His cultural conservatism is not a front
This is an excerpt from an article that originally appeared at The Unz Review
Putin’s remarks at the Valdai Forum in September 2013, in front of representatives from most European countries, deserve extensive quoting. Here is some of what he said:
"Another serious challenge to Russia’s identity is linked to events taking place in the world. Here there are both foreign policy and moral aspects.
We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their historic roots, including the Christian values that constitute the very basis of Western civilisation.
They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual. They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan.
The excesses of political correctness have reached the point where people are seriously talking about registering political parties whose aim is to promote paedophilia.
People in many European countries are embarrassed or afraid to talk about their religious affiliations. Holidays are abolished or even called something different; their essence is hidden away, as is their moral foundation.
And people are aggressively trying to export this model all over the world.
I am convinced that this opens a direct path to degradation and primitivism, resulting in a profound demographic and moral crisis. What else but the loss of the ability to self-reproduce could act as the greatest testimony of the moral crisis facing a human society?
Today almost all developed nations are no longer able to reproduce themselves, even with the help of unlawful migration.
Without the values embedded in Christianity, without the standards of morality that have taken shape over millennia, people will inevitably lose their human dignity.
We consider it natural and right to defend these values. One must respect every minority’s right to be different, but the rights of the majority must not be put into question."
And Putin gained firm support and endorsement from that inveterate and most intransigent anti-Communist, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Before his death in 2008, Solzhenitsyn praised Putin and stated that he believed Putin’s personal acceptance of Christian faith to be genuine.
American ambassador William Burns visited Solzhenitsyn (April 2008) shortly prior to his death and quoted him as stating that under Putin, the nation was rediscovering what it was to be Russian and Christian. [See article at guardian.co.uk, Thursday, December 2, 2010] The great Russian anti-Communist also gave a long 2007 interview with the German magazine, Der Spiegel, saying the same thing.
While initially following the Yeltsin pro-American and pro-Western lead in foreign policy, Putin was also aware that Russia was undergoing a radical transition from a decrepit and collapsed Communist state to the recovery of some of its older traditions, including a mushrooming, vibrant return to traditional Russian Orthodoxy, a faith which he has publicly and personally embraced. [See various confirming reports, including Charles Glover, “Putin and the Monk,” FINANCIAL TIMES Magazine, January 25, 2013, and video clip.
During the days of oppressive Communist rule, the Russian Orthodox Church, at least the official leadership, was subservient to Marxism, with many of its leaders at least mouthing Communist ideas, if not serving as agents.
The former Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexei (who died in 2008), had been criticized as a collaborator with the Communist regime. However, the so-called “intelligence proof” that suddenly “appeared” in Estonia stating that he was a secret KGB agent has been placed in very serious doubt (see Wikipedia, “Patriarch Alexei” article).
Apparently, the “documents” were most likely fabricated and not genuine. Indeed,as the Encyclopedia Britannica in its biography of him relates, Alexei was "the first patriarch in Soviet history to be chosen without government pressure; candidates were nominated from the floor, and the election was conducted by secret ballot.”
Not only that, after the fall of Communism, Alexei publicly denounced Communist crimes and called for the freedom of Christianity in Russia.
It became something of a moot point when Alexei died in 2008; his replacement as head of the Russian church was Archbishop Kirill, someone who is known for his staunch opposition to Marxism and his defense of historic Christianity and traditional morality.
As Russian religious scholar Professor John Garrard exhaustively demonstrates in his excellent study, Russian Orthodoxy Resurgent (2008), from 1991 onwards the Russian Orthodox Church began a necessary purification, with older collaborators and Communist agents gradually stepping down or being removed.
Today the Russian Orthodox Church is, by far, the most conservative, traditional and anti-Communist religious body in the world. It has gone so far as to canonize dozens of martyrs killed by the Communists and celebrate the Romanov tsar and his family who were brutally murdered by the Reds in 1918.
Significantly, since 1991 over 26,000 new Christian churches have opened in Russia, and the fact that Christianity is being reborn in Russia has not gone unnoticed among some Christian writers in the America and Europe, although generally ignored by the secular press. [There are numerous articles and reports chronicling this amazing rebirth, e.g., Russia has experienced a spiritual resurrection, Catholic Herald, October 22, 2014; see also, “Faith Rising in the East, Setting in the West,” January 29, 2014, Break Point Commentaries.
Such a phenomena is not some Communist plot, but represents a genuine desire on the part of the Russian people to rediscover their religious roots, ironically just as a majority of American now seem to embrace same sex marriage, abortion, and the worst extremes of immorality and the rejection of traditional Christianity.
In support of his goals Putin has championed Russian laws that:
(1) have practically outlawed abortion in Russia (no abortions after the 12 th week, and before that time in limited cases, and also the end of financial support for abortions, reversing a previous Soviet policy);
(2) clamp down on homosexuality and homosexual propaganda---absolutely no homosexual propaganda in Russian schools, no public displays of homosexuality, with legal penalties imposed for violating these laws;
(3) strongly support traditional marriage, especially religious marriage, with financial aid to married couples having more than two children;
(4) have established compulsory religious instruction in all Russian schools (including instruction in different Christian confessions, in different regions of the country); (4) implement a policy instituting chaplaincy in Russian military regiments (and religious institutions now assist in helping military families);
(5) have made religious holidays now official Russian state holidays;
(6) have instituted a nationwide program of rebuilding churches that were destroyed by the Communists (the most notable being the historic Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow); and
(7) officially support the Russian film industry in producing conservative religious and patriotic movies—interestingly, the most popular film in Russia in 2009 was the movie “Admiral,” a very favorable biopic of the leader of the White Russian counter-revolutionary, Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, who was executed by the Communists in 1920. The film was supported by the Russian cultural ministry. Can we imagine the American NEH doing anything similar in the current United States? [See reports, OneNewsNow.com, January 23, 2013; LifeSiteNews, October 26, 2011, August 1, 2013; Scott Rose, Bloomberg News, June 30, 2013; see also Garrard on some of these actions]
As American Catholic author, Mark Tooley, has written Understanding a More Religious and Assertive Russia, April 2, 2014:
"Putin has formed a close association with Russian Orthodoxy, as Russian rulers typically have across centuries.
He is smart to do so, as Russia has experienced somewhat of a spiritual revival….
Orthodoxy is widely and understandably seen as the spiritual remedy to the cavernous spiritual vacuum left by over 70 disastrous, often murderous years of Bolshevism.
Resurgent religious traditionalism has fueled Russia’s new law against sexual orientation proselytism to minors and its new anti-abortion law.
Both laws also respond to Russia’s demographic struggle with plunging birth rates and monstrously high abortion rates that date to Soviet rule.
Some American religious conservatives have looked to Russian religious leaders as allies in international cooperation on pro-family causes."
Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European intellectual history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain and an MA in American intellectual history from the University of Virginia. He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. He has published in French, Spanish, and English on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations.