Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Republic, has announced that the Russian Orthodox Church should be given greater authority over Russia's family lives, education, and armed forces. He did so while meeting with Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Vladimir Putin, 2013
Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Getty
Now in his third term as president, a growing part of Putin's leadership style and political ideology has been to blend religion and nationalism, using Russia's strong religious faith to bolster his own political fortunes and then using his political capital to reinforce the power of the church.
Of course, Vladimir Putin is smart enough to not directly attack secularism and church/state separation; instead, he's trying to argue against "vulgar" secularism to give the impression that he wants to preserve "real" secularism and thus a genuinely secular state. But that isn't even vaguely credible.
Without giving specifics, Putin said a "vulgar" understanding of secularism must be swept away to give the Church, and other religions, control over more aspects of Russian life.
"While preserving the secular nature of our state, and not allowing the over-involvement of the government in Church life, we need to get away from the vulgar, primitive understanding of secularism," he said.
"The Russian Orthodox Church and other traditional religions should get every opportunity to fully serve in such important fields as the support of family and motherhood, the upbringing and education of children, youth, social development, and to strengthen the patriotic spirit of the armed forces."
The simple fact of the matter is, giving any church or religious organization any authority over family or education means undermining or even eliminating secularism. The attack on secularism is even more extreme if a church is given more authority over the armed forces.
What defines a state on the most fundamental level is the ability to exercise a monopoly over force or violence over a territorial area. This only works when the government has exclusive authority over the forces which exercise violence. Giving churches authority over the armed forces means giving churches the ability to participate in the exercise of violence in the manner of a sovereign state.
This has one of two possible consequences. First, the sovereignty of the state is undermined because the state has competition from churches. Second, the state becomes theocratic because church and state are joined and there is no competition. Which is it that Putin wants for Russia? I'm sure it's not the former; he likes power way too much.