Thursday, March 7, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Anti-Extremist Efforts Said Pushing Russia toward Yugoslav Outcome

Paul Goble
            Staunton, March 7 – The Russian government’s anti-extremist efforts especially in the religious area are pushing the  country toward a Yugoslav scenario in which long-time friends within the country almost overnight become complete enemies because of the way in which the authorities choose to define their faiths,  according to a Moscow commentator

            In an article on the portal, Sergey Komov argues that “bureaucrats from the highest echelons of power” are leading Russia toward a Yugoslav-type collapse because of the way in which they are conducting their anti-extremism efforts and the people they are employing to carry out that effort (

            Komov singles out for particular criticism Justice Minister Alesandr Konovalov and his decision to form a special council on religious expertise and to include among its members “people who are openly hostile toward all who do not share their [particular] religious views,” thus involving the state in things that should be left to the theologians.

            And he commentator, argues that Konovalov’s decision to put Aleksandr Dvorkin in charge of that council is especially unfortunate because the notorious anti-sectarian Dvorkin has gone from being an outspoken “anti-Soviet” to being “an Orthodox patriot” interested in rooting out all those who disagree with his version of Orthodoxy.

            Dvorkin, who emigrated from the USSR and then worked in Israel, the United States and  Europe, returned to Russia in 1991 and began his “active ‘struggle’ for the purity of Orthodoxy.” He became a professor at the St. Tikhon Theological University where he presented himself as a specialist on Christian “sectarians.”

            In that capacity, he has acted very much against the reality that Russia is multi-national and poly-confessional, Komov says, and that “for centuries, people with different religious and cultural traditions have lived together” and not just because of the dominance of the Russian Orthodox Church.

            “Anyone who cannot understand this simple truth,” the commentator continues, “is either a complete idiot or an open provocateur.” And he suggests that Dvorkin and others like him are the latter and thus part of a long tradition dating back to Father Gapon, whose activities on behalf of Russia’s Okhrana led to the “bloody tragedy” of Russia’s 1905 revolution.

            Dvorkin resembles Gapon “extremely closely” in that he “ascribes to the enemies of Orthodoxy representatives of all other trends in Christianity and also representatives of all other religious confessions in Russia.” And like his predecessor, Dvorkin has managed to set Russian against Russian “on a religious basis.”

            Dvorkin “in fact considers as ‘sectarians’ representatives of all officially registered religious organizations which do not correspond according to his ideology with his personal understanding of Orthodoxy.”  In this, unfortunately, he enjoys the active support of some “extremely doubtful Orthodox clerics” such as the late Daniil Sysoyev.

            The activities of such people were how “the entire tragedy of Yugoslavia began,” Komov argues.  From 1945 until the mid-1980s, people there lived together in relative harmony because “each religious confession had equal rights and equal opportunities.” But “one fine day,” this ended,  as if someone had waved “a magic wand.”

            According to Komov, that wand was wielded by specialists according to “a special program developed in the nests of the American CIA, the essence of which was the setting of neighbor against neighbor” to de-stabilize the situation.  He suggests that “what is happening today in Russia very much recalls” that Yugoslav experience.

            That the Americans or someone else might want to undermine Russian unity is one thing, Komov continues, but how is one to explain the role of the Russian justice minister who appears to be helping them, an official “who is called upon to defend the interests of all citizens of Russia independent of their religious or political attachments.”

             But instead of doing that, Konovalov has appointed Dvorkin to a key post and has put out lists of “prohibited” Islamic literature, including on it some genuinely extremist items but also boos that have nothing extremist about them and that promote inter-ethnic and inter-religious cooperation.

            People like Dvorkin should not be involved in the labeling of anything “extremist,” and the justice minister should recognize that if things continue as they are, “our brother Muslims will at one fine moment suddenly become our most died in the wool enemies.”  Then, Russia will follow the path of Yugoslavia.

             “Constantly rocking such an enormous boat as Russia is an extremely dangerous thing,” Komov concludes. For having lost its anchor, it will rock from side to side” beyond the capacity of anyone to bring it back into balance. “And then it will go to the bottom.” Those in Russia who are helping Dvorkin rock the boat should remember that.

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