The Corner

‘Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality’

In an attempt to counter the growing encroachment of liberalism into his realm, Czar Nicholas I (reigned 1825-55) argued for an empire based on the three pillars of “Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality”, an idea that came to define the thinking of Russian reactionaries for the rest of the nineteenth century.

It seems to be doing so again.

Consider this from the Economist:

One February morning, members of . . . a Russian feminist punk band, wearing neon-coloured balaclavas, burst into Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to sing a lewd and acerbic “punk prayer” called “Our Lady, chase Putin out”. Three of the women—Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich—were arrested and charged with hooliganism. They have been kept in jail since March. Their trial begins on July 30th, and if found guilty they could be sentenced to as many as seven years in prison.

I have omitted the band’s name in an attempt to maintain standards around here, but also to avoid irritating the googling masses who might be lured to this respectable Corner only to leave very disappointed indeed.

Let’s be clear. The role played by the Russian Orthodox Church in bolstering Putin’s regime has brought its activities into the realm where they are a legitimate subject of political debate and, indeed, protest, but this protest was a step — many steps — too far particularly so in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a cathedral blown up on the orders of Stalin, and then rebuilt as a testimony to the notion that some sins of the Soviet past could be put right.

But . . . a possible seven years?

The Economist continues:

The case could hardly have gone so far without direction from the Kremlin. In recent months, as Vladimir Putin, the president, has faced unprecedented opposition from the more modern and Westernised of Russia’s citizens, he has set out to marginalise that constituency while building up the forces of conservatism and xenophobia.

The Russian Orthodox church, which has long found itself in a symbiotic embrace with Mr Putin, has become a central pillar of legitimacy in this political struggle. Svetlana Solodovnik, who studies the Orthodox church, says that religious leaders work “to nurture a paternalistic mood” among the population and “to teach people to rely on the state and to be grateful for its care”. The trial…provides an opportunity to use the language of moral outrage to paint those opposed to Mr Putin and the Russian government as louche and untrustworthy, the embodiments of exactly the sort of outside forces that seek to defile Russia and its traditions.

Religious and bureaucratic tongues have become blurred. Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesman for the church, said that [the] unsanctioned performance in the cathedral is “a sin that will be punished in this life and the next”. The official text of the indictment from the prosecutor’s office speaks of the trio’s “blasphemous acts” that inflicted “weighty suffering on those persons who find their spiritual home in the service of Orthodox ideals”.

It has even been claimed that Satan may be some sort of co-conspirator. 

In prison since March. Enough is enough. Free the three.


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