07/30/2022, 09.00
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Russia's conservative revenge

by Stefano Caprio

A moral counter-revolution, as some Russian media call it, is the global and declared aim of the war in Ukraine; for this reason, it has touched a sensitive nerve in the West, much more than the geographical proximity between NATO forces and those of neo-Soviet Russia.

A lot has been said about Russia’s hot war (bombs and missiles), and West’s economic war (sanctions) and new geopolitical blocks, but much more can be said about the Kremlin’s information war abroad and the political rows with the West.

The resignation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as that of his Italian counterpart, Mario Draghi, not to mention the weakness of Scholz, Macron and even Biden, are in various ways connected to the more or less covert manipulations by Kremlin specialists, whether hackers, unscrupulous financial intermediaries or mercenaries with the Wagner Group, who from Libya are sending boat loads of desperate people from Africa and the Middle East across the sea to boost the electoral fortunes of European anti-immigration sovereigntists.

War strategies aside, whether economic or political, Russia is pushing a religious and ideological salvific message on behalf of hallowed tradition against a broken and morally polluted postmodern West.

Whether it is the protection of the pure tradition of Orthodoxy, or the more aggressive customs of a Uralic and Caucasian Islam unleashed in the Ukrainian jihad, or perhaps other minor European or Asian groups, or even an unspecified "system of values higher morals” in defence of the Fatherland and Family, nothing of what is happening need refer to conspiracy theories or 20th century spy stories.

Much can be attributed to Putin and his mentor Kirill, except for the concealment of an apocalyptic preaching that gives Moscow, the Third Rome, in both its ancient and modern versions, the task of imposing a conservative mantle on humanity.

For years, if not decades, in both the United States and Europe, various political groups and cultural forces have stood as defenders of traditional religious and social principles, both right and left, acting on behalf of the people oppressed by elites who live in the posh parts of town.

Populists, sovereigntists, identity supremacists, neocons and theocons, often surprisingly new converts to long-scorned doctrines, no-vax and anti-everything, all of them may long for long-lost regimes that have left no survivors nor witnesses. Yet Putin's friends certainly did not come out of nowhere, whether in Armenia or Hungary, to hinder the supply of weapons to an uppity Ukraine ruled by the puppet Zelensky and save the holy patriarch of Moscow from diabolical sanctions.

Kirill himself surprised the whole world when he justified Ukraine’s invasion a few days after it started, stating that it was necessary to protect society from the imposition of “gay parades”. What was certainly a provocative joke, today seems to reflect a deeper ideological milieu found in many places.

The solemn commitment to prevent the spread of “gender madness” in Western societies is one of the cornerstones of traditionalist politicians in every continent, so much so that it is hard to criticise the classic sexism of Islamic countries, which by now are no longer front-page news.

Many Europeans back the loudmouths who complain about European institutions in Brussels, where Russophobia and individual rights come together, which deny biological evidence and impose an “extinctionist” vision of Western society, based on the loss of all traditions and beliefs about nature and the human person, as well as cultural and religious roots.

Beyond the tactical alignments vis-à-vis military operations, the former are Putin's real troops in Europe and the world, who unlike the Buryat or Chechen infantry sent to the slaughter, are not asking for wages or an honourable burial.

Yesterday, the speaker of Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament), Vyacheslav Volodin, announced that by next fall a new law will be approved banning all forms of propaganda of “non-traditional values” for Russians of all ages. At present, several bills are before the house and the Russian government is bent on getting one through.

A similar bill was tabled in the regional legislature of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia, which wants to free itself from the Western toxic phobias against traditional gender identities.

Just as the war seems to be moving towards a lull, ahead of the proclamation in September of the full liberation of the Donbass from Ukrainian Nazis, the campaign for the "defensive" moral invasion of the whole world is picking up speed in grand style.

Putin's advocate in the European Union, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, rejoiced at the fall of various governments from the fallout of the economic war with Russia, while sending a resolution from the Hungarian parliament to Brussels, proposing unity to the countries of the Old World around “Christian cultural and roots” as the basis for their political integration.

Other variations on the same theme exist, most notably the “defence of liberal and Christian values”. The overturning by the US Supreme Court after 49 years of Roe vs Wade, the decision by a previous bench allowing abortion, caused a sensation, especially since it came at a time when the “pro-extinction” democrats are in power.

Patriarch Kirill clarified these concepts several times, on 21 July for example, when he said that faith is disappearing everywhere in the Christian world, or it is being deforming to the point that nothing will remain of it. He stressed once more the indispensable mission that falls on the Russian people not to surrender to the forces of evil.

After resuming its central role in the life of the country, the Moscow patriarchate tried several times in the past 20 years to get the pope of Rome and all Catholics to join this struggle, eliciting some enthusiastic support among more traditional Catholics but not always convincing answers from the establishment.

Speaking in Quebec City (Canada) this week, Pope Francis echoed the words of the head of the Russian Orthodox, when he said: “what [. . .], in today’s world, threatens the joy of faith and thus risks diminishing it and compromising our lives as Christians.  We can immediately think of secularization, which has greatly affected the style of life of contemporary men and women, relegating God, as it were, to the background.”

Tensions between Rome and German Catholics during the ongoing synodal process precisely reflect today’s stark juxtaposition. The pope himself warned German bishops not to push minority rights and egalitarianism within the Church too far, or risk another Lutheran-type schism.

The Vatican's hesitancy to condemn Russia’s war or show support for the Ukrainian resistance is justified not only by its natural support for dialogue and peaceful solutions as the only way to get contenders to lay down their weapons, but also reflects the need to find an adequate response to the epochal challenge coming from Russian Orthodoxy.

The question is how to define the true universal primacy of the Church and Christianity in the world, which in the Russian version does not depend on true or presumed apostolic roots, on the numbers of the baptised or actual worshippers, which are also very iffy, or on ecumenical understandings, theological or humanitarian, however noble and stale they may be.

The definition depends on a consensus and the capacity for social and political influence, on the new use of religion to define the boundaries of rights and institutions, on ideological support for advancing visions of the world of tomorrow.

The conservative revenge, or moral counter-revolution as it is called in some Russian media, is the global and declared aim of the war in Ukraine, and for this reason it has touched a sensitive nerve in the West, much more than the geographical proximity of the forces of NATO and neo-Soviet Russia.

After all, war is now a fact, to which human beings have traditionally adapted very easily, taking sides and becoming passionate about the technological innovations in weaponry, scandalised and moved by the tragic scenes that fill the daily news cycle, with generals and prelates asked to comment on the more complex aspects of missile and devotional assaults.

Western societies are tired of the insane Russian-Ukrainian war, especially in the scorching heat of their summer holidays, when people just seek the coolness of mountain peaks (some of which are collapsing due to global warming) or breezy beaches, with lifeguards ready to save the unwary who wallow in the water.

No one knows what will come with the end of the summer break, amid energy crises and ongoing election campaigns, but we do know that the Russians are already among us – not spies or secret agents, nor rich oligarchs whose lavish homes and villas now lay abandoned or seized, but within us, in our fears and in our indifference, in our inability to unite politically, religiously or even just humanly in order not to slide into a new Middle Ages of the spirit.

We can only turn to the magisterium of Pope Francis, who said: “When we consider the ambient culture, and its variety of languages and symbols, we must be careful not to fall prey to pessimism or resentment, passing immediately to negative judgments or a vain nostalgia.”




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See also
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to carry on 'Doctrinal' Dialogue with the Lefebvrists
19/01/2019 14:33
Lukashenko: Pope Francis and Kirill should meet in Minsk for peace in Ukraine
24/05/2016 09:42
Ukrainian Greek Catholics: "betrayed" by "half-truths" in Francis and Kirill’s Joint Declaration
15/02/2016 09:48
For Ukrainian Church, even the pope calls the conflict a civil war, something Kyiv does not acknowledge
Tehran lets women in stadium prompting reformists’ praise and conservatives’ wrath
20/10/2018 08:15


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