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Bulletin 5:35 (2011)

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  • Andreas Umland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 5, No. 35(156), 2011, 5 January 2012 Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 5, 2012
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 5, No. 35(156), 2011, 5 January 2012
      Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 15 - 31 December 2011

      [NOTE: When viewing an RNB issue in the Messages archive of the homepage and the end of the text is truncated, scroll to the end of the message and click "Expand Messages." Only then, the whole text of the - otherwise truncated - issue will appear. When quoting from an article found here, please, mention the RNB, as the source. Thank you!]

      I NEWS: 15 - 31 December 2011

      Communist leader Zyuganov promises new Duma polls if elected president
      RIA Novosti, 17 December 2011

      Russia's communist leader Gennady Zyuganov has promised to re-run this month's disputed parliamentary elections if elected president.
      "If KPRF [Communist party] wins the presidential poll, the party guarantees it will hold early new elections to the State Duma in December 2012," Zyuganov told supporters on Saturday as he was formally nominated to run for president in next March's election.
      The leader of the far-right Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov are also standing, as is Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
      Other candidacies include Dmitry Mezentsev, governor of east Siberia's Irkutsk region, and radical opposition figure Eduard Limonov.
      Zyuganov described the December 4 election as the "dirtiest" since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
      The election saw Putin's ruling United Russia party just maintain its parliamentary majority amid widespread allegations of fraud and coercion of voters.
      Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the vote was "slanted in favor of the ruling party."
      U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the election was neither free nor fair, and the European Parliament called for a re-run.
      During a visit to Brussels on Thursday, President Dmitry Medvedev maintained the election was fair and said the European Parliament had "nothing to do" with it.
      Speaking during a party congress in Moscow, Zyuganov also invited Putin to a televised election debate.


      Russian state TV shows patriarch appealing for unity
      Rossiya 1, December 18, 2011, BBC Monitoring

      The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has called on Russians to pursue dialogue and to avoid the "mistakes" of the past, in the wake of the recent parliamentary election and the opposition protests that followed in towns and cities across the country.
      In primetime bulletins on successive evenings, 17 and 18 December, official state television channel Rossiya 1 showed excerpts from sermons in which Patriarch Kirill, head of the ROC since January 2009, warned of the dangers of divisions opening up in Russian society.
      On 17 December, Rossiya 1's Vesti v Subbotu news roundup showed a 90-second clip of the patriarch delivering a sermon at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. "In some moments, the patriarch was definitely not speaking in allegories," presenter Sergey Brilev said. "Let's listen to an excerpt from his extremely unusual address to believers."
      "Today, public moods are being determined not by God's truth, but by technologies, information technologies," the patriarch said. "They are being used by everyone who is asserting their human truth. We know what that leads to in certain countries, when once again blood is spilt. How important it is that we, the heirs to great Russia, who have endured the terrible trials of the 20th century, should today be capable of learning the lessons of the past, of not repeating the mistakes of our elders in 1917, of not repeating the mistakes of those people who, in the 1990s, drastically changed the life of our people, and of not repeating other mistakes. What else do we need to do, and how loudly do we need to speak, in order to stop our people from taking action that could destroy people's lives, as well as God's truth?"
      The following evening, the same channel's Vesti Nedeli weekly news roundup included a two-minute clip of the patriarch speaking at a service in the town of Noginsk in Moscow Region. Presenter Yevgeniy Revenko described the patriarch's comments as "particularly meaningful and substantial... against the backdrop of all the passions that followed the election, and of the upcoming presidential campaign".
      "May the Lord protect our fatherland, and the whole of historical Rus, but, at this moment in particular, Russia," the patriarch said. "May the Lord make those people who have different points of view, including on the political situation in the country and on the recent election, understand that, without destroying our national life, they should enter into genuine civil dialogue, which has been pieced together with such effort, in order to overcome bewilderment, restore trust and make society even more consolidated and capable of moving into the future. And the authorities should show more trust towards people and facilitate that dialogue and communication, that overcoming of bewilderment and disagreement, in order to ensure that no human temptations, no mistakes, no misunderstood service performed for the good of the country should divide people. Moreover, we have not been given the right to divide. The blood spilt during the 20th century does not give us the right to divide. And in order to live together, you must don the armour of God's truth, as Paul the Apostle teaches us."

      Zyuganov files presidential candidate papers, calls Putin to debates
      RIA Novosti, 19 December 2011

      Russian communist leader Gennady Zyuganov on Monday submitted documents required to be officially registered as presidential candidate to the Central Election Commission and called on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to take part in a public debate.
      On Saturday, the congress of the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) unanimously nominated its leader Zyuganov to run for president.
      It will be the fourth time that Zyuganov, 67, has run for presidency. The previous three times, in 1996, 2000 and 2008, he came second. Zyuganov promised to hold new parliamentary elections if he is elected president.
      He also said that TV and radio debates between all presidential candidates, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, should be mandatory.
      Putin has not ruled out the possibility to hold a televised debate with Zuyganov.


      Russia set to register Zyuganov as presidential candidate
      RIA Novosti, 21 December 2011

      Gennady Zyuganov, the head of the Russian Communist Party (KPRF), is set to become a presidential candidate after the Central Electoral Commission on Wednesday registered his authorized representatives and allowed him to open a campaign account.
      After opening the account and completing a first financial report, Zyuganov, will be registered as a candidate.
      Currently, the only officially registered candidate to run for the presidency is Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
      On Saturday, the congress of the Russian Communist Party unanimously nominated Zyuganov as their candidate.
      Zyuganov on Monday submitted documents required to be officially registered as presidential candidate to the Central Election Commission and called on Putin to take part in a public debate.
      Putin has not ruled out the possibility of holding a televised debate with Zyuganov.
      It will be the fourth time that Zyuganov, 67, has run for president. He was the second-place finisher in 1996, 2000 and 2008. This time around, Zyuganov promises to hold new parliamentary elections if he is elected.
      He also said that TV and radio debates between all presidential candidates, including Putin, should be mandatory.


      Patriarch Kirill hopes for broader ties with presidential administration under Sergey Ivanov
      Interfax-Religion, December 27, 2011

      Moscow, December 27, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has congratulated Sergey Ivanov on his appointment to the post of Russian presidential chief-of-staff.
      "Over the many years of service at state posts, you have earned a reputation as a person who combines high professionalism and solid management experience with a genuine feeling of responsibility for the cause entrusted to him," the head of the Russian Orthodox Church was quoted as saying in his message by his press service.
      The Patriarch said he was confident that cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the presidential administration "aimed at promoting traditional moral values and the ideals of peace, the good and justice in society" would develop constructively and would "constantly contribute to the country's prosperity and people's wellbeing."


      Tomsk court didn't find "Bhagavad Gita" translation extremist
      Interfax-Religion, December 28, 2011

      Tomsk, December 28, Interfax - The Tomsk Leninsky District Court on Wednesday declined the lawsuit filed by the Tomsk region's prosecutors alleging that the translation of an ancient Hindu poem "Bhagavad Gita As It Is", and comments thereto, is extremist, an Interfax correspondent has reported from the courtroom.
      "It's wonderful news. I learned about the Tomsk court decision from Indian Ambassador to Russia Ajai Malhotra, who had followed the trial," Ajai Bisaria, director of the Eurasian Department of the Indian Foreign Ministry, told Interfax.
      Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said earlier that "as evident from the materials available, the admonitions of the law enforcement authorities are not so much about the text of the book proper, whose double translation is not without the sin of semantic distortion, as about the author's comments which were classified as falling under Article 13 of the Russian Federation Federal Law 'On countering extremist activities'."
      Director of the Human Rights Center of the World Russian People's Council and religious expert Roman Silantyev pointed out that Russian scientists had accurately examined Prabhupada's interpretations of Bhagavad-Gita and "all who wish can get acquainted with their conclusions saying that it has nothing to do with traditional Hinduism."
      Besides, Silantyev said that Krishnaites in Russia have "extremely nasty reputation" and authoritative scientists characterize them as sectarians. He reminded that leaders of Russia's Interreligious Council concluded in 2004 that Krishnaites were marginal pseudo-Hinduist sect and spoke against realizing programs of distributing their sacrificial food in places where Orthodox, Muslim, Jews and Buddhist believers live.


      Zhirinovsky, Zyuganov register for polls
      RIA Novosti, 28 December 2011

      Russia's election authorities on Wednesday officially registered populist firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky and communist leader Gennady Zyuganov to run in the presidential election in March.
      Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and moderate social democratic leader Sergei Mironov are also registered to take part in the presidential race.
      Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the non-parliamentary liberal Yabloko party, as well as five other candidates including billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov all need two million signatures to register.
      Until recently, Putin looked all but certain to win the March vote but recent anti-government protests appear to have dampened his support.
      According to the independent Levada Center, Putin's popularity rating is now at a record low of 27 percent.


      30% of officers consider themselves atheists - Russian Defense Ministry
      Interfax-Religion, December 29, 2011

      Moscow, December 29, Interfax - The percentage military men who believe in God is higher among of soldiers and sergeants than among officers, Andrey Bobrun, spokesman for the Western Military District, told Interfax.
      'A anonymous survey was conducted in the district's military units and junctions. Some 70% of the officers surveyed said they are believers and the rest 30% said they are atheists. 65% of the sergeants and contract soldiers surveyed said they are believers," he said.
      Forty-six religious objects, the majority of which are Orthodox churches, are located on the territories of the military cities and garrisons of the Western Military District, Bobrun said.



      On Russian Nationalism in the Post Soviet Era
      By Dmitry Shlapentokh
      World and I, December 2011  

      Marlène Laruelle, the author of "In the Name of the Nation, Nationalism and Politics in Contemporary Russia," (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2009) is a well-known specialist in contemporary post-Soviet affairs. Laruelle is the author of several excellent studies on the subject, most notably "Eurasianism, An Ideology of Empire," translated from the French original, as well as possibly the reviewed monograph.
       As in previous Laurelle works, "In the Name of the Nation" is meticulously researched. It focuses on the emergence of Russian nationalism in post-Soviet Russia.
        Laurelle rightfully excluded Eurasianism from her study, not only because it could well lead to a dramatic increase in the size of the book but because "Eurasianists," who de-emphasized bloodlines and stressed the trans-ethnic nature of Russia/Eurasia were imperialists but not nationalists in strict a definition of the term.
        Laruelle regards Russian nationalism as a many-faceted ideology, which had been employed both by officialdom and those members of the Russian elite and/or middle class who were pleased with the results of the country's post-Soviet development.
        How did they define the notion of Russianness? It is clear that Kremlin ideologists, such as V. Surkov, whose views are discussed by Laruelle, do not advocate the strictly ethnic definition of "Russianness." As a matter of fact, Surkov himself is half Russian/half Chechen. This ideological construction of Russianness is ambiguous. While it is not an ethnic/racial definition of Russianness, it is also not a definition of Russianness in strictly legalistic terms, i.e. asserting that anyone who is a Russian citizen could well be seen as a bonafide Russian. The notion of Russians was often mixed with notion of "Rosiiane."
      The meaning of "Rossiiane" is rather vague and, in a way, cryptic, where elements from Eurasianism and similar trends are used to create the definition. One might assume that "Rossiiane," in the reading of official ideologists, is not equated with ethnic Russians. At the same time "Russians," in a broad reading of the term, makes Russians all people who are absorbed by the Russian culture/language.
       While these culturally/ethnically defined Russians constitute the nucleus of "Rossiane," it also provides the ethnic/cultural niche for many of Russia's minorities. Although these minorities are not a part of the "Eurasian" nation -- the result of a "symbiosis" of Orthodox Russians and Muslims of various ethnic origins -- they are special people in the sense that they are Russian minorities with their peculiar features and history.
       Admittedly, the definition of Russians, "Rossiiane" and Russia as a country as such is rather vague, at least, as Laruelle implies, the same could be said about the approach to the past by the current regime's ideologists. The definition of Russian nationalism, Russians identity and their past is interconnected in the discourse of Kremlin ideologists and serve the needs of country elite.
       They have tried to underline the fact that the social-economic arrangement of the post-Soviet regime is irreversible. At the same time, the regime has tried to legitimize itself through inclusion in its ideological discourse elements of the pre-revolutionary and Soviet past. The regime is, in a way, following the pattern well-known from the Soviet era when Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible became incorporated in official ideology as "progressive" individuals.
      This could also be said about similar regimes all over the world. In China, Mao and, of course, Post Mao elite brought the thousand-year-old Chinese history into the country's official ideology. This was also the case with Iran when the old pro-Islamic Iranian history was integrated into the ideology of the present regime.
      The notion of Russianness is rather ambiguous among official ideologists, but this could also be said, at least judging from Laruelle's narrative, about some of the forces of the opposition. At least, this is the case with those members of the opposition who were either legitimized or semi-legitimized. However, the story is different with those who directly confront the regime. They either are on the edge of legality or outside the confinement of legality. Laurelle deals with these people only in a cursory way, mostly with DPNI, the movement against illegal immigration. For them, the sense of Russianness is clear and quite different from that of officialdom and the legal/semi-legal opposition. For them, "Russianness" is clearly defined in racial/ethnic terms.
      While official/semi-official and clearly oppositionist forces with a strong streak of racism in their ideology are different in many ways, they have a lot in common. And Laruelle makes an absolutely correct point here: all of these different groups of Russian nationalists are pro-European and, in general, pro-Western. Moreover, one could state that the neo-fascists are more pro-European than the official ideologists. For them, white Westerners and Russians are racial brothers.
      Thus, one could make the following clear conclusion from Laruelle's book: Russian nationalism is emerging as the leading intellectual trend in Russia, and there is an increasing marginalization of Eurasianism with its emphasis on the "symbiosis" of Russians and Muslims of various ethnic origins. Russian nationalism, with Russianness defined either as a vague culturally/religiously constructed category or by ethnicity/race is emerging.
      This new Russian nationalism is different not just from Eurasianism but from most of the forms of Russian nationalism known throughout Russian history , both in the Soviet era and in pre-revolutionary times. In sharp contrast to the nationalism of the past, the new Russian nationalism is basically pro-European and pro-Western, and this is the major thesis of the book; and it is an absolutely right thesis.
      One might state here that after wandering for almost twelve-hundred years, since the time of Kievan Rus, Russia as well as other parts of East Europe has finally come to its historical roots -- Europe and the West. Still, Russia, which has finally reemerged as a nation free from its role as an "Eurasian" empire, has entered a Europe, the West in general, in 21th century. The situation, however, is quite different from what it was in the 19th century, a time when most Europeans created their nation states and fully integrated nationalism as a part of their identity. The point is that Russian nationalism has returned to the West with much delay. And what its proponents see in the West looks quite different from the 19th-early 20th century scenario.
      Western nationalism emerged at a time when the West was the workshop of the globe. Western armies conquered empires where the "sun never set," and millions of Europeans moved to the non-European non-Western world. If Russia as a nation state were to have entered Europe, the West in general, at that time, it would have joined a club of the strong. But the situation is quite different now. The U.S., the arch symbol of the West, is retreating along all fronts, economic and military first of all. The wave of immigrants moved from the East and the South to the West and the North with often no desire for assimilation.
        This profound weakness of the West, and the very defensive nature of Western -- especially European -- nationalism, defines the nature of Russian nationalism of today. It is not a nationalism of victory but a nationalism of retreat.
      The extremists and the racist right -- and they are the ones who fomented the ethnic riots from Kondopoga to the recent Moscow Maneg Square -- do not like or want an empire, any empire, even in its 19th century fashion. They actually hate the proponents of empire and call them contemptuously "imperasty."
      When they proclaimed "Russia for Russians," they stress that they are ready to shed those parts of the empire where ethnic Russians could not dominate completely. All of them turned to Europe, to the West, not as the symbol of power, as would have been the case 100-150 years ago, but as the place where they could join other whites. They believe -- and here they share the views of similar-minded individuals of the European right -- that they should solidify their ranks not for expansion but to stand against the tidal wave from the East -- from the North Caucases to the banks of the Nile.
           (Dmitry Shlapentokh is Associate Professor of History with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Indiana University South Bend. He is author of East Against West: The First Encounter: The Life of Themistocles (Lightning Source Inc, 2005).


      Time to Create a New Opposition
      By Stanislav Belkovsky
      The Moscow Times, 07 December 2011

      The most important event related to the State Duma elections Sunday was the rally protesting election fraud held near Moscow's Chistiye Prudy metro station Monday evening. More than 5,000 people attended that demonstration - an impressive though not unprecedented number for Russia. Recall that more than 5,000 people also turned out for the nationalist rally on Manezh Square one year ago.
      Monday's demonstration was formally organized by the Solidarity democracy movement that was never able to muster more than a few hundred people for its protests. But thousands of people turned out on Monday to protest the elections. Many of them were fairly prosperous, white-collar Muscovites who, until only recently, were considered the beneficiaries of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's regime and its so-called stability.
      Nevertheless, the protest took place. In fact, many people not only responded to the call to rally at Chistiye Prudy, but also took part in the peaceful march to the Central Elections Commission building. Using Facebook, Twitter and LiveJournal as the primary means of communication, it took only a few hours to gather all 5,000 people. This is just one more proof that the Internet is fully capable of changing the world by mobilizing thousands of people.
      But the three Kremlin-approved "opposition" parties that won seats in the new Duma - the Communist Party, A Just Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party - practically ignored the large-scale protests. This only demonstrated that the gap between the political elite and the active, creative minority in society is rapidly widening.
      All four parties that won seats in the Duma elections have a reason to be satisfied. All things considered, United Russia should be content that it retained a simple parliamentary majority, which still enables it to pass all of the laws required by the Kremlin and the government without negotiating or even consulting with others.
      The announcement by United Russia leaders and lame duck President Dmitry Medvedev to form a parliamentary coalition with the other three parties isn't worth much. In fact, the party of power has no need whatsoever for a coalition. True, the 238 seats that United Russia will hold in this Duma are significantly fewer than the 315 it held in the last one, but because party discipline is firmly based on each deputy's financial and political interests, the rubber-stamping of legislation will surely continue without a hitch.
      The Communist Party, A Just Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party, too, are overjoyed to have a greater presence in the lower house of parliament - although they obtained little real power or leverage as a result. But they didn't want any either. Their primary function is to maintain their given niche and role in the political system dominated by the Kremlin. For these parties, politics has for many years already become a business in which the votes that they garner are "rented out" to the ruling party on mutually beneficial terms.
      All four Duma parties consider the elections and their results to be legitimate, in direct contrast to the position taken by the real opposition forces. The rally at Chistiye Prudy was the first but probably not the last act of protest against elections marred by enormous fraud.
      If the Kremlin-approved opposition parties really sought power and wanted to take responsibility for the country, they would team up to put forward a single candidate for the presidential election in March. The ideal candidate would be someone completely unlike Putin. For example, Oksana Dmitriyeva, the charismatic and honest deputy head of A Just Russia, would be perfect. Unfortunately, there will be no single candidate. Although voters are fed up with the old presidential candidates Gennady Zyuganov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Grigory Yavlinsky all three will probably run again for president to help legitimize Putin's certain victory. Even if, in the worse-case scenario, Putin only receives 55 percent of the vote instead of 70 percent, he will still sit comfortably in the Kremlin.
      If the three minority parties were serious about their futures, they would pass the helm to younger leaders. For example, Zhirinovsky, the 65-year-old patriarch of Russian nationalism, could transfer the top party post to 35-year-old Alexei Navalny, one of the main organizers of Monday's demonstration and a nationalist in his own right. The Communist Party and A Just Russia could unite to form a new social-democratic organization with fresh leaders such as Dmitriyeva.
      But that is utopian thinking. The old guard leading the three minority Duma parties will continue to protect their business interests and will not allow more liberal, progressive leaders within their parties to upset this balance.
      That is why the only way to change the deeply ingrained status quo is to create a new opposition force that is more social-democratic in its focus and more appealing to a broader opposition constituency than Parnas and other liberal groups. This would require creating a new party - one that could be formed by the people who gathered at Chistiye Prudy. And I am certain that, with the help of Internet-based social networks, it would be possible to gather the signatures of 150,000 to 200,000 members of that party within six months' time.
      The Kremlin would do everything in its power to block such a project, but it seems there is no viable alternative.
      (Stanislav Belkovsky is a political analyst and director of the Moscow-based National Strategy Institute.)


      In Russia, a bumper season for authoritarian self-sabotage
      By Matthew Clayfield
      Crikey, 7 December 2011

      Russian nationalists have been in the news as of late. Early last month, they marched in the Moscow suburb of Lyublino, marking the country's Day of National Unity with signs at once anti-Kremlin and anti-Semitic. (Organisers claimed there had been 20,000 in attendance. Police and The Moscow Times put the number somewhere at 5000-7000.) A few days later, The Moscow Times reported that Nashi, the pro-Kremlin nationalist youth group, would flood Moscow with 30,000 of its members for an annual conference that began last Sunday, which not so coincidentally happened to be the day of the State Duma elections, too.
      The strategy was a familiar one, as well as a cause for concern. When the same group was flooded into Moscow for the legislative elections in 2007, it was to serve as unofficial Kremlin enforcers on the look-out for any signs of colour, revolution or some unholy mixture of the two.
      In these two stories we can see the perfect bifurcation of the Russian nationalism into its two distinct halves. We can see it even more clearly when we note that Nashi, whose name translates as "Ours", staged a national unity rally of its own that was twice as large as the more widely reported one. The bifurcation in question, of course, is the one that increasingly separates pro- and anti-Kremlin nationalists, which is really just another way of saying pro- and anti-Vladimir Putin ones.
      That is truer this year than it has been for the past four, with Putin poised to resume the Russian presidency next March and to run with it for the next 12 years. Late last month, Putin formally accepted United Russia's nomination for the presidency. The overhyped and pseudo-liberal reign of his faithful terrier, Dmitry Medvedev, is coming to an ignoble end. And Putin's encore performance is the point at which Russia's nationalists diverge.
      Dr Robert Horvath is a La Trobe University research fellow with a deep and abiding interest in this divergence. Indeed, last month he was awarded a prestigious ARC Future Fellowship to research the complex relationship between the Kremlin's managed nationalists and the country's broader nationalist movement.
      "Nashi fulfils two political functions," Horvath tells Crikey. "It promotes the idea that the regime is the embodiment of patriotism and the defender of national sovereignty and it vilifies the Kremlin's opponents as hirelings of foreign powers or the heirs of an earlier generation of foreign invaders. Some of Nashi's rhetoric might be described as civic nationalist."
      However, Horvath is also quick to point out that Nashi is not always characterised by such ostensible civic-mindedness. He notes that the group also attempts to engage with hard-line nationalist elements by inviting figures such as Andrei Kuraev, an influential cleric who has been accused of anti-Semitism, and Valerii Korovin, a co-founder of the pro-Kremlin Eurasian Youth Union, to lecture at its annual youth forum at Lake Seliger. (The Eurasian Youth Union, which is banned in Ukraine, calls its members the "oprichniki" after the military detachment infamous for its reign of terror under Ivan the Terrible. One is reminded of Vladimir Sorokin's 2006 novel, Day of the Oprichnik, which is set in the future and in which a new-age oprichniki go about murdering the king's opponents before retiring to a bathhouse for an enforcer-on-enforcer orgy.)
      The authorities have also established and fostered several overtly nationalist organisations, such as Mestnye (Locals) and Rossiya Molodaya (Young Russia), and have encouraged the politicisation of "violent subcultures", such as football hooligans and motorcycle gangs.
      All of these, Horvath says, are handsomely rewarded for their efforts, and not only with the right to exist and continue operating. "Pro-Kremlin youth groups benefit from lavish funding, and from professional advancement through connections with state structures," he says. "Several pro-Kremlin youth leaders are now Duma deputies - notably Nashi's Robert Shlegel and Rossiya Molodaya's Maksim Mishchenko - while more extremist elements have benefited from privileged access to public space."
      "Some day," Vito Corleone says, "and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me." In return for the Kremlin's patronage, these organisations render such a service, forming what Horvath describes as a "counterforce against any potential challenge" to the regime's rule. "There are varying levels of loyalty," he says. "Nashi activists meet the president and have to be totally loyal. The relationship of the authorities to other groups is murkier and their freedom of action is greater. The crucial thing is that beneficiaries of the regime's sponsorship oppose the regime's enemies."
      It is important to note that Putin does not only court and reward nationalists in this way, either. Liberals, journalists and business leaders, too, have all been co-opted by the regime, usually on the pretence, at least among the first group, that the best way to fight the system is from the inside. Putin's nationalists - as well, one suspects, as a few of the journalists and business leaders - are happy to take the kick-backs. ("The nationalist blogosphere has a lot of web pages devoted to exposes of 'managed nationalism' and allegations about who has sold out," Horvath says.)
      But the fact that Putin needs a counterforce in the nationalist sphere is telling. As last month's anti-Kremlin march demonstrated, it is also increasingly accurate.
      "There has been growing tension between the regime and nationalist tendencies," Horvath says. "On the one hand, some extremist nationalists have declared a 'partisan war' on the state. On the other, the authorities have been cracking down on the visible, legal structures of the nationalist movement, outlawing organisations such as the DPNI [Movement Against Illegal Immigration] and Slavyansky Soyuz [Slavic Union]." Indeed, where pro-Kremlin nationalists are bought and paid for in exchange for their loyalty, anti-Kremlin nationalists tend to belong to organisations that have been either targeted for their refusal to pledge it or else banned outright for the same reason.
      Discontent is growing rapidly among pro-Kremlin nationalists, too. The former deputy head of Nashi's ideological department, Sergei Kravtsov, last year abandoned the organisation to join the outlawed DPNI. Meanwhile, moderates such as the anti-corruption lawyer and blogger Alexey Navalny, who describes himself as a national democrat, have engaged seriously with such ultranationalists as it has become increasingly obvious that such groups represent the largest genuine opposition in the country. Throw in some unprecedented public displays of dissent - like that provided by the mixed martial arts audience that booed Putin out of the ring when he climbed into it last month - and oppositionists might suddenly find themselves with a broad-based movement on their hands.
      Horvath takes care to emphasise the importance of Navalny's work in particular. Between his LiveJournal blog and his website, RosPil, a kind of Wikipedia for anti-corruption advocates, the 35-year-old activist has revealed hundreds of cases of criminal corruption between the joined-at-the-hip worlds of Russian business and government.
      In a New Yorker profile from April this year, Julia Ioffe described him as a "Russian Julian Assange or Lincoln Steffens". Horvath believes that the comparison to Assange "diminishes" the blogger. "To an infinitely greater degree than Assange, Navalny put his life on the line," he says. "If Putin has a nemesis, he is it." While such a figure might seem out of place at a rally with hard-line nationalists shouting racist slogans, Horvath argues that he may in fact represent the best chance the movement has of reaching a broader constituency that shares some if not all of its complaints."Like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn a decade earlier," he argues, "Navalny is a propounding a democratic version of Russian nationalism. In essence, he is laying a foundation for the emergence of a broad alliance of moderate nationalists and moderate liberals, for the disengagement of nationalists and the regime, and for the denial of the idea that authoritarianism is an unalterable part of Russian culture.
      "Obviously there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about any political phenomenon that emphasises identity as a political principle. But the Russian nationalist movement is so broad that it defies generalisation. It includes moderate intellectuals, national democrats like Navalny, populists and extremists from the DPNI, as well as neo-fascist tendencies like the banned Slavyansky Soyuz."
      Where Horvath notes the security establishment's crackdown on these latter groups, and where others claim that the official policy towards them for the past two years has been nothing short of full-blown suppression, still others prefer to point out his continued attempts to pander to them all the same. When DPNI members and FC Spartak fans staged their own little Nuremberg rally in Moscow's Manezh Square last December, reacting violently against the death of one of their number, Egor Sviridov, who was murdered in a fight with ethnic Dagestanis, the Prime Minister banned the DPNI but also visited the soccer fan's grave and urged tighter registration laws for foreigners.
      According to a Newsweek article by Owen Matthews and Anna Nemtsova, while only three people received jail time for the Manezh Square riot - a Slavyansky Soyuz leader and a DPNI member receiving the longest sentences at 15 days each - police proceeded to detain "more than 200 dark-skinned individuals after the Federal Migration Service ordered a crackdown on 'loitering foreigners'."  "If the Kremlin cannot destroy [ultranationalism]," the DPNI's founder, Aleksandr Belov, was quoted as saying in that same article, "they will try to lead it".
      Navalny should be so lucky. The Kremlin's state security apparatus doesn't face the same difficulties when it comes to destroying individuals. "In recent months," Horvath says, "the regime and its minions have waged an unrelenting campaign of harassment and calumny against him and his family." When thousands of young people marched through Moscow on Monday night, railing against electoral fraud, Navalny was among those detained. Both he and the Solidarity movement's Ilya Yashin were yesterday found guilty of failing to follow police orders during the protest and were hit with jail sentences of 15 days each.
      "The Kremlin is very alarmed by the Navalny phenomenon," Horvath continues. "One sign of official trepidation is reports of meetings of pro-Kremlin political technologists to work out a strategy for dealing with the Navalny threat. Another is the campaign of harassment waged by Nashi and the publication of his email correspondence on a Kazakh website." The reason the authorities are concerned about Navalny, and especially about his seeming alliance with the anti-Kremlin ultranationalists, is obvious. Navalny calls United Russia "party of crooks and thieves" - a damning label that then went viral - and tends to have access to documents that can back such statements up.
      Sharing several salient characteristics with several of the Arab world's late regimes - political stagnation, a culture of impunity, corruption on an industrial scale - the last thing Russia's ruling elite needs is a wired whistleblower on its hands. A wired whistleblower who has recently started hanging out with disgruntled nationalists and who liberals are beginning to refer to as the only electable man in the country is likely to be of even greater concern and precisely because he represents a common denominator between the two.
      "Putin's presidency has been defined by the relentless crushing of every kind of opposition that is independent of the Kremlin," Horvath says. "By suppressing everything that is not controlled by the Kremlin, he gave ideological opponents reason to unite."
      Whether they will manage to do so remains to be seen. While Navalny was a co-organiser of last month's Day of National Unity march in Lyublino - coming on board in an attempt to rehabilitate event's image and transform it into a mainstream opposition rally - The Moscow Times reported that his message at the event was "largely overshadowed by the far more provocative images of a masked mob throwing up Nazi salutes". "Navalny] sees the nationalists as his only chance to bring people to the street because people are already growing bored with anti-corruption slogans," Alexei Mukhin, head of the Center for Political Technologies, told the newspaper, before adding that he thought the ultranationalists' image would prove too divisive for the blogger's project to succeed.
      For even where the anti-corruption advocate and the ultranationalists agree - on the fact that the Kremlin sends too much money to the Northern Caucasus, for example - they do so for entirely different reasons. Navalny wants the Kremlin to stop plying republics such asd Chechnya with federal funds because human rights violators such as Ramzan Kadyrov spend it on multimillion dollar birthday bashes for themselves before their people ever see it.
      The ultranationalists want the Kremlin to stop plying republics such as Chechnya with federal funds because Chechens aren't Russian. "F-ck the Caucasus!" Navalny's challenge is to triangulate the two positions: to reach out to moderate nationalists who resent the expulsion of ethnic Russians from the Caucasus and who are concerned about the influence of Caucasian criminal gangs in Russian cities but who don't have any problems with Chechens or Dagestanis in general.
      "One of the most poignant moments in Navalny's speech to the rally," Horvath says, "was his challenge to the audience's prejudices: he reminded them that there were decent, hardworking people in the Caucasus, who aspired to live in fair, uncorrupt societies. It's worth noting that his audience was not so xenophobic as to shout down these words of praise."
      The winds nevertheless appear to be blowing to the right. Kravtsov's trajectory from pro-Kremlin nationalism to anti-Kremlin ultranationalism remains far more likely to be emulated than one that proceeds from anti-Kremlin ultranationalism to anti-Kremlin liberalism.
      Horvath says this misses the point. Navalny isn't trying to turn ultranationalists into liberals, he says, but rather to convince ordinary citizens to get back in the game. "Navalny's main concern is not the small networks of nationalist activists," he says, "but the vast public that shares some of their resentments and concerns. I see his project as less the reconciliation of nationalists than a fundamental realignment of the lines of political debate. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of his anti-corruption crusade, which has exposed the vast gulf that separates the elite and the population. For the first time in nearly two decades, a democrat has captured the public imagination."
      Monday night's post-election protest was the largest that Moscow has seen in years and would suggest that there is some truth to this statement. Given the lack of nationalists at the event, relative to liberals and moderates, it would also suggest that it may not be necessary for these groups to converge to create problems for the regime.
      At the same time, that regime's aforementioned tendency towards political suppression may now have all but ensured such convergence. Even more than Putin's decision to return to the Kremlin next year, Navalny's 15 days in prison are certain to galvanise the opposition. Which perhaps goes some of the way towards explaining the smiling faces in the photo he tweeted from the back of a paddy wagon moments after his arrest.
      It certainly goes some of the way towards demonstrating just how worried about him the authorities are. While they may be unlikely to face a widespread uprising any time soon - Monday's protest was nearly 15 times smaller than those that rocked Tahrir Square in February and was followed on Tuesday by a pro-Kremlin rally that was more than double its size - there can be no denying that this really has been a bumper year for authoritarian self-sabotage.


      The truth about the Russian Communist Party
      by representingthemamboin
      Shiraz Socialist, 15 December 2011

      The Russian parliamentary elections have thrown up a few surprising results, the most surprising being that despite systematic electoral fraud, Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party only managed 49% of the vote (down from 64% in 2007) and has seen it's representation in the Duma drop by 77 seats. Clearly the national stereotype of all Russians preferring an authoritarian strongman in the mould of Stalin or Putin is a false one.
      If United Russia only managed to get 49% in a blatantly fiddled election, one can only imagine what share of the vote they actually got. Putin and Medvedev, presumably aware of large scale of opposition and apathy now manifest throughout the republic, have thus far responded uncharacteristically cautiously to the vociferous outcry that followed the announcement of the results. There has been no systematic crackdown on the large demonstrations in the major urban centres that have called for the annulment of the results and fresh, free elections.
      Any public display of anti-government feeling is usually ruthlessly silenced, but the scale of popular discontent this time round has forced the government to be slightly more conciliatory, by their standards, for now. I can't for one moment imagine them relinquishing power, but clearly Putin's popularity is on the wane, and unlikely to recover any time soon. The potential at least exists for him to be successfully challenged in next year's presidential election, but the government has already started trying to manipulate the process, announcing the candidacy of 'liberal' oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov. Standing Putin-licensed candidates is a long-standing tactic of the regime, they provide an outlet for popular dissent and prevent the main man being challenged. And if the party or candidate gets too popular or criticalof the ruling party as in the case of the Right Cause bloc,  they can be safely castrated.
      The other notable result was the fairly dramatic increase in votes, from the 2007 elections at least, for Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), up to over 19%, an almost 8% increase on the previous legislative elections. They came a creditable second in the poll. Many on the left, desperate for any good news, are hailing the result, for example the Morning Star sees this as a great development. Indeed they have very fraternal relations with the CPRF . The article I have linked is the CPRF in full leftist mode, denouncing capitalism and the 'corrupt' regime. On the evidence of what is to all intents and purposes a puff piece, the CPRF is a genuine bastion of principled, leftist resitance to capitalism and the depredations of Putin's regime.
      The truth is though that it is nothing of the kind. The CPRF is no friend of anyone genuinely on the left. Their politics are poisonous mixture of extreme Russian nationalism, old-school Soviet era Stalin worship, overt racism, anti-semitism and glorification of 'the motherland' and Russian culture. One can genuinely compare their politics to the 'left wing' of the German NSDAP in the 1920s and early 30s (e.g. Nazi 'anti-capitalist' Ernst Röhm). What is more, they are basically the officially sanctioned, loyal opposition to Vladimir Putin and the current regime within the Russian 'managed democracy' system (i.e. dictatorship with a few democratic trimmings), a party of 'national patriots' has it's uses to Putin and his cronies (usually as a way of squashing genuine leftwing opposition). They are tolerated and at times actively encouraged by the Kremlin.
      I think the first thing to observe, from a purely electoral point of view, is that these results aren't such a great leap forward. The CPRF have polled significantly better in previous post-Soviet parliamentary elections, and are merely recovering ground from their low point of 11.5% in 2007. Zyuganov got 17.8% at the 2008 presidential election (previously he got 32% and nearly won in 1996) and so the 19% vote at these elections is hardly evidence of rocketing support.
      The CPRF claims to be the direct descendent of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and in particular seek to rehabilitate 'comrade' Joseph Stalin (in that respect, they are more Stalinist than post-Stalin CPSU) According to Zyuganov, where Russia has gone wrong has been that it hasn't been Stalinist enough, and that the post-Stalin leaders of the USSR betrayed his legacy. In particular Mikhail Gorbachev, with his policies of Perestroika and Glasnost that the allowed capitalism to be restored and the working class impoverished, is to blame for the mess that Russia finds itself in.
      Many current leading figures in the party were conservative functionaries in the old regime and long for a restoration of the old days, they are the diehards who would have supported the Gang of Eight in 1991.Take a look at their website and you can see Zyuganov, clenched fist, behind images of the old Soviet flag. It's all very surreal. In some respects it is comparable with the rather sad, aged followers of Thatcher in this country who think that things would be great again if we got Maggie back or someone like her.
      I won't patronise my readers with a blow by blow account of all the crimes of Stalinist Russia, as I'm sure you are aware of the millions put to death in the gulags, the forced deportation and resettlement of millions of people, the labour camps, the annihilation of most of Stalin's own party, the bogus theory of 'socialism in one country' (Europhobic leftists take note) the assassination of Trotsky, the complete absence of democracy, the suppression of independent trade unionism and the huge police state apparatus that was created to keep the people down. In many respects it is quite easy to argue that liberal capitalism in the West, especially under social democratic governments, was infinitely preferable to 'socialism' in the USSR. A party who wants a restoration of a barbaric, dehumanizing tyranny that bears no relation to any emancipatory notion of socialism that I understand is no friend of the left.
      That said, the restoration of capitalism in Russia was a complete disaster. A few made obscene fortunes and many were left with nothing, and a state of anarchy reigned in large parts of the economy until Putin got stuck in (and not in a good way, I'll hasten to add.) Many parts of the CPRF economic programme are perfectly supportable, if one views them in the abstract. They hardly represent the revolutionary transformation that 'Marxist-Leninists' supposedly believe in though.
      Nation and Class
      Probably the most disquieting aspect of the CPRF's politics has been the eschewing of the traditional Marxist rhetoric of class and the class struggle in favour of extreme Russian nationalism from the outset. It's why many people see them as a 'red-brown' formation (a hybrid of communism and fascism).
      A whole milieu of extreme nationalist organisations sprang up after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the communist movement, poisoned by years of vulgar Stalin-inspired Russian nationalism that glorified the autocrats that have ruled Russia and her empire, and drew a direct of lineage between Stalin and previous rulers of the 'motherland' (a term that Stalin deliberately reintroduced in Soviet political discourse, something that would have had Lenin spitting feathers if he'd been alive to witness it. Lenin is guilty of many things but his disdain for nationalism and nationalist rhetoric is unimpeachable).
      The CPRF was able to make common cause with the 'patriotic forces' and stand joint candidates and slates at elections. For instance Narodnaya Volya, a coalition of nationalists that has stated its affinity and ties with Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National in France, endorsed the CPRF in the 2007 Duma election. Many leading Russian communists use the sort of language that to be frank, wouldn't look out of place in the BNP.
      Zyuganov himself was heavily involved in the 'national patriotic' movement in the immediate aftermath of 1991, and co-chaired the National Salvation Front, a coalition of old school 'communists' and hardline nationalists that opposed the move towards Western style free markets and liberal democracy.
      Clearly the CPRF's commitment to exclusive Russian nationalism outweighs their commitment to the Marxist principle of internationalism…….
      I'm sure it's well known to anyone with an interest in progressive politics that gays are treated brutally in many parts of Eastern Europe. Gay pride marches have been banned and viciously attacked with either the local forces of 'law and order' turning a blind eye to the beatings being meted or at times even joining in. One would expect that a party calling itself 'Marxist' would unconditionally defend gays and other sexual minorities when they were under attack from the state and other reactionaries. Not so with the CPRF. In fact, quite the opposite. Many Communist MPs actually call for the recriminalisastion of homosexuality and a ban on Gays and Lesbians adopting.
      Consider some of the statements coming out of the mouths of leading members of the CPRF about homosexuality:
      (homosexuality) "contradicts….. moral values of Russian people" (Zyuganov)
      "good faggot is a dead faggot" (that little corker is from Pavel Tarasov, at one time a staffer for Zyuganov)
      Zyuganov described the 2006 Moscow pride march as "unhealthy"
      Zyuganov's deputy in 2006, Ivan Melnikov had this to say regarding the pride march: "Moscow is not Berlin or Paris. Any displays of unconventional sexual orientation look revolting in Russia."
      I imagine right now Vladimir Lenin is spinning in his grave at what is being said in his name.
      One of the flashpoints in the global gay rights movement in recent years has been the Moscow Pride marches. There have been numerous bans, outrageously homophobic comments by the mayor at the time, the now dethroned, massively corrupt and wholly unlamented Yury Luzkhov, and attacks on the marches that were clearly encouraged by the political establishment, including, scandalously, the CPRF.
      The behaviour of the Russian 'communists' at the demo led the French Communist Party (PCF), hardly a hotbed of youthful radicalism itself, to suspend relations with the CPRF. A brave step, that some of the left in Britain would do well to take notice of. They considered support of gay rights to be a basic, non-negotiable socialist principle. I agree with them. Why doesn't the Morning Star take a similar position?
      It's hardly a surprise that the CPRF are so virulently homophobic. They consider their politics to be a direct continuation of Stalin's, and Russia under Stalin was not somewhere to be if you were gay. It was officially outlawed, and there was overt anti-gay propaganda by the government. Stalin himself expressly criminalised homosexuality in 1933, with 5 years hard labour as punishment with anyone convicted of the 'crime'. And you know when Stalin said hard labour, he meant hard labour…….
      Makashov again:
      "People are outraged by the anti-Russian invasion. They do not hide their bewilderment at seeing that organs of power, means of mass communication, are more and more in the hands of a non-indigenous nationality, individuals with dual citizenship, who enriched themselves unfairly at the expense of the people."
      Need I add anything to that?
      This (slightly dense) article illustrates the CPRF's (and particularly Zyuganov's) close relationship with virulent 'nationalists' (racists). The CPRF have close links with the now banned far-right Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), which organised anti-immigrant demonstrations all over the country, and organized legal defence campaigns for ethnic Russians when they are involved in court cases against non-Russians. They were led from 2008-10 by Alexander Belov, a notorious far-right nationalist politician (convicted in Russia of inciting racial hatred in 2009, and you have to be a serious racist to be convicted of that in Russia I assure you) who has appeared on official CPRF platforms on several occasions.
      The links are deep between the Russian far right and the CPRF, and they tell you all you need to know about these Russian 'communists'.
      Far be it for me to say anything positive about that neocon and pro-Likud cesspit, Harry's place, but this story about anti-semitism (and also more on the homophobia) in the CPRF  is very disturbing indeed. Senior members of the party, including Zyuganov, have made outrageously anti-semitic statements. For example, from Zyuganov:
      "Communists…rightly ask how it can be that key positions in a number of economic sectors were seized by representatives of one ethnic group. They see how control over most of the electronic media - which are waging a destructive campaign against our fatherland and its morality, language, culture and beliefs - is concentrated in the hands of those same individuals"
      Albert Makashov, Communist Deputy in the Duma since 1995, had this to say about the Jews:
      (a Jew is) "a bloodsucker feeding on the misfortunes of other people. They drink the blood of the indigenous peoples of the state; they are destroying industry and agriculture"
      "I will round up all the Yids and send them to the next world!"
      Fairly unambiguous really. Not a lot of room for manouevre or denial there. Former Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke, is reportedly a fan of Makashov's……..and I haven't made that up………
      Putin's Boot Lickers
      The perception in Russia is that the CPRF is the 'loyal opposition' to Putin's United Russia. They are given space to organise in a way that other more explicitly anti-Putin forces just aren't in Russia's tightly managed polity. This article, although published ten years ago, by the prominent Marxist intellectual Boris Kagarlitsky, places the CPRF firmly within the Kremlin's orbit, pre-, peri- and post- Putin.
      They are very useful to the Kremlin after all. They crush any genuine opposition from the left and provide a left-wing cover to the government's 'national-patriotic' policies, e.g. Putin's war in Chechnya in 2000. In return Putin gave CPRF deputies prominent roles in parliamentary committees and also at the time of the Second Chechen War supported the CPRF's bid to get one of its deputies elected as Speaker of the Duma. We shouldn't be under any illusions that the CPRF enjoy such political prominence in Russia because they are so useful, and toothless.
      It also suits Putin's interests to have a party around that unquestioningly revel in the 'glory days' of the USSR. There have been times when he has successfully played that card himself (he was in the KGB after all) and he has periodically stated his admiration for the days when the USSR was a global colossus, and his stated intention is to return Russia to such a place of international prominence. The neo-Stalinists in the CPRF naturally lap this up.
      It is an absolute disgrace that the Communist Party of Britain are giving platforms to these scumbags. I seriously don't see any difference between the CPRF and BNP members who support more state involvement in the economy. If sections of the left see any electoral success for the CPRF as something to be cheered, they have lost their minds.
      That is what defeat after defeat does to you, I suppose.


      Russian Orthodox Church Asserts Role in Civil Society
      New York Times, December 19, 2011

      MOSCOW ­ Just over 20 years ago, any religious education outside church walls was still banned in the Soviet Union. Today, churches are being built on state university campuses, theology departments have opened around Russia, and the Russian Orthodox Church has built its own educational network with international contacts and even become something of a model for the secular system.
      Still, state universities struggle on many levels to integrate into the international system; the Bologna Process, an agreement streamlining higher-education standards across Europe, has upset many Russian academics who contend that it undermines the achievements of the Soviet system, where a standard specialist degree required five years of study.
      But the Russian Orthodox Church, which started building its education system virtually from scratch in the post-Soviet era, has applied international standards from the outset, said Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun, deputy chairman of the church's education committee. Speaking of the state education system, Father Hovorun said, "It is more concerned about finding compromises between the old Soviet system and the new European standards."
      At the same time, the church is proposing its vision of educational reform.
      "Education is not a personal matter but a sphere of public life on which the existence of society and the state depend," Patriarch Kirill I, the church's leader, said in September in a speech at Voronezh State University. "It is the backbone of the existence of society, and that's why the transfer of education exclusively into the sphere of rendering of market services is, in my view, a big mistake."
      Yulia Rehbinder, 30, who received a degree in social pedagogy this year from St. Tikhon's Orthodox University, which was founded in Moscow in 1992 as a theological institute, said she had chosen the university because she thought it offered a more sophisticated humanities program than state universities. It received state accreditation as a university in 2004.
      "In Soviet times, everything connected with Christianity, its history and culture, was purposely removed from humanitarian education," said Ms. Rehbinder, who is now working with orphans and doing graduate research on Russian emigre teaching methods in France. "As a result, it ended up that specialists couldn't understand the essence of works of art, of many historical events, or the motives of human actions, since a Christian worldview was alien to them."
      While the church has helped create over 30 theology faculties at secular state universities, Father Hovorun said, the state education authorities still refuse to recognize theology as a stand-alone doctoral-degree subject.
      Archpriest Vladimir Vorobiev, rector of St. Tikhon's, told Pravoslavie i mir, an Orthodox news Web site, that he objected to the state authorities' refusal to recognize theology as a social science at the doctorate level. He asserts that some people in high levels of Russian academia are still influenced by a Soviet mind-set that cannot accept a social "science about God."
      "In Europe, they would only laugh at the phrases we have heard here about theology not being a science," Father Vorobiev said. "To them, it's the equivalent of saying that math is not a science."
      But while the Orthodox Church has become an increasingly powerful presence in Russia, speaking out on morality, economics, international relations, and most recently the Russian elections, critics say it has failed to adequately fill a post-Soviet ideological and moral vacuum.
      The attempt to unite the church's ideological and practical potential is illustrated vividly at the Russian State Social University. The university has more than 100,000 students on campuses across Russia and a branch in Kyrgyzstan.
      Last June, its central Moscow campus, hosted an anti-abortion conference that drew American activists. Student volunteers wore anti-abortion T-shirts and distributed anti-abortion literature. The university, where smoking is banned, encourages student marriages and babies, and students are unusually polite.
      The centerpiece of the campus, which used to be an institute of Marxism-Leninism, is the Church of the Fyodorovskaya Icon of the Mother of God. It was consecrated in 2006 after much debate on whether it was appropriate to build an Orthodox church in the center of the campus, said Vasily Zhukov, who is rector of the university and said all of its campuses also had prayer rooms for Muslims and other non-Orthodox students.
      The construction or restoration of churches on university campuses has become such a trend that there is now an association of university churches in Russia. Yaroslav Skvortsov, chairman of the department of international journalism at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, is co-chairman of the association.
      While the study of church history is an elective, Mr. Skvortsov said he regarded it as essential for better relations among Russians and others.
      "A true understanding of this Orthodox component of state diplomatic service is what will without a doubt help our future diplomats to have a proper sense of themselves," he said.
      Cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church, Mr. Zhukov said, is a practical decision to create a moral foundation for students. "We are interested in allies," he said, "not in religious obscurantism, not in the idealization of the church as such, not in the use of force to bring a person to church. We don't need any of this. But we need the church as a bearer of huge knowledge."
      He added, "We are located on a spot that used to be a theoretical focal point of aggressive atheism."
      In October, Mr. Zhukov was honored for his work in academia and for the church by Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department of External Church relations, who has a doctorate from the University of Oxford and has been promoting ties between the two sectors.
      Still, some Russian Orthodox leaders and commentators report growing alienation among student-age youths from the church and resentment that the religion is being forced on them. What's more, seve<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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