October 26, 2017
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
The Trump-Russia Canard Falls Apart, but the
“Russians Did It!” Canard Continues: What are the Deeper Causes?
sudden about-face in the “Russians Did It!” investigation merits some comment.
Indeed, the fact that it was the Hillary Clinton campaign that paid the
firm Fusion GPS, who, in turn, contracted with a foreign national,
ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, to create the infamous and
largely fraudulent “Trump dossier,” with its outlandish accusations, has now spread
into the news, on most networks, with Democrats and former Clintonistas
scurrying to explain how for ten months such a spurious document became the
essential basis for all succeeding investigations of the Trump campaign—when,
in fact, it was Clinton and the Democratic National Committee that sponsored
it, paid for it, and have used it as a political
document to “get Trump.”
couple of observations need to be made. First, this investigation is still unfolding.
And it is not certain how it will develop or what we will learn, or, even if we
will ever learn all the sordid
details. What is apparent is this: There
has been a common, shared interest among both Democrats and Republicans in the
Washington establishment to shape
this ongoing investigation and succeeding revelations to their respective
benefit. And the common desire on the part of establishment parties is to blame
Russia. But is that where the blame really belongs?
still don’t know how or exactly from whom the “information” that Steele
collected/manufactured came about. The media, most especially Fox, are
asserting that it was a shadowy company or individual “connected to the
Kremlin” (i.e., Vladimir Putin). But that is only an assumption at the moment,
and like past assumptions involving Russia, its president, and its intel
services and business operations, the factual basis for connecting the fake
“dossier” directly to the Russian
government is still mostly educated conjecture.
fact that is almost completely lost and neglected amidst all the feigned shock
and disgust that the Russian government might be involved, is that all major world
powers engage in various forms of espionage and efforts to influence opinion in
other major nations. Arguably, the United States has been and is much more
involved—and more effective—in its efforts to shape domestic opinion and views
in other nations of the world, even to the point that our government has
actually engineered violent revolutions against established governments. It is
not just through various agencies like Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the so-called
National Endowment for Democracy (NED), but a multiplicity of on-the-ground
Non-Governmental Organizations [NGOs] which, while supposedly “independent” of
government control and direction, actually work in tandem with our government’s
international objectives and strategic plans. We only need to cite recent
American-sponsored military coup d’etats against established governments in
Libya or Ukraine (where Victoria Nuland,
former Obama administration Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian
Affairs, was recorded by accident by the Estonians, naming the man the US
planned to install as the new Ukrainian president after our supported rebels
overthrew the elected president).
involvement and the hope to influence opinion, even the outcome of elections,
in another major power is not unusual. In fact, a major power that refused to
engage in efforts to shape favorably foreign opinion and views, including the
formal position of a foreign government, could well be accused of dereliction
of its national security. But, yes, there are certain vague limits that all
nations at least implicitly have understood to exist, and it has been those
limits precisely that figure so significantly in the present Russian collusion
Buying ads on
Facebook, attempts to curry favor with domestic political leaders,
disseminating information (deeply slanted, of course) via a pliant media, all
by a foreign power, is common practice. But the active involvement of one
domestic political campaign (Hillary Clinton’s) and, more problematically, very
probably the FBI, our nation’s supposedly non-political intelligence agency, to
actually contract with foreign agents to
create disinformation to potentially indict another
domestic political campaign—that assuredly violates Federal statutes, threatens
our constitutional system and goes far beyond the usual lineaments of
international political skullduggery.
The major and
critical point here is not so much that the Russians may have attempted to in
one way or another influence American opinion (NOT the operation of the actual
elections, themselves, which was practically impossible), but that a major
political party and campaign (and probably our intelligence services) actually
went out of this country to hire a shady foreign British operative to create
and confect a wildly scandalous (and fake) “dossier” that has been used both by
the FBI and the Mainstream Media in a concerted, ten month frenzied effort to
bring down our president—in essence, to stage a silent coup. And all the while
those who paid for it knew it was false and knew its purpose.
That, then, is the
scandal and the potential assault on our republic.
More on this as
At this point, after
ten months of endless, fractious and mostly ideologically weaponized debate, an
underlying question remains somewhat obscured. Most of the major players in
this “Russians Did It!” controversy agree on some degree of Russian guilt, influence
and espionage. And, despite the end of the Cold War twenty-six years ago,
Russia remains the common international foe, and not only for the
Neoconservatives, but also for the traditionally pro-Soviet American Left.
There are more
profound reasons for this odd unity of far Left and the Neoconservatives.
What is ironic about
this is that Russia today is, arguably, in comparison to other countries a much
more “conservative” force in the world, a nation more oriented to its
traditionally religious past and its historically Orthodox Christian inheritance.
And more troubling for those proponents of a New World Order—including both
Democrat and Republican/Neoconservative elites—is that Russia not only stands more
or less outside that orbit, but, in various ways, opposes it internationally.
There is, of course, a degree of incomprehension at work here. Most Americans
and Europeans—drenched and schooled in the politically-correct globalist, one
world vision that owes its origin to historical Rationalism and the ideas of “liberty”
and “equality” propagated by the French and subsequent revolutions—cannot
fathom why Russia and its president don’t wish to fall into line and accept the
benefits of the evolving global order.
It is a curious
phenomenon that ethnic Russians in Crimea as it seceded from Ukraine and
Russians in eastern areas of that country, flew—and flaunted—flags and banners
modeled exactly on the Confederate Battle Flag.
For it is the beleaguered defenders of Confederate heritage with whom
they most closely identified: Not just with secession, but with the Southern
and Confederate philosophical response to the 19th century efforts
of Progressivism to stamp out dissent and enforce the implementation of the
Idea of inevitable Progress. The 21st century incarnations of that
idea, whether in the advance Stormtroopers of Cultural Marxism or in the
insidious infections of Western cultural decay and religious disintegration,
are thus seen as a continuation of that Revolution, and it is that same global
revolution that many Russian theorists now understand has them and their
historical nation in its cross hairs.
Recently, I came
across an essay which explores this background in some detail, with particular
emphasis on the essential religious aspect and profoundly historical nature of
the building (but unnecessary) conflict which too many of our “experts” neglect
or fail to understand. I pass it along as a significant element in
understanding in more depth and with more context what is actually occurring
and just why modern Russia has become a target for both the Left and for our
establishment Neocon/Republican elites—both groups part of the Deep State and
its globalist and secular ambitions—and also why traditional Christians and
defenders of historic Western tradition need to take another look at what is
Dr. Boyd D. Cathey
Russia Wields Its Own Brand of Christian Conservative Soft Power
US has its 'human rights'
industry; Russia, its social conservative values
many analysts the term Russky mir,
or Russian World, epitomizes an expansionist and messianic Russian foreign
policy, the perverse intersection of the interests of the Russian state and the
Russian Orthodox Church.
Little noted is that the term actually means something quite
different for each party. For the state it is a tool for expanding Russia's
cultural and political influence, while for the Russian Orthodox Church it is a
spiritual concept, a reminder that through the baptism of Rus, God
consecrated these people to the task of building a Holy Rus.
The close symphonic relationship between the Orthodox
Church and state in Russia thus provides Russian foreign policy with a
definable moral framework, one that, given its popularity, is likely to
continue to shape the country's policies well into the future.
"For us the rebirth of
Russia is inextricably tied, first of all, with spiritual rebirth . . .and if
Russia is the largest Orthodox power [pravoslavnaya dershava], then Greece and
Athos are its source." —Vladimir Putin during a state visit to Mount
Athos, September 2005.2
Foreign policy is about interests and values. But while Russia's
interests are widely debated, her values are often overlooked, or treated
simplistically as the antithesis of Western values.
But, as Professor Andrei Tsygankov points out in his book Russia and the West from Alexander to Putin,
Russia's relations with the West go through cycles that reflect its notion of
honor.3 By honor he means the basic moral
principles that are popularly cited within a culture as the reason for its
existence, and that inform its purpose when interacting with other nations.
Over the past two centuries, in pursuit of its honor, Russia has
cooperated with its European neighbors, when they have acknowledged it as part
of the West; responded defensively, when they have excluded Russia; and
assertively, when they have been overtly hostile to Russia's sense of honor.
Sometimes a nation's sense of its honor overlaps with
present-day interests; but it cannot be reduced to the national interest alone,
because political leaders must respond to existential ideals and aspirations
that are culturally embedded. A nation's sense of honor, therefore, serves as a
baseline for what might be called the long-term national interest.
According to Tsygankov, in Russia's case the long-term national
interest revolves around three constants: First, sovereignty or "spiritual
freedom;" second, a strong and socially protective state that is capable
of defending that sovereignty; and third, cultural loyalty to those who share
Russia's sense of honor, wherever they may be.4 All three of these involve, to a
greater or lesser extent, the defense of Orthodox Christianity, of the Russian
Orthodox Church, and of Orthodox Christians around the world.
Russian President Vladimir Putin succinctly encapsulated
Russia's sense of honor during his state visit to Mount Athos in 2005, when he
referred to Russia as a pravoslavnaya derzhava, or simply, an Orthodox power.
Putin on the Moral Crisis of the West
Little noted at the time, in retrospect, the phrase seems to
presage the turn toward Russian foreign policy assertiveness that Western
analysts first noticed in his February 2007 remarks at the Munich Security Conference.5
Since then, Putin has often returned to the dangers posed by
American unilateralism, and even challenged the cherished notion of American
exceptionalism.6 But, until his speech at the 2013
Valdai Club meeting, he did not explicitly say what values Russia stood for, what
its sense of honor demanded. It was at this meeting that Putin first laid out
his vision of Russia's mission as an Orthodox power in the 21st century.
Putin began his speech by noting that the world has become a
place where decency is in increasingly short supply. Countries must therefore
do everything in their power to preserve their own identities and values, for
"without spiritual, cultural and national self-definition . . . . one
cannot succeed globally."7
Without a doubt, he said, the most important component of a
country's success is the intellectual, spiritual, and moral quality of its
people. Economic growth and geopolitical influence depend increasingly on
whether a country's citizens feel they are one people sharing a common history,
common values, and common traditions. All of these, said Putin, contribute to a
nation's self-image, to its national ideal. Russia needs to cultivate the best
examples from the past and filter them through its rich diversity of cultural,
spiritual, and political perspectives. Diversity of perspectives is crucial for
Russia because it was born a multinational and multi-confessional state, and
remains so today.8
pluriculturalism is potentially one of Russia's main contributions to global
development. "We have amassed a unique experience of interacting with,
mutually enriching, and mutually respecting diverse cultures," he told his
audience. "Polyculturalism and polyethnicity are in our consciousness, our
spirit, our historical DNA."9
Polyculturalism is also one of the driving factors behind the
Eurasian Union, a project initiated by the president of Kazakstan, Nursultan
Nazarbayev, that Putin has
Designed to move Eurasia from the periphery of global
development to its center, it can only be successful, Putin says, if each
nation retains its historical identity and develops it alongside the identity
of the Eurasian region as a whole. Creating a culture of unity in diversity
within this region, says Putin, would contribute greatly to both pluralism and
stability in world affairs.
But, in a jab at the West, Putin notes that some aspects of
pluriculturalism are no longer well received in the West. The values of
traditional Christianity that once formed the very basis of Western
civilization have come under fire there, and in their place Western leaders are
promoting a unipolar and monolithic worldview. This, he says, is "a
rejection . . . of the natural diversity of the world granted by God. . . .
Without the values of Christianity and other world religions, without the norms
of morality and ethics formed over the course of thousands of years, people
inevitably lose their human dignity."10
The abandonment of traditional Christian values has led to a
moral crisis in the West. Russia, Putin says, intends to counter this trend by
defending Christian moral principles both at home and abroad.
call for greater respect for traditional cultural and religious identities was
either missed or ignored in the West. One reason, I suspect, is that it was
couched in a language that Western elites no longer use.
For most of the 20th century, Western social science has
insisted that modernization would render traditional cultural and religious
values irrelevant. The modern alternative, which pioneer political scientists
Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba labelled "civic culture," gravitates
toward cultural homogeneity and secularism. These qualities lead to political
stability and economic progress. The pattern is exemplified by Anglo-American
societies which, they conclude, form the optimal model for a modern society.11
Half a century later, with the rise of China and the collapse of
the Soviet Union, it no longer seems so obvious that secularism and homogeneity
are the only paths to national success. Scholars increasingly speak of multiple
paths to modernity, and even a resurgence of religion.12
Another reason why Putin's message was overlooked is that he is
calling upon the West to re-connect with its Byzantine heritage, a heritage
that it has often dismissed as non-Western. In Putin's mind, reincorporating
Eastern Christianity into Western civilization reveals Russia as a vital part
of Western civilization, and requires that Russia be part of any discussion of
Putin's speech in 2013 was an assertive and optimistic statement
of Russian values, and the cultural and spiritual reasons why he felt that
Russian influence in the world was bound to grow. By 2014, however, the world
had changed. A major reason is the conflict within Ukraine, which many in the
West define as a conflict over world order stemming from a profound values gap
between Russia and the West.
Russia, by contrast, sees itself as defending not only vital
strategic interests in Ukraine, but also its core values of honor, such as
spiritual freedom, cultural loyalty, and pluralism. It may seem strange to many
in the West, but Russia's attitude on the Ukrainian crisis is inflexible
precisely because it sees itself as occupying the moral high ground in this
A key reason why Western moral criticisms of Russian actions
have so little traction among Russians is that the Russia Orthodox Church has
regained its traditional pre-eminence as the institution that defines the
nation's moral vision and sense of honor. Looking beyond Russia's borders, that
vision has come to be known as the Russky mir or Russian World.
Russian World or the Communities of Historical Rus?
It is important to distinguish how this term is used by the
Russian state from how it is used by the Russian Orthodox Church.
The use of this term as a "community of Orthodox Christians
living in unity of faith, traditions and customs," goes back to at least
the beginning of the 19th century, but it was re-purposed as a political
concept in the early 1990s by Pyotr Shedrovitsky, an influential political
consultant interested in the role that cultural symbols could play in politics.
He believed that creating a network of mutually reinforcing social structures
in the former Soviet states among people who continue to think and speak in
Russian—the "Russky mir"—could be politically advantageous to Russia.13 Its practical foreign policy appeal
stemmed from the fact that, by claiming to speak on behalf of nearly 300
million Russian speakers, a weakened Russia would instantly become a key
regional player, as well as an influential political force within the countries
of the former Soviet Union.
This notion resonated within the Yeltsin administration which,
in the mid-1990s was already searching for a "Russian Idea" around
which to consolidate the nation and promote a new democratic consensus.14 Members of the Institute of
Philosophy at the Russian Academy of Sciences were tasked to research this
concept, but although it influenced sections of Russia's first foreign policy
doctrine in 1996, it ultimately ran out of steam. As those involved in this
project later explained to me, there were simply too many disparate
"Russian Ideas" to choose from, and no consensus within the
presidential administration or the Institute of Philosophy on which version to
More than a decade would pass before the term was used by the
head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. This occurred in 2009 at
the Third Assembly of the Russian World, when Patriarch Kirill spoke of how
the Russky mir, or Holy Rus as he also called it, should respond
to the challenges of globalization.15
The Church, he said, emphasizes the importance of spiritual
bonds over the divisions of national borders. It therefore uses the term Russky not
as a geographical, or ethnic concept, but as a spiritual identity that refers
to the cradle civilization of the Eastern Slavs—Kievan Rus.
This common identity was forged when Kievan Rus adopted
Christianity from Constantinople in 988. At that moment the Eastern Slavs were
consecrated into a single civilization and given the task of constructing Holy
Rus. That mission persisted through the Muscovite and Imperial eras. It
survived the persecutions of the Soviet era, and continues today in democratic
Russia.16 The core of this community today
resides in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus (at other times, Kirill has added
Moldova and Kazakhstan), but can refer to anyone who shares the Orthodox faith,
a reliance on Russian language, a common historical memory, and a common view
of social development.17
In June 2007, President Putin established the Russky mir Fund,
tasked with support of the Russian language and cultural inheritance throughout
the world.18 Much of this effort was clearly
aimed at preserving the use of the Russian language in the former Soviet Union,
and with it the popularization of Russia's image. But while there is clearly a
great deal of overlap between the religious and political uses of this term,
let me highlight several important differences.
As used by the state, Russky mir is typically a political
or a cultural concept. In both senses it is used by groups working for the
Russian government to strengthen the country's domestic stability, restore
Russia's status as a world power, and increase her influence in neighboring
states. From the state's perspective, the Russian Orthodox Church can be a
useful tool for these purposes.
As used by the Church, Russky mir is a religious
concept. It is essential for reversing the secularization of society throughout
the former Soviet Union, a task Patriarch Kirill has termed the "second
Christianization" of Rus.19 The Russian Orthodox Church sees
the Russian government, or for that matter, any government within its canonical
territory, as tools for this purpose.
Reaction to the patriarch's use of the phrase Russky mir,
which was familiar mainly in its Yeltsin-era political context, was mixed, both
inside and outside of Russia. It aroused considerable controversy in Ukraine,
where the Greek-Catholic church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kievan
Patriarchate dismissed it outright. On the other hand, the autonomous Ukrainian
Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which serves approximately half of
all Christians in Ukraine, has been cautiously receptive.
In light of this controversy, Kirill returned to the topic in
2010, to clarify his views of what theRussky mir meant specifically for
Ukraine. He reiterated that the baptism of Kievan Rus was an instance of Divine Providence.20 The Russian Orthodox Church has
defended the religious and cultural bonds established by this miraculous event
for more than a thousand years, and will always continue to do so.21
Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine are all equal successors to the
inheritance of Kievan Rus, therefore all three should be coordinating centers
in the development of the Russian World. To this end, Patriarch Kirill
introduced the idea of "synodal capitals"—historical centers of
Russian Orthodoxy which would regularly host meetings of the Holy Synod, the
Church's chief decision-making body. One of these capitals is Kiev. It is
interesting to note that archpriest Evgeny (Maksimenko), a cleric of the
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, has called upon the
patriarch to take the next logical step and move the seat of the Patriarchate
of Rus from Moscow back to Kiev.22
Christianity, says the patriarch, does not seek to destroy that
which is unique in each nation, but rather to motivate local cultures toward
greater appreciation of Christianity's transcendent meaning. Long ago, the
ideal Orthodox society was the Byzantine Empire.23Today, in the context of national
sovereignty, however, Orthodoxy proposes itself as a spiritual complement to
national sovereignty, and a harmonizing resource in a globalizing world.24 Kirill has said that this same
principle can be found in the European Union and the Commonwealth of
But while the Church respects state sovereignty, it takes no
position on its merits. Nation-states are neither good nor bad, but merely the
current framework within which God intends the Church to accomplish the
restoration of Holy Rus. It is therefore the Church's duty to make each nation,
at least in part, "a carrier of Orthodox civilization."26
Over the course of the past decade, the purely pragmatic,
secular version of the Russky mir has slowly yielded to the growing
influence of the Church in Russia's political life. Among the many examples,
let me highlight just one—President Putin's address in Kiev on the occasion of
the 1025th baptism of Rus in 2013.27 This was also Putin's most recent
visit to Ukraine.
His remarks at the time reflected every one of the motifs of
the Russky mir in its religious context, including: the decisive
spiritual and cultural significance of the baptism of Rus; the uniqueness of
Orthodox values in the modern world; deference to Kiev's historical
significance (before the revolution, he says, it was known as "the second
cultural and intellectual capital after St. Petersburg," even ahead of
Moscow[!]); and public recognition of Ukraine's right to make any political
choice it wishes which, however, "in no way erases our common historical
Conclusions and Prognosis
Having drawn a distinction between the objectives of the Russian
state and the Russian Orthodox Church in promoting the Russky mir, it is
important to stress that these two institutions are not in conflict, at least
not in the near future.29
The classical formulation for Church-State relations in Eastern
Orthodox Christianity was and remains symphonia,
or harmony between Church and State, not the Protestant Western ideal of
The establishment of broadly harmonious and mutually supportive
relations between Church and State in Russia, for the first time in more than a
century, therefore has significant implications for Russian politics.
The first is that Vladimir Putin's high popularity ratings are
neither transient nor personal. They reflect the popularity of his social and
political agenda, which are popular precisely because they have the blessing of
the Russian Orthodox Church.
A few years ago, then president Medvedev referred to the Church
as "the largest and most authoritative social institution in contemporary
Russia,"30 an assessment reinforced by more
recent surveys showing that Patriarch Kirill is more often identified as the
"spiritual leader [and] moral mentor" of the entire Russian nation,
than he is as the head of a single religious confession.31
The success of the Putin Plan, the Putin Model, or Putinism, is
thus simple to explain. This Russian government understands that it derives
enormous social capital from its public embrace of the Russian Orthodox Church.
So long as Russia remains a broadly representative (not to be confused with
liberal) democracy, there is little reason to expect this to change.
Some analysts, however, suggest that this embrace may lead to
conflict between the state and other confessions. The potential for such
conflict is widely recognized, especially by religious leaders, and led to the
creation in 1998 of the Interreligious Council of Russia.
Its purpose is two-fold: First, to defuse conflicts among the
various religious communities. Second, to present a united religious agenda to
It has been quite successful on both fronts, and its activities
now cover not just Russia, but the entire CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States).32
If my assessment of the importance of the religious
underpinnings for the current regime's popularity is correct, then it follows
that attempts to undermine the unity of the Russky mirwill be widely
viewed as an attack on core values, not just in Russia but throughout the
Russian World. Economic, political, cultural, and other sanctions will
intensify this effect and sharply undermine intellectual and emotional
sympathies for the West within this community. While this may not be permanent,
I suspect that few in the current generation of Russian leaders retain much
hope for the possibility of building a lasting partnership with the West.
Moreover, the Russian Orthodox Church will continue to shape
Russia's foreign policy agenda in several ways.
First, it will use the influence of the state to advocate for
the concerns of Orthodox Christians throughout the world, even if they are not
Russian citizens. This is in keeping with the transnational character of the
Russian Orthodox Church.
Second, it will promote Christian moral and social values in
international fora, either by itself or in conjunction with other religions.
Indeed, close ties on these issues have been forged with the Roman Catholic
Church, and with Islamic clerics in Egypt and Iran. Where it does not have
direct access to these, it will turn to the Russian media, and to popular
international outlets like RT and Sputnik to promote this agenda.
Third, wherever Russian state and civic organizations promote
Russian culture and language abroad, the Church will also seek to tack on its
religious agenda. While the state promotes the national interests of the
Russian Federation, the Russian Orthodox Church will promote the larger
cultural identity it sees itself as having inherited from Kievan Rus.
For example, the Church sees the conflict in Ukraine as a civil
war within the Russian World. From this perspective, it cannot be resolved by
splitting up this community, thereby isolating Ukraine from Russia and
destroying the unity of the Russky mir, or by permitting the forcible
Ukrainianization of the predominantly Orthodox and Russian-speaking regions of
Ukraine, which would result in the destruction of the Russky
mir within Ukraine. The only permanent solution is for the Ukrainian
government to admit the pluricultural nature of Ukrainian society and, in
effect, recognize Ukraine as part of the Russky mir. From the Church's
perspective, this is the only way to achieve reconciliation among the Ukrainian
people and harmony within the Russky mir.
Oddly enough, many moderate Ukrainian nationalists also ascribe
to the notion that some sort of symbiotic cultural connection exists between
Russia and Ukraine. The typical pro-Maidan Ukrainian intellectual believes that
Putin is out to undermine Ukrainian democracy first and foremost because he
fears it spreading to Russia. But they predict the inevitable resumption of
fraternal ties with Russia, after the freedom-loving, pro-European
values of the Maidan succeed in overturning Putin's authoritarian regime in
Russia.33 It is hard not to see the
similarity between their aspirations for close ties with Russia and those of
Patriarch Kirill, only under a completely different set of cultural
In conclusion, what impact will the rise of the Russky
mir have on Russia's relations with other nations? I anticipate three
In countries where the concept of Holy Rus has no historical
context, there will be a tendency to fall back on the Cold War context they are
most familiar with, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did when she
warned of efforts to "re-Sovietize the region." "It's going to
be called customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of
that," she said, "but let's make no mistake about it. We know what
the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or
Among Russia's immediate neighbors, the response will be mixed.
While there are still many who view the Soviet era with nostalgia, and regard
the breakup of the USSR as more harmful than beneficial (by 2:1 margins in
Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Russia),35 it is not at all clear that the
Orthodox Church's conservative social vision has a similarly broad appeal. In
Ukraine the term Russky mir has become a rallying cry for both sides
during this civil war, and is now so hopelessly politicized that its religious
and spiritual content have all but disappeared. The unhappy result, as Nicholas
E. Denysenko puts it, is "a religious narrative becoming altered against
the will of its authors."36
Even further from Russia, the popularity of the Russky
mir will likely depend on whether Russia emerges as a global defender of
traditional Christian and conservative values. The values gap that some in the
West cite as justification for punishing and containing Russia does exist, but
it is not the whole picture. The same values gap exists within the West itself.37 Only recently Russia has realized
that, while its conservative agenda distances itself from some Europeans, it
brings it closer to others. The list of Putinversteher probably now
contains more politicians and opinion leaders on the right end of the European
political spectrum, than it does on the left.
In the United States, Evangelical Christian social activists,
and even a few noted political commentators, have begun to take note of these
shared values.38 Two years ago, former Nixon aide
and Republican presidential candidate, Patrick Buchanan, told fellow political
conservatives that there is much in Putin's rhetoric that makes him "one
"While much of American and Western media dismiss him as an
authoritarian and reactionary, a throwback, Putin may be seeing the future with
more clarity than Americans still caught up in a Cold War paradigm. As the
decisive struggle in the second half of the 20th century was vertical, East vs.
West, the 21st century struggle may be horizontal, with conservatives and
traditionalists in every country arrayed against the militant secularism of a
multicultural and transnational elite."39
The role of the Russian Orthodox Church in this struggle is
crucial, because it calls for the creation of a common framework of Christian
European values, in effect a new, pan-European civil religion. The Russian
state, meanwhile, is only too happy to support these calls because it is only
within the context of a common cultural and religious identity ("shared values")
that Russia can become a full-fledged political part of the West. Intentionally
or not, therefore, the Russian Orthodox Church and its Russky
mir have emerged as the missing spiritual and intellectual component of
Russia's soft power.
Someday it may even become like U.S. human rights policy, an
awkward, but nevertheless defining aspect of national identity, that the
government will apply selectively, but never be able to get rid of entirely.
1 Nicolai N. Petro is
professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island. This paper was
presented at the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR) seminar
on Russia in Koenigswinter, Germany, February 15-18, 2015. CIOR is one of the
independent advisory bodies to the Military Committee of NATO.
Tsygankov, Russia and the West from Alexander to Putin. New York:
Cambridge University Press, 2012.
9 In his speech Putin uses
the terms "pluriculturalism" and "polyculturalism"
interchangeably, distinguishing them from "multiculturalism."
Multiculturalism is the idea that societies should foster multiple identities
but give no preference to any one culture. It is dismissive of culture as a
unifying concept. Pluriculturalism is the idea that all cultural identities have
value and help to foster social cohesion. Polyculturalism refers to the idea
that diverse cultures all share some overarching common value. Cultural
identities are therefore valuable not only within a particular society, but
overlap with the cultural values of other societies, and forge transnational
10 Vladimir Putin,
11 Harry Eckstein,
"Social Science As Cultural Science, Rational Choice As Metaphysics,"
in Culture Matters: Essays in Honor of Aaron Wildavsky, eds. Richard J.
Ellis and Michael Thompson (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1997), pp. 30-31.
12 Shmuel Eisenstadt,
ed. Multiple Modernities. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction
14 Nicolai N. Petro, The
Rebirth of Russian Democracy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995.
otchet o vstreche s delegatami Vserossiiskoi konferentsii prepodavatelei gumanitarnykh
i obshchestvennykh nauk," Kremlin.Ru, June 21, 2007.http://kremlin.ru/transcripts/24359.
23 Kirill, Patriarch of
Moscow, ""Vystuplenie . . . na torsheztvennom otkrytii IV Assemblei
25 Ibid., and Kirill,
Patriarch of Moscow, "Vystuplenie . . . na torsheztvennom otkrytii III
Assemblei Russkogo mira."
36 Nicholas Denysenko,
"Civilization, Church, World: Competing Religious Narratives from Ukraine
and Russia," Bohdan Bociurkiw Memorial Lecture, Canadian Institute of
Ukrainian Studies, Edmonton, Alberta, February 11, 2015.https://lmu.academia.edu/NicholasDenysenko/Papers.