Russia’s government is technically a federal, semi-presidential republic, much like the United States.. It has a history of being very secular, explicitly atheist while under Soviet rule. However, in recent years, the church has become a powerful institution, quite the change for a once-Communist country.
Earlier this year, Russia passed an (unopposed!) anti-LGBT law. Russia also has very strong anti-blasphemy laws (as demonstrated in their arrest of punk rock band Pussy Riot) and a new law to essentially protect the feelings of religious believers.
Despite the growing number of visible “Pastafarians” over the last few years, Russia’s Orthodox Church does not find the satire funny at all — nope, not one bit. While Russians are not necessarily known for their sense of humor, this response goes overboard.
On August 17, there was a Pastafarian march in Moscow. People were armed with “colanders on their heads and pasta in their mouths.” They claimed that their goal was to “promote happiness, cheerfulness and harmlessness.” There were around 100 people marching in what was supposed to be a lighthearted event, however the response was anything but.
Members of the unregistered Orthodox Christian group “God’s Will” alerted the police to the procession, according to Alexei Romanov, a member of the Pastafarian group. They were knocked down to the ground and eight of them were later charged with organizing an unsanctioned rally.
Critics accused the “spaghetti worshipers” of insulting the religious feelings of believers — an accusation that could mean three years in jail if upheld by a court.
Dmitry Enteo, the founder of God’s Will’s, even posted on his Twitter feed that “Pastafarianism is a blasphemous smear against Christianity.”
пастафаприанство это кощунственный глум над христианством, "пастариарх", "иконы", "пастный ход", "причащение макаронами", "мощи".
— Дмитрий Энтео (@dimitriyenteo) August 17, 2013
None of this is very surprising considering how close Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Church have become. During a meeting with top clerics in July, Putin said: “We act as genuine partners and colleagues to solve the most pressing domestic and international tasks, to implement joint initiatives for the benefit of our country and people.”
All of the backwards thinking is especially disheartening when Russia has a legacy of leaders who promoted westernization and progressive ideas. There were certainly failures, but none were as spectacular backwards as these last few months.