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The Power Vertical

From A Diarchy To A Troika?

Medvedev, Putin, and Kirill
Medvedev, Putin, and Kirill
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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.

Gazeta.ru 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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Comments
     
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

While being in sympathy with your suggestion of how among other things "idealism," (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.

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.

As for Milosevic and Kosovo in 1989, he was
- honoring an historic battle, while approving of the concept of a multiethnic Yugoslavia
- making reference to the ultra-nationalist terrorism that was evident in that province.

Prior to the English language mass media hack jobs, there were credibly well established reports of such non-Serb violence in Kosovo.

Note that Turkish actions against the Kurds were either spun differently or ignored.

BTW, Izetbegovic's 1970 issued Islamic Declaration works well with the subject of looking back at the past and casting blame on others.

As for your stated "24/7 blame the West saturation," 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.

About This Blog

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

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