Russia’s Religious Patrols

In the wake of Pussy Riot’s performance/protest in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, members of the Orthodox church have begun organizing patrols to protect their faith from mockery. From Moscow News:

Orthodox activists are up in arms to protect their priests and sacred places with patrol squads scouring Moscow for the “enemies of faith.”

Ivan Otrakovsky, head of Orthodox Christian movement Holy Rus, said seven teams had already started operating in the Russian capital, BBC Russian service reported on Wednesday.

“The time has come to remind all apostates and theomachists that it is our land and we forbid blasphemous, offensive actions and statements against the Orthodox religion and our people,” Otrakovsky wrote in his call for volunteers at the end of last week.

The offensive actions can take various forms, but they can be “a kind of ‘art’, marches, lectures or anything else that comes laden with blasphemy, heresy, defilement and lechery,” it has to be stopped, according to Otrakovsky.

My impression is that the Russian government will frown on vigilantes like this. The consensus is that Putin has steered the government in a more authoritarian direction, and such governments don’t take kindly to people who claim authority without being under government control.

Still, it’s a frightening development. The idea of religious vigilantes makes me think of groups like Saudi Arabia’s mutaween, or Repent Amarillo in Texas. Sure, the orthodox patrols say they’re simply protecting their faith from disrespect – which is bad enough – but what if certain members decide that other religions are disrespecting their church, or that certain forms of immorality are an insult to their faith?

  • Custador

    “what if certain members decide that other religions are disrespecting their church, or that certain forms of immorality are an insult to their faith?”

    Then Russia will as well be the USA!

  • Bob Jase

    If communism looked bad just think what theocratic dictatorship will look like – czarist Russia is back.

    • trj

      Historically, Czarist rule in Russia, though bad, hardly begins to compare to the atrocities and suffering commited under Communist rule.

      But yeah, totalitarian rule of any kind is to be avoided.

      • Artor

        You may want to look into your history a little deeper. Many of the horrifying atrocities we see as the sole responsibility of the Communist Party are merely continuations of old traditions in Russia.

        • trj

          Though Russia has a bloody history, especially towards its peasant class, I find it difficult to find a historical analog to eradicating 20 million of your own citizens. It’s one thing for a ruler to oppress and neglect his population, it’s another to choose to actively annihilate them en masse.

          Case in point: During 1918-1920 the Cheka, Lenin’s security forces, summarily executed more people for political purposes each month than in the previous 92 years Russia was under modern czardom. And that was just the start of things to come.

  • vasaroti

    Various Protestant groups have been pretty busy in Russia. I wonder if they will come into conflict with the Orthodox believers. There should still be a lot of atheists in Russia, too- two generations were raised without any official support for religion.
    Of course, The Former Soviet Union has has a religious war simmering for a long time: Chechnya.

  • Yoav

    Putin may try to convert this group into an equivalent of the Saudi Mutaween or Iranian Basij, a government controlled, but unofficial, goon squads that can be used to terrorize potential dissidents while allowing him some level of deniability.

  • johnm

    In the 2009 historical film AGORA, the christians take over the city government of Roman ruled Alexandria in Egypt and a Christian? religious police force is created which leads to the murder of the female philosopher /scientist Hypatia (among others!). (not a Hollywood movie so may have elements of reality in it!)

  • Vander Goten

    Back in the 18th century in France, Voltaire had to defend the memory of someone who was executed for having insulted the Body of Christ in a procession :

    Things have hardly improved, it seems…