Russian version

Extremism and xenophobia in electoral campaigns in 1999 and 2000

Alexander Verkhovsky


As we have already said in our review of the religious factor in the parliamentary campaign[1], on the eve of that campaign the Patriarchy was ideologically closest to Luzhkov's "Motherland" ("Otechestvo"). After the failure of the "Motherland The Entire Russia" at the Parliamentary Election, and the weakening of the church lobby in the new Duma, the pragmatic Patriarchy could no longer link its fate with Luzhkov; but even so, the essence of its ideological platform did not change.

The Patriarchy's Platform 99
The contours of the Patriarchy's platform were outlined in the detailed statements of Patriarch Alexii II himself and Metropolitan Kirill, Chair of the Department of External Communications of the Church (OVTsS), published in 1999 in the newspaper "NG-Religions". Herein, it would not be suitable to give a thorough analysis of those texts, but we shall point out their most significant aspects.
In his statement, the Patriarch spoke both against Marxism and against a consumers' society. He juxtaposed the traditional concept of the state within the ethnical and confessional framework with the liberal perception of the state and its role. He spoke directly about the need for state regulation of inter-ethnic problems and preservation of the Russian world outlook and cultural norms as they are, as opposed to the Western ones, or in other words, the liberal ones. In effect, he implied a strong juxtaposition of certain traditional Russian (as well as Serbian, Muslim, etc) values to the liberal values "thrust upon" society[2].
Yuri Luzhkov's and Patriarch Alexii's respective notions of traditional values proved to be very similar. Still, one cannot really identify the ideological position of a representative of the Church with one of a representative of a political movement. Patriarch Alexii came forth with two theses in order to support his position: "the necessity to accept the conception that humanitarian and theo-centrist world outlooks are of equal significance and have equal rights to influence the events taking place in the world" and the postulate that "all nations, cultures, religions and philosophical systems have equal rights for historical self-realization". Yuri Luzhkov, on the other hand, is very far from theo-centrism. It is also doubtable that Luzhkov would be ready to abide by the principle of equal rights to "self-realization" as faithfully as the Patriarch. That is, Luzhkov would also agree without reservation that the Serbians are right in fighting for Kosovo, while the Patriarch also made an example of the Chechen people's struggle against Russian imperialism so as to stand upon their rights to live "in accordance with their own perception of good and evil" (the statement was made before the Dagestan campaign and before the infamous Moscow explosions). In other words, the Patriarch puts the integrity of his world-outlook approach above political strategies, while the "Motherland" has never gone that far and has never intended to do so by any means. After all, the "Motherland' is just a left-centrist movement, whose leader perceives Russian Orthodoxy on the level of "spirituality" at best.
The Patriarchy evidently wanted its position taken into consideration within the framework of the pre-election propaganda so as to have it influence the post-election politics as well. It is not accidental that the "Conceptual Basis of Interaction between the Church and the State and the Church and the Public in Connection with the Celebration of the 2000 Anniversary of Jesus Christ", that had been written and endorsed as early as in July 1999, were published only by the onset of the election campaign. In this document it was strongly emphasized that "religiousness cannot be made a part of citizens' private life only". In his statements, the Patriarch paid special attention to "the society's moral health" and declared that "our society's national idea ought to be built upon the thousands-year old history of Russia and the Orthodox Church".
It is obvious that by the beginning of the year 2000 these hopes could be suffused only with Vladimir Putin.

Presidential Campaign
Having sided with the favorite of the future Presidential campaign, the Patriarchy still did not give up its principles completely. The election for the Moscow Regional Governor testifies to the following: whereas the Kremlin practically openly demonstrated its support for Gennady Seleznev, the Patriarch still chose to support Seleznev's opponent, Boris Gromov. On the eve of the second tour, the Patriarch deliberately met with Gromov and voiced his encouragement of Gromov's activities. It could be considered as the Patriarch's way of "paying his dues" to Luzhkov who supported Gromov in the frame of the election race. On the other hand, the anti-communist motif was certainly very important too. On January 9, General Gromov did beat Seleznev-the Communist. There was such a small gap between the respective results of Gromov and Seleznev though, that we cannot help but ask ourselves if Gromov could have actually won the election without the Patriarch's support. It can be assumed that in the frame of the subsequent presidential campaign anti-communist outlooks also made the Patriarchy's choice much less difficult. Already in December, prior to the beginning to the Presidential race, it was obvious that Putin with his supernatural popularity could be beaten by only a certain candidate from the whole opposition (tentatively, Primakov) backed up both by the communist (communo-patriotic) and left-centrist electorates. The Patriarchy could not possibly support a pro-communist candidate. But in any case, the opposition soon proved to be unable to settle upon one single candidate, and thus the Patriarchy did not have to face the problem of choice.
The Patriarchy realized almost right away that Vladimir Putin was more inclined towards collaboration than Boris Yelstin used to be. In order to prove that statement, it is sufficient to recall the transfer of power on December 31, 1999. Neither high-ranking officials, heads of the Parliament's Chambers, nor Chair of the Constitutional Court were present. The one and only character present was the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Alexii II. At the time, Vladimir Putin asked the Patriarch to bless his future work and the blessing was given. In the past, there had been no similar occurrences. The Patriarch's blessing received under such circumstances could not possibly be perceived as a regular blessing given by a priest to practically any requester.
Indeed, if we examine the first three months of the activities of the new Kremlin power, we shall inevitably come across a great many signs of its accelerated rapprochement with the Patriarchy[3]. No special activity was required of the Patriarchy in the scope of the Presidential campaign; the result was predetermined. The only subject for discussion were Putin's chances to win the election in the first tour a great success for Putin and a great failure for Zyuganov, the only real candidate for participation in the second tour. According to common opinion of all the political pundits and sociologists, in order to secure Putin's victory in the first tour, a maximal appearance of the electors had to be organized. In order to do so, the threat of a break-down of the election due to a possibly less than 50% rate of appearance of the electors was made up and spread (in reality, no one was even remotely afraid of such a possibility), and many politically neutral persons rallied against this mythical threat.
The Patriarchy also demonstrated its willingness to do Putin a favor and bury Zyuganov as deeply as possible. On March 9, the Patriarch authorized all members of the Sacred Synod to bid all the faithful to participate in the election. It is important to emphasize that in addition to making a statement for the press, the Patriarch also charged the members of Synod to disseminate his statement as broadly as possible via mass-media bodies. These instructions of the Patriarch were given additional publicity by Metropolitan Sergii Solnechnogorsky, Executive Director of the Patriarchy, at his meeting with editors of secular mass-media bodies, which took place under the framework of the Congress of Orthodox Press. One cannot help but notice that Russian clerical leadership is not always so concerned about giving maximally broad dissemination of its opinion on political matters.
That appeal to the faithful was repeated on March 22 on behalf of the Inter-Religious Council of Russia, at whose assembly high-ranking officials of the ROC, Council of Mufti, Congress of Jewish religious Communities (KEROOR) and Traditional Buddhist Sangha were present. Two days later, the same appeal was taken up by Talgat Tadzhuddin's Central Spititual Department of Muslims of Russia and CIS (TsDUM), power rival of the Council of Mufti. And on the last day of permitted agitation, March 24, Patriarch Alexii actually thought it necessary to appear on TV and make another statement calling the faithful to realize their right to vote.
Of course, the communists also tried to win the patronage of the Church. On January 25, at the Nativity Educational Readings, Sergei Glaz'ev pointed out that the current program of the CPRF "protects the rights of the Church" and promised that the Duma was already working on a bill of social partnership between the state and the Church stipulating that the Church "does not have to pay taxes for the realization of activities needed by society", among which Glaz'ev named in particular trading in goods liable to excise tax (alcohol and tobacco) and jewelry.
On March 10, Zyuganov met with the Patriarch and promised to support the Patriarchy not only in its struggle against alien missionaries (the position of the CPRF and that of the the Patriarchy have always been concordant in these regards) but also in its fight against the new institution of individual tax-payer's numbers (INN)[4]. The Patriarchy did not publish any statement on the results of the meeting.
The Patriarchy's political choice for the nearest period of time was made unequivocally.

It must be stated, though, that the ROC at least observed formal neutrality. The Board of Muslim's movement, "Refakh", comprising of Mufti Ravil Gainutdin and Mufti Nafigulla Ashirov, made a decision to support Putin as early as February 12. Many other religious associations (KEROOR, for example) also supported Putin. At the same time, practically no one took a stand against Putin (with the possible exception of Vladimir Ivanov, head of the "Narkonon" ("No Drugs") Center who has some connections with the scientologists).

As far as the religion-oriented national-patriots are concerned, it seems that their religious orientation did not exhort any significant influence on their respective choices of position. Among the supporters of Putin, those of Zyuganov and those of the boycott of the election (or "against all candidates" position), one can find Russian Orthodox believers, neo-pagans and irreligious nationalists[5].
In reality, the contours of Putin's new regime have yet to form. Therefore, it is difficult for the national-patriots to shape up their attitude on the regime. Their marginal position allows them to hedge.
Conversely, among the national-patriots there were some of those who attempted to get next to the new power right away. The Society of Devotees to the Memory of Metropolitan Ioann, which is too radical for cooperation with the authorities, did so with particular overemphasis. On its Internet-server "Russian Line" the Society published a statement that compared the election's outcome with the end of Havoc in the early 17th century and, consequently, drew a parallel between Putin, presently transparent to very few people only, and Mikhail Romanov, allegedly little known to people at the time of his coronation. The "Devotees" bade all national-patriots to cooperate with "the new Romanov":
"Who actually knew the sixteen year old Mikhail Romanov? Who knew what he would become, whom he would embrace and whom he would disgrace? Our fathers did not think of that in 1613 they thought of the Motherland's revival. They took an "Oath of allegiance" and remained faithful to that oath. And fitting honorable tasks were found for everybody, even for the Cossacks, and calling the Cossacks "brigands" was then forbidden by force of the Tsar's Special Decree.[6]"

The Church and the Kremlin Voice their Positions
Generally speaking, after Putin's victory his cooperation with the Patriarchy could have been stopped simply as one of the pre-election actions. The new "National Concept of Security", signed by the Acting President as early as on January 10, 2000, could have been perceived as a symptom of that course of development.
The text of that "Concept" reflects notable changes in the assessment of the religious factor, if compared to the previous concept that had been endorsed in December 1997. Back in 1997, right after the new law on freedom of conscience entered into force, the concept simply listed the main ideological achievements of that law, in other words, reminded of "the tremendously important role of the Russian Orthodox Church and churches of other denominations in the preservation of the traditional spiritual values" and put certain restrictions on the concept of "other denominations" in the following clause: "it is necessary to take into consideration the destructive role of various religious sects that cause significant damage to Russian society's spiritual life, representing a direct threat to the lives and health of Russian citizens and frequently used in order to cover-up unlawful activities".
Today's wording is much more modest. No one is talking of the ROC any longer. The State evidently intends to be the sole protector of the "cultural, spiritual and moral heritage, historical traditions and norms of the society", to form "the state politics in the field of spiritual and moral education of the population" on its own, purposefully barring demonstration of all kinds of amoral scenes on TV, and to stand up against "negative influence of foreign religious organizations and missionaries".
If this document were an enactment, it would shift the protective function of the state back to the ideals of 1993 when the state perceived as a threat not the "totalitarian sects" but "cultural-religious expansion of neighboring states onto the territory of the Russian Federation". Let us point out that this wording may actually have no correlation with the ROC's fears of Protestant or other preachers instead, it may reflect the more relevant concern of the state about the possible spread of radical Muslim trends across the territory of the Russian Federation.
Cooperation between the Church (through the OVTsS) and the Center of Strategic Developments (TsSR) of Herman Gref (designer of Putin's state strategy) dates back to February 2000 at the latest. Representatives of other religious associations, to a certain extent, were also brought in, for example, an enlarged meeting of the TsSR was held on March 21. Despite this, the ROC's priority role remained unquestionable. According to Sergei Chapnin, editor of the Internet-magazine "Sobornost'" ("Collegiality"), some of the hierarchs were approached by the ideological leader of the opposing Kremlin group Boris Berezovsky.
The Church was even engaged in the practical development of the country's foreign policy. On March 10, Metropolitan Kirill discussed the issue of the complex clash of ideological standards of the East with those of the West but not with journalists! Rather, he did so with a group of retrainees of Higher Courses of Diplomacy, workers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be appointed as ambassadors, minister counselors and general councils, in other words, with a group of high-ranking diplomats.
The gestures made by Russian Orthodox hierarchs in Putin's direction during this transitional period in some cases proved to be overly revealing. Many observers were quite shocked when at the Easter Service in Isakievsky Cathedral (St.-Petersburg) Metropolitan Vladimir, who is actually considered among the most liberal metropolitans of the Church, interrupted the service in order to give to Vladimir Putin a gift of an Easter egg adorned with a crown "for a long and happy reign"[7].

Program Statements by Metropolitan Kirill
In February, Metropolitan Kirill published quite a big article in "Nezavisimaya Gazeta"[8].
In the first part of the article, Metropolitan Kirill presented the idea described by us in the beginning of this research, namely that the keystones of a "liberal standard" "presumption of personal freedom as the goal and means of human existence" and "assertion of each person's absolute value" are not in contradiction with the Orthodox theology, but at the same time, the liberal idea still remains anti-Christian because it also provides for the freedom to sin. From the socio-political point of view, Metropolitan Kirill's conclusion sounds moderately liberal: "the civil rights and freedoms" inherent to liberal values "are perceived by us as unquestionable values", but "liberal values in politics, economics and social life may be acceptable to us only if granted a positive denial of the principles of liberal axiology in relation to human beings". To be more specific, the Church insisted on "assertion of the system of traditional Russian values in the domain of education and formation of inter-personal relationships".
As is demonstrated in the second part of this article, in the future the Church intends to "assert the traditional values" in other fields, but it is not ready to start working on it as of yet, even if only for the reason that the social doctrine is not finalized (at the moment of this article's publication). We cannot help but comment herein that the ROC's possibilities to exhort pressure are not limitless.
In his statement at the roundtable at Gref's Center, Metropolitan Kirill called for harmonization of two systems of values "regarding ideas and personnel politics"[9]. How exactly this harmonization can be achieved, and where exactly the compromise between two different perceptions of the world can be found are both very obscure questions. Metropolin Kirill's statement makes it possible to come to a conclusion that in his opinion the liberal "outlook" still enjoys unjustified dominance. And that means that the shift in the direction of liberal values, already picked up by our society, ought to be developed.
Basically, Metropolitan Kirill's public activity, per se, does not really exhort any significant influence over anything (and does not even add much to the ideological image of the Patriarch already formed in the minds of all the people concerned). Primarily, the audience of Metropolitan Kirill is not limited to the readers of "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" and secondly, by "traditional values", Metropolitan Kirill means not only the religious, but also the social values. Hence, we are not facing an attempt to defend Orthodox faith in a liberal society. Instead, it is an attempt to assist the forces that are striving to return, at least to some extent, that which they lost to the invasion of liberalism. One can doubt if Metropolitan Kirill and the ROC's clerical leadership in general have a clear understanding of how far we must actually follow the road of deliberalization. When Metropolitan Kirill was preparing his statement and his article, Vladimir Putin himself was not completely settled into a distinct ideological shape. Still, one must admit that at the present stage of ideological cooperation, the authorities and the Church promote the country's deviation from the liberal values.

Position of the Church is not likely to undergo any relevant modifications after the Eparchs' Council of the month of August has passed the social doctrine of the ROC. In anticipation of the Council, this doctrine is not discussed even by the episcopate, and therefore, the Council will have to pass the theses of Metropolitan Kirill. And the fact that the doctrine has not changed if compared to Metropolitan Kirill's articles is evident from the report that Metropolitan Kirill made at the preliminary symposium of June 14[10].

The Kremlin Defines the Place of the Church
Putin, in his habitual manner, refrained from reacting to the gestures of the Synod's members for a lengthy period of time. Everyone was waiting for his inauguration ceremony, on May 7, the very course of which was to indicate the place assigned to the Patriarch. That place was pointed out then and there.
At the inauguration, the Patriarch was simply present among other religious leaders. He did not participate in the actual procedure the way he had done in 1996 at Yeltsin's inauguration, and the way people actually expected him to in the aftermath of his memorable blessing of Putin on December 31. However, after the inauguration, the President attended the Patriarch's Te Deum (Thanksgiving) in Blagoveschensky Cathedral. Hence, the general formula is relatively liberal: the head of the state demonstrates his personal belonging to the domineering confession but his official activities remain purely secular[11].
The following interpretation also seems possible: the state does not give the idea of using the Orthodox faith and Church as sources of assistance in the scope of provision of ideological support to the society, but at the same time, the state does not intend to have the Church enjoy any special closeness to the power that could imply an independent role under the auspices of the power.
This situation is not really that surprising; not only because the Church is generally perceived as a little-influential subject of political play, especially during the period of power consolidation, but also because the ideology promoted by the ROC does not correspond to the expectations of major Kremlin groups. The latter find the tainted motives of the hierarchs' rhetoric too strong and their left-centrist deviation too pronounced. To put it briefly, the ROC still has to much in common with Luzhkov's "Motherland" ("Otechestvo"), which it is strongly disliked in Kremlin. While some high-ranking officials and political pundits are ready to deal with the ROC's leadership, they prefer to treat the Church as a passive moral or even ideological prop, not as a political partner.
Boris Berezovsky articulated this idea quite firmly, "the most important thing for Russia is a reinvigorated Orthodox Church and it is obvious that today the Church does not fulfill its function properly"[12].

Still and all, there is yet another version of the ROC's political future. It has to do with the project of All-Citizens' Christian Union (VKhS) as a Church-dependent semi-political (formally more ecological than political) organization, playing the role of a conservative (in the classical sense of the word, not in the pos-Soviet one) wing of the "party of the power" "a bit" nationalistic, "partly" Orthodox, connected to the idea of the "third way", etc.
The VKhS, the way it was actually formed in course of the preparation procedures of April-June 2000, was quite suitable with its proposed program and anticipated organizational range, but in reality it proved to be unable to function in that capacity on in any other capacity, for that matter. The organizers of the real VKhS with the businessman Igor Podzigun in the lead did not manage to reach agreement either with the OVTsS or with the Patriarchy itself and thus became of no use to the President's Administration (it is also possible that they also did not reach agreement with the Administration). Within the Church, the organizers chose Father Superior Ioann Ekonomtsev, who a sufficiently neutral and positive character, but not influential enough. Representatives of numerous marginal groups, including those of nationalistic orientation Father Nikon (Belavenets), Vladimir Osipov and others were invited to the Assembly. Several obviously non-Orthodox activists were also invited. In addition to that, the organizers did not manage to stay within the framework of Orthodoxy even on the level of program documents[13].
Nevertheless, Podzigun's failure does not mean that no more attempts to realize this same idea are going to be made. As long as Putin intends to reform the party system in the country, the perspective of creation of a conservative Orthodox-pedological wing of the "party of the power" as an counterweight to the liberal wing remains feasible. The media fit for creation of such a party already exist. One person who seems suitable is, for example, Dmitry Rogozin, respectable national-patriot who heads not only the Congress of Russian Communities but also the Duma Committee on Foreign Politics. While Vladimir Putin does not voice any particular sympathy for this trend (no pedological motives can be detected in his main program as of today in other words, in the Message to the Federal Assembly. On the other hand, he does not denounce it either (even if we ignore the rumors about the alleged closeness of Father Superior Tikhon (Shevkunov) to one of Putin's family-members. As far as the present Administration is concerned, it has no ideological limitations at all.
If with time the project of the VKhS is realized, it shall definitively tie the ROC to the imperial-patriotic ideological trend, which cannot but exhort negative influence over the Church's future destiny. It is evident that the Patriarchy does not want such ultimate ties to be formed.

[1] Alexander Verkhovsky "Religious Factor in the Parliamentary Campaign of 1999": Moscow, 2000.
[2] See Moscow Patriarch Alexii II "The World at the Crossroads" in the newspaper "NG-Religions" of June 23, 1999.
[3] For details, see the article "Semi-State Church in the Semi-Church State? Chronicle of the Process" in the newspaper "Russkaya Mysl'" of March 30 April 5, 2000.
[4] Allusion to the Synod's Decree of March 7 against the introduction of the INN system and usage of bar codes (UPC) for goods that allegedly comprise the number 666. For details, please see the article of Hegumen innikenty Pavlov "Bitter Fruits of Ignorance" and the article by Alexander Verkhovsky "Sacred Synod and the Problem of Diabolic Dot-and-Dash Code" in the newspaper "Russkaya Mysl'" of March 16-22, 2000.
[5] For mode details, please see the briefing paper by Vladimir Pribylovsky "National Patriots at the Presidential Election 2000", Moscow: 2000
[6] "Beginning of the End of the Havoc" Comments of the Agency "Russian Line" at, April 1, 2000.
[7] Article by Elena Tregubova "Easter Blunder" in the newspaper "Commersant" of May 5, 2000.
[8] Metropolitan Smolensky and Kaliningradsky Kyrill "The Standards of Faith as Life Standards", "Nezavisimaya Gazeta", February 16-17, 2000. Metropolitan Kyrill developed the same ideas in a lecture "Consolidating Europe as a Civilized Challenge" that he gave at the Moscow State University (MGU) on April 4.
[9] Quoted in accordance with "Blagovest-Info", issue No.12, 2000.
[10] For more information, please see the Vladimir Semenko's rather tedious but quite detailed analytical article "The First Evidence about the Secret Doctrine" in the newspaper "NG-Religions" of July 7, 2000.
[11] It should be noted that the very well reputed Keston News Service for some reason interprets Putin's distancing from the Patriarchy as his way of opposing the regional leaders more inclined to patronization of the ROC. For details, please see the article of Geraldine Fagan and Lawrence Uzzell "Church-State Relations in Putin's Russia: What's Next?" in the newspaper "Russkaya Mysl'" of May 11-17, 2000.
[12] Quoted in accordance with Sergei Chapnin's "Boris Berezovsky Speaks of Reinvigoration of the Church" at of March 29, 2000.
[13] For details, please see the article by Ksenia Korneeva "Failed Assembly" in the newspaper "Russkaya Mysl'" of July 13-19 and the article by Oleg Nedumov "The Birth of a Russian Orthodox Party Finished with a Scandal" in the newspaper "NG-Religions" of July 12, 2000.
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