03/06/2020, 10.33
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God, People and Family: Putin and Kirill's new Russian Constitution

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Putin recieves the commission proposals. The three main formulas: faith in God "transmitted by our ancestors"; the Russian people as "constitutive of the state"; marriage as a "union of man and woman". Ethnic, cultural and religious "Russianness" as a unifying and dominant factor. But not everyone - including Muslims and lay people - agrees. Reminiscences of medieval conceptions leading to sovereignty.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - The work of the commissions set up by President Vladimir Putin for corrections to the Russian Constitution ended on March 2, and they handed over their proposals to Putin himself. Some "ideological" changes have been particularly discussed, and the chosen formulations are generating even more heated discussions in the country.

The three main formulas to be included in the new fundamental law concern the reference to faith in God "transmitted by our ancestors", the reference to the Russian people as "constitutive of the state" and marriage as "union of man and woman". These ideas were proposed by several members of the commissions and inspired by the Orthodox Church, but not all of them endorsed them, starting with the president of the main working group Pavel Krasheninnikov; Putin however accepted them and decided for their inclusion.

It had been proposed to condense these ideals into a Preamble that would act as a "moral orientation" for the entire constitution, but it was preferred to leave the possibility of a less formal drafting within the chapters. The precedent, which is rather controversial, is the famous preamble of the law on religious freedom of 1997, which states that "the main religion of Russia is Orthodoxy", which is flanked by the four traditional religions: "Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Christianity ”, creating an obvious contradiction about the nature of the Orthodox religion.

According to the  Kremlin, the corrections will be approved definitively through popular consultations: not through referendums, but in the form of surveys and evaluations also via the internet. If there are strong differences of opinion on any of the proposed points, these will be removed by the editorial staff. However, President Putin has already announced that he wants to include in Article 68 the concept of "Russian people constituting the state" (gosudarstvoobrazujushij) and Russian "state language", in art. 71 "faith in God" together with "continuity between Russia and the Soviet Union" and "inadmissibility of the reduction of the merits of the people in defense of the Fatherland", and art. 72 the defense of the institution of the family "as a union between man and woman" together with the "unity of ideals between the Russian Federation and the regions".

It is therefore a matter of strong ideological interpretations of the very nature of Russia, of its ethnic, cultural and religious "Russicity", as a unifying and dominant factor above the many differences in the peoples and traditions scattered throughout the territory of the Russian Federation. Putin himself reproached even the father of the revolution Vladimir Lenin, who had not wanted to focus fully on the primacy of the Russians in the composition of the Soviet Union, creating the basis for the nationalist claims.

The characteristic of "constitution of the state" even goes back to a medieval conception, proposed by the "possessing" monks led by the saint Josif of Volokolamsk at the beginning of the 16th century in controversy with the "pauperists" of Nil Sorsky. The latter believed it appropriate for the Church to renounce properties (which at that time were almost two thirds of the country's lands) in favor of evangelical asceticism, while Josif claimed the importance of the "proprieter" Church precisely as "constituting the State" and interpreter of the will, or rather of the soul itself of the Russian people.

Moreover, the representatives of Russian Islam oppose the radical "Russification", even though they are in favor of inserting faith in God in the constitution. To them, but also to other ethnic and religious groups, the definition of "Russian" appears more appropriate, not in the strict sense (russkij), but in the broader one of "Russian citizen" (rossijskij), which admits the different ethnic origin and geographic in the Eurasian lands that make up the immense territory of the country. The Orthodox Church itself, "godfather" of most of the corrections, expressed doubts about the inclusion in the family definitions of the concept of "children's rights", which could lead to the interference of the state in relations between parents and children.

It can be said that in these discussions the different interpretations of "Russian populism", a figure of the Putinian regime, and inspirer of many currents of sovereignty worldwide are highlighted. It is a difficult discussion to direct and control, but also fruitful and necessary, perhaps not only for today's Russia.

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