08/14/2012, 00.00
RUSSIA

Former Putin ideologue back to the leadership of Religious Affairs

Nina Achmatova
Surkov appointed head of the governmental commission for relations with other religions. The approval of the Patriarchate. Experts: Moscow intends to take radical decisions on issues that affect interfaith relations.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Russian Orthodox Church has welcomed the return of former Kremlin ideologist, Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov to head of the Russian government's Religious Affairs Committee.

"Vladislav Yuryevich is an intellectual and it is interesting and a pleasure to work with him," said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Synodal Department for relations between the Church and State after the news arrived of the appointment on August 13.

Theorist of a Vladimir Putin 'sovereign democracy' (with which they justify violations of democratic norms in the name of national sovereignty), on behalf of the government of Dmitri Medvedev Surkov will be in charge of the field of Religious Affairs, at an intense moment given the  case of Pussy Riot, the girl band that risks jail time for having chanted a punk prayer against Putin at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

Surkov, 47, was removed from his post as first deputy chief of staff of the Russian presidency in December after street protests against Putin. The latter, still prime minister but already favored candidate for president, then called him to the executive entrusting him the leadership of the Committee on Religious Affairs, a post he held until June, when the new Prime Minister Medvedev replaced him with Olga Gorodets.

According to business daily Vedomosti, Surkov's return to managing relations with religious organizations is due to the "difficult situation of the leadership of traditional religions." Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has been the subject of a series of scandals that have portrayed him as a man who lives in luxury and in comfort. Kirill was also strongly criticized by civil society and by the faithful themselves for his overly harsh position against the Pussy Riot girls and lack of mercy.

But the Orthodox Church is not the only religion under pressure. Even Islam, second largest religion in Russia, is struggling with extremism in a region that has always been a model of peaceful coexistence, Tatarstan. In this autonomous republic in the south a double attack on Muslim moderates, last month, has triggered the alert for the spread of Wahhabism from the North Caucasus.

Even the Mufti of Chechnya, Sultana Mirzayev, welcomed the return of Surkov to Religious Affairs. "This is a responsible and politically wise person - he said to Interfax - he knows the area well and his appointment suggests that the government intends to take radical decisions on issues that affect interfaith relations."

 

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