Thursday, January 6, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Yeltsin-Era Experts Must ‘Not Play a Role’ in Defining Russia’s Future, Moscow Patriarchate Official Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, January 6 – Russia’s “expert stratum of the 1990s” must not be allowed to play “any decisive role” in defining the future of the country given their share of the blame for failures in the economy and international relations during that decade, according to the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department on church-society relations.
In an article in the January issue of his department’s “Rus’ derzhavnaya” paper, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, a protégé of Patriarch Kirill, says that such people must be excluded from serious decision-making, the clearest indication yet of where the Moscow Patriarchate is positioning itself politically (
Instead, Russia must rely on the appearance of “a new and more creative group of experts,” who do not have the baggage of the 1990s such as the racing after money in the electoral campaigns of that decade, and who “must find a way to popular support and together with the people influence the taking of decisions.
But “unfortunately,” Chaplin continues, it sometimes appears that people are still “listening to this hopelessly compromised elite which offers recipes for nationality policy drawn from the end of the 1980s – recipes which never worked and which now are simply dangerous” because conditions require not “babbling” but rather “extraordinary measures.”
Chaplin’s comment came in response to continuing discussions about how Moscow should react to nationality problems such as those manifested most prominently in the clashes in the Russian capital’s Manezh Square three weeks ago, discussions that have featured proposals ranging from giving the North Caucasus independence to greater repression.
Thanks to God and to the efforts of law enforcement agencies, the archpriest said, Russians in this and other recent cases have “not been divided by blood and Russia was saved from total inter-ethnic fighting.” But Chaplin argues, “problems remain” and must be addressed if the country is to avoid disaster.
Now, he says, “it is necessary that the powers with the participation of society must look truth in the face and begin to solve these problems not only at the level of words but also at the level of legislative actions and administrative actions.” And that in turn is going to require some fundamental changes.
“It is obvious,” the senior churchman says, “that the connection between the powers and the majority of the people in the country is weak,” a pattern that is exacerbated by divides in the understanding of “the past, present and future” and that makes it very difficult “to guarasntee a secure and stable course of development” for the country.
And adding to this problem is that far too often the people and the powers listen to members of “the hopelessly compromised elite” which continues to propose nationality policies from the 1980s, policies that “never worked and that “now are simply dangerous for the situation requires not babbling but rather extraordinary measures.”
The powers that be need to take into consideration “the opinion of the people” and to adopt policies the people favor or to change those people do not like. Otherwise, Chaplin says, the authorities will be “putting Russia [again] on the edge of a catastrophe just as was the case in 1917.”
“I am convinced,” Chaplin argues, “that any speeches and slogans” directed against any people or promoting inter-ethnic hostility “must be excluded.” But at the same time, he continues “illegal migration must also be completely excluded, just as any other violation of the law must be” in Russia.
And he suggests that the rise of “Nazi, neo-pagan and other such groups,” who are trying either to gain power or win “millions of supporters” represents a serious danger.” The history of the 20th century shows that radical groups having obtained power or influence never are able to lead the country to a prosperous and peaceful life.”
“The history of Russia after 1917 and of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s clearly shows this,” and Chaplin says that “if the movement of concerned people is formed as a movement or Nazis or neo-pagans, then this will be a bad thing for everyone and in the first instance for the Russian people.”
. “Today, the Russian people needs a national rebirth so that its system of values, its faith and culture will define the actions of the powers and all social processes,” but in this rebirth in the future, he says, those who mislead the country in the 1990s must not be allowed to play a role lest they take Russia down the wrong path once again.
What makes Chaplin’s comment important is that it represents the clearest statement of the Moscow Patriarchate’s attempt to combine opposition to the events of the 1990s and to the Soviet system with support for both an expanded role for the Russian people in the country’s political process and for a tough law-and-order regime.
Whether that combination of positions is sustainable in the Russia of today, of course, remains to be seen, but at the very least it provides the Church as have many of Chaplin’s essays in the past with the flexibility to change sides from the powers to the people or the reverse as the political winds appear to dictate.
And while some in the tandem will be only too pleased to hear part of his and the Church’s message, they are certain to be worried about other aspects of it. And the powers that be are certain to be especially concerned by this latest indication that the Moscow Patriarchate is positioning itself for a future political role that may lead it to be more independent from the state.

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