Moscow, Orthodox Lent and fasting (forced) on the internet
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Patriarchate spokesman Aleksandr Volkov  warns the faithful  against " mutual forgiveness ", a Lenten gesture, via social media and text messages. In April, the government plans to suspend the global Internet to avoid fake news. Large demonstrations in many Russian cities: "Russia is not Iran or North Korea: we are part of the civilized world".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Yesterday, March 11, Lent began according to the liturgical calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church, which will lead to the Easter celebration on Sunday April 28, a week after the Catholic and other Churches, which follow the Gregorian calendar.

On Sunday 10 March, at the end of the week of "fats" (maslenitsa, the last one in which fatty foods are allowed), the rite of "mutual forgiveness" was held, when the Church invites everyone to ask for forgiveness from others before fasting  for their sins.

This rite, which provides for an explicit act of contrition and a gesture of peace to be exchanged with others, has contributed to fueling a controversy that is shaking the entire nation, with regards to the internet and the IT: through Patriarchate spokesman Aleksandr Volkov , the Orthodox Church warned the faithful to avoid the "exchange of forgiveness" via social media and text messages.

The communiqué states that "the sending of images and devout drawings seasoned with pre-packaged phrases, such as I forgive you and you forgive me, has nothing in common with the authentic sense of forgiveness".

The Church tradition includes visiting the tomb of loved ones at the cemetery, then going to church and exchanging the request for forgiveness and peace, as an "indispensable condition for entering the Lenten journey". There is no need to send a message to all the contacts on your list, said Volkov, but you have to "look for the people who are really dear, relatives and friends. It is not a question of quantity, as if forgiveness were a like, but of quality: if we can really forgive at least one person, it will be a big step in Lenten conversion ".

The patriarchal war against virtual relations is part of a heated climate due to parliamentary decisions in recent weeks, which could lead to a blocking of the international internet network in April, and to the control measures against fake news, which have provoked protests and street demonstrations.

The website Ekaterinburg TochkaNews  launched a provocative appeal, referring to of Parliament Speaker, Vjaceslav Volodin’s recommendations to control information during the Easter period, to avoid "false interpretations" of the Christian holiday.

The agency asked Volodin the question "Can you prove that Christ's resurrection is not a fake? How would you explain this event in the media, without incurring penalties? ". The director of Novaja Gazeta Dmitrij Fomintsev commented in turn that, according to the new provisions, journalists cannot talk about the central mystery of the Christian faith, without breaking the rules. This because the rules would ban any reporting of news that is not supported by clearly demonstrable facts . For now, no response has been forthcoming  from the Duma on the "Easter" provocations.

The measure against the fake news was approved in parliament at first reading, with a text signed by the deputy Andrej Klishas, ​​who believes media could be "blocked" in the event of the dissemination of news that lead to "threats that have harmful consequences on the life and health of citizens, and violations of public order ”. There would be fines and censorship measures.

Demonstrations have taken place in various Russian cities, both authorized and unauthorized (see photo 2), which promise to increase in intensity in the coming weeks, even overcoming protests against the pension reform.

In Moscow, almost 20 thousand people marched, despite police attempts to slow the influx of the procession, which had been authorized for a maximum of 10 thousand. At least 30 people were arrested, including members of the liberal-nationalist party (LDPR) present in parliament and some journalists who had been provided with an official pass.

As is increasingly the case in Russia, the police have been joined by druzhinniki groups, public order volunteers, a figure that existed at the time of the Soviet regime, with the task of controlling the demonstrators and confiscating dangerous materials (banners, leaflets and even some drones).

Unauthorized marches of several hundred people took place in Voronezh, Khabarovsk and other Russian cities. The founder of the first Russian socialist Vkontakte, Pavel Durov, supported the demonstrations by claiming that "Russia is not Iran or North Korea, we are part of the civilized world". Durov has lived abroad for some years.

In April the international internet connection will be temporarily suspended, as foreseen in the text of Klishas approved by the Duma, according to which "the isolation of Russia from the internet may be necessary in exceptional situations, to defend national security".