let us know if they have any objections or suggestions.

There is nothing unusual in this. When we work on labor issues we discuss them with trade unions. In the same way, we will discuss spiritual and moral issues with the church.

And it seems that Kirill already has some moral and spiritual issues on his mind. Specifically, he is seeking to keep sex education out of Russia's schools.

In May, Russia ratified the European Social Charter, which calls for health education in schools, including sex education. Kirill is determined to make sure this doesn't happen when the Duma codefies the charter into Russian law.

And what about other denominations and other confessions? Will they have a voice in the Duma's business as well? Here's what Isaev had to say about that:

The Russian Orthodox Church initiated this themselves. They are the only church that has done so. If other religions want to participate in the work of the legislature, they can appeal to us. If they represent a significant portion of the electorate, we will consider their request.

The clause "if they represent a significant portion of the electorate," it seems, speaks volumes about the authorities' attitudes toward religious minorities. Any other denomination or religion, of course, is going to be dwarfed by Orthodox Christianity in terms of representation among voters.

What is going on between the Orthodox Church and the Russian state appears to be much more than just routine lobbying. 

Instead, church and state are increasingly acting in concert and Orthodoxy seems be inching closer and closer to becoming a de facto state religion. 

Russian public schools, for example, have been incorporating Orthodox Christianity as a required part of their curriculum in some regions. This is causing fierce opposition in predominantly Muslim regions like Tatarstan.

But anybody who speaks out too loudly against the church, can easily find themselves in trouble with the law.

As Paul Goble blogged reported over at Window On Eurasia back in April, Tatar activist who wrote an article protesting the baptism of infants by Orthodox priests without the knowledge of their parents was convicted of "provoking interethnic and inter-religious hostility."

One has to wonder, given these trends and Kirill's rising influence, if Russia's much-discussed diarchy of Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin is on the way to becoming a de facto troika.

-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: patriarch,kirill,duma,state,orthodox,church

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Ray from: Lawrence, KS
July 09, 2009 20:36
You know what they say about Russia and threesomes. While in its essence, the Kremlin leadership’s religiosity may be sheer window dressing, it is an ideology which the less enlightened Russians may end up offering a sacrifice to. Just as Milosevic was able to inspire the Serbs on the fields of Kosovo in 1989, or the democratic/freedom babble that served as a pretext for the American engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, man/soldier needs an “idea” to redeem his selfish, aggressive behavior. You don’t have to scratch too deeply among the Russian narod today to uncover the rough beast of a virulent nationalism, tinged with divine favor. Continued economic strains, mixed with 24/7 media “blame the west/U.S” saturation, may lead to the appearance of some rough Russian beast that bears little resemblance to the largely rational Putin/Medvedev tandem.

by: Michael Averko
August 02, 2009 10:18
Ray<br /><br />While being in sympathy with your suggestion of how among other things &quot;idealism,&quot; (for lack of a better word) can lead to otherwise unnecessary and negative behavior, there'e more to the ROC then what you suggest. Some of it is positive.<br /><br />To get to the level of your comparative points, one can stress how the Vatican seemed jumpy in getting the predominately Catholic Croatia's independence recognized - despite that part of the now former Yugoslavia having some negative issues.<br /><br />As for Milosevic and Kosovo in 1989, he was <br />- honoring an historic battle, while approving of the concept of a multiethnic Yugoslavia<br />- making reference to the ultra-nationalist terrorism that was evident in that province.<br /><br />Prior to the English language mass media hack jobs, there were credibly well established reports of such non-Serb violence in Kosovo. <br /><br />Note that Turkish actions against the Kurds were either spun differently or ignored. <br /><br />BTW, Izetbegovic's 1970 issued Islamic Declaration works well with the subject of looking back at the past and casting blame on others.<br /><br />As for your stated &quot;24/7 blame the West saturation,&quot; one can find the reverse in English language mass media. This point doesn't get as much attention, as English language mass media is the more influential media variant.

The Power Vertical Feed

In this space, I will regularly comment on events in Russia, repost content and tweets I find interesting and informative, and shamelessly promote myself (and others, whose work I like). The traditional Power Vertical Blog remains for larger and more developed items. The Podcast, of course, will continue to appear every Friday. I hope you find the new Power Vertical Feed to be a useful resource and welcome your feedback. More

19:16 November 21, 2014


On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we use the one-year anniversary of the Euromaidan uprising to look at how it changed both Ukraine and Russia. My guests are Sean Guillory and Alexander Motyl.

09:14 November 21, 2014
09:11 November 21, 2014


09:09 November 21, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:

Ukrainians are marking a new national holiday on November 21 -- the anniversary of the start of Kyiv’s Euromaidan protests that led to the ouster of the country’s former pro-Kremlin regime.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed decree on November 13 that declared the holiday for annual “Day of Dignity and Freedom” celebrations.
The protests began with a few hundred people who met spontaneously on a vast square in central Kyiv of November 21, 2013 – disappointed by then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of a landmark deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
After that first night, as the protests quickly swelled to tens of thousands of demonstrators, brutal police efforts to disperse the crowds with batons and teargas backfired.
As the crowds got bigger, the protesters began to call for Yanukovych’s ouster – which came in February 2014 after more than 100 people were killed in clashes with police that failed to end the demonstrations.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was expected to announce an increase in nonlethal U.S. military assistance to Ukraine on November 21 as he meets in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
The talks come on the first anniversary of the start of the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv that toppled Ukraine's former pro-Kremlin regime.
As Biden arrived in Kyiv on the evening of November 20, U.S. officials told reporters that he will announce the delivery of Humvee transport vehicles that are now in the Pentagon’s inventory of excess supplies.
They said Biden also would announce the delivery of previously promised radar units that can detect the location of enemy mortars.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not specify a dollar value for the assistance. 
Russia on November 20 warned the United States not to supply weapons to Ukrainian forces.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich cautioned against "a major change in policy of the (U.S.) administration in regard to the conflict" in Ukraine. 
He was commenting on remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama's choice to fill the number two spot at the State Department, Anthony Blinken, who told a congressional hearing on November 19 that lethal assistance "remains on the table. It's something that we're looking at."
The U.S. State Department's Director of Press Relations Jeffrey Rathke on November 20 told reporters that "our position on lethal aid hasn't changed. Nothing is off the table and we continue to believe there's no military solution."
He added, "But, in light of Russia's actions as the nominee mentioned [on November 19] in his testimony, as he indicated, this is something that we should be looking at."
The aid expected to be announced by Biden on November 20 falls short of what the Ukrainian president requested during a visit to Washington in September when he appealed for lethal aid - a request echoed by some U.S. lawmakers in response to what NATO allies say is Russia's movement of tanks and troops into eastern Ukraine.
In September, Washington promised Ukraine $53 million in aid for military gear that includes the mortar detection units, body armor, binoculars, small boats, and other nonlethal equipment for Ukrainian security forces and border guards in the east.
The United States and its European allies have imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russia for its seizure of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine.
(With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and TASS)

Russian Olympian hockey player Slava Voynov – who plays with the Los Angeles Kings NHL hockey team – has been charged with felony domestic violence against his wife.
Voynov faces one felony count of spouse abuse with a maximum penalty of nine years in prison. If convicted, he also could be deported.
Prosecutors say Voynov “caused his wife to suffer injuries to her eyebrow, check, and neck” during an argument at their home in October.
Voynov has been suspended from the NHL since his arrest early on October 20 at a California hospital where he took his wife for treatment.
Voynov’s attorney, Craig Renetzky, says his client didn’t hit his wife.
Renetzky blames the charges on a misunderstanding between police and Voynov’s wife, who speaks very little English.
Voynov – who played on Russia’s team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics -- faces arraignment on December 1.
(Based on reporting by AP and Reuters)

NATO says Russia's growing military presence in the skies above the Baltic region is unjustified and poses a risk to civil aviation.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Tallinn on November 20 that the aircraft regularly fail to file flight plans or communicate with air controllers and also fly with their transponders off.
Speaking at the Amari air base, he said alliance fighters have intercepted planes more than 100 times in the Baltic region alone so far this year, a threefold increase over 2013. 
He did not say how many of the intercepted aircraft were Russian.
Stoltenberg also said that, overall, NATO aircraft have conducted 400 intercepts to protect the airspace of its European alliance members in 2014 -- an increase of 50 percent over last year.
(Based on reporting by AP and AFP)


16:55 November 19, 2014


Konstantin Eggert has a commentary in "Kommersant" on Russia's anti-Americanism. He opens like this:

"Sometimes I have this feeling that there are only two countries in the world - Russia and the United States. Of course, there is Ukraine, but it either to join us or the Americas. Russian politicians and state television are constantly in search of the 'American hand' in all spheres of our life. In Soviet times, the United States was formally considered to be our number one military and ideological enemy. But even then it didn't occupy such a large space in the minds of the political leadership and citizens. And the paradox is that, on one hand, officials and the media regularly talk about the decline of America as a great power, and on the other declare it to be the source of all evil in the world. This contradiction does not seem to disturb anybody."

And closes like this:

We still have not been able to use the opportunity that we were given with the collapse of the communist regime - to arrange our lives based on liberty and civic virtue. And today, we, as a people, want to go back to the starting point, to beat everyone. And the Soviet Union, with its absence of sausage and freedom, again suddenly seems sweet and dear. But it won't happen. I will put it banally: you can't go into the same river twice.

Read the whole thing here (in Russian, with audio)

15:53 November 19, 2014


MIchael Weiss, editor-in-chief of The Interpreter magazine, appearing on Hromadske TV to talk about Russia's information war.

Michael and Peter Pomarantsev recently co-authored an excellent report "The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money." Both also appeared recently on The Power Vertical Podcast to discuss the report.

15:42 November 19, 2014


Oleg Kosyrev has a snarky and clever blog post on the subject up on the Ekho Moskvy website. 

1) The United States is the ideal opponent. "It is big and strong and your self-esteem increases when you fight somebody really influential."

2) The United States is not fighting with Russia. "They aren't really interested. They have enough of their own problems and dreams. It's nice to fight somebody who is not fighting you."

3) It is a substitute for the authorities' inability to benefit Russians. "How convenient. Who is to blame for rising food and gas prices? The U.S.A.. Who is to blame for the fact that Russian has political prisoners? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for people demonstrating on the streets? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for the fact that independent international courts denounce the Russian court system? The U.S.A. You can even blame the U.S. for the fact that the light doesn't work in the entrance to your apartment building."

Read it all (in Russian) here.

15:23 November 19, 2014


14:47 November 19, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Ukraine says it will not tolerate pressure from any other country over whether or not it seeks to join NATO.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebyynis spoke made the remark to reporters in Kyiv on November 19, after the BBC quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying in an interview that Moscow wants "a 100 percent guarantee that no-one would think about Ukraine joining NATO."

Hitting back with a reference to Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Perebyynis said Kyiv would like guarantees that Moscow will not interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs, send in troops, or annex Ukrainian territories. 

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, told journalists on November 19 that any decision on seeking to join NATO could be made only by the Ukrainian people, not by Russia, Europe, ar the United States.

The Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, made a similar statement on November 19.

(Based on reporting by UNIAN and Interfax)


President Vladimir Putin says that Russia is ready for cooperation with the United States as long as Washington treats Moscow as an equal, respect its interests, and refrains from interfering in its affairs.

Putin spoke November 19 at a Kremlin ceremony during which he received the credentials of foreign envoys including John Tefft, the new U.S. Ambassador to Moscow.

Putin said, "We are ready for practical cooperation with our American partners in various fields, based on the principles of respect for each other's interests, equal rights and non-interference in internal matters." 

The remark echoed a formula Putin set out in a foreign policy decree at the start of his third term in 2012.

Tefft, 64, is a career diplomat who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania. 

His posting starts at a time when ties are badly strained over the Ukraine crisis. 

Tefft replaces Michael McFaul, who was ambassador from January 2012 until February 2014. 

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)



Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has signaled that a landmark nuclear arms treaty with the United States is not in jeopardy despite severe tension over Ukraine.

Speaking to Russian lawmakers on November 19, Lavrov said the 2010 New START treaty "meets our basic strategic interests and, on condition of its observance by the United States, we are interested in its full implementation."

The treaty, one of the main products of President Barack Obama's first-term "reset" of ties with Russia, requires Russia and the United States to have their long-range nuclear arsenals under specific ceilings by 2018.

But Lavrov said the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which President Vladimir Putin suspended in 2007, is "dead" for Moscow. 

NATO has refused to ratify a revised version of the CFE treaty without a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova and Georgia.

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or