Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Ethnically and Religiously Mixed Marriages Threaten Survival of the Russian Nation, Kurayev Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 24 – The increasing number of marriages between ethnic Russians and members of other nationalities and faiths threatens the survival of the Russian nation and should be actively opposed by the Russian Orthodox Church and all those concerned about the fate of this community, according to Deacon Andrey Kurayev.
In an interview posted on the “Russkaya nedelya” portal today, the influential churchman says that such marriages helped expand the membership of the Russian nation “when our faith was strong” but now threaten it because the faith of most Russians who enter into such unions is “weak” (russned.ru/obschestvo/mezhnacionalnye-i-mezhreligioznye-braki).
And that means that in contrast to a century ago when most such marriages led the non-Orthodox partner to convert to Christianity and the non-Russian to re-identify with the dominant ethnic community, now that means that it is often the case that the trends are going in the opposite direction.
That is serious, Kurayev argues, because the number of interethnic marriages in Moscow alone has risen from one in six at the end of Soviet times to one in four now, and they have changed in their composition as well, with the share of ethnic Russian women marrying members of Caucasus and Central Asian nationalities rising significantly.
Although Kurayev devotes most of his argument to religious and ethnic values, he makes it clear that he is concerned about the racial consequences of such marriages. “If defending a population of white bears,” he says, “is considered permissible, “then why should anyone be gladdened by the disappearance of anthropological differences?”
Moreover, he continues, “geneticists have calculated that the last blonde on our planet will be born 150 years from now somewhere in Finland” – although the deacon hastens to add that he is not saying that “blondes are somehow better than brunettes” if for no other reason that he is not one and has a name which is either Tatar or Chechen.
But today, Kurayev says, “the Caucasians are ‘more passionate’ than the Russians,” and he is “accustomed to defend the weak,” not so much by taking “legal or police measures” like those in some other countries but rather by calling the attention of Russian society to “existing problems” that he hopes others will recognize and then act upon.
At the very least, the deacon insists, Russians should “stop singing praises to such marriages” and should not fall into the trap of thinking that nations and other ethnic communities are eternal. “That is not the case,” he says. Many groups have disappeared in the past, and others will disappear in the future. The crucial question is: which ones will survive?
But even before they disappear anthropologically, such communities – and ethnic Russians are one of them -- can disappear culturally. “In former centuries,” Kurayev suggests, “the answer to the question ‘what does it mean to be Russian?’ was simple: believe in Orthodoxy and dedicate your life to the Russian tsar.”
“I hope,” the professor at the Moscow Spiritual Academy says, “that we will not have a military consolidation and that no one will have to go into battle for the country under the slogan ‘For Medvedev-Putin.” But many people have lost their commitment to and knowledge of Orthodoxy, and that means their marriages to people of other faiths can have a negative impact.
Many who call themselves Orthodox do not know, he says, that “the Orthodox Church NEVER approved inter-religious marriages. And this was never a secret.” At the same time, however, falling in love with a person of another nation “is not a sin,” and “people who enter into such marriages are neither sinners nor criminals.”
But “the words ‘sin’ and ‘crime’ are not synonymous. And the words ‘sin’ and ‘threat’ are not equal. There is no sin in inter-ethnic and inter-confessional marriages. But there are threats,” especially when members of one religion or faith fall under the influence of another, in this case, Russian Orthodox falling under the influence of Muslim Caucasians.
“In Christ,” the Russian churchman says, “there is no Greek or Judaean, but only in Christ.” And that means that those who marry outside of Christianity are not following their faith, just as Catholics, Muslims or Jews, he continues, are not being true to their faiths if they marry others.
Kurayev, of course, does not speak for everyone in the Moscow Patriarchate. Indeed, he has said that he decided to remain a deacon in order to avoid the discipline expected of a priest and thus to have the freedom to speak out. But his statements, which invariably attract a great deal of attention, do reflect the feelings of many Russians.
And what is perhaps most important in Kurayev’s observations on this point is not the racism that informs them but rather the fear he expresses and that many Russians share that their nation is no longer assimilating but rather is being assimilated, a fear that helps to explain the increasingly negative attitudes toward “outsiders” within the country and beyond its borders.

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