Russia's Surprising Post-Communist State Ideology Emerges
The apologists for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin have always maintained a two-pronged position when they argue that we should not worry about his aggressive moves to recreate a Soviet state. First, he has no ideology analogous to Communism, and second, the power of the internet. These two bulwarks were supposed to protect us from a neo-Soviet dictatorship. But under Barack Obama we have seen both blown away as if by an atomic blast.
Two recent events show how the ideology of the Russian Orthodox Church, ironically the bogeyman of the Communists, has replaced Communism as the official state ideology of the Kremlin.
For years, Putin has been slowly insinuating the Church and its clergymen into the halls of power. Now, the emboldened and empowered Church is using its power to obliterate the authority of competing religions.
The most dramatic example of this insidious effort came last week, when the Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church in Moscow's eastern suburb of Novokosino was razed the ground in the middle of the night without warning by the Kremlin. When the parish priest attempted to hold an open-air service on the site of the demolished church, he was arrested and charged with conducting political activity without a permit.
Then came word that the Kremlin was thumbing its nose at the Jews of the Chabad-Lubavitch Orthodox sect in Brooklyn. The Kremlin is holding over ten thousand books and manuscripts seized from the Jews by the godless Bolsheviks; despite a recent ruling by a New York District Court, it is refusing to return them, claiming they have become part of Russia's "national heritage." The Kremlin has thousands of other books looted from the Jews by the Nazis and recovered by the Red Army as war spoils. It won't return those, either.
In appalling fashion, the Obama administration has sided with the Kremlin against the American citizens of Chabad-Lubavitch, filing papers in court urging the judge not to impose sanctions on Russia for failing to comply with his order. This is part of a wider policy President Obama has consistently adhered to since he came to office. Obama has made it clear that he wants to give Russia preferential trade status without any conditions related to human rights, leaving Putin so delighted that he actually endorsed Obama's re-election over Mitt Romney.
But despite all this largesse from the White House, the Kremlin still won't support U.S. policy in either Iran or Syria, stymieing U.S. efforts in the U.N. to impose sanctions on these rogue regimes, meaning that the U.S. gets nothing in return for its unilateral concessions betraying American values.
Both Bill Clinton and Al Gore had worked with Chabad-Lubavitch to pressure the Kremlin to return the writings, and each had actually recovered some manuscripts and handed them over to the group. But the Obama administration is so obsessed with appeasing the Russian dictator that it has abandoned all pretext of support for Americans and simply eschews any action at which Putin might take offense. In a recent visa reform deal with Russia, Americans were required to book hotel reservations in Russia through an official visa agency before traveling, but no such requirement was imposed on Russians traveling to the U.S. It's a typical example of the Obama administration's preference for Russian interests over those of American citizens.
The internet has no chance of pushing back against a floodtide this overwhelming. Outside the largest cities, Russians have almost no viable access to the internet, and the Kremlin is actively engaged in measures to crush internet dissidence wherever it appears. The vast majority of Russians get their news from Kremlin-operated broadcast television, and they continue to trust what the Kremlin tells them there. Only about a quarter of the Russian population uses the internet to get the news, leaving Putin with an unassailable three-quarters majority when he seeks office.
Putin is now aligning himself ever more closely with Russian Orthodoxy, in the manner of a Holy Russian Emperor. That is why the performance artists of the Pussy Riot collective drew a two-year prison sentence at labor when they dared to stage a performance in Russia's main Orthodox cathedral, where Putin himself goes to display his connection to the Orthodox Church. At a recent protest concert against this persecution of the artists, the Russian Bruce Springsteen, Yuri Shevchuk of the band DDT, stated: "In 1992, we participated in a festival against political repression. Twenty years have passed, but it seems almost nothing has changed." In other words, welcome back to the USSR!
Make no mistake: if the Pussy Riot artists had chosen a Protestant church or a Jewish synagogue for their display, they would never have been prosecuted. In fact, they might have been featured on state-controlled TV and given a record contract! It is the fact that they dared to enter the temple of Orthodoxy, and for the purpose of criticizing Putin, that got them in trouble.
Indeed, if anything, Russia is even more hostile to American values now than it was in Soviet times. At least back then, Russians did not believe that their hatred of all things American was ordered by God; it came only from the halls of the Politburo and the writings of Marx and Engels. Now, Putin is telling them that his KGB attitudes are holy relics, that Russians are a chosen people, and that the Orthodox faith is the one true light that shines from heaven upon mankind.
And Putin could not have asked for a more willing partner than Obama, just as Hitler could not have wanted more than he got from Chamberlain. Obama has hung his presidency on the notion that he could turn Russia from a foe under George W. Bush to a friend and ally under the banner of his "reset" policy. He promised us that in return for more understanding and flexibility, Russia would stop supporting America-hating terrorists in places like Iran and Syria. And even though nothing like that has happened, Obama has still stubbornly clung to his "reset," insisting that he has changed our relations with Russia and should be given a second term to continue his campaign of seducing Putin further.