Thursday, November 27, 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

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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.

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15:34 November 26, 2014


So by now, we've all seen how passengers in Krasnoyarsk had to get out and push their flight out of the snow...

...and we've all seen the snarky Twitter memes this has inspired...

...but have you heard about onboard drunken onboard brawl that grounded a flight in Novosibirsk?

12:41 November 26, 2014


12:33 November 26, 2014


Via The Moscow Times:

A lawmaker on the State Duma's Defense Committee has proposed banning the import of French wines in response to Paris' decision to suspend delivery of the first of two helicopter carriers to Russia.

"Let's ban the sale of French wine in Russia," Deputy Vladimir Bessonov told Russian News Service radio on Tuesday. "Even talking about this can bring about desired results," he said, without specifying what these would be.

France, under pressure from its Western allies to cancel a 1.2 billion euro contract ($1.58 billion) with Russia for Mistral-class warships, said earlier Tuesday that it was suspending delivery of the first of two carriers because of Russia's meddling in eastern Ukraine.


12:21 November 26, 2014
12:20 November 26, 2014


12:18 November 26, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


By RFE/RL's Russian Service

The editor-in-chief of an independent Russian news website says he will seek political asylum in the United States.

Oleg Potapenko told RFE/RL on November 26 that he has arrived in the United States despite efforts by Russian authorities to prevent him from leaving the country.

Potapenko is editor of, a news site in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk that has reported about the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

On November 12, the openly gay Potapenko and his partner were prevented from boarding a flight from Khabarovsk to Hong Kong after border guards said a page was missing from Potapenko's passport.

Potapenko says the page was cut out by a police officer who requested his passport for a check earlier that day.

He told RFE/RL that he had managed to leave Russia from another city, Vladivostok, on November 16.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Russia's actions in Ukraine are a violation of international law and a threat to peace in Europe.

Speaking bluntly in an address to Germany's parliament on November 26, Merkel said, "Nothing justifies the direct or indirect participation of Russia in the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk."

She told the Bundestag that Russia's actions have "called the peaceful order in Europe into question and are a violation of international law."

But she suggested there was no swift solution, saying, "Our efforts to overcome this crisis will require patience and staying power."

Germany has become increasingly frustrated over Moscow's refusal to heed Western calls to stop supporting pro-Russian separatists who have seized control of large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in eastern Ukraine.

Close ties between Russia and Germany have been strained by the Ukraine crisis.

(Based on reporting by Reuters)


Ukraine has leveled fresh charges that Russia is sending military support to pro-Russian separatists in the east.

A foreign ministry spokesman said five columns of heavy equipment were spotted crossing into Ukrainian territory on November 24.

Evhen Perebyinis told journalists on November 25 that a total of 85 vehicles had been detected in the five columns that entered at the Izvaryne border crossing point from Russia.

"The Russian side is continuing to provide the terrorist organizations of the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics with heavy armaments," said Perebynisis.

Separately, the Ukrainian military said one soldier had been killed and five others wounded in the past 24 hours as a shaky cease-fire declared on September 5 continued to come under pressure.

The six-month conflict in the east of Ukraine has left more than 4,300 people dead, according to the United Nations.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)



Russia has rejected accusations that it is planning to annex Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told RFE/RL’s Current Time program on November 25: “There can be no question about any annexations.”

Georgia and the West have criticized a "strategic partnership" agreement between Russia and Abkhazia signed on November 24.

Tbilisi condemned the pact as an attempt by Moscow to annex the region.

Karasin also said Russia will “continue sparing no effort, nerves, financial expenses” to make sure its neighbors “do not feel endangered.”

"As a large state and a powerful country, Russia is constantly responsible for stability on its borders and everything that is under way along its borders," he added.

Under the "strategic partnership," Russian and Abkhaz forces in the territory will turn into a joint force led by a Russian commander.


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.

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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