At the height of the Cold War, it was common for American conservatives to label the officially atheist Soviet Union a “godless nation.”
More than two decades on, history has come full circle, as the Kremlin and its allies in the Russian Orthodox Church hurl the same allegation at the West.
“Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a recent keynote speech. “Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.”
In his state of the nation address in mid-December, Mr. Putin also portrayed Russia as a staunch defender of “traditional values” against what he depicted as the morally bankrupt West. Social and religious conservatism, the former KGB officer insisted, is the only way to prevent the world from slipping into “chaotic darkness.”
Although Mr. Putin has never made a secret of what he says is his deep Christian faith, his first decade in power was largely free of overtly religious rhetoric. Little or no attempt was made to impose a set of values on Russians or lecture to the West on morals.
However, since his inauguration for a third presidential term in May 2012, the increasingly authoritarian leader has sought to reach out to Russia’s conservative, xenophobic heartland for support.
It has proved a rich hunting ground.
“Western values, from liberalism to the recognition of the rights of sexual minorities, from Catholicism and Protestantism to comfortable jails for murderers, provoke in us suspicion, astonishment and alienation,” Yevgeny Bazhanov, rector of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic academy, wrote in a recent essay.
Analysts suggest that Mr. Putin’s shift to ultraconservatism and anti-West rhetoric was triggered by mass protests against his rule that rocked Russia in 2011 and 2012. The unprecedented show of dissent was led mainly by educated, urban Muscovites — many with undisguised pro-Western sympathies.
“This is the government’s response to modernized Russians becoming more defiant and independent,” said Maria Lipman, an analyst with the Moscow-based Carnegie Center. “The government is pitting the conservative majority against the liberal minority. As a result, raging anti-Western ideology has now turned into something that is almost a state ideology.”
Vladimir Putin’s Christian Faith – in his own words:
- Putin first speaks about his Baptism / -Putin’s Faith and Cross 02:00
- Believes in traditional family 04:03
- Putin at a Christmas night service at the Church of Holy Martyrs Aleksandr and Antonina of Rome in the outskirts of Kostroma in Central Russia.04:49
- Patriarch Kirill blesses President Vladimir Putin 06:32
- Over 65,000 Russians defend the Church 08:02
- Putin’s biker friends support the Church 10:52
- Putin’s Russian faith knows about Christian Martyrs who were killed by the Communists 11:45
- These martyrs had overcome the BEAST 13:24 / Christ is Risen! 13:50
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