Staunton, November 29 – Stavropol Mufti Muhammad-haji Rakhimov told the Third Stavropol Forum of the World Russian Popular Assembly that “Russian [rossiiskye] Muslims are an inalienable part of the Russian [russky] world,” a statement at odds with some by other speakers who stressed the Orthodox and ethnic nature of that idea.
The mufti added that “contemporary Russian Muslims are sincere patriots who love their motherland and serve it. For the world community, there are no ‘rossiyane’ [the non-ethnic civic identity Moscow earlier had sought to promote]; everyone calls all of us ‘russkiye’ [a term historically used for ethnic Russians].”
The Muslim leader continued by telling the 1,000 people in attendance that for the Muslims of the Russian Federation, who now form an increasingly large fraction of its population, two factors are “important: a powerful Russia and a strong Orthodoxy” (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2014/11/28/rossijskie_musulmane_yavlyayutsya_neotemlemoj_chastyu_russkogo_mira/).
Those pushing the idea of a Russian world would like to ensure that they have the loyalty of those who are Russian citizens even if they are not Orthodox or ethnic Russians, but they face a serious problem: if they include them, they reduce the Russian world to loyalty to the Russian state alone, perhaps the Kremlin’s goal but certainly not that of many Russian nationalists.
Most speakers at this meeting as at others have sought to avoid the kind of hard and fast definition of the Russian world that would exclude many people, but their efforts to do so have the effect of highlighting the weakness of what is after all the chief ideological component of Vladimir Putin’s rule.
One participant at the Stavropol meeting, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, in his remarks showed just how difficult it is even for those most loyal to the Kremlin to square this circle in ways that do not drain the concept of most of its meaning and thus limit its utility as a mobilizing tool.
Chaplin, a close protégé of Moscow Patriarch Kirill and one of the leading ideologists of the Russian Orthodox Church, reminded the group of Kirill’s statement that Russians have always been guided by five values: faith, justice, solidarity, dignity, and a commitment to state power.
“We have defeated many attacks from the East and from the West, and we will defeat as well those who try to impose on us life according to their alien rules,” Chaplin said. “We will defeat America, not necessarily on the field of battle but on the field of ideas and meaning.” And the reason for that is that “behind us is truth.”
For Russians, he continued, “there are things which are more important than profit, comfort and even earthly life.” And “we have everything needed so that without retreating into isolationism, we can offer to the world a moral order based on our values.” That “order” will be backed by “thinking people” in the West, the Islamic world, China and Latin America.”
Chaplin did not say how those who accept Islam or follow Confucianism or believe in democracy and freedom could support a world order defined by Orthodox Christianity, but it may be that he excludes all those from the category of “thinking people” who he says are coming out in support of Moscow.