The Irish Crimean: The Sophisticated Case of Religious Pluralism in Russia


July 27, 2017 – Fort Russ News – 

Op-ed by Padraig Joseph McGrath – “The Irish Crimean”

Russia has a far more sophisticated model of pluralism than manifests in the naively assimilationist policies of many countries in the western world. There are 4 world-religions which are traditionally constitutive of the manifold cultures to be found within Russia’s territory – Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. Russia’s Jews, Muslims and Buddhists are not immigrants – they are indigenous people who were absorbed into the Russian empire as it expanded. Ever since Ivan the Terrible declared the existence of a political entity called “Russia” (as opposed to “Muscovy”), it has always been multi-ethnic, multi-lingusitic, and multi-confessional.

For this reason, the Russian state sees these 4 religious traditions as being natural cultural influences on the country’s social life, and recognizes the representatives of the Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist communities as all having a legitimate right to be consulted on matters of public policy.

- Advertisement -

That’s a FAR more sophisticated model of pluralism than the one which exists in, say, France…. Putin may “reject” multiculturalism in his speeches, but Russia still has a much better record than most European countries when it comes to recognizing religious minorities’ rights to be consulted and to feel represented.

Recognizing these 4 religious communities as being natural components of the country’s social and cultural life means that the federal government also sees each of these traditions as something akin to a national cultural treasure, worthy of federal patronage and investment. Hence the federal government’s decision to finance the building of very flashy new mosques, refurbish Orthodox churches, etc…. The Russian state believes in the wisdom of fostering each of the religious traditions which are naturally constitutive of the country’s social and cultural life.

Personally, I think that’s quite a grown-up attitude. It’s far more grown up than naive constitutional secularism, which is really just a Trojan horse for technocratism. Secularism dis-establishes the old priesthood, only to be replaced by a new crypto-priesthood (the technocratic elite), and concentrates decision-making in their hands. During the 1970’s, Jurgen Habermas extensively analyzed this process, wherein all decisions with ethical or political content were artificially reduced to purely technical decisions. At first glance, it may seem ironic, but Marxists have gradually become quite critical of what is known (or, more precisely, what is branded) as “secularism.”

Padraig McGrath was born in the Republic of Ireland in 1973. He has lived in Britain, Germany and the Czech Republic, and has published journalism and commentary on social and philosophical issues for a number of media for 15 years. He moved to Simferopol, Crimea in December 2013, 3 months before Crimea’s re-unification with Russia, and still lives there.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Sign up here to get the latest news, updates and special offers delivered directly to your inbox.