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Table of contents :
Table of Contents
Note on transliteration, translation and names
Human rights in a religious perspective
Religion in a human rights perspective
Orthodox Christian assessments of human rights
1 Four areas of encounters and friction with human rights for the Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church and human rights during the Cold War
Russian Orthodox nationalism and human rights
The Church and liberal human rights groups
The Russian Orthodox Church and international human rights legislation
2 The human rights debate inside the Russian Orthodox Church (2000–2008)
The ideological and institutional frame for the human rights debate
Human rights in the Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church
The Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council
Topics in the Russian Orthodox human rights debate
3 The Russian Orthodox Church’s basic teaching on human dignity, liberty, and rights: analysis and interpretation
The Human Rights Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church and international human rights documents
Tensions and ambiguities
4 The domestic and international human rights agenda of the Russian Orthodox Church
The Church and human rights in Russian society and politics
The international human rights agenda of the Russian Orthodox Church
5 Religion and human rights in postsecular society
How to understand religious majority claims
Church–state relations and religious majority claims in the postsecular liberal framework
Orthodox Christianity in the postsecular age
The Russian Orthodox Church and Human Rights
This book examines the key 2008 publication of the Russian Orthodox Church on human dignity, freedom, and rights. It considers how the document was formed, charting the development over time of the Russian Orthodox Church’s views on human rights. It analyzes the detail of the document, and assesses the practical and political impact inside the Church, at the national level and in the international arena. Overall, it shows how the attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church has shifted from outright hostility towards individual human rights to the advocacy of “traditional values.” Kristina Stoeckl is a Research Associate in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of Vienna, Austria.
Routledge Religion, Society and Government in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet States Edited by Lucian Leustean Lucian Leustean is a Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University and the Associate Dean for Postgraduate Programmes in the School of Languages and Social Sciences, UK.
This series seeks to publish high-quality monographs and edited volumes on religion, society and government in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet states by focusing primarily on three main themes: the history of churches and religions (including, but not exclusively, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism) in relation to governing structures, social groupings and political power; the impact of intellectual ideas on religious structures and values; and the role of religions and faith-based communities in fostering national identities from the nineteenth century until today. The series aims to advance the latest research on these themes by exploring the multi-faceted nature of religious mobilization at local, national and supranational levels. It particularly welcomes studies that oﬀer an interdisciplinary approach by drawing on the ﬁelds of history, politics, international relations, religious studies, theology, law, sociology and anthropology. 1.
The Russian Orthodox Church and Human Rights Kristina Stoeckl
The Russian Orthodox Church and Human Rights
First published 2014 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2014 Kristina Stoeckl The right of Kristina Stoeckl to be identiﬁed as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identiﬁcation and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Stoeckl, Kristina. The Russian Orthodox Church and human rights / Kristina Stoeckl. pages cm – (Routledge Religion, society and government in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet States ; 1) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Human rights–Religious aspects–Orthodox Eastern Church. 2. Russkaia pravoslavnaia tserkov’. 3. Orthodox Eastern Church–Russia (Federation) 4. Human rights–Russia (Federation) I. Title. BX342.9.H8S76 2014 261.7088’281947–dc23 2013033536 ISBN: 978-0-415-65871-3 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-81878-8 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Cenveo Publisher Services
Preface Acknowledgments Abbreviations Note on transliteration, translation and names
vii x xi xii 1
Introduction Human rights in a religious perspective 3 Religion in a human rights perspective 6 Orthodox Christian assessments of human rights 1
Four areas of encounters and friction with human rights for the Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church and human rights during the Cold War 19 Russian Orthodox nationalism and human rights 26 The Church and liberal human rights groups 32 The Russian Orthodox Church and international human rights legislation 37 2
The human rights debate inside the Russian Orthodox Church (2000–2008) The ideological and institutional frame for the human rights debate 43 Human rights in the Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church 53 The Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council 56 Topics in the Russian Orthodox human rights debate 60
The Russian Orthodox Church’s basic teaching on human dignity, liberty, and rights: analysis and interpretation
The Human Rights Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church and international human rights documents 70 Tensions and ambiguities 86 4
The domestic and international human rights agenda of the Russian Orthodox Church The Church and human rights in Russian society and politics The international human rights agenda of the Russian Orthodox Church 106
Religion and human rights in postsecular society
How to understand religious majority claims 120 Church–state relations and religious majority claims in the postsecular liberal framework 122 Orthodox Christianity in the postsecular age 128 Bibliography Index
At the time when I grew up in a small village in the Austrian Alps, being Catholic was just normal. Attending church on important religious holidays, processions around the village, masses on the ﬁrst and last day of school, and religious education were an accepted feature of everyday life. I remember an autumn day in the early 1980s when the entire village gathered in the churchyard to witness the inauguration of the renovated cross on the church bell tower. In a metal box stored away inside the cross for the interest of some future generation there was a list of signatures of all inhabitants of the village, including my own. I remember this because I had just learned how to write my name, and I am pretty sure that everybody in my school actually signed; even the odd Protestant, Muslim or non-confessional. Being a part of the village community and being a member of the Catholic Church were two very similar things at that time. As a scholar I have followed the Russian Orthodox Church’s battle against secularism because I wanted to learn more about practical ways of negotiating the limits between religion and the secular in what Jürgen Habermas has called our “postsecular society.” I was interested in ﬁnding out how this religious tradition, forcefully kept under a lid by communism, would fare under conditions of freedom and, as I have been observing this battle—a true conﬂict over minds and over real and symbolic territories—with increasing bewilderment, this childhood memory would occasionally pop up from the back of my mind because it is in such stark contrast to the obsession of our time to ﬁx the limits between the religious and the secular. What the terms “postsecular” and “postsecular society” have added to the age-old question on how to think about the relationship between the religious and the secular is, ﬁrst of all, the recognition that modern societies are, by default, secular; and second, that by virtue of being liberal democratic societies, they are also “postsecular” at one and the same time; in other words, modern societies are not secular by ideology, but by institutional design. This, at least, is the way in which I understand Habermas’ concept of postsecular society, and I have always found convincing his conclusion that, in a democratic society, both religious and secular arguments must have a place in public debate. It was against this theoretical and normative background that I set out
to study the human rights debate in the Russian Orthodox Church as one example of how a religious tradition enters public debates and “translates” its ideas into the secular language of politics. In the course of my research, however, I have grown more critical towards this theoretical and normative framework, not least because I realized that, even when a conservative religious tradition like Russian Orthodoxy engages in the work of “translation,” what it renders understandable to a secular audience is far from reconcilable with liberal democracy. In concluding this piece of research and in the theoretical reﬂections contained in Chapter 5, I therefore refrain from strong claims about the “complementary learning process” in postsecular societies (Habermas) and propose instead a reasoning along the lines of the experience of “mutual fragilization” described by Charles Taylor. This, in a nutshell, is the theoretical set-up of this book, and the Russian Orthodox human rights debate is my case for the purpose of moving forward in this debate. I should add that this way of looking at the Russian Orthodox Church has an unsettling eﬀect with regard to habitual ways of seeing the relationship between Russian Orthodoxy and modernity. In my reading, the Russian Orthodox Church takes issue with human rights not just because it is Orthodox, nor because it is Russian. Orthodox Christianity’s diﬀerent trajectory towards modernity certainly plays a role in the uneasy encounter of the Russian Orthodox Church with human rights, but this alone is not an exhaustive explanation for the frictions we observe today. Russian nationalism’s insistence on Russian legal sovereignty also determines the Church’s ways of understanding the contemporary human rights regime, but it is not politics alone that guides the Church’s discourse. The Russian Orthodox Church takes issue with human rights because a religious tradition present in the twenty-ﬁrst century cannot avoid a confrontation with this rival vision of the “sacredness” of the person. The Catholic Church has had to situate itself in relation to human rights, the Protestant churches have had to clarify their stance, and so have the Orthodox Christian churches. The one thing that makes the Russian Orthodox Church’s present process of clariﬁcation very diﬀerent from other religious confrontations is that the Church is engaging in this process in the context of political authoritarianism and democratic regress; more than that, it is actually furthering this political development through the way it deﬁnes human rights. It is for this historical–political reason that I think that the last word on the Russian Orthodox standpoint on human rights has not yet been spoken and that this book is therefore only a signpost along the way. This book is composed of ﬁve chapters. In the ﬁrst four chapters, I look at the human rights debate in the Russian Orthodox Church, while, in the concluding chapter I try to evaluate this debate theoretically and normatively. Chapter 1 examines four separate issue-areas in which the Russian Orthodox Church has so far been confronted with the modern human rights idea, namely ideological battles during the Cold War, post-Cold War nationalism, confrontation with liberal civil society, and international human rights legislation. What these four areas have in common is that they have all
contributed to the hardening of the negative standpoint of the Russian Orthodox Church vis-à-vis human rights in the period leading up to the 2000s. It is therefore a puzzle, addressed in Chapter 2, that the Russian Orthodox Church eventually developed an attitude of ambivalence and critical distance to human rights, instead of complete rejection. Chapter 2 looks at the debate inside the Russian Orthodox Church on human rights from 2000, the year of the publication of the Social Doctrine, up until the year 2008, when the Human Rights Doctrine was published. It analyzes documents and statements by church leaders in order to demonstrate how the human rights discourse inside the Church changed over a relatively short period, shifting from rejection to ambivalent critical acceptance. Chapter 3 contains an analysis of the Human Rights Doctrine, comparing the text with other human rights documents. Chapter 4 looks at the domestic and international impact of the Doctrine and at the Church’s human rights agenda. It also looks at the reactions of the other Christian churches to the Human Rights Doctrine. Chapter 5, ﬁnally, asks what we can make of this traditional religion confronting the modern human rights regime for our thinking about religion and political modernity.
I want to thank those colleagues and friends who have helped me to write and improve this book with their feedback: Alexander Agadjanian, Pasquale Annicchino, Eleanor Bindman, Maria Birnbaum, Thomas Bremer, Alfons Brüning, Alessandro Ferrara, Ingeborg Gabriel, Marcello Garzaniti, Alexander Kyrlezhev, Mary McAuley, Massimo Rosati, Sieglinde Rosenberger, Olivier Roy, and Ulrike Spohn. I have especially beneﬁtted from the feedback and inspiring discussions at three diﬀerent occasions over the last year: the Third Patterson Triennial Conference on Orthodox-Catholic Relations at Fordham University in New York in June 2013; the conference “The Sources of Human Rights” with Hans Joas at Radboud University, Nijmegen, in November 2012; and the workshop “Beyond Critique: New Approaches to the Study of Secularism and Religion” at the European University Institute in May 2013. I am grateful to Aristotle Papanikolaou and Evert van der Zweerde for having involved me in the ﬁrst two of these meetings, and I want to express my gratitude to the participants of the last event, in particular Nilüfer Göle, for their comments and feedback. I acknowledge a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship grant from the European Commission (no. SOC-235041) for the period 2009–2012, which I spent at the University of Rome Tor Vergata and during which most of the substantial research for this book was completed. I also acknowledge an Austrian Program for Advanced Research and Technology grant from the Austrian Academy of Sciences (2012–2015) which has allowed me to spend the last year writing this book. I am grateful to my Department of Political Sciences at the University of Vienna and to the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, which put up with a research fellow in hiding during this time period. I would also like to thank the Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute, Florence, which hosted me as visiting fellow from March 2012 to February 2013. Thanks also to Lucian Leustean, editor of the series Religion, Society and Government in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet States, for his interest in this book project, and to John Habord for his work on the manuscript. Vienna/Florence June 2013
CEC CPCE CSCE ECHR LGBT MID OSCE PACE PRAVOVRNS
REOR ROC UN UNHRC VRNS WCC
Conference of European Churches Community of Protestant Churches in Europe Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe European Court of Human Rights Lesbian–Gay–Bisexual–Transgender (rights) Ministry of Foreign Aﬀairs of the Russian Federation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (formerly CSCE) Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Pravozashchitnyi Tsentr Vsemirnogo Russkogo Narodnogo Sobora (Human Rights Center of the World Russian People’s Council) Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church in Strasbourg Russian Orthodox Church United Nations United Nations Human Rights Council Vsemirnyi Russkii Narodnyi Sobor (World Russian People’s Council) World Council of Churches
Note on transliteration, translation and names
In this text, Cyrillic script is transliterated according to British Standard. Translations from Russian, German, or Italian are by myself, with the exception of oﬃcial translations published by the Moscow Patriarchate. I have left the oﬃcial translations as they are, without corrections to language and style. I have avoided the use of abbreviations, even of recurring terms such as “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and “Russian Orthodox Church.” In the time period covered in this study some of the relevant actors changed their position inside the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad became Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, Bishop Ilarion (Alfeev) became Metropolitan Ilarion of Volokolamsk, and young theologians joined the clerical ranks and changed their civil name. In order to enable readers to keep track of each individual despite their changing names and titles, I have followed the standard most common in Russian: I use the clerical title and clerical name followed by the surname in brackets (for example, Protoierei Vsevolod (Chaplin)). In the case of Metropolitans and the Patriarch himself, I drop the surname in brackets, since these individuals are uniquely identiﬁable by their clerical title. In the bibliography and in the index, this second group is included in alphabetical order according to clerical name (Kirill, Ilarion), speciﬁed by the title they held at the time referred to in the text or quotation. All other clerics are listed by surname.
In early spring 2012, a group of colorfully masked women invaded the area around the altar of Moscow’s Christ Savior Cathedral and staged a musical performance, later entitled a “punk prayer,” in which they expressed a protest against the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, and at the close connection between the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, and the government. Three of the young women were arrested and forced to stand trial on charges of hooliganism and extremism, two of them eventually being sentenced to 2 years of detention. Most Western observers stood aghast at so much judicial fervor in response to what seemed, from the outside, an artistic performance of dubious taste and appropriateness, but after all innocuous. The front lines in the conﬂict, and particularly in the media reports about it, soon hardened into two camps: one side defending the artistic freedom of the performers, the other condemning their action on moral and religious grounds. Both camps argued in terms of human rights: those who defended the human right to freedom of expression, and those who defended the positive right to religious freedom, that is, the right not to be oﬀended in one’s beliefs. The controversy brought out into the open a debate that had been going on in Russia for over a decade: a debate over the appropriate deﬁnition of human rights. Human rights are the beacon of the newly emerging civil society in Russia after the breakdown of the Soviet Union—human rights and democracy. Those who do not support these ideas are nationalists, (former) communists, and very often, Orthodox. They condemn human rights as a Western idea and consider democracy an inappropriate form of government for the Russian nation. The ideological coordinates are simple: progress on the one side, reactionaries on the other, secular people here, religious people there, human rights language here, human rights criticism there. This is roughly the picture one could glean from the events of 2012 and the related media coverage in the West. But, as always, the reality is much more complicated. For one thing, criticisms of the judicial response to the performance came not only from the secular part of society, but also from many Orthodox believers, who would have preferred a more forgiving approach. And secondly, the debate over the right response to what had happened was not a debate for or against
human rights; on the contrary, both sides of the conﬂict used the language of human rights to justify their claims. What is important to recognize is that, in doing so, they both had a point. What the case of the musical performance in Moscow’s cathedral showed, and what many similar cases of conﬂict between modern lifestyles and religious sensibilities amply demonstrate, is that we live in a world of competing human rights claims. This book tries to take stock of these competing claims and the conﬂicts they engender in Russia today. In the year 2008, the Russian Orthodox Church issued a document entitled The Bases of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Teaching on Human Dignity, Freedom and Rights (Osnovy ucheniya Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi o dostoinstve, svobode i pravakh cheloveka) (hereafter Human Rights Doctrine). In this document, the Patriarchate of Moscow laid out its own understanding of human dignity, freedom and rights and took position on the legal concept of human rights and on the modern human rights regime. The document is worthy of investigation for three reasons: First, from a political–sociological perspective, it is intriguing to investigate how the Russian Orthodox Church, which constitutes an important political and civic actor in Russian society, deals with human rights. Second, from a political–theoretical perspective, it is interesting to learn how the Church, a traditional institution not famed for its modernizing spirit, understands the concept of human rights. And third, from a political–normative perspective, it is interesting to evaluate this “Orthodox” conception of human rights and to ask where it stands in global political debates on human rights, religion, and secular society. These three perspectives— political–sociological, political–theoretical, and political–normative—inform my approach in this book. I will analyze the Russian Orthodox Church’s discourse on human rights over the last two decades in order to show how the Church has come to frame its claims in a human rights language while remaining critical of the concept of human rights as such; I will also look at the way in which the Church acts with regard to human rights; and I will ask what we can learn from this example for our current debates on the relationship between religion and politics. The topic of the Russian Orthodox Church and human rights has been addressed by relatively few scholars, most of whom have focused on an analysis of the Human Rights Doctrine itself. As a rule, the perspective with which scholars have approached the topic has either been philosophical– theological, asking what the Russian Orthodox Church means when it speaks about human rights (Uertz and Schmidt 2008; Brüning 2009, 2012; Willems 2009); or sociological–political, asking what the Church does when it speaks about human rights (Agadjanian 2008, 2010). Several examples of studies of the former kind come from the German-speaking theological academia both Catholic and Protestant, which has made a genuine critical eﬀort to look at the Russian Orthodox Human Rights Doctrine in its own right and in the spirit of ecumenical dialogue (for summaries of this dialogue, see Tobler 2010; Zwahlen 2011; Hurskainen 2012; Makrides 2012). Studies of the second type
have focused on the political or instrumental role of the Church’s human rights discourse, on the way in which this debate feeds into certain policies, or shapes the relationship between Church and state and between Church and society. In this second category, there are two recent book-length studies which deserve special mention, because they oﬀer a fresh scholarly perspective on the role of the Church in Russian politics. While most studies on the Russian Orthodox Church have suggested that it has failed to escape from state tutelage since the time of the USSR (Behrens 2002; Vletsis 2010) or have been alarmed by the towering inﬂuence of the Church on Russian politics (Knox 2004), Irina Papkova’s The Orthodox Church and Russian Politics (2011) and Katja Richters’ The Post-Soviet Russian Orthodox Church (2013) take a new direction in the study of the Orthodox Church and the Russian state. This new direction consists, from an empirical perspective, of a focus on multivocality, fragmentation and issue politics inside the Church, and from a theoretical perspective, of an emphasis on contingency rather than pathdependency in the assessment of church–state relations. Put somewhat polemically, this type of research is not about new Holy Russias, new Third Romes, new tsars and whatever else the common themes (and titles) of studies about post-Soviet church–state relations are. It does not start from the assumption that the Russian Orthodox Church “always” defers to the state, nor that Russian politics are “always” inﬂuenced by the Church. Instead, it looks at the Russian Orthodox Church as one actor among others in Russian politics and civil society, and interprets it as a public religion that is struggling internally towards a proper deﬁnition of its vocation and agenda, and externally for a place in Russian society and the world. It is along these lines of inquiry that the present book seeks to make a contribution.
Human rights in a religious perspective How can we conceptualize the relationship between religion and human rights in the modern secular world? Louis Henkin has described human rights and religions as two separate ideological worlds with good reasons for mutual suspicion. Religions are suspicious of human rights because [they] are much older than the human rights idea and have seen no need for that idea. Religions laid claim to conceptions of the good, of the good society, long ago, without any idea of rights. … They do not welcome the ideological independence of human rights, its insistence on nontheistic support for the idea, its resistance to the higher law of society and even to divine law. Religions have not had conﬁdence in an ideology that does not claim divine origin and inspiration and has no essential place for the Deity. Spokesmen for religion have declared secular foundations for human rights to be weak, unstable, and doomed to fail and pass away. Some religions resist what they see as the concentration on, indeed the apotheosis of, the individual and the exaltation of individual autonomy
Introduction and freedom. The emphasis of religion, of religions, was not upon the individual but upon the community. (Henkin 1998, 232)
The human rights ideology, in turn, is suspicious about religion because [it] does not see human rights as integral to a cosmic order. It does not derive from any sacred text. Its sources are human, deriving from contemporary human life in human society. Human rights is a political idea and ideology that claims to reﬂect a universal contemporary moral intuition. Human institutions have adopted the idea to serve the purpose of the good life within national political societies in an international political system. (Henkin 1998, 231) These two quotations are helpful in framing the problem of religious perspectives on human rights, not least because Henkin is slightly overstating the contrast between the two sides. Henkin rejects those theories according to which the human rights idea grew out of religious inspiration: “Though some Christian theologians have argued that Western human rights theory is grounded in religious faith, human rights morality is, in fact, autonomous” (Henkin 1998, 229). He also denies any kind of connection between the notion of “human dignity” as it is used in human rights covenants and a religious understanding of human dignity. In his view, the “contours of the religious morality developed around this concept [human dignity] are not congruent with human dignity as commonly conceived in the domain of human rights” (Henkin 1998, 231), because “religions have deﬁned human dignity so that it will coincide with a morality rooted in particular theological foundations and in its historic-sociological manifestations over centuries of life in particular religious societies” (Henkin 1998, 231). From Henkin’s perspective, no real dialogue or engagement of religions with human rights is possible. All there can be, in his view, is pragmatic adaptation and “division of tasks.” Religions should recognize that their interests can be advanced by the human rights idea, not least because, “if only in self-defense,” they have “had to develop attitudes toward modern society and modern political authority” (Henkin 1998, 236). Human rights, on the other hand, are not a substitute for religion, but “a supplemental ‘theology’ for pluralistic, urban, secular societies” (Henkin 1998, 239). I have quoted Henkin at length because his sketch of the problem of religion and human rights, even though I do not subscribe to it fully, contains the four elements that are important in this debate: (1) the idea that from a human rights perspective the individual is, ﬁrst and foremost, endowed with rights, whereas from a religious perspective what comes ﬁrst are the duties of every single person; (2) the idea that from the human rights perspective the individual comes ﬁrst, whereas from a religious perspective the community
comes ﬁrst; (3) the fact that human dignity has become a contested term that is used both in human rights as well as in religious discourses, but is endowed with diﬀerent meanings; and (4) the argument that religions adapt to the modern language of human rights out of a pragmatic calculation in order to claim their stake in secular societies, as well as the opposite view that their engagement with the modern world is a sign of genuine modernization. These four elements—rights vs. duties, individual vs. community, human dignity, pragmatic calculation vs. genuine modernization—are the ﬁrst four out of ﬁve leitmotifs of my discussion of religion and human rights. They will recur repeatedly throughout this book, because they also form the repertoire of the Orthodox engagement with human rights. I hope to show that the ascriptions of the diﬀerent positions to either religion or the human rights regime are not always as clear cut as Henkin suggests. The reason why I do not subscribe fully to Henkin’s description is that he presents religion and human rights as two closed and unchangeable systems of reasoning. This, I think, is wrong. It is wrong from the perspective of religions, because religious traditions and theologies are evolving with time, even if very slowly, and their capacity to confront new topics is not only a question of self-defense but also of human creativity and, in a religious mindset, divine inspiration. It is also wrong from the perspective of human rights, because the human rights regime is continuously changing; human rights treaties and human rights legislation have evolved since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948, and religions are among those actors trying to take an active role in inﬂuencing human rights deﬁnitions today. A theoretical perspective which I ﬁnd potentially more fruitful for structuring the debate on religion and human rights is the idea of “sacralization of the person” put forward recently by Hans Joas (2013). What Joas tries to show is that human rights do not belong to an exclusively secularist terrain, nor does he fall into the other extreme and argue that human rights grow out of a purely religious soil. Joas suggests that the modern human rights idea is a genuinely new development, related to religious and secular intellectual traditions and practices, but not reducible to any one of them. He calls this new development “the sacralization of the person.” Joas has summarized excellently the fruitless debate between secular and religious attempts to legitimize human rights. Conventional wisdom (for the layperson, not necessarily among academics), he writes, holds that human rights emerged from the spirit of the French Revolution, which is in turn considered a political expression of the anti-clerical and anti-religious French Enlightenment. “From this perspective, human rights are clearly not the fruit of any religious tradition, but rather the manifestation of resistance to a power alliance linking state and (Catholic) church, or to Christianity as a whole” (Joas 2013, 4). The alternative master narrative, according to Joas, asserts the opposite view: human rights were able take root in people’s consciousness because they could build on an understanding of the human being cultivated in the Christian tradition. This perspective became prevalent in the
course of the twentieth century when the Catholic Church moved from its initial condemnation of human rights to their endorsement (Joas 2013, 4). Both of these narratives, Joas concludes, are untenable. He suggests an alternative interpretation, one which puts at the centre of analysis the notion of “sacrality” or “sacredness.” He interprets the belief in human rights and universal human dignity as the result of a speciﬁc process of sacralization of the human being, “a process in which every single human being has increasingly, and with ever-increasing motivational and sensitizing eﬀects, been viewed as sacred, and this understanding has been institutionalized in law” (Joas 2013, 5). Religions, but also secular value traditions and worldviews, must situate themselves in relation to this phenomenon. What we as social scientists can study is the way in which speciﬁc actors position themselves in relation to the idea of human rights, without making claims that certain intellectual and religious traditions generate speciﬁc types of values and not others. This analytical angle seems a more fruitful starting point for interpreting the Eastern Orthodox confrontation with human rights, not least because it avoids the kind of black-and-white confrontation between religious ideas and secular human rights described by Henkin.
Religion in a human rights perspective The right to religious freedom is enshrined in all current human rights instruments (article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR 1948), article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Council of Europe 2010), article 9 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union 2000). From the perspective of human rights, individual religious beliefs and practices are an expression of human freedom of consciousness and deserve protection. Seen from this angle, religions only have something to gain from human rights, and it is therefore not immediately clear why they should take issue with the modern human rights regime in the ﬁrst place. Why then do religions attack human rights? In order to understand this puzzle, it is useful to bring into the debate what J. Paul Martin has called “a substantial sociological dimension” of the religion-inspired critiques of human rights. These critiques, he notes, typically reﬂect whether the religious group enjoys a minority or majority position. “Religions enjoying social preeminence in a given society,” he writes, “tend to ignore or reject the human rights paradigm. Minority or persecuted religions embrace human rights more readily” (Martin 2005, 834). This observation holds largely true for the situation of Orthodox Christianity. As the summary of Orthodox positions on human rights in the next section will show, Orthodox churches have frequently positioned themselves for or against human rights according to their own minority or majority status. Orthodox émigré churches in the West or the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which live in conditions of minority faiths in their respective host countries, have tended to be more open to the human rights idea than
Orthodox national churches in Russia, Greece, Serbia or Romania, which have insisted on the priority of national religious traditions over the secular human rights ideology. As Alexander Agadjanian has shown, the Russian Orthodox Church has even pursued a double strategy in its human rights discourse, positioning itself as a minority in need of protection on the one hand, and as a majority in the position to dictate national moral codes on the other hand (Agadjanian 2010, 103–4). Klaus Buchenau has pointed out that the majority–minority problem is not a uniquely Orthodox one, but a problem of religions in countries with strong nationalism. It is, in his view, a “common characteristic of Eastern Europe” that wherever there is a strong connection between religion and nation, churches tend to concentrate more on collective–national rights than on individual rights. The same logic that describes the Orthodox Church in Serbia, Russia, or Romania holds true for the Catholic Church in Poland or in Croatia (Buchenau 2007, 163). This observation is useful, but it seems to me that it still cannot quite adequately describe what is at stake. Does Orthodox religion attack the human rights regime because it is “Orthodox religion,” as some authors seem to suggest? Or does Orthodox religion attack the human rights regime because it is nationalistic, as Buchenau seems to argue? In order to push further on this problem, I want to introduce here the critique of nationalism studies’ instrumental understanding of religion oﬀered by Slavica Jakelic´ (2010). Jakelic´ rightly points out that interpreting religion solely in terms of collective identity and nationalism risks downplaying the speciﬁcity of what she calls “collectivistic religions.” Collectivistic religions are public in manifestation, culturally speciﬁc, historically embedded, and deﬁned in part by the presence of some religious Other. Shaping the identities that distinguish their members from other religious groups, collectivistic religions are deﬁned by narratives that are historical but aﬃrm and emphasize continuity, the narratives in which individuals are socialized. This emphasis on memory and historical continuity of communities leads individuals to experience collectivistic religions as a belonging that is not the result of choice, but of birth. (Jakelic´ 2010, 37) Jakelic´’s work, which represents a defense of the notion of collectivistic religions against the idea that only interior, privatized religion is “true religion,” helps us to understand that the majority–minority dimension in religioninspired human-rights critiques constitutes not only a sociological explanatory factor, but also a theoretical and normative puzzle. There can be no doubt that a religious majority’s human rights critique, like that of the Russian Orthodox Church, is connected to ideas of national self-determination and historically rooted resentments against religious and secular Others. But can we conclude from this that the religion’s majority status is where the problem lies and that
the only solution is that all religions become (or come to perceive of themselves as) minorities? It seems to me that this would be an empirically short-sighted and theoretically poor response to the problem of religious human rights criticism. It may be necessary—and possible—to imagine diﬀerent ways of conceptualizing human rights and religious majorities. For this reason, the majority–minority nexus in the religious attitude towards human rights is the ﬁfth and last leitmotif which this introduction identiﬁes and introduces into the argument of this book.
Orthodox Christian assessments of human rights At the beginning of the 1990s, New School professor Adamantia Pollis unequivocally stated: individual human rights cannot be derived from Orthodox theology. The entire complex of civil and political rights—freedom of religion, freedom of speech and press, freedom of association, and due process of law, among others—cannot be grounded in Orthodoxy, they stem from a radically diﬀerent worldview. (Pollis 1993, 353) What is correct about this statement is that it is indeed diﬃcult to “derive” liberal individual human rights from Orthodox theology. However, it would be equally diﬃcult to derive these rights in a straightforward manner from any other religious tradition. The Christian Churches for most of their history coexisted without too much trouble with torture, rejected the human rights declarations of the eighteenth century, and were even skeptical about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Up until today most Christian churches in the United States do not get upset about the continuing practice of the death penalty in many American states. Therefore, Joas is right when he points out that it is erroneous to imagine human rights as something which follows by some law of inevitability from the roots of some traditions and not of others. Traditions as such “generate nothing” (Joas 2013, 140); what matters is how speciﬁc actors belonging to certain traditions at a speciﬁc moment in time and under speciﬁc institutional circumstances set themselves in relation to the innovative idea of universal human rights. As a novel form of the sacralization of the person, the rise of human rights represents a challenge to Christianity—and to other religious and even to secular value traditions and worldviews—in light of which their adherents must inevitably reinterpret them. (Joas 2013, 141) This is particularly true for the Orthodox churches, which are somewhat latecomers to the Christian engagement with the human rights idea.
The history of the Orthodox confrontation with the idea of human rights is limited to relatively few oﬃcial statements and a restricted number of individual theological treatments. Two principal factors account for this limited engagement of Orthodox churches and theologians with the human rights idea. The ﬁrst is the autocephalous structure of Orthodoxy. Unlike Catholicism, it does not recognize one central authority for theological teaching and doctrinal clariﬁcation. Whereas the Catholic Church, headed by the ﬁgure of the pope, clariﬁed its standpoint on liberal values and human rights in a series of councils, moving from an outright condemnation to endorsement (Schwartländer 1981; Maier 1994; Witte 1996, 18–21), the Orthodox churches are poorly equipped for a similar debate. In the absence of a pan-Orthodox council, in which Orthodox Christian churches could jointly make a statement on human rights—the last such council was held in 1341–51—preparations for a new pan-Orthodox council are currently under way (Metropolitan Ilarion 2011)—so far only individual Orthodox churches and Orthodox theologians have issued assessments of the relationship between Orthodoxy and human rights. The second reason for the limited engagement of Orthodoxy with human rights is theology. The Orthodox theological tradition has demonstrated very limited interest in social ethics and questions of modern life. Orthodox theology in the twentieth century gradually opened up to new topics, inﬂuenced in part by the encounter with Western modernity through emigration and in part through ecumenical dialogue. Isolated treatments of the human rights topic by individual theologians are therefore frequently the work of authors well-versed in Western thought or involved in ecumenical activities. In this section, I give an overview of oﬃcial church statements on human rights and the most important individual theological treatments of the topic, excluding for the moment the Russian Orthodox Church, which will be treated in detail in the rest of this book. Oﬃcial church statements Only few Orthodox churches have in the past issued oﬃcial human rights statements. One example is the endorsement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the Orthodox churches in the United States. The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, representing diﬀerent Orthodox jurisdictions in the USA, issued a statement in 1978 in order to mark the 30th anniversary of the Universal Declaration, in which it recognized the value and importance of human rights with the following exhortation: We urge all Orthodox Christians to mark this occasion with prayers for those whose human rights are being denied and/or violated; for those who are harassed and persecuted because of their religious beliefs, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, in many parts of the world; for those
Introduction whose rightful demands and persistence are met with greater oppression and ignominy; and for those whose agony for justice, food, shelter, health care and education is accelerated with each passing day. We ask that you support President Carter’s request that the Senate approve the United Nations International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and on Civil and Political Rights, as recorded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (quoted in Harakas 1984, 21)
Stanley Harakas, from whom I have quoted this statement, also mentions that during the Cold War period the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America repeatedly adopted human rights statements at its clergy–laity congresses, and that the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad frequently made statements on human rights with a special focus on the violation of religious freedom in the Soviet Union (Harakas 1984, 21). These statements have led John Witte to argue that Orthodox churches located in the West have joined the cause of the human rights revolution (Witte 1996, 25). During the Cold War, the oppressed churches in the communist East appeared to many Western observers as natural champions of human rights, certainly of the right to religious freedom. The plight of Orthodox believers living under communism stood in the focus of several institutions in the West, such as the UK’s Keston Institute, the Swiss organization G2W and the Italian Catholic foundation Russia Cristiana,1 which monitored human rights violations in Eastern Europe and maintained contacts with dissidents and religious human rights activists. It is characteristic of these connections, which on the whole saw Orthodox believers engaged in a human rights contest long before the churches discovered the topic, that the church hierarchies remained largely outside these activities. The reasons for this distance were certainly political (fear of being accused of collaboration, espionage, etc.), but also ideological (resentment against Western churches and ecumenism). Nonetheless, at the time of the Cold War the attitude of Orthodox churches in the West, and the religious activism for religious freedom in the communist countries themselves, suggested that Orthodox Christianity was engaged in a struggle for human rights. This is the perspective taken by Alexander Webster, an American Romanian Orthodox author, who produced the ﬁrst book-length study of Orthodox attitudes on peace, freedom and security (Webster 1993). Webster’s book is interesting for two reasons: ﬁrst, writing on the temporal threshold between communism and post-communism in Eastern Europe, Webster portrays all the major actors in the Russian, Romanian and American Orthodox churches, assessing their liberal or conservative credentials and looking critically at their behavior (dissidence or collaboration) during communism. Second, the book is interesting for the normative standpoint which the author himself takes. It is clear that he sees the “prophetic” potential of the Orthodox churches, their capacity to sustain peace and human rights not as lying with the clerical
hierarchies, but rather with outstanding individuals, religious dissidents, who gave testimony of their faith during communist persecution. In the Russian context, his examples are chieﬂy Fr. Gleb Yakunin, Zoya Krakhmal’nikova, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn (for a similar approach, see Valliere 1997). Webster’s book is a useful resource for understanding the history of Orthodox human rights engagement, in particular the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in the international peace movement during the Soviet times. I will therefore come back to this text later on. By way of introduction it is useful to underline that the Orthodox “champions of human rights” at the time of the Cold War identiﬁed by Webster, individual Orthodox believers who defended their right to religious freedom at extreme personal cost, are almost completely ignored in the oﬃcial human rights debate in the Russian Orthodox Church today. In recent years, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has taken a strong stand in defense of the environment, an issue that is related to human rights and the rights of future generations. His engagement has earned Patriarch Bartholomew the nickname of “the Green Patriarch” (Chryssavgis 2007) and has led, among other things, to a Common Declaration of the Patriarch of Constantinople and Pope John Paul II in 2002 (Declaration 2002). Despite the absence, pointed out above, of any pan-Orthodox coordination, Orthodox churches have on various occasions made joint statements. One important occasion for a joint statement related to human rights was the Third Pan-Orthodox Pre-Conciliary Conference in 1986 held in Chambésy, Switzerland. Pre-conciliary conferences serve to prepare a possible future Great Council, and the 1986 conference discussed some of its potential themes. Theme 10 was the “Contribution of local Orthodox churches to promoting Christian ideas of peace, freedom, brotherhood and love among nations and the elimination of racial discrimination.” Under this heading, the Church stated: Since we continuously declare the incarnation of God and the deiﬁcation of humanity, we defend human rights for every human being and every people. Since we live with the divine gift of freedom through Christ’s work of redemption, we are able to reveal to the fullest the universal value that freedom has for every human being and every people. (quoted in Kalaïtzidis 2013) Any future pan-Orthodox statement on human rights would have to be made in the context of theme 10. The most recent discussion of this, however, dates back to 1986. Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Ilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church has therefore called for a general re-evaluation of the tenth theme of the pre-conciliary work: It is noteworthy that the documented drafted at that time was certainly inﬂuenced by its time. It is not accidental that the document focused on
Introduction the problem of general disarmament. Today it has to be decided whether the Council should take up a document stamped with so apparent an impact of out-of-date ideological concepts or a new document should be prepared. At the same time, some provisions of the draft document can well be used because the Christian understanding of peace, the dignity of the personality, human freedom and the national issue will always be relevant. (Metropolitan Ilarion 2011)
It is not unreasonable to suspect that the Russian Orthodox Church’s eﬀorts to formulate its oﬃcial position in documents like the Human Rights Doctrine are part of a strategy leading up to a future pan-Orthodox council. Another potential site for joint Orthodox statements in the framework of ecumenical collaboration is the World Council of Churches (WCC). All Eastern Orthodox churches (with the exception of the Georgian Orthodox Church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church)2 are members of the WCC, a worldwide fellowship of 349 churches with its seat in Geneva. The WCC has been active on human rights issues for a long time and regularly participates in debates on human rights through submissions to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Over the last 20 years, however, Orthodox involvement in the WCC has become increasingly problematic, as the Orthodox churches have tried to dictate a more conservative and less ecumenical line to the Council. A particularly contentious issue in the WCC was the stand which the churches took on gay rights. Whereas several Protestant member churches of the Council were ready to defend the rights of homosexuals, the Orthodox churches refused to discuss the topic (Ramet 2006, 155–59). In the absence of a consensus, the WCC’s line on human rights is reported on its website in a suﬃciently vague manner, presumably following the terminological strictures of the Russian Orthodox Church (putting human dignity before human rights): “to defend human dignity by addressing human rights from an ethical and theological perspective.” The WCC’s human rights engagement is therefore hardly representative of the Orthodox churches. In more recent times, the attitude of oﬃcial representatives of Eastern Orthodox churches, with the exception of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, has tended to be critical of universal human rights, if not downright inimical. The late Archbishop of Athens Christodoulos repeatedly spoke out against universal human rights, condemning them as a Western Christian heresy (cf. Delikostantis 2007), and insisting that granting homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual couples would be equivalent to “legalizing a sin” (quoted in Payne 2003, 268). The Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church criticized the European Charter of Fundamental Rights: An attempt is being made to impose on the European Union population principles and views on which the peoples making up the European
Union were never asked to give their opinion. It is stressed that human rights and religious freedoms can not be promoted through the oppression of the religious belief of the Christians or by erasing historic periods and achievements that were the resultants of the Christian Culture. (quoted in Payne 2003, 268–69) A similar battle against the European Charter of Fundamental Rights was waged by the Romanian Orthodox Church prior to Romania’s EU accession and ratiﬁcation of the European Charter. In this case as well, the refusal of the Church was related to concerns over gay rights. Up until then, homosexuality had been criminalized in the Romanian penal code. The cancellation of this provision was a prerequisite for Romania’s accession to the EU, much to the anger and disappointment of the Romanian Orthodox Church (Ramet 2006, 167–69). On the whole, homosexuality has become one of the main topics of contestation between Orthodox churches and the liberal human rights regime as it is embodied by institutions such as the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, and the European Union with its Charter of Fundamental Rights. The rejection of LGBT rights has come to epitomize for many Orthodox churches their opposition to the liberal human rights regime. In this context it is noteworthy that the Russian Orthodox Church, whose internal debate initially mirrors this narrow focus of human rights criticism, has eventually enlarged its position into a broader and more active criticism of liberal values. This speciﬁc Russian Orthodox debate and “agenda” will be discussed in this book. Individual statements The few oﬃcial Orthodox statements on human rights prior to the Russian Orthodox Church’s Human Rights Doctrine hardly provide a conclusive picture. The second source for understanding the Orthodox assessment of human rights therefore consists of treatments of the topic by individual Orthodox theologians. From the very outset of the Orthodox confrontation with the idea of universal human rights, Orthodox authors have articulated frictions between Orthodox Christian teaching and modern human rights conceptions. Even Harakas, who documented the positive steps of the Orthodox churches in the West towards endorsing the modern human rights idea, pointed to the theological diﬃculties in the Orthodox encounter with the idea of rights: “The tradition emphasizes the idea that love more often than not requires sacriﬁce of one’s ‘rights’ than the insistence upon their fulﬁllment” (Harakas 1984, 14). One important and frequently cited essay is by Archbishop Anastasios (Yannoulatos) of Tirana, Durrës and all Albania (born 1929). Given his prominent role in contemporary Orthodoxy, where he represents a moderate voice, this essay accounts for more than just an individual theological point of
view. The article in question (Yannoulatos 1984), published under the title “Eastern Orthodoxy and Human Rights” in English in 1984, goes back to a UNESCO conference of religious experts in Bangkok in 1979 (UNESCO 1980).3 In his statement Yannoulatos pointed to the limits of the modern human rights idea. He reminded his audience of the fact that in the Orthodox Christian tradition, the model of a person with a fulﬁlled personality was not the successful citizen with his or her well-secured individual rights, but the saint, the martyr, the hermit, a person free from desire for money, possessions, fame, or recognition. This vision of “inner freedom,” he emphasized, exceeded the force and scope of the modern human rights regime (Yannoulatos 1984, 465). He also argued, with remarkable foresight as to the contours of today’s debates, that many people in Asia, living in the climate of Hinduistic and Buddhistic intellectual and ascetic traditions, would ﬁnd it easier than others to understand this particular Eastern Christian sensitivity to, and desire for, inner freedom (Yannoulatos 1984, 465). Yannoulatos takes a critical distance from the human rights instruments of his time when he quotes Jacques Maritain in saying that no declaration of human rights can ever be exhaustive or deﬁnitive; declarations will always reﬂect the state of moral insight and culture at a given moment in history (Yannoulatos 1984, 466). He also makes a noteworthy statement on the method of the Orthodox contribution to the cause of human rights, arguing that the churches should not conﬁne themselves to well-thought-out analyses and admonitions, but “should try to be what they were meant to be: centres of moral and spiritual inspiration, nurseries of integrated and sanctiﬁed personalities, workshops of selﬂess love” (Yannoulatos 1984, 466). His acceptance of self-reﬂectivity as a necessary condition for a fruitful engagement with human rights is manifest also in his critical history of the Orthodox attitude towards human rights in the same essay: “The critical role that the church is called upon to play in the contemporary world should rightly begin with self-criticism” (Yannoulatos 1984, 461). It is precisely a point like this, a call to self-reﬂectivity of the churches in their engagement with the modern world, which makes Yannoulatos a moderate Orthodox critic of human rights. This statement becomes even more important when we consider that it is precisely this attitude of self-reﬂectivity which the contemporary Russian Orthodox human rights debate largely lacks. The article from which I have quoted above was re-published with a new ﬁrst part in 2003, in a volume of the author’s collected essays (Yannoulatos 2003). This new part is considerably more critical of human rights as an instrument of international politics than was the original essay. Yannoulatos now accuses human rights declarations of “simplistic overoptimism,” of forgetting about the sinfulness of human nature (Yannoulatos 2003, 53). He writes: It is understandable that our original human rights Declarations should place exclusive emphasis on rights, without coupling or correlating these
to human obligations; these documents were written during times of revolution against state power and sought to protect citizens from the arbitrary use of that power. In the more sober climate of today’s perspective, however, this onesidedness will have to be redressed. The separation of rights from their corresponding obligations threatens to destroy human rights themselves, because equilibrium has been lost. (Yannoulatos 2003, 55) The later version of this article is thus more critical of human rights instruments, even though it remains a moderate and constructive Orthodox critique inasmuch as it refrains from simple anti-Westernism. I would argue that Yannoulatos’ shift in judgment of actual human rights instruments from the early 1980s to today reﬂects a general feature of the ecclesiastical human rights debate. The religious commentators on human rights lament a change in the way human rights are interpreted in increasingly pluralistic and secular societies, and they appear nostalgic for the human rights regime of the 1950s, where human rights were, at least in Europe and the Western world, framed within the unquestioned parameters of a Christian public morality. This is a point I will return to later. Yannoulatos’ argument that the Orthodox vision of human fulﬁllment is not correctly understood in terms of rights but in terms of “inner freedom” is echoed by another contemporary commentator, Vigen Guroian. This author from the Armenian Apostolic Church of America articulates the full conclusion that follows from the priority of “inner freedom” over rights: “Orthodox Christology and anthropology do not support theories of autonomous and secular human rights” (Guroian 1998, 243). No commitment to human rights can, at least for this author, follow from Christian belief. Another important treatment of human rights from an Orthodox perspective is by Christos Yannaras (born 1935), one of the most inﬂuential Greek theologians of our time. His very distinct philosophical–theological approach and style is informed by the neo-patristic theological turn in twentiethcentury Orthodox thought, and by his encounter with Western existentialist philosophy, in particular with Heidegger. The main feature of his oeuvre is the attempt to point out the diﬀerence in the ways in which Christianity shaped the view of man, God and the world in the Catholic and Protestant West and in the Orthodox East. The topic of human rights features only at the margins of these texts. In fact, among his texts available in English translation, we ﬁnd it addressed directly only in one article that goes back to a lecture at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2002 (Yannaras 2004). However, Yannaras’ treatment of the concept human rights is a particularly rich example of his philosophy and of his self-reﬂective anti-Westernism. In order to understand Yannaras’ conceptualization of human rights, it is important to recognize two fundamental dichotomies that play a crucial role in his argumentation: he makes a diﬀerence between ethos and morality, and
between church and religion. The diﬀerence between ethos and morality hinges on the question of anthropology. Western Enlightenment anthropology focuses in its deﬁnition of the human being on human nature, on that which is common to every single individual. Man’s natural properties may be distributed in a diﬀerentiated manner among individuals, but all human beings share a common nature, irrespective of their gender, race, age or physical features. On the grounds of this common nature, they become bearers of one and the same set of unalienable human rights. Morality is the code of conduct that responds adequately to these rights; acting morally means acting in conformity with man’s nature (Yannaras 1984, 22–27). This modern anthropological focus on nature is not directly wrong, in Yannaras’ view, but it is limited. The limit of modern morality lies in the fact that it fails to capture the “divine spark” in every singular human being. Yannaras does not use this term, but it helps to understand his argument: man, created in the image of God, is called upon to transcend his human nature and to strive for truth and immortality (Yannaras 1984, 19–21). In Christian theology, this process is called theo-sis (divinization), and it means putting oneself in a relationship both to the divine (in prayer) and to fellow human beings (in communion of worship, in love). Human freedom lies in the capacity to choose whether to seek theo-sis or not. For Yannaras, the term ethos stands precisely for the valid pursuit of this freedom. While moral behavior means respecting the limits of human nature, ethical behavior, in the way Yannaras uses the term, means exactly the opposite, namely transcending the limits of one’s own human nature. Yannaras’ distinction between church and religion mirrors the diﬀerence between ethos and morality. Church for Yannaras means an event, the takingplace of a relationship with the transcendent and with fellow human beings. Church is described by him not as an institution that dictates and monitors correct conduct, but as an expression of ethos. If a church becomes a monitoring institution, then Yannaras speaks about “religionized church” or simply about “religion” (Yannaras 1984, 195–230). Religion in this sense is a product of modernity, because it has accepted the strictures of natural law; morality is the result of modern religion minus belief in God; and, in conclusion, human rights are an expression of modern morality. In his lecture on human rights, Yannaras acknowledges that the historical experience of religious wars in the West made the protection of individual human rights a necessity; he even calls it “a major success and a precious achievement” (Yannaras 2004, 88). However, in the light of his distinction between church and religion it becomes clear that he considers the religious wars an aberration of the meaning of church, the deed of “religionized churches.” Individual human rights were therefore an imperfect solution to an already faulty situation. Where Yannaras claims to be able to bring forth a diﬀerent understanding of human rights, he does not oﬀer a new kind of reﬂection on one and the same experience of religious conﬂict; he actually starts from a diﬀerent kind of experience.
Yannaras claims that there is a speciﬁc kind of existential experience to be found in the ancient Greek city and in Byzantium that leads its participants to think about themselves not as bearers of individual and natural human rights, but as members of a collective rights-space. Why, he asks, did ancient Greece, notwithstanding its philosophical and political achievements, not know the idea of individual human rights? What can be learned from the fact that classical antiquity was unaware of this concept? The main achievement of Greek antiquity lies in the invention of the polis. In the polis, the simple co-habitation of individuals for reasons of necessity was transformed into, as Yannaras calls it, a “common exercise of truth.” “The city is the state of social relations which results when the aim and axis of collectiveness is metaphysical and not utilitarian” (Yannaras 2004, 85). While individual human rights are designed to protect human beings from an arbitrary power that is external to them, a collective understanding of human rights locates power inside the collectivity. Whoever is part of the demos, and partakes in the political and legal space of the city and is a potential bearer of political oﬃces, is automatically a holder of rights (Yannaras 2004, 85). Because they are citizens, these individuals are protected by the law of the city which they themselves constitute. Yannaras concludes that ancient Greece did not need the idea of individual human rights because it reasoned within the rightsspace provided by the city.4 Yannaras’s main point, however, is not about the Greek polis, but about the Orthodox Church. He quite bluntly suggests that the ancient heritage of human dignity sustained by political rights and guaranteed by belonging to the polis is an important feature of Orthodox culture: Greek citizens did not assemble primarily to discuss, judge and take decisions, but mainly to constitute, concretize and reveal the city (the way of life “according to truth”); in the same way, Christians would not assemble primarily to pray, worship and be catechized but mainly to constitute, concretize and reveal, in the Eucharistic dinner, the way of life “according to the truth.” (Yannaras 2004, 86) He suggests that there is a continuity of experience between the ancient polis and the church, carried forward into modernity by the Orthodox community of believers: “we Orthodox people” (Yannaras 2004, 88). He claims that Orthodox people have access to a kind of historical experience that will make them support a collective and political conception of human rights and not an individual and natural rights conception. This is a striking claim, to which it needs to be added that Yannaras merely postulates this continuity of experience. He himself admits that the Orthodox Church of his time is no longer a model for a “common exercise of life according to the truth” but has become a “religionized church.”5 Nevertheless, he conﬁdently writes:
Introduction We Orthodox people … would be doing violence to the historical memory and critical thought if … we did not recognize that, compared to the ancient Greek city or the Byzantine (and meta-Byzantine) community, the protection of human rights is a prepolitical achievement. It is an undisputable achievement, but an achievement which has not yet attained (perhaps not even understood) the primordial and fundamental meaning of politics: politics as a common exercise of life “according to the truth.” (Yannaras 2004, 88)
With this conceptualization of human rights from an Orthodox perspective, Yannaras opposes not only the Western human rights regime, but also the Orthodox churches of his time that enter into dialogue with this regime. Yannaras’ and Yannoulatos’ essays are important landmarks in the academic Orthodox debate on human rights. Vasilios Makrides has categorized them as the two opposite poles in the spectrum of Orthodox reactions to human rights: willingness to compromise on the one side, and categorical rejection of the idea of human rights on the other (Makrides 2012, 304, 312). There also exists an in-between position of ambivalence and critical distance, and this position, according to Makrides, is occupied in the current debate by the Russian Orthodox Church (Makrides 2012, 306–10). My ﬁndings in this book largely conﬁrm the assessment of the Russian Orthodox human rights debate as occupying a middle position and, especially in Chapter 3, I will come back to the theological positions outlined here and use them in order to assess the Human Rights Doctrine of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Notes 1 The Keston Institute was founded in 1969 under the title of Centre for the Study of Religion and Communism, and focused on the study of religion in communist countries. The Keston Institute’s journal Religion in Communist Lands and its archive of samizdat and research material documented the religious situation in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe during the Cold War (www.keston.org.uk). The Swiss Institute G2W (“Glaube in der zweiten Welt”/”Belief in the second world”) was founded in 1972 by a Protestant pastor with the aim of informing the public about the suppression of churches and religious communities in the communist East; its activities focused on the publication of research on the religious situation in Eastern Europe and on practical support for religious projects (www.kirchen.ch/g2w/). The Italian organization Russia Cristiana was founded in 1957 by a priest of the Roman Catholic Church with the aim of promoting knowledge of Orthodox spirituality in the West and to support Christians in Soviet Russia (www.russiacristiana.org). 2 Information according to the oﬃcial website of the World Council of Churches: www.oikoumene.org/en/handbook/church-families/orthodox-churches-eastern.html 3 “Reunion d’experts sur la place des droits de l’homme dans les traditions culturelles et religieuses,” Bangkok, 3–7 December 1979. The other Orthodox speaker at this UNESCO conference was John Romanides. 4 What Yannaras completely leaves out of this picture is that children, women and slaves were excluded from the ancient Greek rights-space. They were not bearers of any rights. 5 This is the argument of his book Orthodoxy and the West (Yannaras 2007).
Four areas of encounters and friction with human rights for the Russian Orthodox Church
In this chapter, I will examine areas of encounters and frictions between the Russian Orthodox Church and the human rights regime. The conﬂicts described in this chapter contributed to the hardening-up of the negative standpoint of the Russian Orthodox Church vis-à-vis human rights in the period leading up to the 2000s. They form the background against which the Russian Orthodox Church set out to formulate its own understanding of human rights. I ﬁrst look at ideological battles during the Cold War, and then at the post-1991 situation, focusing on post-Cold War nationalism, the confrontation between Church and liberal civil society, and international human rights legislation. The most appropriate starting point for a discussion of the encounters and frictions between the Russian Orthodox Church and human rights is 1948, the year when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed. It is appropriate because this is when human rights as an international legal standard were born. In terms of the Russian Orthodox Church’s ideological engagement with the idea of human rights, as it emerged in the wake of the French Revolution, one could of course go back further in history, to the time of the Napoleonic Wars and the inﬂuence of French Enlightenment ideas in tsarist Russia. I will not take this path, but it is necessary to bear in mind this intellectual history and to remember that some of the Church’s ideological arguments against human rights (human rights as the fruit of the anthropocentric and anti-religious Enlightenment) are derived from the nineteenth-century intellectual struggle that the Slavophiles conducted against Westernizers (Bowring 2013).
The Russian Orthodox Church and human rights during the Cold War The Soviet Union and its satellite states were among the countries that abstained from signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948. Twenty years later, in 1968, the Soviet Union did, however, sign two other important international human rights instruments that translated the principles pronounced in the Declaration into positive law, namely
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the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ratiﬁed in 1973). In 1975, it also signed the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Helsinki Accords did not have a legal binding eﬀect on the signatory states, but politically they nonetheless constituted a clear commitment to the values of human rights. The “principles guiding relations between participating states,” enumerated in the Helsinki Final Act, included “the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief” and conﬁrmed that member states should act “in conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (CSCE 1975).1 When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR 1948) was signed by 48 members of the United Nations General Assembly with the Soviet Union abstaining, the Russian Orthodox Church was hardly in a state to react to the event or to reﬂect on the potential impact which this document could have on the life of the Church. In the late 1940s, it had just emerged from two decades of severe repression, which had brought its institutional structure almost to complete collapse, and was going through a gradual recovery under strict state tutelage. Since 1942, the wartime eﬀort and concerns over the post-war geopolitical order had led Stalin to loosen his destructive grip on the Church, and Patriarch Sergii was determined to lead his Church into collaboration with the state in order to assure its institutional survival (Dickinson 2000; Miner 2003; Roccucci 2011). The historian William Fletcher speaks about an “unwritten concordat” between the Soviet state and the Church during the Cold War, the terms of which he deﬁnes as follows: From the Church’s point of view, the advantage of continued institutional existence in Soviet society were deemed suﬃcient to outweigh the religious—and sometimes ethical—incongruity of subservience to an antireligious State in political matters [ … ] from the State’s point of view, the advantage which may accrue from the political co-operation of the Church were deemed suﬃcient to outweigh the ideological annoyance of a delay in the eventual disappearance of organized religion from Soviet society. (Fletcher 1973, 5–6) The collaboration of the Soviet government with the Russian Orthodox Church and other religious groups after 1945 was concentrated in the ﬁeld of external relations, where the religious communities in the Soviet Union were expected to create a positive image of the country in the international arena. The main topic for engagement of the religious communities—not only the Russian Orthodox Church, but also the Soviet Muslim and Buddhist communities (on Islam and Buddhism in Soviet foreign politics, see Fletcher 1973, 69–91)— was peace and disarmament propaganda. Fletcher points out that the Church could make a signiﬁcant contribution in this area of Soviet foreign policy:
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Because the Church claimed to be above politics, and in many circles this claim was accepted, its participation could provide the peace campaign with an aura of legitimacy which would be diﬃcult to achieve otherwise. Furthermore, the Church could expand the movement’s inﬂuence by attracting certain Western churchmen, and by mobilizing the deep and eminently legitimate stream of paciﬁsm throughout the Christian world. (Fletcher 1973, 30) In the name of the campaign for peace, the Russian Orthodox Church initiated a series of ecumenical activities. These activities targeted, on the one hand, the other Orthodox churches among which the Russian Orthodox Church sought to conﬁrm its role as leader, and, on the other hand, Christian churches worldwide with whom the Russian Orthodox Church entered into dialogue. The Prague Christian Peace Conference, founded in 1961, constituted one such undertaking. It is described by the historian Fletcher as an institution whose primary function was propaganda for peace as an adjunct to the implementation of Soviet interests (Fletcher 1973, 40). Besides the Christian Peace Conference, the Russian Orthodox Church also became a member of the World Council of Churches in 1961. In these institutions, it became, as Webster points out, a “prime mover of moral statements,” which frequently included harsh criticism of US military aggression, but kept silent on the military actions of the Soviet Union or its client states (Webster 1993, 216). The Russian Orthodox Church also conducted a regular dialogue with Protestant churches in East and West Germany (Overmeyer 2005). During the late 1970s and the 1980s, the Church engaged actively in debates about nuclear disarmament. Webster, whose perspective on the Russian Orthodox Church’s external relations during the Cold War is decidedly critical, oﬀers a long list of actions in the ﬁeld of nuclear disarmament propaganda undertaken by the Moscow Patriarchate in those years. What stands out is the sheer number of conferences and statements dedicated to a subject which fell clearly outside the close range of ecclesiastical competence and theological reasoning; for example, a deliberation on the neutron bomb in the World Council of Churches in 1977 (Webster 1993, 274), an inter-religious conference “on nuclear catastrophe” in 1982 (Webster 1993, 253), and a “Message of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on War and Peace in a Nuclear Age” in 1986. To Western observers it was clear that the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church in the realm of external church relations and peace and disarmament propaganda were dictated by the Soviet government. Where the state expressed a commitment to social justice and peace, the Church could ﬁnd a genuine conﬂuence of goals, but the price for the Church’s high international proﬁle was silence when the Soviet state violated these very same principles back home (Fletcher 1973, 6). There are two remarkable features about the Russian Orthodox Church’s activities in the ﬁeld of external relations and its collaboration with Soviet foreign policy. The ﬁrst is ideological: it is noteworthy that throughout the
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Cold War the Church remained almost completely silent on the question of human rights, despite the fact that the Soviet Union signed three international human rights treaties, and notwithstanding the incessant violation of believers’ rights in the Soviet Union. The second remarkable feature is institutional: during the decades of the Cold War, the Church built up an eﬃcient corps of clergy in its Department for External Church Relations that could engage in the international promotion of peace and disarmament. It is precisely this institution which was eventually to promote the human rights debate in the Russian Orthodox Church after 1991, and for this reason it is important to look at the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate in its own right. In order to “zoom in” on the human rights debate in the Russian Orthodox Church during the Cold War and after, I will therefore now look more closely at these two, ideological and institutional, aspects. The deal between Stalin and the Church consisted of an agreement that the Church would be spared repression in exchange for unconditional loyalty to the Soviet state. This pledge of loyalty included the Church’s silence on human rights violations by the government, in particular on religious persecution. As an illustration of this, it is worth recalling how, already during the 1930s, at a time when publics in the West were openly concerned about the violation of religious freedom in the Soviet Union, the patriarchal locum tenens Sergii denied Western charges that the Russian Orthodox Church was the victim of religious persecution. Fletcher reproduces an interview that Sergii was allowed to give to foreign journalists in Moscow in February 1930, and which expresses clearly his determination to barter loyalty for survival. When the interviewer asked “Does persecution of religion really exist in the USSR and what forms does it take?”, Sergii answered “Persecution of religion never did and does not exist in the USSR” (Fletcher 1973, 13). From the perspective of the Church in the late 1940s, article 18 of the Universal Declaration, which states “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes the freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance,” should have seemed an unrealizable dream. The Soviet leadership, to which the Church had pledged loyalty, was dismissive of article 18 both on religious and on ideological grounds. Apart from religion per se being considered a false type of consciousness, the right to individual religious freedom was also condemned as “bourgeois” by the Soviet delegates to the United Nations, who proposed qualifying the rights contained in column III of the Universal Declaration (articles 18 through 21) to the eﬀect that they “must be exercised in conformity with the interests of working people and used to strengthen the socialist system” (Glendon 2001, 184). The Patriarch’s repeated denial that the Church was suﬀering from persecution echoed, in fact, Soviet misgivings about the right to religious freedom: he blamed “bourgeois” Russian émigrés for spreading a false image of the religious situation in Russia.
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But there was also an internal, ecclesiological aspect to the denial that religious freedom was being violated in the Soviet Union: before and during the Second World War, diﬀerent parts of the Russian Orthodox Church had declared themselves independent from the Moscow Patriarchate, in particular the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (Miner 2003, 101) and the Russian Church in Western Europe. Sergii accused “schismatic” forces of trying to weaken the Church, and his successor after 1945, Patriarch Alexii I, made every eﬀort, supported by the Soviet government, to bring these groups back under the jurisdiction of Moscow. In short, at the time of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the situation of the Russian Orthodox Church was deeply paradoxical: at the very moment when an important international body enshrined religious freedom as a fundamental value of the post-war order, certainly also moved by the undeniable religious persecution in the areas of communist domination, the Russian Orthodox Church, which was itself suﬀering severe limitations at the hands of the Soviet government, made every eﬀort possible to deny that there was religious persecution in the Soviet Union. The motives for this denial were twofold: on the one hand side, the Church kept silent out of fear of repression, but on the other hand there was a genuine convergence of interests between the Church and the state in denying religious freedom to those parts of the Russian Orthodox Church that sought to detach themselves from the Moscow Patriarchate. The individual right to religious freedom was not something that the Russian Orthodox Church could wholeheartedly support in 1948, for political–pragmatic as well as internal– ecclesiastical reasons. This paradoxical situation continued throughout the Cold War, and became the ﬁrst ground for an open clash between the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and those Russian Orthodox believers who demanded religious freedom on the grounds of human rights. The most famous example is the case of the priest Gleb Yakunin. In 1975, Yakunin and Lev Regelson wrote a letter to the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches gathered in Nairobi that year. In their letter, they denounced the persecution of religious believers in the Soviet Union and accused the Church of inactivity in the defense of believers and collaboration with the state. Not surprisingly, the oﬃcial delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church tried to silence the protest and condemned the statement, but the Assembly of the World Council of Churches nonetheless discussed the issue and tabled a resolution in which it requested “that the question of religious liberty be the subject of intense consultations with the member Churches of the signatory States of the Helsinki Agreement” (Kelly 1976, 5). The incident is important because it was the ﬁrst time the Russian Orthodox Church found itself confronted explicitly with the human right of religious freedom as an international legal standard. The Soviet Union had signed the Helsinki Agreement, thus subscribing to the Universal Declaration and the European Convention. Pushed by the letter by Yakunin and Regelson, the
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World Council of Churches insisted on measuring the signatory states of the Helsinki Agreement by their own agreed standards. Yakunin and Regelson were not the only religious protesters who challenged their church and the Soviet Union on these grounds; other ﬁgures included Vladimir Rusak, Zoya Krakhmal’nikova, Felix Svetov, and Gleb Eshliman (cf. Webster 1993, 57; Valliere 1997). In all of these cases, religious freedom as a human right stood out as an international legal standard against which the politics of the Soviet Union (and the behavior of the Russian Orthodox Church, which regularly failed to support the dissidents) could be measured. During the Cold War, the Church remained largely silent with regard to the human rights regime that was being consolidated as an independent international legal standard. With the exception of one statement by Metropolitan Nikodim in 1963 and one article in the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate entitled “Theological Aspects of Human Rights” by Alexei Osipov in 1984 (both cited in Webster 1993), there is little evidence of programmatic or oﬃcial statements by members of the Moscow Patriarchate that dealt explicitly with human rights prior to 1991. However, both the statement by Nikodim and the article by Osipov are quite instructive, as I show below. In his ﬁrst speech at a regional meeting of the Prague-based Christian Peace Conference in 1963, Metropolitan Nikodim said: “‘Every civil right … is of genuine value only if it is used for the good of society, of one’s country, of all mankind” instead of “to protect the interests of a selﬁsh individual or of a privileged class” (Webster 1993, 51). Webster, who cites this speech in his book, deﬁnes Nikodim’s statement as a “socialist version of human rights.” In fact, Nikodim’s Marxist premise surfaced clearly in his assessment of the human right to own property: “Is it possible, from a Christian standpoint, to consider true liberty the legal protection of a right for individuals to hold undisputed ownership over means of production which should belong to society as a whole?” (Webster 1993, 52). The fact that the representative of the Church singled out in his speech article 17 of the Universal Declaration (the right to own property) is clearly indicative of Nikodim’s acceptance of communist ideological exigencies with regard to the Russian Orthodox Church’s voice in the world. However, in the light of the massive requisition of Church property by the Bolsheviks, legitimized with the argument that the Church represented a selﬁsh and privileged class, the last rhetorical question of the Metropolitan appears bitter and cynical. At a time when property rights were emerging as an international legal human rights standard, and against the background of massive expropriation of Church property, i.e. at a time when the Russian Orthodox Church’s own situation was a clear case of violation of article 17, the representative of the Church stood up in support of collective ownership. Needless to say, this denial was just one more sign of the deeply paradoxical situation of the Russian Orthodox Church under Soviet rule. However, the motives for Nikodim’s attack on human rights were most probably, again, twofold: on the one hand, he could hardly have argued otherwise as an oﬃcial representative of
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his church at the mercy of the Soviet government, but on the other hand there was also a genuine convergence of positions between the Church and the socialist state in denouncing the risk that individual rights would further human selﬁshness. The theological reasoning becomes clearer in the article by Osipov. In this article, the author, a professor at the Theological Faculty of the Moscow Patriarchate, pointed out that freedom constituted only a conditional, not an absolute right and could be considered “good” only as long as it enhanced the development of what is good in man and human society. For this reason, freedom in society should always be understood as “limited.” Freedom of speech, for example, remained a human right, Osipov argued, “only as long as it does not overstep its positive bounds” by allowing the advocacy of lies, slander, violence, and other evils. When this freedom exceeds these bounds, it “can no longer be called a human right and be allowed to exist in society.” Halfway through his article, Osipov turned to a discussion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Helsinki Accords. He called these two items “authoritative international documents,” but he pointed out that both of them ran into a problem of deﬁnition “of the border of those rights, which man really needs” (Osipov 1984, 58). Osipov’s article foreshadows the distinction between positive and negative freedom and the insistence on the limits of individual human rights which are characteristic of the human rights discourse of the Russian Orthodox Church throughout the 1990s and 2000s. It also makes clear that the problems which the Orthodox Church manifested with regard to human rights were from the start not only of a political but also of a theological nature. Prior to 1991 it would have been unthinkable politically that the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church might challenge the Soviet government on grounds of human rights, but after 1991 it became clear that it was also unthinkable theologically that the Russian Orthodox Church would subscribe wholeheartedly to the idea of human rights. Nikodim’s speech from 1963 and Osipov’s article from 1984 clearly show that the Church had long had misgivings about individual human rights as such. Before turning to the post-1991 discourse on human rights in the Russian Orthodox Church, it is important to look brieﬂy at the institutional prerequisites for the Church’s human rights engagement. During the Cold War, the Russian Orthodox Church’s voice in the international arena was represented by the Department for External Church Relations, a body created in 1946. This department, a strategic priority for the Soviet government, was among the best funded sections of the Moscow Patriarchate and its members were usually well-trained and dynamic clerics with great personal capacities to interact in ecumenical and international circles. Metropolitan Nikodim, head of the Department from 1960 to 1972, enjoyed a particularly high international reputation; the Italian historian Roccucci even speaks about the “school of Nikodim” in characterizing the workings of the Department for External Church Relations (Roccucci 2010b).
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What then was so speciﬁc about the way in which the Department operated? Fletcher, writing at height of the Cold War, gives a useful deﬁnition. He pointed out that the Church in its activities in the West always tried to seek out and encourage points of view in the Western religious community which are more or less compatible with the interest of the Russian churchmen. This endeavour is, of course, common to all human relations and, in fact, is nothing more than the universal means of building mutual conﬁdence and seeking to persuade others to accept one’s own point of view. Successful development of mutual relations requires the willingness to accede to the other’s point of view as well, a process of give and take, and in their international relations of the post-Stalin era, the Russian Churches have shown a surprising willingness to build such relationships, entering enthusiastically into the process of deferring to the points of view of others on matters of secondary interest in order to achieve a degree of harmony in primary concerns. (Fletcher 1973, 100) I have quoted Fletcher’s characterization of the Moscow Patriarchate’s external relations at length, because I will return to this point several times in this book. The “school of Nikodim,” to pick up the term used by Roccucci, consisted in a strategic “give and take,” in a type of argumentation that would include up to a certain degree the acceptance of others’ points of view in order to give more weight to the Russian Orthodox Church’s own, often controversial position. Today’s Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, is a former student of Nikodim who made his career inside the Department for External Church Relations and became its director in 1989 (Roccucci 2010b). From 1991 he was chieﬂy responsible for the elaboration of important documents of social teaching inside the Russian Orthodox Church, in particular the Social Doctrine and the Human Rights Doctrine. Kirill became Patriarch of Moscow in 2009, with his election initially being interpreted as a sign of modernization of the Church (Roccucci 2010a). I will return to Kirill and his disputed role as a modernizer or conservative later on, but what is important to note at this point is that the human rights debate inside the Russian Orthodox Church and the entire process that led to the formulation of a speciﬁc Russian Orthodox human rights teaching and agenda in the international arena was orchestrated and coordinated by the Department for External Church Relations and its director Kirill, in a conspicuous institutional and operative continuity with the religious diplomacy of Soviet times.
Russian Orthodox nationalism and human rights When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the Church ﬁnally emerged free from political and ideological strictures, it soon became clear that it was not
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going to give full-hearted support to the cause of liberal democracy and human rights. Instead, religious nationalism gained ground as a powerful ideology inside the Church, and with it the understanding that human rights were a Western idea that was being imposed on Russia from the outside. Many churchmen and intellectuals belonging to nationalist and conservative circles in post-Soviet society would have liked to see Russian identity deﬁned completely in terms of Orthodoxy and in opposition to the West. Their ideology relied on the notion of a “golden age” to which Russia should return, including the restoration of the pre-1905 Russian empire, full-ﬂedged autocracy, imperial structures, a privileged status for the Church, and state–Orthodox paternalism (Selbach 2002; Verkhovsky 2002; Kostjuk 2005, 122–28). Human rights as an idea and as an international legal standard obviously had no place whatsoever in this vision of politics and society. It is important to remember that Russian Orthodox nationalism was by no means a new phenomenon in the 1990s, having already gained ground during the Soviet period. I have mentioned above several liberal religious dissidents who invoked human rights in their struggle for religious freedom, but one has to recognize that a great number of religious dissidents in the USSR were not liberal in their opposition to communism, but nationalist. Nationalist religious dissidents saw themselves in the tradition of the Slavophiles, were antiWestern in attitude, and were not strictly opposed to the Soviet regime. The authoritarianism and anti-Westernism of the Soviet government appealed to many Orthodox nationalists, who asserted that Orthodoxy should be superimposed on existing structures (Knox 2004, 56). In the Brezhnev era, this nationalist view of Orthodoxy had moved into the orbit of government propaganda, and during Gorbachev’s perestroika the Orthodox Church was promoted even further, by eﬀorts which culminated in the joint celebration of the 1988 millenary of the baptism of the Rus’ by the Soviet government and the Church. Historians have explained this “policy of inclusion” by saying that Orthodoxy provided a welcome ideology of nationalism and antiWesternism at a time when the Marxist–Leninist ideology was losing its mobilizing power (Brudny 1998, 16; Mitrokhin 2003). The promotion of Russianness and of Orthodox religious and cultural identity thus had already begun during the Soviet era, and the ideology of Russian Orthodox nationalism was easily able to gain ground after 1991. The Russian historian Konstantin Kostyuk even suggests that Russian Orthodox nationalism is, from a historical point of view, really at its strongest today, a position for which the foundations were laid by the ideologization and nationalization of the Orthodox religion in the Soviet period (Kostyuk 2000). In the recent literature on the Russian Orthodox Church, it is common to identify three ideological factions within the Church: fundamentalists, traditionalists, and liberals (Kostjuk 2005, 116–38; Papkova 2011). During the 1990s, however, the distinction between fundamentalists and traditionalists was not always clear to outside observers, because the main focus of attention was on the rift between conservatives and liberals. As Papkova comments,
Four areas of encounters and friction The heated polemics around [liberal Orthodoxy] led to the perception among Western scholars of an ideological struggle within Russian Orthodoxy between traditionalists (or alternatively, conservatives) and liberals. Once the liberal movement receded into the quiet obscurity in which it exists today, however, it became apparent that what were thought to be uniformly conservative forces in the ROC consisted of two very diﬀerent ideological planes: while a traditionalist model could fairly be said to dominate, it was under sustained pressure from what has been called within ROC circles the “temptation from the right.” (Papkova 2011, 60)
Papkova’s analysis, to which I will return several times in this book, helps to explain the dynamics inside the Russian Orthodox Church during the 1990s with regard to human rights. The support for Russian nationalist ideas was a feature which fundamentalist and traditionalist circles in the Church had in common. Many representatives also shared the opposition to human rights as a Western idea. This created the image of a united front against anything foreign, Western, and non-Orthodox. With hindsight, it is apparent that this front was not as uniﬁed as it seemed, and while a signiﬁcant portion of the Church was, and continues to be, in fundamental opposition to democracy, human rights, liberalism, and the idea of a secular state, the Patriarchate itself began to develop a more nuanced stance after 2000. The two examples I discuss below are indicative of the anti-human rights stance that dominated Orthodox discourse during the 1990s: the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations in 1997 and the foundation of the World Russian People’s Council (Vsemirnyi Russkii Narodnyi Sobor) in 1993. The 1997 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations The position the Moscow Patriarchate has taken on the question of religious freedom is indicative of the suspicion inside the Church vis-à-vis liberal human rights. In the year 1990, at the height of perestroika, the government of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic passed a law on religious organizations which lifted the country to the standards of liberal Western democracies: individual and collective, positive and negative rights of religion were guaranteed, all denominations were made equal before the law, religious activities were legalized, and the Russian Orthodox Church came to beneﬁt from the restitution of a large number of properties (Willems 2012). This law retained validity for the Russian Federation after the break-up of the Soviet Union and, during the ﬁrst half of the 1990s, guaranteed the revival of religious life in Russia, including the emergence of new religious groups.2 It was precisely the emergence of these groups which was soon to arouse the disapproval of the Orthodox Church, which felt threatened by the activities of
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missionaries from abroad. Religious minorities were also unhappy with the situation, although for opposite reasons, because they saw in the close cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Yeltsin government a breach of the principle of equality encoded in the law (Willems 2012). As a result of the growing public debate on religious freedom, the 1990 law became subject to revision and was replaced in 1997 by a new law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations. The right to religious freedom is an important test case for the status of human rights in the Russian legal system, public debate and church discourse. The complicated history of the law on religion clearly shows that the human right to religious freedom was interpreted by the Russian government, the public, and the Russian Orthodox Church as a threat rather than a blessing. In the ﬁrst half of the 1990s, the Moscow Patriarchate was concerned about the proselytizing activities of Catholic and Protestant churches. It did not frame the question of Russian citizens adhering to one or another religion as an issue of individual religious freedom, but instead focused on the threat of “totalitarian sects” and the risk of watering down the “Russian Orthodox identity” (Shterin 1998; Papkova 2011, 74–93). Church leaders at the time apparently did not feel that human rights and equal religious liberty were something they could actually beneﬁt from in the post-Soviet transition period. The Moscow Patriarchate quite clearly did not consider acceptable the liberal position that a neutral state which respects internationally agreed human rights standards could be the most beneﬁcial legal environment for itself. The reasons for this ideological choice are of course complex, but Orthodox nationalism is certainly one of the most important aspects. Russian nationalists never thought of Orthodoxy as just one religion among others on Russian territory, not even potentially. The Russian Orthodox Church was considered to represent the majority of the Russian people and should therefore relate to the state not just in terms of rights, but in terms of privileges. From a nationalist viewpoint, the Church did not “need” human rights. This religious–nationalist agenda became eﬀective in the 1997 Law on Freedom of Conscience which, as Papkova writes, marked “the height of symphonia” in Russian church–state relations (Papkova 2011, 74). The restrictive nature of the law made clear that neither government nor Church had any intention to abide by international human rights standards in matters of religious freedom, but instead concurred on a political strategy of “managed pluralism” (Gvosdev 2002), which included a highly selective regulation of church–state relations. The most controversial aspect of the new law was the provision that religious organizations could register and obtain oﬃcial status only after a 15-year period of proven activity in the territory of the Russian Federation.3 This excluded de facto all religious communities that had established themselves in Russia after the breakdown of the Soviet Union and mostly concerned evangelical religious communities. Another controversial aspect of the new law was the preamble:
Four areas of encounters and friction Conﬁrming the right of each to freedom of conscience and freedom of creed, and also to equality before the law regardless of his attitudes to religion and his convictions/basing itself on the fact that the Russian Federation is a secular state/recognizing the special contribution of Orthodoxy to the history of Russia and to the establishment and development of Russia’s spirituality and culture/respecting Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other religions which constitute an inseparable part of the historical heritage of Russia’s peoples/considering it important to promote the achievement of mutual understanding, tolerance and respect in questions of freedom of conscience and freedom of creed; hereby adopts this federal law. (CESNUR 1997)
This preamble, even though having no legal eﬀect, eﬀectively introduced a tripartition of religions in Russia and conveyed, according to the interpretation by Willems, an “ethnic” understanding of religious pluralism. At the top there stood “Orthodoxy,” the Russian Orthodox Church; in second place came the traditional religions of the Russian peoples: Islam as the religion of the Tatars, Bashkirs and Chechens, Buddhism for the Kalmyks and Buryats, Judaism, and non-speciﬁed natural religions. The formulation “Christianity” (as opposed to the preceding “Orthodoxy”) had to be understood to include not only the Orthodoxy of Russians and Ukrainians, but also the Lutheranism of German Russians, Estonians and Finns, and the Catholicism of Poles and Lithuanians. In third place came those religions (“creeds”) that were not traditionally related to any of the Russian ethnic groups (Willems 2012, 27). The 15-year provision and the preamble were ﬁercely criticized by human rights activists within and outside Russia, who, on the one hand, feared an infringement of individual religious liberty and, on the other hand, the quiet promotion of the Russian Orthodox Church to a state church. Commentators were unanimous in pointing out that the 1997 law constituted a dismantling of the guarantees of equal religious liberty (Davis 1997, 654; Kovach 1998, 424; Shterin 1998, 2000; Trepanier 2002, 64). The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has criticized the law in every single annual report published since 2003 (USCIRF 2013), the Council of Europe criticized it in a resolution (Council of Europe 2002), and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg also commented negatively on the 15-year clause (ECHR 2006).4 However, more recently scholars have, independently from each other, conceded that the eﬀects of the legislation have not been as onerous as initially feared (Fagan 2007; Papkova 2011, 75; Willems 2012; Richters 2013, 38). Irrespective of the degree to which the 1997 Law on Freedom of Conscience infringed on religious liberties or not, what is clear is that it had a strong nationalist and anti-liberal appeal. It limited the freedom of “nontraditional” (read “Western”) religious associations and framed Russian state identity in terms of “traditional religions,” with Orthodoxy as the leading
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religion and few minority religions as lower-ranking religious communities within Russia’s borders. It is also obvious that the Russian Orthodox Church was the opinion leader in the process of deﬁning who should be included in the national heritage of traditional religions. The Church’s discourse surrounding the law was clearly inspired by nationalist themes, and also by a certain degree of “nostalgia” for the closed nature of the Russian religious system during the Soviet era (Richters 2013, 44). The World Russian People’s Council The foundation of the World Russian People’s Council is the second case in point that Orthodox nationalism was becoming increasingly inﬂuential in the Moscow Patriarchate during the 1990s. The Council was founded in May 1993 as a non-governmental organization and “civil society branch” of the Moscow Patriarchate. Its presidency is held by the acting Patriarch of Moscow and it has its seat in the Danilov Monastery on the premises of the Patriarchate. According to its statutes, the Council seeks to “promote the spiritual, cultural, social and economic revival of Russia and the Russian people,” “contribute to the strengthening of Russian statehood, strengthening the role of the Orthodox Church in the life of society,” “facilitate the moral improvement of Russian society” with the help of Russia’s traditional religions, and “promote the peaceful and non-violent uniﬁcation of the Russian people” (VRNS 1993). In 2005 the World Russian People’s Council obtained special consultative status at the United Nations.5 The historian John Dunlop, who has analyzed the dominant role played by the Moscow Patriarchate in the foundation of the Council, characterized the World Russian People’s Council as a right-wing “empire-saving” organization that had the political aim of recreating the USSR (Dunlop 1995, 15). While the recreation of the USSR can probably no longer be cited as the hidden aim of the Council, what certainly informs the ideology of the organization up until today are the ideas of “greater Russia” and monarchism. Monarchy is the declared ideal form of government for Orthodox nationalists, and modern Russian monarchism is based on the idea that there exists a sphere of the Kremlin’s political inﬂuence and interest beyond national borders, extending, in particular, to territories inhabited by ethnic Russians in the Baltic states, Ukraine, and Belarus (Dunlop 1995, 16; Richters 2013, 11). “Greater Russia,” understood in this way, coincides with those areas to which the Moscow Patriarchate lays claim as its historical canonical territory. The expressed aim of the World Russian People’s Council “to promote the peaceful uniﬁcation of the Russian people” must be understood as a reference to both of these territorial concepts—greater Russia and the Patriarchate’s canonical territory—and is therefore a clear indicator of the religious nationalism at play in the Council. The World Russian People’s Council unites the strongly nationalist elements inside the Russian Orthodox Church. Evidence for this has been
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provided by the German historian Gerd Stricker, who has traced back the authorship of one particularly nationalistic (anti-Western and anti-Semitic) political pamphlet to circles included in the Council. This Russkaya Doktrina, published in 2007, is just one example of the ﬂourishing nationalistic and patriotic literature in Russia and its ideas are apparently widely shared in nationalist circles inside the Church (Stricker 2007, 267; see also Behrens 2002, 163–66). A common theme in this type of literature is the condemnation of the secular state and of human rights. Human rights are usually depicted as a political instrument through which the West seeks to destabilize Russia, because human rights supposedly strengthen national, religious and ideological minorities at the expense of Russian collective identity (Buchenau 2007, 168–69). In 2006, the World Russian People’s Council issued, with considerable fanfare, a Russian Human Rights Declaration which expressed precisely these kinds of judgments. I will analyze this document at some length below, but what is important to note at this point is that the World Russian People’s Council represents the hard core of the anti-Western and anti-human rights attitudes within the Moscow Patriarchate. Orthodox nationalism during the 1990s united the traditionalist and fundamentalist factions inside the Russian Orthodox Church. The relationship between the two camps, fundamentalist and traditionalist, is evaluated diﬀerently in the literature. Some scholars believe that the Moscow Patriarchate actually quietly shares most of the views of the fundamentalists, even though it does not actively support them (Verkhovsky 2002, 2003; Buchenau 2007). Others emphasize that the church leadership is actually under pressure from the right (Kostyuk 2000; Mitrofanova 2005; Papkova 2011). It is not the purpose of this book to resolve this debate, but my view on the matter is that the Moscow Patriarchate follows diﬀerent strategies in diﬀerent arenas: in the international arena it seeks to distance itself from the right/extremist wing of the Church; in the domestic arena it actually accepts close association, in some areas more than in others; the Church’s Department for Relations with the Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies, founded in 1995, is ﬁrmly in the hands of the nationalists (Richters 2013, 55–74), whereas the Patriarchate’s educational initiative, which introduced religious education in public schools, eventually turned out to be remarkably non-nationalist in its orientation (Willems 2010, 28).6 Also in the ﬁeld of human rights, the Patriarchate apparently pursues a double strategy: a conservative, diplomatically and moderately attuned traditional-morality-and-rights agenda in the international sphere, and a blunt rejection of human rights as a Western imposition in the domestic arena. I will return to this ambiguity in Chapter 4.
The Church and liberal human rights groups It is now necessary to turn to another area of friction between the Church and human rights. In the post-communist struggle over the ideological
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orientation of Russian politics and society, there existed not only nationalists, but also liberals. It should be remembered that after 1991, Russian society found itself faced with two possible ways to move on from the Soviet experience: either by way of a radical break with the past; or by way of a slow transition, if not continuation of established structures and institutions. From today’s perspective, it is clear that the latter option has prevailed, but at the beginning of the 1990s it was by no means obvious which direction developments would take. Many former dissidents and intellectuals, including religious intellectuals, became politically active and set out to radically change politics and society, with the aim of moving Russia closer to Western standards of liberty and democracy.7 One important topic in this new orientation for society was precisely human rights. The foundation of important human rights groups during the ﬁnal years of perestroika—the re-establishing of the Moscow Helsinki Group in 1989, the foundation of the Memorial Human Rights Society in 1988—provides clear evidence of the growing importance and inﬂuence of human rights ideas in the public discourse. The Church confronted these liberal groups with great suspicion. Transparency and the KGB past of the clergy During the ﬁnal years of perestroika and immediately after 1991, the legitimacy and status of the Church among the public was very high, but its own past rendered it vulnerable. To many citizens of the new Russian Federation, it appeared plausible that the Church would play a constructive role in providing the moral foundation for the new Russian state. However, the moral weight and positive image of the Church was fragile inasmuch as the true nature of its collaboration with the Soviet regime was not widely known. Indeed, it became known to the public only when in 1991–92 a commission for the investigation of the events of the August Putsch (in August 1991 a part of the Soviet government tried to overthrow Gorbachev in disapproval at his reforms) was set up by the Russian parliament and produced a series of documents from the KGB archives that revealed the collaboration of leading representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, including the ruling Patriarch Alexii II, with the Soviet secret service (Armes 1991, 74; Behrens 2002, 130–36). Similarly, the present Patriarch, Kirill, was accused of having been an informer for the KGB, even though he always denied such charges. The Church reacted by downplaying the reports and making clear that a clariﬁcation of the Church’s role during the Soviet era was not among its priorities. As a general rule, Church leaders have not denied that collaboration existed, but it is presented as the only possible strategy that could have ensured the institutional survival of the Russian Orthodox Church under communism, and as an act of personal sacriﬁce on the part of the collaborating clergy, who accepted the compromise of their own ethical standards in order to serve their Church, instead of pursuing personal salvation and purity of faith in acts of resistance (cf. Roccucci 2010b). But even this line of defense could not cover
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up the conﬂict between those representatives of civil society who demanded transparency, and the Church, which instead demanded silence. The confrontation between liberal religious actors and the Church leadership was to a certain extent a conﬂict between longstanding opponents. The main ﬁgure behind the discovery and documentation of clerical KGB involvement was Gleb Yakunin, the priest who had been let down by his own church at the Nairobi World Council of Churches in 1975 and had suﬀered imprisonment from 1980 to 1987 for denouncing the conditions of religious believers in the USSR. Together with Lev Ponomarev, the co-founder of Memorial, he led the commission for the clariﬁcation of the August Putsch that produced the critical material. In those early years of the post-communist transition, it was not yet clear whether Russia would be able to make a new beginning or would rather seek some sort of ideational continuity with the past. The uncovering of the Church’s collaboration with the KGB therefore must have appeared eminently threatening and damaging to the Church. Today, I think, we have to recognize that a “radical break with the past” is not something which the majority of Russians expected, least of all from the Church. The full scale of church–state collaboration that has now become public appears not to have severely damaged the Church’s public standing, even though it has discredited it in the eyes of those liberal intellectuals and believers who had hoped for clearer signals of renewal inside the Church. During the 1990s the pro-democratic and liberal forces within the Church were losing ground to the nationalists and fundamentalists: Yakunin was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1993, and other liberal Orthodox priests were also either removed from their positions or severely constrained in their activity (Behrens 2002, 259–70; Knox 2004; Kostjuk 2005, 118–22; Papkova 2011, 53–60). The unbridgeable rift and deep mistrust between the Church and liberal human rights groups today has its roots partially in these aborted struggles for transparency and renewal inside the Church during the 1990s. Human rights and public morality The 1990s were perceived by many Russians as chaotic and lawless years of transition, but they also produced a hitherto unseen cultural and social pluralism. From the perspective of the Church, this pluralism was not necessarily a positive development. Two issues caused particular suspicion on its part, namely the newly gained freedom for homosexuals and the proliferating art scene. The Church condemned homosexuality as immoral and sinful, and it criticized the freedom of artistic expression as potentially hurtful to religious sensibilities. An example of each of these two issues will serve to show how they engendered friction between the Church and advocates of human rights. It is necessary to recall for a moment the legal and political background to the struggle for equal treatment of homosexuals in the human rights framework. All international human rights instruments deﬁne as a fundamental
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human right the equal treatment of individuals before the law and the right of the citizen not to be discriminated against by the state. In most countries this standard of equal treatment before the law and non-discrimination has not been applied to homosexuals: same-sex marriage is not a standard even in Western democracies and, in many non-Western countries homosexuality continues to be criminalized. In the Soviet Union also, homosexuality was a criminal act. The legislation penalizing homosexual relations was only changed after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1993. The de-penalization and de-criminalization of homosexual relationships in Russia could be considered a victory for the human rights regime, bringing the legal situation for gays and lesbians in Russia to a level similar to that of many other European countries. In reality, however, these legal changes cannot gloss over the fact that social acceptance of homosexuality in Russia has remained low, and gays and lesbians face open discrimination. While most Western European countries have recently moved towards full inclusion of gay and lesbian citizens, granting, for example, the right to get married or adopt children, Russia and many other Eastern European states have refrained from granting any further rights. Quite the contrary: the legislators in these countries have put in place a range of alternative laws which de facto criminalize a gay lifestyle while not penalizing it de jure. Lesbian–gay–bisexual–transgender (LGBT) rights have proved to be a major area of friction between the Russian Orthodox Church and liberal human rights activists. In 2006, the holding of a gay parade was banned by the Moscow city council on the grounds that the event constituted a risk to public security. The Church was up in arms against the idea of holding a gay parade, and called it “propaganda for sin.” Patriarch Alexii II reportedly announced the Church’s condemnation of what he called “untraditional relations,” which it perceived as “a vicious deviation from God-given human nature” (Westen 2006). He also thanked Moscow’s mayor Luzhkov for his concern for public morality. Similar bans were enacted in the subsequent years and in other Russian cities. Gay activists who nonetheless took to the streets were violently attacked by nationalists, skinheads and ultra-Orthodox groups. The controversy over Moscow’s ban on gay pride parades came before the European Court of Human Rights in 2007. In 2010, the ECHR ruled in the case Alekseyev vs. Russia that Russia had violated articles 11, 13 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights when refusing to grant permission for the events: violation of the freedom to peaceful assembly, violation of the right to eﬀective remedy before the national authority, and violation of the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Russia argued before the Court that the refusal to allow a gay pride parade in Moscow was necessary for the protection of morals and the rights and freedoms of others, in particular of the religious majority population. The Court rejected the argument, saying that it was the role of the state to ensure tolerance and pluralism in a democratic society (ECHR 2001a). With this ruling, the Strasbourg Court followed its already established line of defending
Four areas of encounters and friction
homosexuals against unequal treatment and discrimination, which has led to a change in legislation in many European countries over the last few years (Waaldijk 2012). Against the backdrop of these events, LGBT rights came to epitomize for the Church all that was threatening about human rights and that deviated from its own vision of public morality and correct human conduct. It is important to note that not only did supporters of the LGBT activists’ right to hold a parade argue in terms of human rights, but their opponents too used the language of human rights, arguing that banning the gay parade was necessary for the protection of the rights and freedoms of religious groups. The second example of the clash between liberal human rights and the Church’s view of traditional values is that of the repeated conﬂicts over art exhibitions considered oﬀensive by religious groups. The ﬁrst of such events was the exhibition “Ostorozhno religiya” (“Caution, religion”) in Moscow’s Sakharov Center in 2003. This exhibition, which included, for example, an artwork that depicted Jesus Christ with a Coca-Cola can and the text “This is my blood,” was interpreted by the Church as a provocation. A group of ultraOrthodox believers stormed the exhibition and the art objects. In the ensuing court case, however, it was not the attackers who were put on trial, but the organizer of the exhibition, who was forced to respond to the accusation of “inciting religious hatred” and oﬀending the feelings of religious believers (Ryklin 2006). In 2007, the Sakharov Center again organized a critical exhibition, this time entitled “Zapretnoe iskusstvo” (“Forbidden art”), which contained artworks that had been refused exhibition in other places and had in common that they dealt critically with the subject of religion. Again, one of the incriminated artworks played on the theme of the Eucharist in connection with symbols of Western consumerism: an image of Jesus appearing with the McDonalds’ golden arches and the words “This is my body” (Kishkovsky 2010). Again the curator was charged with “incitement of hatred”; this time the accusation came from the Orthodox patriotic movement Narodnyi Sobor. In both cases, the court convicted and ﬁned the organizers of the exhibitions. Both of these trials were closely observed by the Western press, and the issues were brought before the European Court of Human Rights (Samodurov and Vasilovskaya v. Russia; the case was partially judged inadmissible by the Court in 2010). It must be added that the Moscow Patriarchate was critical of the exhibitions but did not incite Orthodox believers to actively destroy the exhibited objects. The Patriarchate also did not openly support Narodnyi Sobor in the 2007 court case (Zwahlen 2010b). The controversy surrounding the art exhibitions in the Sakharov Center provides a good example of how entrenched the human rights debate between secular liberal human rights activists and religious groups had become by the mid-2000s. For the artists and human rights activists, the accusation and the criticism of the Church was a sign that freedom of artistic activity and freedom of expression were being suppressed in Russia and that the political scene was becoming increasingly clericalized. Representatives of the Russian
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Orthodox Church, on the other hand, looked on these exhibitions as remnants of Soviet “militant atheism” and portrayed themselves in the role of victim (Willems 2009).
The Russian Orthodox Church and international human rights legislation One more reason for the negative attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church towards human rights can be found in the changing legal landscape of the post-Soviet Russian Federation. After 1991 and the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation became the successor state to the USSR in all international treaties. In terms of human rights legislation, this meant that Russia was a party to the Helsinki Accords and the United Nations covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In addition, the Russian Federation became a member of the Council of Europe in 1996, ratifying the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in 1998, and becoming a state party to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (on circumstances and reservations, see Bowring 2013, ch. 8). According to the Constitution of the Russian Federation from 1993, instruments of international law take precedence over national legislation (article 15, para. 4). The Constitution even speciﬁes that “the listing in the Constitution of the Russian Federation of the fundamental rights and freedoms shall not be interpreted as a rejection of derogation of other universally recognized human rights and freedoms” (article 55, para. 1).8 These constitutional provisions make clear that, in principle, international human rights norms are fully integrated into the Russian legal system (Peters 2009, 171–72). The changing legal landscape in Russia and the “imposition” of international legal standards on the Russian legal system angered the nationalists and entered also into the Church’s discourse on human rights. Church leaders were clearly aware that international human rights legislation could have a direct impact on church life, as exemplary cases before the Strasbourg Court showed. The two examples that I want to outline brieﬂy in order to illustrate this claim do not concern Russia but rather the Moscow Patriarchate, inasmuch as they are disputes over the legitimate jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine and Moldova. While the cases before the Strasbourg Court regarding the 1997 Law on Freedom of Conscience were brought by religious minorities against Russia, and therefore concerned the Moscow Patriarchate only indirectly, given that it actually welcomed the restrictive law on religious freedom, the two cases cited here actually had a direct impact on the Moscow Patriarchate: Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia and Others v. Moldova, brought before the European Court of Human Rights in 1998 and decided in 2002, concerned a complaint by the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia that the Moldovan authorities had refused to recognize its status as a religious
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community. The Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia had been created as a local, autonomous church attached to the Patriarchate of Bucharest in 1992. It had been recognized by all the Orthodox patriarchates with the exception of the Patriarchate of Moscow, which held that the legitimate Orthodox church in Moldova was the Metropolitan Church of Moldova, attached to the Moscow Patriarchate, and disapproved of the fact that the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia was establishing itself as an Orthodox community in a territory traditionally under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. The European Court of Human Rights found that article 9 (1) of the European Convention (“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and, in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance”) has been violated by the refusal of the Moldovan authorities to recognize the church (ECHR 2001b). Svyato-Mykhaylivska Paraﬁa v. Ukraine, brought before the court in 2001 and decided in 2007, concerned a parish in the capital Kiev, which had been founded in 1989 as a parish of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and, 10 years later, sought to change denomination to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate. This change in denomination led to a split in the parish and an active contestation of the church building between supporters of the Moscow and the Kyiv patriarchates. The local administration supported the Moscow Patriarchate’s position and refused legal recognition to the new entity. The European Court of Human Rights found that article 9 of the European Convention had been violated by this refusal (ECHR 2007). Both cases are disputes over canonical jurisdiction, legislated in terms of religious freedom, freedom of association and right to fair trial and equal access to the law. The European Court of Human Rights obviously does not enter into the merits of canonical jurisdictions, nor can it, taking the perspective of the individual believer, easily accommodate a concept like canonical territory. It is interesting that in both cases, the implicated governments justiﬁed their administrative decisions on the ground of article 9 (2), arguing that their refusal to recognize new religious entities on their territory was in the interest of public morality and rights of others. 9 (2) Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. However, according to the interpretation of the Strasbourg Court, the governments did not adequately interpret article 9 (2): the role of the authorities in such circumstances was not to remove the cause of tension by eliminating
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pluralism, but to ensure that the competing groups tolerated each other. In short, the Court dismissed the reasoning of the Russian state in both cases, making clear statements for religious pluralism in a democracy. The two cases I have cited here demonstrate that the Moscow Patriarchate’s claim to canonical territory has come under severe strain through legislation by the European Court of Human Rights. Where these claims have actually proven eﬃcient in political terms (in the disputed cases the local authorities supported the cause of the Moscow Patriarchate), they turned out to be inefﬁcient at the level of supranational human rights legislation. In the world of international human rights standards, canonical jurisdiction is not a valid argument. This must have been a bitter lesson for the Moscow Patriarchate, and there is clear evidence from statements of church members that the Patriarchate was unhappy with the Strasbourg Court’s decisions. Another exemplary case illustrating the tension between human rights on a European level and their restrictive interpretation in Russia is Alekseyev vs. Russia, which I have cited in the previous section: the case of the Moscow gay pride parade. Also in this case, Russia tried to argue for its position by limiting the eﬀects of article 11 (1) through article 11 (2): 11 (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests. 11 (2) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State. Russia argued that the refusal to permit a gay pride parade in Moscow was necessary for the protection of morals and the rights and freedoms of others, an argument which the Court rejected. These three examples show that the European Court of Human Rights responded to human rights violations in Russia by granting no, or a very limited, margin of appreciation and not accepting the reasoning in terms of “public morality” along the lines of articles 9 (2) or 11 (2). Russia’s dealings with the ECHR should be seen in the light of a more general development inside the Court, which has been analyzed by Silvio Ferrari (2012). Ferrari has pointed out that the collapse of the communist Eastern Bloc and the subsequent accession of twenty-four new countries to the Council of Europe has signiﬁcantly altered the religious make-up and balance of the Council, and consequently of the ECHR. While, until the 1990s, only relatively few cases regarding article 9 of the European
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Convention came before the Strasbourg Court, this number rose markedly after the accession of new, prevalently Orthodox member states. Today, Orthodox majority countries are among those countries most frequently condemned for failing to respect the rights of religious minorities. Ferrari reports a remarkable fact: in the 40 years before 1999, the European Court of Human Rights issued only ﬁve judgments regarding article 9, all of them involving Greece, and almost all of them regarding Jehova’s Witnesses in Greece; whereas in the 10 years after 1999, the Court issued twenty-ﬁve judgments regarding the same article, involving various countries and a great number of diﬀerent religions (Ferrari 2012, 43). What happened, in fact, according to Ferrari and other legal scholars, was that the attention of the Court in matters of article 9 shifted from individual religious freedom to collective religious freedom, concretely, to church–state relations. On several occasions the Court interfered with existing legislation on church–state relations in member countries, imposing a vision of state religious neutrality and equal treatment of religious communities (Tulkens 2009; Ferrari 2012, 45). As regards Greece, the country most frequently subject to condemnations by the Court in matters of discrimination against religious minorities, Ferrari suggests that it was precisely the Orthodox model of church–state relations that was viewed as problematic by the Court, a model that is based on the idea of state–church symphony, or at least a privileged cooperation between the state and the Orthodox majority religion (Ferrari 2012, 48). It is important to be aware of the fact that the human rights discourse in the Russian Orthodox Church under discussion in this book falls precisely into the period of increased activity of the European Court of Human Rights in matters of religious freedom, dealing in particular with cases that involved Orthodox churches. I will come back to this in Chapter 4. To sum up, then, the four factors that contributed to the hardening of the negative standpoint of the Russian Orthodox Church vis-à-vis human rights: the Church’s particular Cold War history in which human rights played an antagonizing rather than a supportive role; the rise of Orthodox religious nationalism; the misgivings of the Church regarding the liberalization and pluralization of Russian society; and the lesson learned from experience that international human rights standards could have legal eﬀect and impact on the Church itself. It was against this backdrop that the Church set out to formulate its own vision of human rights.
Notes 1 Needless to say, these international treaties did not prevent the Soviet government from restricting individual human rights and freedoms. The most glaring example of the discrepancy between human rights obligations according to international law and actual human rights violations in the country was the suppression of the Moscow Helsinki Group. As an outcome of the Soviet Union’s signature to the Helsinki Accords, the Moscow Helsinki Group was formed in 1976 with the aim of monitoring the Soviet Union’s compliance with the Helsinki Final Act. It became
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the most important human rights group in the Soviet Union, but its members were severely oppressed and the group could no longer operate after 1982. Religious freedom was not a main theme of the Helsinki Group, but it became the focus of its attention after 1989, when the dissident priest Gleb Yakunin joined the refounded group. The Soviet law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations” was passed on 1 October 1990 and the law on “Freedom of Religious Creeds” of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic was passed on 25 October 1990. It was this second law which retained validity in the post-Soviet Russian Federation until 1997. On 9 August 2013 the Justice Ministry of the Russian Federation announced that it is preparing amendments to the 1997 law, including the abolition of the 15-year wait before religious groups may register with the state (Fagan 2013). European Court of Human Rights, Case of the Moscow Branch of the Salvation Army vs. Russia (Application no. 72881/01), 5 October 2006. Interestingly, the judgment of the Court ﬁnds that through the application of the 15-year rule of the 1997 law there has not been a direct violation of the religious freedom of the claimant, but “a violation of article 11 of the European Convention [Freedom of Assembly] read in the light of article 9 [Freedom of Conscience].” More than 2,200 NGOs have special consultative status within the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The Patriarchate’s initiative to introduce the subject “Fundamentals of Orthodox culture” in public schools is frequently cited in the literature as an example of the Church’s support of religious nationalism. The authoritative research of Joachim Willems on this subject has demonstrated the contrary. He shows that the Patriarchate’s position has evolved considerably over almost 15 years of debate on the subject and that the textbook which was eventually put to use in 2010 subtly resists nationalist–patriotic instrumentalization. Unfortunately this part of Willems’ research (Willems 2008, 2010) is accessible only in German. The metaphors of “break” and “new beginning” were frequently invoked in intellectual debates during the 1990s and signiﬁed the desire for a radical renewal of— and of ways of thinking about—Russia, Orthodoxy and Russian society. I have analyzed this liberal Orthodox intellectual tradition in my book Community after Totalitarianism (Stoeckl 2008). The Russian Constitution does, however, also have a “limitation clause” with regard to rights and freedoms on grounds of “the protection of the fundamental principles of the constitutional system, morality, health, the rights and lawful interests of other people, for ensuring the defense of the country and security of the state” (article 55, para. 3). According to one scholar, this limitation gave the Russian legislature leeway to “place restrictions on religious freedom within the Russian constitutional structure” in the 1997 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations (Kovach 1998, 418).
The human rights debate inside the Russian Orthodox Church (2000–2008)
How can we explain the fact that, against the background of all the conﬂicts I have pointed out in the previous chapter, the Moscow Patriarchate decided to engage with the idea of human rights, instead of simply rejecting it as a Western, secular concept, or ignoring it as a matter irrelevant to the world of the Church? And how can we explain the way in which the Church engaged with the human rights topic? In this chapter, I will argue that the reasons why the topic of human rights was taken up by the Moscow Patriarchate were, primarily, internal to the Church; in second place, external; and ﬁnally, political. By internal, I mean that the human rights debate was part of an internal clariﬁcation process in the Russian Orthodox Church, which led to the emergence of three separate factions inside the Moscow Patriarchate—liberals, traditionalists, and fundamentalists—where before there had seemed to be only two camps—liberals and conservatives. By external, I mean that the Church became increasingly concerned about international human rights legislation, and reacted to this pressure with the intention of changing certain aspects of the international human rights regime. By political reasons, I mean that the agenda of the Church happened to go hand in hand with the restrictive human rights policies of the Russian government, and both the Patriarchate and the government saw advantages to be gained from this common ground without necessarily sharing the same ultimate goals. I will make a strong institutional claim as to why the Church engaged with the human rights topic in this particular way. This institutional explanation builds on the history of that institution inside the Moscow Patriarchate which was chieﬂy responsible for the entire undertaking, namely the Department for External Church Relations. It was Metropolitan Kirill, head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate at that time, who started the debate on human rights inside the Church in 2000, and it was his department that coordinated the various eﬀorts to formulate a single document by 2008. I will explain the work of this department and of its representatives in this chapter. It is also this department which subsequently pushed the Patriarchate’s human rights agenda in the international arena. In this chapter, I describe the Church’s strategic engagement with human rights from the years 2000 to 2008, providing a detailed analysis of the debate
The human rights debate inside the ROC
and of the drafting process that resulted in the publication of the Human Rights Doctrine. For the analysis of the debate on human rights in the Russian Orthodox Church, the year 2000 marks an important turning point. In February 2000, Metropolitan Kirill published a programmatic article on Orthodoxy and liberalism, in which he expressed the idea that Orthodoxy should seek a creative and critical engagement with liberal values. This article marked a shift in attitude, because until then the nature of the Russian Orthodox Church’s confrontation with liberal ideas, in particular with the human rights idea, had been one of almost complete denial. The prevalent attitude throughout the Cold War and during the 1990s had been hostility and defense against the imposition of “Western” ideas. Only after 2000 can we observe a more constructive critical engagement with the idea of human rights and an eﬀort to formulate a speciﬁc “Orthodox” understanding of human rights, making use of human rights language. Some word of caution is necessary, however. I shall not argue that the attitude of the Orthodox Church after 2000 becomes less confrontational with regard to human rights, but rather that the quality of the confrontation shifts from being framed prevalently in civilizational terms (Western values vs. Russian Orthodoxy) to a postsecular type of argument in terms of secular values vs. religious values (Stoeckl 2011). A short note on methodology: my approach in this chapter is to analyze the formal discourse of the Church, including speeches by leading clerics of the Moscow Patriarchate, press releases, and articles in English and Russian.1 Practically all of this material is available online, but it takes a certain investigative spirit to discover the relevant texts in the wide world of the Russian web.2 The chapter also includes interview material gathered during research visits to Moscow between 2008 and 2011.
The ideological and institutional frame for the human rights debate The present human rights debate in the Russian Orthodox Church was initiated by today’s Patriarch and former Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Kirill. In an article published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 26 May 1999, Kirill expressed the conviction that liberalism is a natural result of Western cultural development, which he outlines as follows: the Renaissance, i.e. the return of ancient paganism, triggered a chain of subsequent cultural changes through the Reformation, the Enlightenment, materialism, and atheism which ﬁnally led to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ultimate codiﬁcation of anthropocentrism. Since the Russian Orthodox tradition does not share this history, so goes Kirill’s argument, it therefore cannot share the concept of human rights. At the time of the drafting of the Universal Declaration, “for ideological and political reasons Soviet diplomacy regrettably did not represent the Orthodox spiritual-cultural tradition,” nor did diplomats from other countries in the East. For this reason, Kirill concludes, the Universal Declaration is solely the product of Western liberal standards (Kirill 1999).
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Shortly after the appearance of this rather drastic article, Kirill apparently felt the need to express his position in more detail. On 16 February 2000 he published a second article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta with the following opening (the article is very long and appears in two consecutive numbers of the journal): A fundamental contradiction of our time and also a major challenge to the human community in the 21st century is the confrontation of liberal civilization standards, on the one hand, and the values of national cultural and religious identity. The study of the genesis of the contradiction between these two crucial factors of modern development and the search for ways to overcome it should take, as it seems, an important place in Orthodox theological studies. Since this is a problem whose solution will largely determine the future shape of the human civilization, it is clear that the very formulation of the problem and attempts to settle its primary deﬁnition [here Kirill refers to his previous article] is not only the fruit of a sincere interest, but no less of sincere anger. Anger about those who out of ideological convictions reject the very idea of raising these issues for fear of a possible correction or revision of the liberal ideas which today underpin the attempts to shape the human community into a “melting pot” of cultures and civilizations. Anger also about those zealots and religious and cultural fundamentalism who have made up their mind on these problems long ago and are deeply convinced that the only way to move further is to tightly close the door of their house. (Kirill 2000) Kirill concludes that a critical and creative engagement with liberal values is among the most important tasks of Orthodox theology (Kirill 2000). It is quite symbolic that Nezavisimaya Gazeta printed this article alongside a reproduction of two nineteenth-century woodcuts by the Romantic artist Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld entitled The Healing of the Two Blind Men and Jesus and the Apostles in the Storm. The two images and their symbolism underline the argument of the article, namely that there is a conﬂict between two sides that are “blind” in their ideological fervor and that the Church is in a crisis. What Kirill does in this article is to distance himself from both forms of “blindness”: he does not think that Russia should unconditionally adhere to the Western modern and secular trajectory, as liberal secularists would argue, nor does he want to ﬁnd himself on the side of the religious zealots, who would not even consider the question of human rights because they condemn the intellectual universe that created them in the ﬁrst place. In contrast, Kirill argues for the need to ﬁnd a third way of confrontation. The article is remarkable in its frankness and clarity and I have not found any other statement by Kirill that is so unequivocal in its rejection of the liberal and the fundamentalist options for the Church. It is a programmatic statement that came at a point in time (the beginning of the new millennium), when it
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became clear to outside observers that there were not two factions inside the Moscow Patriarchate—liberals and conservatives—but three: liberals, traditionalists, and fundamentalists. It is clear that Kirill sought to give ideological shape to this middle camp, and to position himself as its leader. In Chapter 4, I will return to this observation and assess whether Kirill succeeded in the carving out such a middle ground. For now, what is important to understand is that the ideological frame of the human rights debate was, from the outset, traditionalist—a response both to liberals as well as to Orthodox radicals. The ideological coordinates of the internal church discourse Between 1999 and 2006, there were clear signs that the Russian Orthodox Church was preparing for an in-depth debate on human rights. A round table organized by the conservative Orthodox brotherhood and web-portal Radonezh in 2004 is indicative of the ideological coordinates that were established within the Russian Orthodox Church. At the opening of the round table, the chairman of Radonezh, Evgenij Nikiforov, said: Today’s round table is not only some “strategic” event for our Church, not just an attempt to answer to some individual charges; it is the beginning of a very serious work of clariﬁcation of all the philosophical and theological problems connected with human rights. (Nikiforov 2004) From the transcripts of the statements presented at this round table there emerges a clear distinction between one camp motivated by strong nationalism and anti-liberalism, and a more moderate camp that was critical of the “excesses of liberalism” yet in favor of a constructive engagement with the human rights idea. It is an interesting detail that in particular the ﬁrst group relied on ideological arguments taken from the Western conservative right. Nikiforov, for example, quoted from Margaret Thatcher’s book Statecraft: “Conservatives of the world should start to contrast those groups from the new left which walk under the ﬂag of human rights. … Recommendation: to restrict as speedily as possible the harmful action of human rights legislation” (cf. Nikiforov 2004). Nikiforov was not the only one among the participants to quote approvingly from the Western conservative right. Igor Shafarevich and Vladimir Osipov3 cited the American Republican Pat Buchanan4 and drew on him for evidence that “militant minorities” speaking in the name of liberal human rights were destroying the Christian majority society: “The liberal ideology destroys everything: the state, historical memory, national self-consciousness and also the nation as a spiritual entity. It practically puts in place a moral genocide of the people” (Osipov 2004). Buchanan is also cited to underline that liberalism is like a religion in itself and incompatible with true religions, with Orthodoxy in the ﬁrst place, but also with Catholicism (Shafarevich 2004). One particularly ferocious nationalist at the round
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table, I. Kunitsyn, saw Russia “at war” with the West, blaming Western inﬂuences for causing the “disorientation” of the Russian people which had already caused “more victims than the Second World War” due to demographic decline, alcoholism, abortion and so on. The same speaker also praised the Russian government’s strategy of pursuing a multipolar international order. Multipolarity, he elaborated, presupposed a multiplicity of spiritual vocations of nations, but individual religious freedom was threatening to the spiritual integrity and unity of the nation, and for this reason Western criticism of the lack of religious freedom in Russia was actually an attack on Russia’s independent role in the world. He expressed the wish that the Russian Orthodox work on human rights could contribute to the creation of a new “legal space” against “the global totalitarianism of the West,” and called for the drafting of a document which could “unite” all the likeminded forces in Asia and the East. He also proposed the name for such a document: “Convention for the Defence of the Religious and Cultural Identity of Nations” (Kunitsyn 2004). The same author has also sustained the idea that the Russian Orthodox Church should become a state church (SOVA 2004). Given that a large number of the lay participants invited to this round table held strongly nationalist and anti-liberal views, the title of the event, “Freedom and Dignity of the Person: Orthodox and Liberal Views” was, strictly speaking, misleading. Most of the statements made conveyed mere caricatures of liberal views, taking at face value the image of liberalism delivered by AngloAmerican conservative politicians, or quoting anti-Western ideas from Dostoevsky (Alekseev 2004). Only one speaker (signiﬁcantly, from the clerical side) made a concrete reference to Locke and Rousseau as the fathers of liberalism (Ryabykh 2004) while another speaker, a member of the Russian parliament, actually diﬀerentiated between “liberalism” and “libertarianism,” criticizing the latter but welcoming, in principle, the former (Narochnitskaya 2004). The speaker of the Presidential Human Rights Council also used softer tones, welcoming an original “Russian” and “Orthodox” take on human rights with a view to solving concrete social problems inside the country (Panﬁlova 2004). I have quoted the results of this round table at length, because they lay out clearly the ideological perspectives that underlie the Russian Orthodox Church’s work on human rights: extreme nationalism on the one side and conservatism on the other; outright condemnation of liberalism and human rights on the one side, and on the other a critique of the excesses of liberal society and a focus on concrete problems inside Russian society that could adequately be addressed in a human rights language. The position of Metropolitan Kirill seemed inclined to this second type of reasoning. He did hold that liberalism reﬂected an apostasy that can be traced back to three sources: the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation and Jewish late-medieval philosophy. This distortion created the Western idea of human rights, which was not compatible with Christianity (Agadjanian 2008). Kirill therefore called for a new debate on the deﬁnition of human rights, so that the current “Western” deﬁnition could no longer claim universality. The clerical speakers
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at the round table (Chaplin 2004; Kuraev 2004; Ryabykh 2004) supported this view. During the interview in 2004, at the conclusion of the round table, Kirill also mentions that the outcome of the dialogue initiated at the meeting could be a “spiritual and intellectual product which could be used for building public relations in Russia and in all of Europe” (Kirill 2004). Before turning to the ideological coordinates in the external human rights agenda of the Church, it is important to point out that liberal human rights groups did not ﬁgure actively in this internal Church debate on human rights debate at all; on the contrary, they were intentionally marginalized. A recurring accusation was that these groups received funding from abroad and were therefore compromised (Kirill 2004). The liberal coordinate in the debate therefore ﬁgured only as the “other,” which both radicals and traditionalists rejected. In Chapter 4, I will examine the liberal reaction to the debate separately. The ideological coordinates of the external church discourse In the sphere of external relations, signs that the human rights debate was taking oﬀ included repeated critical statements on liberalism, secularism and human rights by church oﬃcials, chieﬂy Metropolitan Kirill and Bishop Ilarion (Alfeev), then head of the Permanent Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Union. These statements were issued in response to concrete events in the context of external church relations and had a certain programmatic quality. In February 2003, for example, Metropolitan Kirill wrote a letter to the chairman of the Convention on the Future of Europe, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, in the context of the dialogue of the Convention with the European religious communities. In this letter Kirill expressed his indignation at a recent resolution by the European Parliament which had called upon the European Union member states to end discrimination against homosexuals and requested the lifting of the ban on women entering Mount Athos in Greece, judged as violation of the universally recognized principle of gender equality, community non-discrimination and equality legislation, and the provisions relating to free movement of persons within the EU (European Parliament 2003). He also criticized the fact that the draft of the European Constitution made reference only to the European Charter of Fundamental Rights with its provision on individual religious freedom. This, he said, was potentially threatening to the Christian churches in Europe and their traditional public role: Religion is … declared a private aﬀair of an individual. The proposed provisions of the Constitution of Europe leave aside a tremendous layer of religious culture, which inspires minds and hearts of many politicians, public ﬁgures, scholars, artists, religious leaders and common people on the European continent. Europe that renounces religion and especially Christianity as one of its fundamental life-giving forces cannot become a
The human rights debate inside the ROC Fatherland for many people who live in it. Moreover, it may tear them away. (Kirill 2003)
Kirill also presented three concrete demands regarding the future shape of church–state relations in Europe: A reference to the Christian heritage of the European Union, as well as other religious traditions and secular thoughts and ideas. … A provision on the mechanism of consultations between the European institutions and religious communities of the European Union [and a] provision on the prerogative of the EU member-states in regulating the religious sphere. It would be expedient to include Appendix 11 to the Amsterdam Treaty in the Constitution. This move is aimed at preserving cultural and religious identity of European nations that have worked out balanced systems of relations between religion and the state during centuries. (Kirill 2003) These three demands were similar to those made by the COMECE— Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of the European Community (COMECE 2002). In particular, the quite technical demand to include Appendix 11 to the Amsterdam Treaty in the future Constitution can probably be traced back to this forum. It is something of a puzzle that the Russian Orthodox Church, with Russia not being a member of the European Union, should actually take such an active part in consultations at EU level. The practical explanation is of course that there are also Russian Orthodox believers in the European Union, that parts of the Russian Orthodox Church’s canonical territory are inside the European Union (even though this is a contested concept, see the fourth section of Chapter 1), and that the Moscow Patriarchate maintains dioceses in Western Europe. But on a more symbolic and informal level, I think it is important to recognize that the Moscow Patriarchate sees its engagement on the European level as part and parcel of its “external” strategy to be present in the international debates on human rights, traditional values, and religion in the public sphere. But human rights were not merely something the Church reacted to; it also claimed them for its own defense. In a paper delivered at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota, USA) and the Catholic University of America (Washington, DC) entitled “Prospect for Catholic-Orthodox Relations,” Bishop Ilarion discussed human rights in the context of controversies over Orthodox–Uniate relations. During his speech he denounced “concrete cases of human rights violations during the campaign launched by the Uniates” in western Ukraine, referring to the seizure of church property considered to be in the possession of the Russian Orthodox Church. He also named as a violation of the human right to religious freedom any act of proselytizing: “Religious freedom would be violated when, under the cover of ﬁnancial
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assistance, the faithful of one Church would be attracted by the other, by promises, for example, of education and material beneﬁts that may be lacking in their own Church” (Ilarion 2002b). It is clear then that on the external front (vis-à-vis the Western world) the two major strategies at play in the traditionalist take on human rights inaugurated by Kirill were ﬁrst an attack on the international liberal and secular human rights regime, and second the availing of human rights in defense against outside interference. The ideological coordinates that determine the Russian Orthodox human rights debate create a ﬁeld that is structured by conceptual opposites: liberalism vs. tradition; secularism vs. religion; individual human rights vs. rights of the community, nation and family. These pairs of conceptual opposites remain intact throughout the debate; what changes is how the Russian Orthodox Church positions itself with respect to them. Statements by Metropolitan Kirill around the year 2000 suggest that initially he regarded these conceptual opposites as the foundations of a clash of cultures between East and West. In this clash the West stands for liberalism, secularism and individual human rights, while the East, that is Orthodox Christianity, is the guardian of traditionalism, religion and the rights of the community, nation and family. However, in the course of the human rights debates from 2000 onwards, we see how the monolithic image of a liberal, secular and individualistic West is replaced by a more realistic assessment that takes into account the tensions within the Western modern experience. The “discovery” of Anglo-American neo-conservative literature is indicative of this fact. In the course of this debate the Russian Orthodox Church continues to hold true to its established role as a defender of tradition, religion, community, nation, and family, but no longer sees itself as the only force pursuing this goal. Instead, it ﬁnds allies in the Catholic Church and conservative political circles in the West. At the same time the Church distances itself from liberal tendencies within contemporary Russian society. In this way the scenario of a “clash of civilizations” is changing from an alleged contest between two cultural and civilizational units (the Latin West and the Orthodox East) to a confrontation between a secular–liberal–individualistic ideology and a religious–communitarian and traditionalist world view, regardless of whether these ideological positions concretize in the West or in the East. While this ideological shift does not make for a more moderate or conciliatory stance of Russian Orthodoxy vis-à-vis the Western human rights debate, it does signify a clear distancing of the traditionalist mainstream inside the Russian Orthodox Church from radical Orthodox groups, who continue to hold true to the old civilizational dichotomies. The institutional framework The period from 2000 until 2008, during which the human rights debate chieﬂy took place, were also the years of the ascent of Metropolitan Kirill
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inside the Moscow Patriarchate. After the death of Patriarch Alexii II, Kirill became Patriarch in 2009. The Social Doctrine and the Human Rights Doctrine are indicative of the way in which Kirill carved out his personal proﬁle inside the Church, deﬁning a traditionalist ideological mainstream against more extremist forces and against liberal ideas. During the period under investigation in this chapter (2000–2008), Kirill was head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. This department was gradually expanded under his leadership: in 2001, the Permanent Mission of the Patriarchate to the European Union in Brussels was founded, followed in 2004 by a Permanent Mission to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Kirill and his collaborators in the Department of External Relations kept the human rights question on the agenda of the Church, and under Kirill’s leadership the department became the centre for the Russian Orthodox human rights debate, coordinating and collecting both internal and external communications on this topic. The intermediary steps in the Russian Orthodox Church’s human rights debate were documented meticulously by the department and its oﬃces in Brussels and Strasbourg, which operated websites and press services in several European languages. The key personnel involved in these activities, in addition to Kirill, were Bishop Ilarion (Alfeyev) (for most of the period under discussion bishop of Austria and Vienna and representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions in Brussels, since 2009 Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and chairman of the Department for External Relations), Protoierei Vsevolod (Chaplin) (during the period under discussion vice-chairman of the department, since 2009 chairman of the Synodal Department for the Cooperation of Church and Society), Igumen Filaret (Bulekov) (during the period under discussion head of the permanent mission of the Russian Orthodox Church in Strasbourg and since 2011 vice-chairman of the Department for External Relations), and Igumen Filip (Ryabykh) (during the period under discussion collaborator of the department, from 2009 to 2011 its vicechairman, and since 2011 head of the permanent mission in Strasbourg). The institutional set-up of the human rights debate is signiﬁcant: it was the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate which advanced this work of ideological self-positioning, not the Biblical–Theological Commission or another body inside the Patriarchate. I think it is important to recognize that Kirill’s strategy in engaging so actively a politically controversial topic remote from religious core issues is an inheritance from the Soviet pattern of external church relations.5 It is, to quote once more Roccucci from the previous chapter, a strategy in the spirit of the “school of Nikodim.” It is worth recalling the long quotation from Fletcher (in the ﬁrst section of Chapter 1) from 1973, which neatly describes the way in which the Moscow Patriarchate has coordinated its human rights activities since 2000: searching out views in the West compatible with the interests of the Russian churchmen; developing mutual relations, and willingness to accede to the other’s point of view in a process of give and take; deferring to points of view
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of others on matters of secondary interest in order to achieve a degree of harmony in primary concerns. To some extent, what in the Soviet era was the Church’s engagement in calls for peace and disarmament, in the twenty-ﬁrst century has become religious lobbying in the area of human rights. But there is also a second institution that determined the human rights debate inside the Church from 2006 until 2008, and that is the World Russian People’s Council, the civil society arm of the Moscow Patriarchate described in the second section of Chapter 1. The concrete drafting process of the Human Rights Doctrine, the document issued by the Bishops’ Council in 2008, started in 2006, when the World Russian People’s Council during its 10th session in April 2006 adopted a solemn Human Rights Declaration.6 This Declaration, which for reasons I will discuss below was received critically by many theologians and observers, was not strictly speaking a church document; however, given the World Council’s status as a non-governmental organization under the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate, its ideological vicinity to church positions was beyond dispute. Just a few days after its publication Kirill received from the Bishops’ Council the mandate to establish a working group for the development of a concept of human rights for the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC 2006). The Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council, which to outside observers at that time may have seemed like the Church’s declaration of opposition to the modern human rights regime, was in reality not the last word of the Russian Orthodox Church on this question, but the start of a 2-year-long intense discussion. The working group which Kirill called into life following the mandate of the Bishops’ Council consisted of thirty-ﬁve members from church, academia and intellectual circles.7 It met ﬁfteen times in the following 2 years and its work was coordinated by the Department for External Relations. When Kirill presented the Human Rights Doctrine to the Bishops’ Council 2 years later, in June 2008, he described it as the collective eﬀort of this group and summarized their activities as follows: From summer 2006 to June 2008 we held 15 meetings, including meetings of sub-groups that contributed to the elaboration of the various chapters of the document. During the drafting of the document, there were also numerous consultations with lay experts, philosophers and lawyers in order to discuss current scholarly approaches to human rights. In addition, very serious research and paper work was conducted in the time between the single meetings. Many ideas that were formulated in the framework of the working group were presented and discussed at international conferences, round tables, in interviews and in lectures. More than once they were the subject of personal and oﬃcial talks with representatives of other Christian denominations and traditional religions, as well as with representatives of government and civil society. (ROC 2008a)
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The minutes of the meetings of the working group are not accessible, but the overall process of the elaboration of the Human Rights Doctrine can be clearly understood by looking at the material made public. The long list of (publicized) steps in this process includes the following: A seminar entitled “The Evolution of Moral Principles and Human Rights in Multicultural Society” in Strasbourg, 30–31 October 2006. Participants in this meeting were, among others, Metropolitan Kirill and Igumen Filaret Bulekov, as well as Russian diplomats, politicians and representatives of diﬀerent European churches (REOR 2006; Verkhovsky 2007). A workshop organized at the Europe-Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences entitled “Freedom of Religion and Human Rights” on 7 December 2006 (RELIGARE 2006b). An Orthodox–Baptist seminar on human rights and human dignity attended by, among others, Kirill, Chaplin, and Vladimir Legojda, a member of the working group (RELIGARE 2006a). An international conference of the leaders of Christian churches and associations from Europe, the GUS and the Baltics entitled “Contemporary Europe: God, Man, Society. Human Rights and Moral Values,” opened by Kirill on 27 February 2007 (PRAVOSLAVIE 2007). A speech by Kirill at a UNESCO conference entitled “Dialogue of Civilizations. Human rights, Moral Values and Cultural Diversity” on 13 March 2007 (Interfax Religion 2007c). A round table of the delegations of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) on 20–21 March 2007 under the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate, dedicated to the question of human rights (Conference of European Churches 2007a, 2007b). A conference on “Human Rights and National Identity” organized by the Department for External Church Relations and the German Konrad Adenauer Stiftung on 18 April 2007 (SOVA 2007). An Orthodox–Catholic consultation entitled “Anthropological and Ethical Foundations of the Church’s Teaching on Social Order, Human Rights and the Dignity of the Person,” organized by the Department for External Church Relations in Moscow, attended by a high-level delegation of clerics from the Catholic Church and academics from Russia and Italy (Interfax Religion 2007b). A Catholic–Orthodox international scientiﬁc conference on Christianity, culture, and moral values (Interfax Religion 2007a). A speech by Patriarch Alexii II before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 2 October 2007 (Alexii II 2007). A speech by Metropolitan Kirill at the 7th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on 18 March 2008 (Interfax Religion 2008a).
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In the 2 years between the publication of the Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council in 2006 and the adoption of the Human Rights Doctrine by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2008, a tight network of working groups, conferences, articles and debates led to the eﬀective formulation of the ﬁnal document. What this list of events makes clear is that the Department for External Church Relations made a considerable eﬀort to discuss and publicize its human rights agenda internationally and interconfessionally. The activities ﬁt very well into the Church’s strategy of diplomacy as I have outlined it above, namely the searching out of views in the West compatible with the interests of the Russian churchmen, the development of mutual relations and willingness to accede to the other’s point of view in order to achieve a degree of harmony on primary concerns. I now examine this material more in detail, identify the key themes in this debate and look how their treatment changes over the period under consideration.
Human rights in the Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church In 2000, the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church approved a document that constituted a novelty in the world of the Orthodox churches: “The Basis of the Social Teaching of the Russian Orthodox Church” (Osnovy Sotsial’noi kontseptsii Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi, hereafter the Social Doctrine). In this document (ROC 2000), the Church laid out its position on a number of issues: church–state relations, law, family, society, biotechnology and globalization. When the Social Doctrine was published in 2000, many commentators interpreted the mere fact of its formulation as an important step for Russian Orthodoxy on its way towards modernization. Rudolf Uertz, for example, wrote that “the document contains important impulses for a constructive confrontation with the modern order” (Uertz 2004, 95); and Konstantin Kostyuk interpreted the Social Doctrine as important step by the Russian Orthodox Church on its way towards becoming more modern. He pointed out that the formulation of the document constituted a leap into a modern regime of communication and self-positioning, but also observed that this modern impulse stood in tension with the predominantly conservative content of the text (Kostjuk 2001, 2004). Alexander Agadjanian also emphasized the ambivalence of the document between a pragmatic social and a conservative political agenda (Agadjanian 2003). The Social Doctrine addressed members of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian society as a whole. Even though it also found resonance outside Russia, and especially in the Catholic world (Uertz 2004), its main intended audience appeared domestic. With this document, the Church was quite clearly reacting to the social upheaval in Russian society since the break-up of the Soviet Union, which had brought many freedoms, but also many social and economic problems and, in the eyes of the Church, moral decline. In the
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document, the Church oﬀered guidelines for the Orthodox believer on questions such as abortion, contraception, euthanasia, genetic engineering and even environmental protection. In particular, the political agenda of the Social Doctrine constituted a novelty: the Church deﬁned itself as independent of the Russian state and government. Drawing a lesson from the history of subordination under the tsarist state and of suppression by the Soviet state, the Church positioned itself as a potential counter-player to the government and an independent force in civil society (Ilarion 2002b). This commitment to a separation of church and state is, as I have shown elsewhere (Stoeckl 2010), not necessarily liberal in nature, but it did constitute a break with the long tradition of the “symphonic” model of church–state relations characteristic of Orthodox Christianity. Richters actually argues that the Social Doctrine “sent a clear signal that the Moscow Patriarchate sought to free itself from the fetters of Orthodox tradition as well as its subordination to the state” (Richters 2013, 34–35). Even though I think that she is overstating both the intention as well as the eﬀect of the document, Richters is right to say that the Social Doctrine distanced the Moscow Patriarchate from radical groups inside the Russian Orthodox Church (Richters 2013, 23). Of the three factions at work within the Russian Orthodox Church, the traditionalists, the fundamentalists, and the liberals, the Social Doctrine is clearly the work of the ﬁrst. Rather than interpreting the document as evidence for a rise of Orthodox religion in Russia, it makes sense to interpret it as a gesture of self-defense: a self-defense of Orthodoxy in Russia today vis-à-vis other religions and secularist worldviews; but also vis-à-vis the extremist fringes inside the Church. I now turn to what the Social Doctrine has to say about human rights. Human rights are treated in section IV (Christian ethics and secular law), where they are associated with the rise of secularism and “self-suﬃcient” humanism: As secularism developed, the lofty principles of inalienable human rights turned into a notion of the rights of the individual outside his relations with God. In this process, the freedom of the personality transformed into the protection of self-will (as long as it is not detrimental to individuals) and into the demand that the state should guarantee a certain material living standard for the individual and family. In the contemporary systematic understanding of civil human rights, man is treated not as the image of God, but as a self-suﬃcient and self-suﬃcing subject. (Section IV.7 of the Social Doctrine, ROC 2000) The Social Doctrine presents human rights as the product of a Western secular legal positivism, which started to inﬂuence the Russian legal space after the break-up of the Soviet Union, but is alien to the national legal culture (Willems 2009). The Social Doctrine reconstructs this “national legal culture” all the way from the Byzantine Codex of Justinian (529–34) up until the year 1917:8
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The conventional Slavic law, which had preserved the ancient common Aryan forms until the 10th [century], due to Christianization incorporated some elements of the Byzantine legislation. It did it through the Codex of Justinian tracing back to the classical Roman law and the church canon law, which at that time was fused with the civil law. From the 17th century, the Russia [sic.] law drew intensively on the standards and legal logic of the Western European law, doing it in a fairly organic way, since the Roman legal tradition, basic for Europe, was borrowed by Russia from Constantinople together with Christianity as far back as the 10th-11th centuries. The Old Russian Russkaya Pravda (Russian truth), princes’ statutes and charters, legal documents and books, the Council of the Hundred Chapters and the 1649 Conciliar code, Petrine articles and decrees, legal actions by Catherine the Great and Alexander I, reforms of Alexander II and the 1906 Basic Law—all represented one legal fabric of the creative people’s organism. Some standards became out of date, while other come [sic.] replace them. Some legal novations [sic.] failed as inconsonant with the order of people’s life and ceased to be applied. The ﬂow of the river of Russian national law whose sources were lost in distant history was stopped by the year 1917. (Section IV.8 of the Social Doctrine, ROC 2000) From the beginning of the 1990s, a new national legal system was in the making, but, the Social Doctrine outlines, this new system follows the modern secular legal thinking, not the Russian legal tradition (Thesing and Uertz 2001, 29–30). In the context of the discussion of human rights, the reconstruction of this legal tradition serves the purpose of presenting human rights as something essentially alien to Russia (and not only to Russian Orthodox Christians). Against the background of this reconstructed Russian legal tradition, the Church makes clear why it has entered at all into the “alien” legal discourse. Its scope is soteriological: How should an Orthodox Christian deal with legal claims that are motivated on the ground of human rights but contradict his or her Christian convictions? (Agadjanian 2010). In the Social Doctrine the answer to this question is radical: when a state makes laws that contradict Christian convictions, the Church can call for civil disobedience. The Church invariably calls upon her ﬂock to be law-abiding citizens of their earthly homeland. At the same time, she has always underlined the unshakeable limits to which her faithful should obey the law. In everything that concerns the exclusively earthly order of things, the Orthodox Christian is obliged to obey the law, regardless of how far it is imperfect and unfortunate. However, when compliance with legal requirements threatens his eternal salvation and involves an apostasy or commitment of another doubtless sin before God and his neighbor, the Christian is called to perform the feat of confession for the sake of
The human rights debate inside the ROC God’s truth and the salvation of his soul for eternal life. He must speak out lawfully against an indisputable violation committed by society or state against the statutes and commandments of God. If this lawful action is impossible or ineﬀective, he must take up the position of civil disobedience. (Section IV.8 of the Social Doctrine, ROC 2000)
The construction of a Russian legal tradition, the Church’s denunciation of an alleged negative inﬂuence of Western “legalism” on Russia and its call for church “resistance” has to be read against the background of the revival of conservative and nationalist ideologies inside the Church which, as I have outlined in the previous chapter, have gained ground in religious circles in post-Soviet Russian society. The Social Doctrine clearly remained on a confrontational and ideologically closed plane vis-à-vis the concept of human rights. Even though the document was, over considerable stretches, a text of moderation, the section on human rights deﬁnitely was not. Rather, it represented a speciﬁc, nationalist and anti-Western viewpoint on human rights that was apparently dominant inside the Church at that time.
The Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council In 2006, a second document on matters of human rights came out of the Moscow Patriarchate. To be precise, the “Declaration on the Dignity and Rights of Man” of the World Russian People’s Council (VRNS 2006a, 2006b) was not a church document strictly speaking. But the fact that it was issued by the World Russian People’s Council, a non-governmental organization chaired by the Patriarch with its seat in the premises of the Patriarchate, makes clear that the document was a product from inside the Church. In retrospect we can interpret the Declaration as an intermediary step on the path of the Russian Orthodox Church to the formulation of the Human Rights Doctrine. In 2006, however, when the Declaration was published, its decidedly anti-Western and anti-liberal attitude produced an escalating eﬀect with respect to the ideas expressed in the Social Doctrine 6 years earlier. It also went against the grain of some more moderate elements of discussion that were already visible in the public speeches of church oﬃcials during that period (more on this in the fourth section below). To highlight the ideological positions and theological shortcomings of the document, it makes sense to compare the 2006 Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council with the 2008 Human Rights Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church. Even though I will analyze this latter document in detail only in the next chapter, I will at this point extract some passages in order to highlight the diﬀerent ideological positions of the two documents. The 2006 Human Rights Declaration makes reference to a “clash of civilizations” in order to justify why the Orthodox world must defend its own
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position in the international human rights debate. The ﬁrst sentence of the Human Rights Declaration 2006 states: Aware that the world, passing through a crucial point in its history, is facing a threat of conﬂict between the civilizations with their diﬀerent understanding of the human being and the human being’s calling, the World Russian People’s Council, on behalf of the unique Russian civilization, adopts this Declaration. (Human Rights Declaration of the VRNS, 2006b) The 2008 Human Rights Doctrine depicts a very diﬀerent scenario: the Russian Orthodox Church is no longer a party in a clash of cultures, but instead an interlocutor in a postsecular debate. The last paragraph of the Human Rights Doctrine reads: Without seeking a revolutionary reconstruction of the world and acknowledging the rights of other social groups to participate in social transformations on the basis of their own worldview, the Orthodox Christians reserve the right to participate in building public life in a way that does not contradict their faith and moral principles. The Russian Orthodox Church is ready to defend the same principles in dialogue with the world community and in cooperation with people of other traditional confessions and religions. (Human Rights Doctrine of the ROC, 2008c) The self-legitimizing strategy of the two documents is completely diﬀerent: in the ﬁrst, the Orthodox tradition is described as endangered culture implicated in the clash of civilizations, whereas the second document recognizes that there is a public debate about values and rights in which all social groups and individuals are called to participate and in which they can defend their respective positions. For this reason I have called the perspective of the second document a postsecular one (Stoeckl 2011) (more on this interpretation in Chapter 5). This shift in perspective is also corroborated by a second observation. The two documents treat diﬀerently the concept of human dignity. A comparative reading shows that the deﬁnition of human dignity expressed in the Declaration is completely revised and corrected in the Doctrine. The Declaration introduced a distinction between “human worth” (Russian: tsennost) and “human dignity” (Russian: dostoinstvo) and declared: Each person as image of God has singular unalienable worth, which must be respected by every one of us, the society and state. It is by doing good that the human being gains dignity. Thus we distinguish between human worth and dignity. Worth is given, while dignity is acquired. (Human Rights Declaration of the VRNS, 2006b)
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In the Doctrine we ﬁnd no trace of this distinction; indeed, the view that human dignity could be an acquired quality is theologically rejected. According to an informed observer of the Russian human rights debate whom I had the chance to interview in 2009, the distinction between worth and dignity in the Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council was already considered a “terrible mistake” immediately after the publication of the document, and one motive behind the elaboration of the Doctrine by the Russian Orthodox Church was the need to correct this mistake. The Doctrine dedicates an entire ﬁrst chapter to the question of human dignity as a religious and moral category. It expresses the view that human dignity is related to the act of divine creation and therefore inalienable: “human nature did not lose its dignity even after the fall, for the image of God in it remained indelible.” I will analyze the deﬁnition of dignity in the Human Rights Doctrine in the next chapter, but what is important to note at this point is that, with this sentence, the Doctrine corrects the view expressed in the Declaration that dignity is an acquired quality. The 2006 Declaration and the 2008 Doctrine also come to slightly diﬀerent conclusions regarding human freedom and morality. On this topic, the two documents diﬀer only in subtle linguistic nuances, but I think that this shift in language is nonetheless indicative of a change in self-positioning from a “clash” to a more dialogical attitude. On the topic of morality we read in the Declaration that “the content of human rights cannot not be connected with morality” (in Russian: ne mozhet ne byt’ svyazano). This rather convoluted phrase was straightened out in the English translation of the Declaration, published in the Europaica Bulletin of the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church in Brussels, by translating it as: “human rights essentially involve morality.” But two years later in the Doctrine we read: “The development and implementation of the human rights concept should be harmonized with the norms of morality, with the ethical principle laid down by God in human nature and discernible in the voice of conscience.” The diﬀerence between the two formulations is that the ﬁrst document speaks about the “content of human rights,” as if human rights were a self-contained, onceand-for-all-deﬁned package which one can either accept or reject; the second document, in contrast, uses the phrase “the development and implementation of the human rights concept,” a wording that recognizes the open and unﬁnished character of the human rights concept. How can we explain the diﬀerence between the 2006 Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council and the 2008 teaching of the Russian Orthodox Church on human dignity, liberty and rights? Elsewhere, I have interpreted this diﬀerence ideologically and chronologically and have argued that the 2008 Doctrine “overcomes” the positions expressed in the 2006 Declaration (Stoeckl 2012). In the context of this more in-depth study of the human rights debate inside the Russian Orthodox Church, however, I am inclined to interpret the two documents not as a sequence, but as the expression of two rival points of view within one and the same debate.
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The confrontational “clash of civilizations” type of approach to human rights does not disappear from the Church’s debate and remains a powerful ideological position throughout, but it is no longer the only ideological position, as we ﬁnd emerging a more dialogical “postsecular” type of approach. What is most characteristic of this second approach is that it seeks a debate with actors from outside the Russian Orthodox Church on the Orthodox understanding of human rights, freedom, and morality. Examples of such a debate are the interconfessional meetings conducted by the Moscow Patriarchate both inside and outside Russia. During a conference on “Religious Freedom and Human Rights” in Moscow in December 2006, for example, the participants, most notably the spokesperson of the Russian Council of Evangelical Baptist Churches, criticized the Human Rights Declaration for contrasting human rights and moral responsibility (RELIGARE 2006a). The unrelenting tone of the Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council alarmed not only the Russian spokesperson of the Evangelical Baptist Council. Western European religious dialogue partners also reacted to the document. The report of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) about a dialogue meeting that took place in Moscow in March 2007 is particularly instructive with regard to the direction the Western partners were trying to give to the dialogue. The report starts by saying that the meeting was organized because the Russian Orthodox Church intended to adopt a basic document on human rights, and that preparations for such a document had begun with the 2006 Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council and subsequent statements from members of the Russian Orthodox Church on human rights. The CEC writes: “These gave rise to the concern as to whether there is still a common basis for human rights related issues among member churches of CEC” (Conference of European Churches 2007a). This is a clear statement that the Western partners were concerned by the Human Rights Declaration and the debate surrounding it. The discussion at this meeting was apparently perceived as fruitful by all parties involved. The report quotes Fr. Vsevolod Chaplin as saying the meeting had been “very useful and successful. Very seldom before have we had such condensed discussions in such a friendly atmosphere. Many misunderstandings, which are usually attributed to either a Western or an Orthodox perception of human rights, could be clariﬁed” (Conference of European Churches 2007b). The report concludes: the most important result of the dialogue meeting in Moscow … is that the very concept of human rights is not under question. The Russian Orthodox Church wants only to raise some questions with regard to the interpretation of certain human rights. (Conference of European Churches 2007b) These kinds of exchanges are indicative of the ideological diﬀerentiation in the human rights debate between 2006 and 2008. While the ideological
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position expressed in the 2006 Declaration rejected human rights as alien, an alternative position gained ground in the process of the drafting and publication of the Human Rights Doctrine, a position which sees the Russian Orthodox Church as a participant in an ongoing deliberation about the development and implementation of human rights. Again, I am not arguing that this more conciliatory style actually resulted in a liberal standpoint, but it did account for a shift away from radical anti-Westernism and nationalism. In the next section, I look at some more indicators of this new self-positioning.
Topics in the Russian Orthodox human rights debate How can we explain the shift of argumentation from the Social Doctrine of 2000, to the Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council of 2006, to the Human Rights Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church of 2008? I think that rather than looking at it as a deﬁnite shift in attitude, the three documents must be seen as diﬀerent expressions of one and the same debate, a debate that was characterized by nationalist positions on the one hand, and by more moderate positions on the other. However, the important point I want to make here is that a moderate, not strictly antiWestern and anti-human rights position did exist, and gained ever more distinct contours throughout the debate during the 2000s. This discourse was moved forward by the traditionalist camp inside the Church headed by Metropolitan Kirill and led to the publication of the Human Rights Doctrine, which has the character of a ﬁnal word in the discussion (Agadjanian 2008, 14). In this section, I will give some examples of how this debate actually worked. International law and traditional morality From the very beginning of the human rights debate, the Russian Orthodox Church expressed concerns that international human rights standards could inﬂuence the Russian legal sphere and the life of the Church. This concern was not unfounded, because as discussed in the last section of Chapter 1, the Constitution of the Russian Federation had legally incorporated international human rights treaties, and Russia had become a party to the European Convention on Human Rights. The continuously evolving international human rights regime was inevitably bound to impact on Russian legislation, or to clash with it, and pilot cases before the European Court of Human Rights like the ones cited in the ﬁnal section of Chapter 1 showed that this was indeed the case. The Church recognized that this legal situation was likely to have a liberalizing eﬀect on those areas of legislation which were religiously sensitive, including religious freedom, abortion, homosexual marriage, and others. International human rights standards and their potential friction with traditional religious morality were a recurring topic in speeches by church representatives in the period leading up to the publication of the Human
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Rights Doctrine. An analysis of statements from this period shows how the assessment of human rights and the use of references to human rights documents changes. Whereas initially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is presented as a product of apostasy, by the end of the debate the Universal Declaration and the European Convention on Human Rights are presented as documents which can ﬁnd the Church’s support, in contrast with other human rights instruments, most notably the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union 2000), which the Church is not in favor of. A good example of this change is the manner in which Kirill uses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 in his argumentation. In the already-cited article published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 26 May 1999, Kirill expressed the conviction that human rights were a form of apostasy. A further shift in the argumentation occurs later, in a speech that Kirill gave in September 2005 as part of a conference on “Religion and International Relations” in St. Petersburg (Kirill 2005). There he cites for the ﬁrst time— and was subsequently to do so again and again—article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 29 states: (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. (UDHR 1948) The “discovery” of article 29 has an important eﬀect on the human rights debate in the Russian Orthodox Church, in that it leads to a new argumentative strategy. Article 29, in particular provision 29 (2) allows the Russian Orthodox Church to no longer place itself in opposition to a Western individualistic understanding of human rights, but instead to actively present itself as the vanguard of a more original understanding of human rights according to article 29, an understanding which emphasizes the importance of morality and duties to the community. This new strategy is particularly visible in Kirill’s contribution to the seminar entitled “The Evolution of Moral Principles and Human Rights in Multicultural Society” in Strasbourg, on 30–31 October 2006. There he describes the concept of human rights as a tool for strengthening ethics and values in modern societies, saying: I am convinced that the concern for spiritual needs, based moreover on traditional morality, ought to return to the public realm. The upholding of moral standards must become a social cause. It is the mechanism of
The human rights debate inside the ROC human rights that can actively enable this return. I am speaking of a return, for the norm of according human rights with traditional morality can be found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. (Kirill 2006a)
The same view is expressed in his speech to UNESCO on 13 March 2007: “The Orthodox Church invites the world to return to the understanding of the role of human rights in social life that was established in 1948. Moral rules can put limits to the realization of human rights in public life” (Interfax Religion 2007c). The same point is repeated by Patriarch Alexii II in a speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 2 October 2007. In this speech, not only is the Universal Declaration mentioned, but also the European Convention on Human Rights: there occurs a break between human rights and morality, and this break threatens the European civilization. We can see it in a new generation of rights that contradict morality, and in how human rights are used to justify immoral behavior. In this connection, I may note that morality, with which any human right advocacy has to count, is mentioned in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. I am convinced that the makers of the European Convention on Human Rights (Council of Europe 2010) included therein morality not as something ambiguous but rather as an integral element of the whole human rights system. (Alexii II 2007) The point is corroborated once more, two years after the publication of the Human Rights Doctrine, by Metropolitan Ilarion (a statement which ﬁts very well in the context of this debate and which I therefore include even though it was made after 2008). It should be noted that the postwar human rights instruments did reﬂect the connection between freedom and moral responsibility. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 and the European Declaration of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms from 1950 speak about the connection between human rights and morality. It is in later international acts such as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union from 2000 that the connection between human rights and morality is not mentioned. Freedom is therefore completely divorced from morality. (ROC 2010a) What this series of quotations shows is that during the period in which the Human Rights Doctrine was being drafted, the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church acquired an increasingly clear understanding of contemporary human rights politics and legislation. Alexii II even speaks about
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“a new generation of rights,” a term that is habitually used in human rights literature (cf. Vasak 1977). The Church’s position in this ﬁeld was no longer determined by the vague sense of rejection that informed debates during the 1990s. At least the clerics in the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate had a precise view on the problem and a concrete sense of mission on how to deal with it. This mission consisted, ﬁrst, in preventing the spill-over of liberal European human rights legislation into Russian legal space and into areas the Church considered sensitive. And second, it consisted in a concrete and prolonged eﬀort to inﬂuence the human rights debate on the European level and to sensitize the public and likeminded actors to the concerns of the Russian Orthodox Church. I will give just two further quotations to substantiate this claim. In November 2002, Bishop Ilarion gave a talk in before the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament. In his speech, he discussed the public role of the Church and lamented the fact that in many Western European countries churches were being more and more pushed into the private sphere. Giving the example of the Russian Orthodox view on homosexuality, considered by the Church as “grave sin,” he observed that this view on the part of his Church was tolerated by the liberal European public as particularistic opinion, but not as a principle for legislation. This, in his opinion, was problematic, because through European integration, liberal legal principles were being imposed on all European countries, regardless of their religious sensibilities: “Hitherto,” he stated, each European country has had the right to develop its own norms vis-à-vis human morality. It is crucial that in a new Europe each country should continue to enjoy this right and that no single standard should be imposed on all members of an enlarged European Union. (Ilarion 2002a) What Ilarion is asking for, in other words, is that European integration, a term which also includes the legal integration of Europe, should not extend to religiously sensitive areas. The same argument has been made several times by Kirill, for example at the tenth World Russian People’s Council session in April 2006 on the occasion of the presentation of the Human Rights Declaration. In his speech to the members of the World Council, Kirill makes clear that Orthodox believers could not possibly accept that legal standards contrary to the principles of Orthodox faith be imposed on them. In his eyes it was therefore necessary that internationally accepted human rights standards should be developed “harmoniously” in dialogue with the world’s cultures and religions, rather than, as at present, follow a Western secular model: We have a problem of a one-sided interpretation of the idea of rights and liberties of man, an interpretation which, in our view, is dominant today
The human rights debate inside the ROC especially in the theory and practice of inﬂuential international institutions. And even if European organizations refrain from exercising direct inﬂuence on the design of the Russian legal space, there remains a danger that this false perception of freedom and justice could in the future have a harmful impact on legal processes in Russia. (Kirill 2006b)
It should be noted that the ideological coordinates, the oppositions liberalism vs. traditionalism, secularism vs. religion, and individual human rights vs. community, nation, and family, are upheld in Kirill’s and Ilarion’s argumentation. But what has changed is that the Orthodox Church understands itself no longer as the sole defender of tradition, religion, community, family, and nation against the West. Rather, the Church sees its role in reminding an (what it perceives as) overly secularist and libertarian West of the original understanding of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration. To this end, the Russian Orthodox Church has identiﬁed ideological “allies” in the West which it seeks to mobilize in its struggle. Several documented meetings between the Russian Orthodox Church, the Conference of European Churches, and the Catholic Church (see the list in the ﬁrst section above, “The institutional framework”) suggest that there have been close contacts with the other religions during the preparatory phase of the Human Rights Doctrine. Quotations from neo-conservative literature, in turn, give an indication of the kind of political–ideological “allies” Kirill and his working group have identiﬁed for themselves (Ilarion 2007). When Kirill presented the ﬁnal document to the Bishops’ Council, he mentioned these exchanges with other religions and intellectuals to give more weight to the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, saying: ‘We found out that most religious traditions and several currents in secular thought agree with our assessment of the importance of moral values’ (Interfax Religion 2007c). In fact, reading through the documents of these meetings we ﬁnd that the Christian churches largely agreed on their assessment of human rights, or at least on the frame of reference within which to discuss these. The ﬁnal communication of the meeting in March 2007 between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Council of European Churches, for example, stated: “Our approach to human rights should not be guided ﬁrst and foremost by so-called eastern or western perceptions of human rights. As Christian churches we look upon human rights from the viewpoint of Christian foundations” (Conference of European Churches 2007b). The churches also called for respect for “diﬀerent models of church–state relations” in Europe. In short, there is ample evidence that the Russian Orthodox Church was developing an active, internationally coordinated human rights strategy with the aim of raising the level of debate on human rights and morality. I will look at this agenda in detail in Chapter 4, but what is important to note at this point is that the Church’s international human rights strategy is in keeping with the traditional workings of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian
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Orthodox Church in the sense of seeking out alliances, give-and-take of argumentation, and dialogue. Militant secularism When one analyzes the key concepts used in the human rights debate by representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, it is noticeable that some terms recur over a certain period of time and deﬁne the debate, but then disappear from it, or are substituted by other terms which are apparently judged more precise. Below I provide an example of this. A key concept in numerous speeches by Bishop Ilarion up until 2004 is “militant [Russian: voinstvuyushchii] secularism.” In his speech to the Italian Parliament on 15 November 2002, he expressed the view that militant secularism was as dangerous as militant atheism. Both, he said, sought to banish religion from social and political life and lock it into the “ghetto of private piety.” Ilarion depicted the Russian Orthodox Church, which during the Soviet period had already withstood the tests of militant atheism, as well prepared to defend itself against militant secularism (Ilarion 2002b). On 24 November 2004 in a speech at the University of Melbourne, Ilarion repeated the view that militant secularism was a totalitarian pseudo-religion (Ilarion 2004). Subsequently, however, Ilarion’s argumentation changed, when at a meeting of European parliamentarians and religious leaders on 22 April 2005, he introduced a new concept, “humanism,” which he deﬁned in two forms: “atheistic humanism,” which could lead to militant secularism, and “religious humanism” (Ilarion 2005b). In 2005, Ilarion also published the book Orthodox Witness Today, which contains an article entitled “The Concept of Dignity and Freedom of the person in Christianity and Secular Humanism” (Ilarion 2005a). In this article, Ilarion compares Nazism, communism and humanism with each other, calling them “anti-religious ideologies” in that all three were based on false anthropocentric assumptions, all three were seeking to replace traditional values with utopian ideas and all three would cherish an irrational hatred against Christianity. But then he adds: Indeed, the modern secular humanistic project diﬀers in many aspects from those mentioned. The comparison with national-socialism and communism would undoubtedly deeply insult the modern humanist. Humanism of the second half of the twentieth century, expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, arose as a reaction to … the crimes of Nazism. However, humanists refuse to see the connection between these crimes and the anthropological theories born in the atheistic minds of the French enlighteners of the eighteenth century. (Ilarion 2007) The quoted passage oﬀers a more subtle argumentation on humanism than the bold comparison between Nazism, communism and humanism initially
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suggested. Ilarion eventually distinguishes humanism from two totalitarian political ideologies, but at the same time he remains critical with regard to the totalitarian potential of modern rationalism. This is a kind of criticism that Ilarion shares with many philosophers of the twenty-ﬁrst century. In an interview with the magazine Science and Religion in December 2008, we even read: “We should not negate every truth of humanism as many reactionary theological trends do, but establish creative Christian humanism” (Ilarion 2008). This transformation of verbal expression from denouncing “militant secularism” to distancing oneself from “secular humanism” and eventually proposing a “Christian humanism” is remarkable. Oﬃcial statements by representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church after 2005 also suggest that “militant secularism” is no longer considered a precise enough term to describe the perceived challenge facing the Orthodox Church. The new term used is “christianophobia.” Whereas militant secularism continues to be denounced as a general mood of hostility of secular society versus religions, christianophobia is perceived as a speciﬁc form of secularism that targets, in the reading of the Russian Orthodox Church, in particular the European Christian majority religions. This rather singular use of the term christianophobia, which is usually associated with the persecution of Christian minorities in other parts of the world, seems to be related to Russian Orthodox preoccupations with cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights involving religious symbols. In an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Ilarion made the argument that an “aggressive secularism” in Western Europe targets in particular majority religions. He cited the example of the case Lautsi vs. Italy (on the display of the cruciﬁx in Italian schools, see Chapter 4) and deplored that Christian values in Europe were being downtrodden by the courts. When the interviewer objected that the initial decision in this particular case was motivated by reasons of equal treatment, Ilarion replied that he was not against equal treatment but that “there is something which we call the religion of the majority” (Doerry et al. 2009). The focus on christianophobia is connected to the perception of the Russian Orthodox Church that the liberal human rights discourse tends to privilege the rights of minorities and minority religions over those of the majority. This view is expressed by a member of the working group on human rights of the Moscow Patriarchate during the presentation of the 2008 Human Rights Doctrine before the OSCE: This approach [religious neutrality of the state] to the religious diversity in Europe could be reasonably called Christianophobia. Strangely enough, most international organizations including the OSCE have achieved much success in protecting minorities, but nobody has ever thought that a majority could also prove to be the most vulnerable group. (ROC 2010a)
The human rights debate inside the ROC
This last statement also underlined the strategy of the Russian Orthodox Church to present itself as a spokesperson for Christians in Europe in matters of human rights, in alliance with the Vatican and conservative Christian groups. In Chapter 4, I will look more closely at the actual impact this international agenda had after the publication of the Human Rights Doctrine. In concluding this chapter, to return to the questions I asked at the beginning, we are now closer to explaining why the Moscow Patriarchate decided to engage with the human rights idea (instead of simply rejecting it as a Western, secular concept, or ignoring it as a matter that does not pertain to the world of the Church), and also the way the Church engaged with the human rights topic. I have shown how there were diﬀerent reasons for this engagement: internal to the Church, external to the Church and political. First, the human rights debate was part of an internal clariﬁcation process in the Russian Orthodox Church, leading to the emergence of the traditionalist camp as the leading ideological group inside the Moscow Patriarchate. Even within this traditionalist camp, however, the positions were not unanimous. The diﬀerence between the Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council 2006 and the Human Rights Doctrine in 2008 demonstrates that tensions between advocates of a “clash of civilizations” and supporters of a “postsecular” type of dialogue inside the Moscow Patriarchate continued.9 Second, the debate was part of an external clariﬁcation process with which the Church deﬁned her position on human rights and morality. I think it is important to recognize that the Russian Orthodox Church has mostly been sincere in its concern over the moral make-up of society. The Church engaged in the human rights debate with a concrete sense of mission regarding the threat of “moral decline.” In a pluralistic society where basic Christian categories of what is “good” and what is “sinful” are no longer shared, a struggle over what is “good” is inevitable. In this situation, human rights, or rather what the Church calls “a particular interpretation of human rights,” may be perceived as a threat by religious actors, and for this reason the Russian Orthodox Church engages actively in a debate about rights and morality. This fact by itself is neither surprising nor problematic, but what is peculiar about the debate described here is that it takes place in a political context that is not actually pluralistic. We have to remember that the Church’s human rights debate was part of a political process as a reaction to political pressure from within Russian civil society and legal pressure from outside Russia, in particular from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. In the political arena, I have suggested, the Church’s own critical human rights agenda happened to go hand in hand with the restrictive human rights policies of the Russian government, and both parties—the Patriarchate and the government—could draw advantages from this alignment without necessarily sharing the same goals. Until 2008 the religious–political alignment in matters of human rights was not yet much in evidence, with the exception of the 1997 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations, but after 2008 there is ample
The human rights debate inside the ROC
evidence that the Church beneﬁtted for religious reasons from laws which for the Russian government served the purpose of restricting foreign inﬂuence and political opposition. I will address this in Chapter 4, but ﬁrst it is necessary to ﬁnally look at the document itself which took so much preparation: The Teaching of the Russian Orthodox Church on Human Dignity, Liberty and Rights.
Notes 1 I use the terms formal and informal Orthodoxy in the same way as deﬁned by Papkova, who has pointed out that the terms formal and informal instead of oﬃcial and unoﬃcial better capture the dynamics inside the Russian Orthodox Church (Papkova 2011, 215 fn. 25). 2 Some of the websites consulted for this research have meanwhile been discontinued or are no longer updated. In particular, the website of the Representation of the Moscow Patriarchate to the European Union (www.orthodoxeurope.org), which was very active for the period under discussion in this chapter, has moved under the umbrella of the new website of the Department for External Church Relations (www.mospat.ru) in 2011. It is possible that links included in the bibliography are no longer active, in which case the link and the last-access date identify a pdfversion of the article in my personal archive. 3 Vladimir Osipov is the chairman of the “Union of Christian Rebirth.” He must not be confused with the aforementioned theologian Alexei Osipov, who published the article on human rights in the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate in the 1980s (see Chapter 1, ﬁrst section). 4 In particular his book The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002). The book was translated into Russian in 2003. 5 I am grateful to Marcello Garzaniti, who ﬁrst made me aware of this historical parallel. 6 I use the term Human Rights Declaration to refer to the document of the World Russian People’s Council (VRNS 2006b), and the term Human Rights Doctrine to refer to the document of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC 2008c). 7 I am in possession of the (not otherwise publicized) list of members of this committee. 8 I have not corrected errors in English translations published by the Moscow Patriarchate on its website. 9 This observation is further complicated by the fact that some actors inside the Moscow Patriarchate actually positioned themselves in both camps at one and the same time.
The Russian Orthodox Church’s basic teaching on human dignity, liberty, and rights Analysis and interpretation
Modern human rights are about the “sacredness of the person.” I take this term from Joas, who has argued that the belief in human rights and universal human dignity is the result of a speciﬁc process of “sacralization,” neither purely religious nor exclusively secular in origin, in which every single human being becomes viewed as inviolable and intrinsically valuable. The human rights idea is the institutionalization of this sentiment in law through various international treaties, and as such it is a genuinely new phenomenon; other religious and intellectual traditions cannot but confront themselves with it (Joas 2013, 5). The original methodological implication of this perspective lies in the fact that the human rights idea is not reduced to being the product of something (the Enlightenment, secularized Christianity), but is looked at as an independent phenomenon with a precise origin in history, whose meaning and signiﬁcance for the present must be constantly reaﬃrmed through historical and normative reﬂection. Joas calls this type of reﬂection “aﬃrmative genealogy.” I want to suggest that we should interpret the Russian Orthodox discussion as one example of a historical and normative reﬂection on human rights, even if we ﬁnd that it is not, or mostly not, of an aﬃrmative, but of a negative kind. From the Church’s perspective, human rights are a rival meaning-giver to social life and human relations, and for this reason the Church’s attitude to human rights is largely negative; but human rights are also something to which Christian teaching can attach a positive meaning through “aﬃrmative” reﬂection. The duality of negative and aﬃrmative arguments is characteristic of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Basic Teaching on Human Dignity, Freedom, and Rights (Osnovy ucheniya Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi o dostoinstve, svobode i pravakh cheloveka) (ROC 2008b). In this chapter, I look at the document adopted by the Bishops’ Council in the summer of 2008 as a text which confronts and comments upon the main international human rights treaties, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR 1948), the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights (Council of Europe 2010) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000). My methodology is not comparative in a strict sense, because these documents are very diﬀerent in genre and intention. The three international human rights documents generate
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
and proclaim their own understanding of the “sacredness” of the person. The Church document comments on this understanding and explains, by way of confrontation, its own vision of the sacredness of the person. What I want to highlight here is the selective reception of Western human rights ideas by the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as tensions and ambiguities in the document itself and in statements surrounding its publication.
The Human Rights Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church and international human rights documents Religious understanding of dignity and morality Leading clerics of the Moscow Patriarchate have stressed time and again that the aim of the Russian Orthodox engagement with the human rights topic was the clariﬁcation and deﬁnition of the term human dignity. Human dignity is deﬁned by the Church in a distinctly Eastern Christian sense and is opposed to what the Church considers a “simplistic” notion of dignity in all international human rights treaties. Let us ﬁrst look at the deﬁnition of dignity in the secular human rights documents. The preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights speaks of the “inherent dignity of all members of the human family,” and article 1 declares “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The Universal Declaration also contains the term “worth,” the controversial notion which the World Russian People’s Council’s Declaration opposed to the term dignity (see third section of Chapter 2). In the preamble of the Universal Declaration, dignity and worth are not opposed to each other, but appear as synonyms: “the peoples of the United Nations … reafﬁrm their faith … in the dignity and worth of the human person … ” The European Convention on Human Rights does not contain the term dignity in its main text at all, but “the inherent dignity of all human beings” is mentioned in the preamble to protocol no. 13 concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in contrast, entitles the entire ﬁrst chapter “Dignity” and declares in article 1 that “Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected.” The rest of Chapter I of the Charter lists the elements which make up the inviolability of human dignity: the right to life (article 2), the right to the integrity of the person (article 3), the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (article 4), and the prohibition of slavery and forced labor (article 5). Thus, the common denominator for “human dignity” in the secular human rights documents is ﬁrst that dignity is an essential and natural human quality and second that dignity is related to inviolability, such that no human being may become an object of arbitrary interference. The Russian Orthodox Church’s Human Rights Doctrine (ROC 2008b, 2008c) entitles the entire ﬁrst chapter “Human Dignity as a Religious and
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
Ethical Category.” This chapter, we should remember, appears to have been intended as a reply and correction to the problematic distinction between “human dignity” and “human worth” declared in the Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council (see Chapter 2, third section). But it is not only this need for correction that put dignity in ﬁrst place in the Russian Orthodox debate about human rights. The authors of the document acknowledge in the ﬁrst sentence that “human rights theory is based on human dignity as its fundamental notion” (I.1).1 Any reaction to secular human rights must therefore be ﬁrst and foremost a reaction to the secular notion of human dignity. From the Orthodox Christian perspective, human dignity is related to the creation of the human being “in God’s image and likeness.” God’s image in man is described by the document as the source of human dignity. It remains “indelible … even after the fall,” i.e. even man’s susceptibility to sinfulness cannot erase the God-given dignity. With this sentence, the Human Rights Doctrine commits, in principle, to an unrelativized concept of human dignity. The divine–human likeness, on the other hand, becomes for the Church the source for a precise understanding of how human beings should strive to overcome sin and “restore human life in the fullness of its original perfection” (I.1): digniﬁed life is … achieved through God’s grace by eﬀorts to overcome sin and to seek moral purity and virtue. … what is digniﬁed and what is not are bound up with the moral or amoral actions of a person and with the inner state of his soul. Considering the state of human nature darkened by sin, it is important that things digniﬁed and undigniﬁed should be clearly distinguished in the life of a person. (I.2) The restoration of human life to the fullness of divine likeness is called in the Orthodox theological tradition theosis (deiﬁcation). The diﬀerence between the secular and the religious understanding of human dignity is straightforward: secular documents postulate human dignity as a natural quality of human beings, while the religious document links human dignity to the act of divine creation. In both cases human dignity is an inalienable quality of the human being, but in the ﬁrst this inalienability lies with human nature, while in the second it lies with the divine will. Alfons Brüning has observed that the secular and the religious notions of dignity coincide on a point of fundamental importance: from both perspectives the notion of dignity serves to place the singular human being outside of the reach of arbitrary human interference and manipulation (Brüning 2013). From a secular viewpoint, this thought is captured in Kant’s imperative “not to use human beings as means”; from the religious viewpoint, it is related to the apophatic (not knowable) nature of the divine plan. No person may judge over another person’s God-given dignity:
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights A morally undigniﬁed life does not ruin the God-given dignity ontologically but darkens it so much as to make it hardly discernible. This is why it takes so much eﬀort of will to discern and even admit the natural dignity of a villain or a tyrant. (I.4)
From the secular and the religious perspectives, therefore, the consequences of the respect for human dignity are the same. However, Chapter I of the Human Rights Doctrine says something more than this. The ground for controversies sparked by this chapter was not the ultimately apophatic theological bottom line of the religious take on human dignity, but the Church’s explanation of what eﬀectively constitutes a “good life” according to “God’s design for human beings and their calling” (I.3). In the document we read “moral norms inherent in humanity just as moral norms set forth in the divine revelation reveal God’s design for human beings and their calling. These norms are guidelines for a good life worthy of Godcreated humanity” (I.3). Knowledge about these moral norms derives from revelation (the scriptures and the model of Jesus Christ) and from conscience. Human nature is a problematic source of morality because of its potential for sin (“life according to the law of the ﬂesh” (I.4)). For this reason the document puts a special emphasis on repentance and says: “The patristic and ascetic thought and the whole liturgical tradition of the Church refer more to human indignity caused by sin than to human dignity” (I.5). Chapter I concludes: “According to the Orthodox tradition, a human being preserves his God-given dignity and grows in it only if he lives in accordance with moral norms because these norms express the primordial and therefore authentic human nature not darkened by sin.” The Russian Orthodox Church establishes a direct link between human dignity and morality, to the point that critics have read the chapter as saying that the Church is making the moral behavior of the individual a condition for recognizing his or her human dignity (see reactions in the ﬁrst two sections of Chapter 4). This is an unfair interpretation of the Doctrine. It was true of the Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council, which drew a net distinction between human worth and human dignity, but the Human Rights Doctrine has corrected this view and expresses, in principle, a commitment to human dignity as such. However, this commitment remains ambiguous, and it is this ambiguity I will try to explain in the next two paragraphs. My hunch is that one reason for the irritation the Church’s balancing out of “digniﬁed life” and “morality” continues to evoke among observers is partially due to the particular use (and translation) of the word “morality.”2 The Russian version of the Human Rights Doctrine uses the word moral’ only three times; the term that is used is nravstvennost’ or nravstvennyi (used over forty times). In the English translation, both meanings are rendered with the term “morality” or “moral,” with the exception of the title of the ﬁrst
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
chapter: there nravstvennyi is translated as “ethical”. What are we to make of this diﬀerence, and why is it relevant? The anthropologist Agata Ładykowska has demonstrated that for ordinary Russians and Orthodox believers, the words moral’ and nravstvennost’ do not mean the same thing. Moral’ is deﬁned as a “socially formed set of norms and principles, the system regulating people’s consciousness and conduct given in a concrete society,” whereas nravstvennost’ “primarily reﬂects the deep dispositions (ustanovki) in the consciousness of an individual” (2011, 40). Ładykowska has found that on the level of nravstvennost’, that is, on the level of inner ethical judgment and commitment, post-Soviet Orthodox believers manage to maintain high degrees of continuity between their Soviet and post-Soviet “moral self” despite changing frameworks of moral’. I interpret the prevalence of the term nravstvennyi in the Human Rights Doctrine as indicative of the intention of the authors of the document to deﬁne “moral behavior” in a comprehensive, individual and social sense, and not merely in terms of obeying rules. That we have a real tension here is highlighted by the fact that the distinction between morality and ethos is a topic addressed by several Orthodox theologians throughout the twentieth century, in particular Yannaras and Yannoulatos, whom I cited in the Introduction. Yannaras has written an entire book about the diﬀerence between ethics and morality (Yannaras 1984). There he distinguishes between free ethical choice and moral dictate, and he accuses the Churches of his time of having become moral dictators instead of places for the growth of a free ethos. Yannoulatos also deﬁnes the moral meaning of the Church’s human rights discourse in terms of the inner make-up and ethical orientation of religious life, rather than in terms of public morality. He calls the Churches to their vocation as “centres of moral and spiritual inspiration, nurseries of integrated and sanctiﬁed personalities, workshops of selﬂess love” (Yannoulatos 1984, 466). The Human Rights Doctrine has been criticized precisely on the grounds of this theology by liberal Orthodox commentators, who have detected in the Doctrine a lack of emphasis on free ethical choice. Marina Shishova (2012) has pointed out that there is a tension in the Doctrine: does the Church engage with human rights out of commitment to human dignity as seen from the perspective of eternal life, or out of an interest in the community deﬁned in terms of the Russian state? The document, not least because of the semantics of nravstvennost’, remains ambiguous, but in the ﬁnal analysis, it seems to me, the balance tips from dignity as a religious and ethical category to dignity deﬁned in terms of compliance with a narrow “public morality.” I think it is not by chance that the Church’s discourse has changed over the last few years since the publication of the Doctrine, shifting from an emphasis on “morality” to “traditional values.” Tradition is invoked by the Church today as a provider of rules for social and moral behavior and as source for limitations to individual human rights. When “traditional values” are invoked as the source of public
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
morality, the inner–outer duality of ethical judgment contained in the word morality/nravstvennost’ is lost. Negative and positive freedom From the Church’s point of view, freedom is a function of human dignity and can be used either for or against it. The Human Rights Doctrine distinguishes two concepts of freedom: freedom of choice and freedom from sin. Freedom of choice is deﬁned with the Greek term autexusios (able to act in one’s own right), and freedom from sin is deﬁned with the term eleutheros (free, freeborn, unrestrained). The Church’s distinction between the two freedoms cannot be understood without recognizing the emphasis Christian teaching puts on evil. Evil and freedom are incompatible from the Church’s point of view: “The abuse of freedom and the choice of a false, immoral, way of life will ultimately destroy the very freedom of choice as it leads the will to slavery by sin” (II.2). The main criticism the Church brings forth against the secular human rights regime is that it “forgets” about the human potential for evil. The same criticism was voiced by Yannoulatos, quoted in the Introduction, who accused human rights declarations of “simplistic overoptimism,” of forgetting about the sinfulness of human nature (Yannoulatos 2003, 53). In the Human Rights Doctrine, the Russian Orthodox Church expresses the following judgment on the secular human rights system: The weakness of the human rights institution lies in the fact that while defending the freedom of choice, it tends to increasingly ignore the moral dimension of life and the freedom from sin. The social system should be guided by both freedoms, harmonizing their exercise in the public sphere. One of these freedoms cannot be defended while the other is neglected. Free adherence to goodness and the truth is impossible without the freedom of choice, just as a free choice loses its value and meaning if it is made in favour of evil. (II.2) Now, the tension between two dimensions of freedom is not foreign even to the secular understanding of liberty. Benjamin Constant coined the terms “liberty of the moderns” and “liberty of the ancients,” and Isaiah Berlin has made the famous distinction between “negative” and “positive” liberty (Berlin 1969), which has been developed further by communitarian and republican critics of liberalism (for example: Taylor 1979; Morris 2001; Skinner 2002). Therefore, the criticism expressed in the Human Rights Doctrine alludes to a tension that is part and parcel of Western philosophies of liberty. It is also part and parcel of the human rights regime. Article 29 of the Universal Declaration reads: “(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.”
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
This declaration, that “free and full development of personality” is possible only in a “community,” represents a strong commitment to positive liberty in the Universal Declaration. Similar declarations are also made in the other human rights treaties. Article 10 of the Human Rights Convention (Freedom of Expression) reads “(2) The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to … restrictions … ”; and the preamble of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights contains the sentence: “Enjoyment of these rights entails responsibilities and duties with regard to other persons, to the human community and to future generations.” The Russian Orthodox Church’s emphasis on duties and responsibilities as a necessary counterweight to freedoms is therefore not entirely far-fetched in the human rights discourse. Hierarchization of human rights Chapter III of the Human Rights Doctrine is entitled “Human Rights in Christian Worldview and in the Life of Society”. The chapter starts oﬀ by saying that human rights are the fruit of a historical process and that today’s understanding of human rights cannot be made absolute. Human rights should be “harmonized” with Christian values (III.1). In reality, the Church’s confrontation with human rights does not really take the form of “harmonization” (even though this is the term used in the text), but actually involves elements of a “hierarchization” of secular liberal values and Christian values, with results that are not easily reconcilable with liberal democracy. This section contains some of the most controversial statements of the entire Human Rights Doctrine, and it also conveys strong tensions and ambiguities in the Church’s assessment of human rights. The authors of the document make it clear that from the Church’s point of view human rights are not a superior system of moral values in modern society, but a rival meaning giver. “For many people in various parts of the world it is not so much secularized standards of human rights as the creed and traditions that have the ultimate authority in their social life and interpersonal relations” (III.2). This statement, which goes against the grain of the secular and universal human rights philosophy, resonates with an observation by Yannoulatos quoted in the Introduction: many people living in a climate of religious and ascetic traditions would share the Eastern Christian emphasis on inner freedom. The disagreement clearly lies in two diﬀerent visions of the scope of human rights: whereas from a secular point of view, human rights ﬁrst and foremost assure the protection of the individual (from arbitrary interference, violent death, torture, etc.) and are therefore considered expressions of a universal human desire for safety and dignity, the Church looks at human rights as enabling rights, enabling (potentially sinful) individuals to act according to their own will and desire. Whereas secular human rights focus on negative freedom “from,” the Church focuses on the positive freedom “to,” and gets upset about the fact that the modern human rights regime does
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
not really set any limits to the exercise of individual freedom. At the risk of over-stressing the point, I underline once again that the strong focus of the Church debate on the “limitation clauses” in the various international human rights treaties lies precisely in this diﬀerent understanding of the scope of human rights. We cannot understand the Russian Orthodox Church’s Human Rights Doctrine if we only compare it with secular human rights documents—we need to situate the Doctrine in actual human rights debates. This point becomes clear in section III.3, where we read: “Human rights cannot be a reason for coercing Christians into violation of God’s commandments.” Why on earth would human rights do that?, an unfamiliar outside observer might ask himself. Aren’t human rights meant to protect human beings? What the Church has in mind is the emergence of legislative norms, in particular in the area of family- and health care legislation, that touch issues which the Church considers ethically sensitive: abortion, gay marriage, assisted suicide, and similar. A Christian doctor, nurse, or marriage registrar may, in the exercise of his or her professional duties, be asked to undertake perfectly legal actions which are not reconcilable with his or her personal religious convictions. That this is not a far-fetched problem is illustrated by cases before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.3 It should be remembered that this very same problem was already raised by the Social Doctrine in 2000 (see Chapter 2, second section). The Human Rights Doctrine evaluates the soteriological signiﬁcance of human rights diﬀerently from the Social Doctrine. There, the Church actually called for “civil disobedience” should the state implement laws that go against the convictions of the Church. In the Human Rights Doctrine this claim is not repeated, instead we get a much reduced claim for “harmonization”: “The development and implementation of the human rights concept should be harmonized with the norms of morality, the ethical principles laid down by God in human nature and discernible in the voice of conscience” (III.3). The next section of Chapter III of the Doctrine, dedicated to “love for one’s homeland and neighbours” (III.4) shows marked traces of continuity between the Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council and the Doctrine. This section is clearly rooted in the nationalist discourse inside the Church inasmuch as it ﬁrst condemns “imperialism,” and second, praises patriotism. The ﬁrst point (“Some civilizations ought not to impose their own way of life on other civilizations under the pretext of human rights protection”) is a reference to what the World Russian People’s Council called “attempts to use [human rights] for … imposition of a particular sociopolitical system.” The second point, patriotism, is a reference to the nationalist anti-liberal and anti-communist discourse prevalent inside the Church: “The acknowledgment of individual rights should be balanced with … responsibility. The extremes of individualism and collectivism cannot promote a harmonious order in a society’s life” (III.4). What is noteworthy about this section—and what produces a clear contrast to the secular human rights
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
documents—is that the statement on “homeland” lacks any reference to the desired political system. The secular human rights treaties do also, as I have pointed out above, include a reference to the community as the frame in which human rights are enacted and acquire meaning, but in addition they state clearly that the political system envisioned in the treaties for making human rights operative is democracy (article 29 of the Universal Declaration: “in a democratic society”; Human Rights Convention: “necessary in a democratic society”; preamble of the European Charter: “based on the principles of democracy”). In the Human Rights Doctrine, on the contrary, the word democracy is not mentioned once. This is in keeping with the oﬃcial line of the Russian Orthodox Church, laid out in the Social Doctrine, not to express a preference for one political system over the other; however, it raises some serious issues with regard to human rights in the international system, not only in Russia. How are we to envision the implementation of human rights in non-democratic societies? The Russian Orthodox vision of human rights and society gives an indication of the problems that arise when the democratic horizon is omitted from the reasoning on human rights. The Church’s political vision (or the political vision of the nationalist camp inside the Church, which evidently stands behind section III.4) is revealed by the word “love.” The political theology of the Church sees the state as an extended family, to which the individual is bound through love. “The love of a person for his family and other loved ones cannot but spread to his people and the country in which he lives.” Such an understanding of political community has no place for the idea that a democratic polity is actually held together by procedures for the peaceful settlement of conﬂicts. It has no place for conﬂict at all, except for the existential conﬂict between good and evil. The Church’s position is reminiscent of Yannaras’ argument, quoted in the Introduction, that the Orthodox community does not need individual human rights, because it is about a “common exercise of truth.” Section III.4, therefore, reveals tensions and ambiguities in the Church’s vision of human rights that are rooted in the radicalized anti-human rights debate prior to 2008. The simple fact that the document can in some parts be interpreted in the key of Yannoulatos, and in others in the key of Yannaras, two Greek theologians who represent the opposite extremes of the Orthodox confrontation with human rights (accommodation vs. rejection), is indicative of the tensions that persisted inside the Church and in particular inside the group of drafters of the document. The very fact that the Human Rights Doctrine was written at all, then, can be seen as “middle way” of constructive confrontation among the opposing ideological camps inside the Church. Section III concludes with a reference to ecology: “The realization of human rights should not lead to the degradation of the environment and the depletion of natural resources” (III.5). My guess is that the drafters included this reference to the environment here in order to render the document open for another ecology debate inside the Orthodox Church, the agenda of the Patriarch of Constantinople mentioned in the Introduction.
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
Freedoms and rights Chapter IV of the Human Rights Doctrine interprets the main human rights principles in the light of Orthodox Christian teaching: right to life, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of creative work, right to education, and socio-economic rights. The chapter includes not an exhaustive list of international human rights principles (at the end I will point out which principles are missing), but it contains those rights and freedoms which the Church considers important “in the perspective of their possible role in creating favorable external conditions for the improvement of personality on its way to salvation” (IV.1). The Church looks at the right to life from the perspective of life as a gift of God to human beings (IV.2). Human beings do not have the right to take life nor to give up their own life. On these grounds the Church condemns murder, suicide, euthanasia, and abortion. The giving of one’s earthly life for Christ (martyrs) and for other people (soldiers defending their homeland) is praised as an exception. The authors of the document explain that life is not restricted to temporal life but acquires meaning in the perspective of eternal life, and priority should be given not to the eﬀorts to preserve temporal life by all means but to the desire to order it in such a way as to enable people to work together with God for preparing their souls for eternity. The Human Rights Doctrine does not reject the death penalty. Instead, the Church reserves for itself the right and duty of intercession and plea for mercy. This standpoint on death penalty creates a stark contrast to international human rights law, where the death penalty is rejected categorically— article 5 of the Universal Declaration; protocol 13 of the Human Rights Convention; article 2.2. of the Charter of the European Union—but it is congruent with the legal situation in the Russian Federation, where the death penalty is still legally codiﬁed, but has not been used due to a moratorium since 1996. Most commentators of the Human Rights Doctrine have criticized the Church’s standpoint on this question (e.g. Agadjanian 2008, 101). Freedom of conscience, thought and creed are basic rights which all secular human rights documents acknowledge unequivocally: article 18 of the Universal Declaration, article 9 of the Human Rights Convention, and article 10 of the Charter of the European Union. The Russian Orthodox Church also accepts, in principle, freedom of conscience, seeing it as in harmony with God’s will (IV.3). The right to freedom of creed is acknowledged as providing guarantees and protection for the Church itself: In a secular state, the freedom of conscience, proclaimed and conﬁrmed by law, enables the Church to preserve her identity and independence from people of other convictions and gives her legal ground both for the immunity of her internal life and public witness to the Truth.
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
At the same time, however, freedom of conscience is a problem for the Church, because it is an indicator that goals and values in secular society are no longer under the religious monopoly of the Church. The juridical principle of freedom of conscience “points to the fact that society has lost religious goals and values” (IV.3). The Church’s attitude vis-à-vis this right is therefore ambivalent: it welcomes the legally guaranteed freedom of conscience, but resents the pluralism of worldviews that is normal in modern societies. The authors of the document categorically reject the view that all creeds should be considered “equal”: “Some ideological interpretations of religious freedom insist on the need to recognize all the faiths as relative or ‘equally true.’ This is inacceptable for the Church. … ” The document also rejects the idea of state religious neutrality. I will quote this long paragraph in full, because it can be read as a justiﬁcation ex-post for the 1997 Russian law on freedom of conscience and religious association: A society has the right to determine freely the content and amount of cooperation the state should maintain with various religious communities depending on their strength, traditional presence in a particular country or region, contribution to the history and culture of the country and on their civil attitude. At the same time, there must be equality of citizens before the law regardless of their attitude to religion. The principle of freedom of conscience does not present an obstacle for partnership relations between the Church and the state in social, educational or any other socially signiﬁcant activities. (IV.3) The polemic against “some ideological interpretations of religious freedom” has to be read against the backdrop of the ongoing controversies over the Russian law on freedom of conscience, in particular with the United States Commission on Religious Freedom, which has criticized this law in every single annual report (USCIRF 2013). Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church have, with equal regularity, rejected the criticism as unfounded (Ryabykh 2010a). The rejection of state religious neutrality (but not the rejection of individual religious freedom) points to an area of international human rights legislation which is itself in ﬂux (see the fourth section of Chapter 1, in particular the discussion of Ferrari 2012). The international human rights treaties do not make any provision as to how a state should deal with religious pluralism. The limitation clauses in the Human Rights Convention, article 29 in the Universal Declaration, and exemplary case law before the European Court of Human Rights all suggest that states enjoy a wide margin of appreciation in their governance of religion.4 As a matter of fact, in Europe selective cooperation systems between the state and religious organizations are the norm, in contrast to the United States, where non-establishment is the rule (Madeley 2003a). The expression “ideological interpretations of religious freedom” in
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
the Doctrine can probably be read as a critical reference to the American model of non-establishment and state religious neutrality vis-à-vis all recognized cults (denominationalism). The fact that state cooperation is mentioned explicitly in the Human Rights Doctrine must also be read in the light of recent case law at the European Court of Human Rights regarding church– state relations, in particular Lautsi vs. Italy, which I will treat in the second section of Chapter 4. The Russian Orthodox Church rejects the idea that international human rights legislation could interfere with the Russian system of state–religious relations. The Human Rights Doctrine mentions as two separate areas of human rights freedom of expression (IV.4) and freedom of creative work (IV.5). The Doctrine is more explicit on these freedoms than the Universal Declaration and the Human Rights Convention, which treat freedom of expression and freedom of creative work as two sides of one and the same right (article 19 of the Universal Declaration, article 10 of the Human Rights Convention). Only the European Charter contains the two freedoms in an explicit manner: article 11 (freedom of expression and information) and article 13 (freedom of the arts and sciences). The Universal Declaration and the Human Rights Convention diﬀer from the European Charter also in terms of the possible limitations they pose on the exercise of these rights. The Universal Declaration limits the eﬀect of article 19 through the general limitation expressed in article 29; the Human Rights Convention through the limitation clause in article 10 (2), which reads: “The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to … restrictions … for the protection of … morals … or rights of others. … ” The European Charter, by contrast, does not contain any limitation clause. Freedom of expression and freedom of creative work are interpreted by the Human Rights Doctrine as manifestations of the freedom of choice granted to human beings by the divine Creator, but like the divine gift of human dignity, freedom of speech and of human creativity are subject to responsibility and limitations of moral conduct: “Public statements,” we read in section IV.4, “should not further the propagation of sin or generate strife and disorder in society. The word should create and support the good”; and IV.5 aﬃrms that creative work should “reveal the potential of the personality [and] not justify any nihilistic attitude to culture, religion and morality.” The underlying theme of the Church’s treatment of these two freedoms is the ﬁght against denigration of religious values, objects, and symbols. The Human Rights Doctrine is full of sentences that reject the idea that human rights could extend to the “freedom to oﬀend”: No reference whatsoever to the freedom of expression and creative work can justify the public deﬁlement of objects, symbols or notions cherished by believers. (III.2)
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
The freedom of conscience cannot be used … to insult religious feelings, to encroach on things he holds sacred, to damage his spiritual and cultural identity … (IV.3) It is especially dangerous to insult religious and national feelings, to distort information about the life of particular religious communities, nations, social groups and personalities. (IV.4) The right to self-expression for an individual or a group should not be implemented in forms insulting for the beliefs and ways of life of other members of society … (IV.5) Sacrilege towards holy things cannot be justiﬁed by references to the rights of an artist, writer or journalist. (IV.5) It is noteworthy that in these passages the logic of human rights as protective rights is turned around, and human rights are presented as a potentially antireligious and aggressive ideology. This reading of human rights does not correspond at all to the intention of the secular human rights treaties, which, as I have shown, even include a reﬂection on the necessity to reconcile individual rights and freedoms with the communal responsibilities and duties in a democratic society. The logic at play in the Russian Orthodox interpretation of the freedom of expression and freedom of art is an expression of the postSoviet culture of extremes, where confrontations between artistic provocations of religion and the ultra-Orthodox and nationalist condemnation of everything secular and foreign are frequent. The backdrop to these sentences are the events surrounding the art exhibitions in the Sakharov Center (see Chapter 1, third section), and the “Pussy Riot” case cited in the Introduction also falls in the same category. The Church feels threatened by ideas which it interprets as reminiscent of Soviet “militant atheism,” seeing itself in the role of victim, and artists claim that they need to be provocative in order to expose political suppression and ideological clericalization in Russia. The front lines in this confrontation have not changed since the 1990s, notwithstanding the process of repositioning of the Russian Orthodox Church in the human rights debate from a radical rejection to a more dialogical attitude. The attitude shift I have described in the previous chapter has not had any mitigating inﬂuence on the relationship between the Church and Russian human rights activists or the secular left; on the contrary, the Church’s conservative interpretation of human rights has brought it closer to the authoritarian government and has alienated it even further from liberal and secular civil society. In Chapter 4 I will give further evidence for this assessment,
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
showing that the ecclesiastical debate has actually been translated into restrictive legislation. Education is also a human right (article 26 of the Universal Declaration, article 14 of the European Charter). The Human Rights Convention (article 2 of the additional protocol) and the European Charter (article 14.3) mention the explicit right of parents to educate their children according to their own religious convictions and worldview. The Russian Orthodox Church also makes the right to education a separate point in the Doctrine. Section IV.6 on the right to education is based on two assumptions: the ﬁrst is that religious education should further the goal of incorporating a person in the life of society (“Education is a means of not only learning or incorporating a person in the life of society, but also forming his personality in accordance with the design of the Creator.”); and the second is that education in religion and education about national culture are somehow the same thing (“the comprehensive education and formation of a person should include the teaching of knowledge about the religion that has created the culture in which this person lives”). The ﬁrst assumption is problematic because it aligns religious education with the goal of forming proper citizens. The history of Christianity shows, however, that the role of believers has frequently been that of critics of a given order, and that many believers have not sought “incorporation” in the life of society, but have actually exited society, becoming hermits or monks. The Russian Orthodox tradition knows the ﬁgure of the “holy fool,” the most radical strategy to exit society. Religion, therefore, has as much a subversive as a supportive function in society, and the ﬁrst dimension is ignored completely in the Church’s statement on religious education. The second assumption, on the identity of religion and culture, is equally problematic, and has to be interpreted against the backdrop of debates about religious education in Russian schools. At the time of the drafting of the Human Rights Doctrine, the Russian Orthodox Church was lobbying intensively for the introduction of the subject “Fundamentals of Orthodox culture” in the school curriculum. The Church’s eﬀorts in this area ultimately proved successful when in 2010, two years after the publication of the Human Rights Doctrine, the subject was ﬁnally introduced as one option in a compulsory course entitled “Fundamentals of religious cultures and secular ethics” in all Russian state schools. This course oﬀers students the option to choose between diﬀerent subjects, including Orthodox culture, Islam, Buddhism, world religions, and secular ethics. Joachim Willems, who has studied the textbooks of the diﬀerent optional courses in depth, reports that, for the most part, these courses provide religious catechesis, but they also propagate a problematic religiously-loaded cult of the nation (the teaching material for secular ethics does the same, only through a highly militarized patriotic language). The textbook on the Russian Orthodox Church, written by Deacon Andrej Kuraev, in fact represents a laudable exception, according to Willems, because it resists, in some sections, political instrumentalization (Willems 2006, 2008, 2010).
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
Religious education was a priority for the Church during the time period under discussion, and this explains why the Doctrine includes the right to education. It is noteworthy that section IV.6 again “turns around” the logic of human rights, now looking at them as protective rights for the Church and not, as in the previous sections, as potentially enabling rights that have to be restricted. In section IV.7 of the Human Rights Doctrine, dedicated to civil and political rights, the drafters of the document have brought together two areas of human rights law which are generally treated separately in human rights documents: the right to political participation (article 21 in the Universal Declaration, article 12 in the European Charter) and the right to the protection of the private sphere (article 12 in the Universal Declaration, article 7 in the European Charter, article 8 of the Human Rights Convention). The Human Rights Doctrine connects the right to political participation with the usual reminder that this individual right should be exercised responsibly, and it then makes an unexpected twist in the argument, shifting to the right to the protection of the private sphere: “People’s private life, worldview and will should not become a subject of total control. Any manipulation over people’s choices and their conscience by power structures, political forces and economic and media elites is dangerous for a society” (IV.7). I ﬁnd the connection between political participation and protection of the private sphere in the document quite intriguing, and interpret it as a remnant of the Church’s own past experience of totalitarian control. The connection of the two rights conveys a very modern understanding of the risks that exist inside democracies when an electorate becomes manipulated through media control. With this reminder of inner freedom and arbitration, section IV.7 conveys a sense of civil liberty and responsibility of the Church, paired, of course, with the habitual call to responsibility, the common good and cooperation with the state, which deﬁes the sense of theological subservience to state ideology present in the preceding section. Section IV.8 on socio-economic rights is uncontroversial, with a call to solidarity and social justice. The rights mentioned in this section are the right to property, the right to employment, the right to protection against an employer’s arbitrary treatment, the freedom of enterprise and the right to digniﬁed living standards. These are references to social and economic rights enlisted in the secular human rights documents (articles 22–25 of the Universal Declaration, protocol 1 of the Human Rights Convention, and articles 15–17 and 30–35 of the European Charter) and to the United Nations covenants on civil and political and socio-economic rights. This section concludes the Human Rights Doctrine’s step-by-step discussion of secular human rights provisions. The authors of the document have included one more topic in their discussion, however, a topic that is not mentioned in any of the international human rights documents: collective rights. The term collective or group rights is discussed in the literature on human rights and multiculturalism as legal
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
measure to empower minorities and disadvantaged groups. The drafters of the Doctrine, however, use the term in a diﬀerent sense: for them collective rights are chieﬂy opposed to individual rights (Kyrlezhev 2007). Section IV.9 is about family rights and expresses the Church’s resistance to the empowerment of individuals inside the family through human rights: “The rights of an individual should not be destructive for the unique way of life and traditions of the family. … ” (IV.9). The term “collective rights” in the Doctrine is therefore not about rights for groups but about the limits of individual rights. The reason why the concept is discussed here at all, in a sense that is alien from its original meaning in the human rights literature (the family is not discussed as a “group” in the literature on collective rights), was likely the need to address one more point which the drafters of the document considered essential, namely the traditional family model. The document states that “Modern law should view the family as the lawful union of man and woman in which natural conditions for raising children are created.” This provision is of course a reference to controversies over homosexuality, which had become a major concern for the Church during the previous decades (see Chapter 1, third section). LGBT rights and artistic provocation of religions, it should be remembered, were the two major battle-themes in the Russian Orthodox human rights debate. In the Doctrine, we ﬁnd that the two questions are not treated equally. Whereas blasphemy is discussed and judged as inadmissible in almost every chapter of the Doctrine, liberal family values are criticized only in the last paragraph of Chapter IV under the innocent subheading “collective rights.” I think this relative diﬀerence of weight in the treatment of the two controversial topics can be explained by looking at the structure of Chapter IV. Chapter IV provides a step-by-step discussion of existing human rights principles and my guess is that the drafters found it diﬃcult in this context to incorporate the Church’s view on human rights and the family. In the international human rights debate the extension of individual rights into family law is a more recent development, derivative of but not directly implied in the international treaties. In this sense LGBT rights diﬀer from the rights of freedom of expression and art, whose implications for religion can be discussed directly. The mention of collective rights at the end of Chapter IV is one more argumentative strategy with which the Russian Orthodox Church wants to set a limit to human rights. Which rights and freedoms are missing? After this evaluation of which international human rights principles are actually incorporated or dealt with in the Russian Orthodox Human Rights Doctrine, it is necessary to draw attention to the striking absence of juridical rights. The Doctrine does not mention the right to fair trial and equal access to law. These rights occupy a major position in the international human rights treaties: articles 6–11 of the Universal Declaration, articles 6 and 7 of the Human Rights Convention, articles 47–50 of the European Charter. The
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
absence of any mention of the right to fair trial in the Doctrine is signiﬁcant, not least because the Russian legal system is notorious for failing to respect this right. Numerous cases regarding articles 6 and 7 have come before the Strasbourg Court (ECHR 2013b). The absence of juridical rights in the Human Rights Doctrine shows once more that the Church interprets human rights in a way that diﬀers fundamentally from secular human rights instruments: it looks at human rights as a set of rules that frame the individual’s relationship with the community and with itself (its moral and inner conduct), and not, as is the case of the secular human rights instruments, as a set of regulations and protections that regulate the interaction of institutions of power with individuals. The Doctrine rewrites human rights principles in order to make them ﬁt into its frame of reference of responsibility, morality and individual duties related to Godgiven dignity, but it largely ignores the function of human rights as protective rights. This particular perspective renders juridical rights superﬂuous in the context of the Human Rights Doctrine. In section V.1 entitled “Principles and areas of the Russian Orthodox Church’s human rights work” we read: From old times till today the Orthodox Church has been engaged in intercession to the authorities for those who are unjustly convicted, humiliated or exploited. The Church extends her merciful intercession also to those who are justly punished for their crimes. The basic equation between unjustly and justly convicted individuals in these two sentences shows clearly that the Church thinks about its own human rights advocacy not in terms of defense of the individual against arbitrary interference by the state, but in terms of a religious intervention in view of a bettering of the (per deﬁnition) sinful individual. There is also a second aspect to this lack of juridical rights, a political one: smooth cooperation with the state and state organs is a priority for the Russian Orthodox Church. The non-mentioning of juridical rights is indicative of the fact that the Moscow Patriarchate wants to avoid confrontation with state institutions, be it the government or the judiciary. In Chapter V of the Doctrine, the Church states that one element of its human rights eﬀorts is “participating in the public control over the law enforcement, especially regulating church-state relations, and over the execution of fair court judgments.” This sentence is the nearest the Doctrine comes to mentioning juridical rights, and it is noteworthy that it puts special emphasis on the rights of the Church (church–state relations) rather than on individuals. Therefore the Church does not position itself unconditionally on the side of individuals implicated in a struggle for rights vis-à-vis the state. The preferred mode of interaction is “intercession” and “appeal,” also when it comes to defending the rights of believers: “In the years of the godless persecution,” the Doctrine reads, “Orthodox bishops, clergy and laity appealed to the authorities and society seeking to defend the freedom of religious confession and advocating
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
the rights of religious communities to broad participation in the life of the people” (V.1). This sentence is in glaring contrast with the ﬁndings from the history of the Russian Orthodox Church during the Cold War in Chapter 1, section 2. During the communist period, the Russian Orthodox Church precisely did not defend freedom of religion as a human right, nor did it take the side of those who rallied for the cause of religious freedom on human rights grounds. The Church might have “appealed” to the government, but this choice of terminology is clearly indicative of the fact that the Church understood and continues to understand itself today as a mediator between individual citizens and the state, rather than as a defender of the rights of individuals against arbitrary state interference. To “appeal” to a government is not the same thing as to claim a right. In short, the absence of juridical rights in the Human Rights Doctrine shows that the entire endeavor of the Russian Orthodox human rights debate was not so much about human rights advocacy, but about a human rights strategy, about ways to deal with the rival meaning-giving system of human rights in defense of Orthodox religion. I will exemplify this in Chapter 4 and attempt a full evaluation in Chapter 5.
Tensions and ambiguities In this and in the previous chapter, I have tried to provide evidence for an evolution in the Church’s human rights debate. While the Social Doctrine still treated human rights “as manifestations of man’s fallen nature, signs of cultural anarchy, an absence of proper moral order and degradation of the system of spiritual values” (Martin 2005, 835; see also Naletova 2001), and while the Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council saw in human rights the grounds for a clash of civilizations, the Human Rights Doctrine and the oﬃcial statements surrounding its publication ﬁnally expressed a more moderate and conciliatory attitude. When the Human Rights Doctrine was approved and published by the Bishop’s Council on 26 June 2008, the oﬃcial self-positioning was no longer that of a ﬁght against atheism and anarchy, nor a clash of civilizations, but that of a “suggestion.” The following quote from the Doctrine is indicative of this self-positioning: There are various traditions of interpretation of rights and freedoms and national peculiarities in implementing them. … There is no commonly accepted classiﬁcation of rights and freedoms. … The Church, by virtue of her basic calling, suggests (Russian: predlagaet) considering rights and freedoms in the perspective of their possible role in creating favourable external conditions for the improvement of personality on its way to salvation. (IV.1) There is ample evidence that the drafters of the document themselves were aware of this shift and that they really looked back on the human rights
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
debate as a learning process. I take the liberty here to quote for a second time the passage from Kirill’s speech at the presentation of the Doctrine before the Bishops’ Council that in Chapter 2’s opening section served to explain the institutional set-up of the human rights debate; in the context of this chapter it helps to explain why I interpret the Church’s human rights debate as a learning process: From summer 2006 to June 2008 we held 15 meetings, including meetings of sub-groups that contributed to the elaboration of the various chapters of the document. During the drafting of the document, there were also numerous consultations with lay experts, philosophers and lawyers in order to discuss current scholarly approaches to human rights. In addition, very serious research and paper work was conducted in the time between the single meetings. Many ideas that were formulated in the framework of the working group were presented and discussed at international conferences, round tables, in interviews and in lectures. More than once they were the subject of personal and oﬃcial talks with representatives of other Christian denominations and traditional religions, as well as with representatives of government and civil society. (ROC 2008a) One member of the working group described his experience in the following way (the quoted document is probably the transcript of a speech; I have not corrected the irregular grammatical sentence structure): What we discovered, when we started working on this document, well I say we because I was a part of the process of preparation of this document and I could witness about the process how we discovered the theological or religious dimension in the issue of human rights. … we also came out of a commonly spread prejudice that, well, human rights, that concept of human rights is completely secular idea and it may seem a bit artiﬁcial to try to explain it in religious terms. But when we started discussing it … we discovered quite suddenly that indeed this concept has serious religious rooting. … In our document therefore we tried to reinterpret, to reconsider the concept of human rights from the point of view of theology, from the point of view of religious experience and I think we succeeded. (Hovorun 2011) Igumen Filaret (Bulekov), at that time representative of the Moscow Patriarchate in Strasbourg, said that the document aimed to destroy at least two commonly held stereotypes against Russian Orthodoxy: that the Orthodox Church had no relationship to the topic of human rights, and that the Church was against human rights (REOR 2008). It is important to recognize that the stereotypes which Filaret (Bulekov) is alluding to in his article not only existed
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
outside the Russian Orthodox Church, but also inside. The Human Rights Doctrine was as much a document for internal as for external clariﬁcation. At the same time however, tensions and ambiguities persist in the Patriarchate’s human rights discourse. Although the oﬃcial position, as demonstrated above, follows the conciliatory tendency of Kirill and his collaborators, contradictions inside the Church remain clearly visible. One example of such a contradiction is the pastoral letter of the Bishops’ Council of June 2008, which contains a net condemnation of the human rights concept, even though the very same Council had just adopted the Human Rights Doctrine: The idea of human rights has become one of the key concepts in politics and jurisprudence of states. This idea is often used to justify sin and to reduce the role of religion in society and to deprive people of the possibility of living their faith. (Osvyashchennyi Arkhiereiskii Sobor 2008) The rhetoric of this phrase is nothing short of astonishing if we compare it with the softer tones of Kirill at the same meeting. The pastoral letter describes human rights and religion as opposing and mutually exclusive ideas. In this extract, there is not a trace of Kirill’s sophisticated argument on article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nor of the postsecular debate to which the Doctrine alludes in its conclusion. The discrepancy between the two documents conveys a strong sense of tension and ambiguity in the ROC’s engagement with the issue of human rights. The strategy of the Patriarchate with the publication of the Human Rights Doctrine also stood in clear contradiction to the position of conservative hardliners in the ROC, who during the Bishops’ Council “picketed the entrance of the Church of Christ the Saviour, demonstrating against ‘the heretics of the Synod,’ mobile phones, Identiﬁcation Card Numbers and other ‘devilries’” (Moshkin 2008). The tension in the Russian Orthodox human rights discourse, which manifested itself in apparent contradictions between, on the one hand, openness for dialogue with secular human rights ideas and, on the other hand, frequent unambiguous condemnations of secular values, was particularly visible in the communications between the Moscow Patriarchate and Russian civil society. In 2005, Protoierei Vsevolod (Chaplin) (at that time vice-chairman of the Department for External Church Relations) announced that the Russian Orthodox Church was working on a document which would identify values that “stand above human rights: the values of the Fatherland and of the nation” (Chaplin 2005). An active promoter of the Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council, Chaplin was a member of the human rights working group and made repeated public statements on human rights. In a long essay published in 2007, which is published in the section of “Analytical material” on the website of Interfaks-Religiya and which I therefore interpret as a document related to his activity in the Patriarchate’s human rights working group, Chaplin tells the evolution of the Human Rights
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
Doctrine somewhat diﬀerently from Kirill (Chaplin 2007). Whereas Kirill and other collaborators in the Department for External Church Relations have stressed that the Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council in 2006 represented the starting point for the work on the drafting of the Human Rights Doctrine, Chaplin identiﬁes the 2004 round table organized by Radonezh (see Chapter 2, ﬁrst section) as the starting point of the debate, a debate in the course of which the World Russian People’s Council produced its Human Rights Declaration and, 2 years later, the Patriarchate produced the Human Rights Doctrine. Put in this way (“in the process of working out this document [the Human Rights Doctrine] also another document was born, representing some ideas developed inside the World Russian People’s Council” (Chaplin 2007)), the two documents manifest not so much two stages, but two ideological poles in the Church’s human rights debate, the 2006 Declaration representing the nationalist and anti-Western camp, the 2008 Doctrine the more moderate camp. In the same article, Chaplin polemicizes against “that part of the human rights activists, who see their mission in instilling in Russia radical paciﬁsm, secular humanism, the denial of spiritual autonomy and a mechanical takeover of the Western political culture” and denounces them as foreign agents who depend on grants from the West (Chaplin 2007). It should be noted that this statement comes from the designated head of the Patriarchate’s department for relations with civil society. Chaplin’s position does not seem to undergo any signiﬁcant changes in the period under discussion, and the fact that he moved from the Patriarchate’s external relations department to internal relations after 2008 suggests that the Patriarchate is seeking to show a conciliatory proﬁle to the outside and a more conservative and aggressive stance to the inside. This is in keeping with my observation in the second section of Chapter 1 that the Patriarchate actually pursues multiple ideological strategies in the diﬀerent arenas of its activity. It is important to be aware of these tensions and ambiguities in the Church’s human rights discourse in order to evaluate correctly the various reactions which this discourse evoked and the impact it had. This is my next topic, and I turn to it in the following chapter.
Notes 1 Quotations from the Human Rights Doctrine are taken from the oﬃcial English language version, published on the website of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. The quotations are identiﬁed by the numbers in brackets, the ﬁrst number refers to the chapter and the second number to the sub-section of the Doctrine. 2 I am grateful to Alfons Brüning who ﬁrst made me realize this point, and to Vadim Zhdanov who encouraged me to follow it up. 3 The case of Eweida and Others vs. the United Kingdom involved diﬀerent claims regarding religious convictions in the workplace. The case which is most exemplary here is that of Ladele, a state registrar for marriages in the UK. On grounds of her Christian beliefs, she refused to conduct civil partnerships between homosexual
The ROC’s basic teaching on human rights
couples (legal in the UK since 2005) and faced disciplinary proceedings, culminating in the loss of her job. Ms. Ladele brought the case to the ECHR and claimed a violation of article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion). The Court dismissed the claim (ECHR 2013a). The Russian Orthodox Churches followed this case attentively, as several reports on the website of the representation in Strasbourg document (REOR 2013a, 2013b, 2013c). See also Chapter 4, section 2. 4 It is noteworthy that a similar clause is missing in the Charter of the European Union. The European Union recognizes the right of member states to deﬁne their own church–state relations in article 17 of the Lisbon treaty. This article, however, has recently come under pressure from the perspective of European nondiscrimination legislation (Ventura 2001; Annicchino 2013).
The domestic and international human rights agenda of the Russian Orthodox Church
In March 2013, the New York Times reported that the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women had failed to agree on a ﬁnal communiqué because “the Vatican, Iran and Russia” had refused the draft of the joint statement which contained a phrase where “religion, custom and tradition” were called “familiar excuses” for violence against women. The New York Times wrote: “The eﬀorts by the Vatican and Iran to control women are well known. It is not clear what motivates Russia … ” (New York Times 2013). This chapter will try to give an answer to the question of what motivates the hard line of the Russian government on issues of gender and morality. I will argue that it is the Russian Orthodox Church that is the driving force behind the moral agenda of the Russian government, both in the domestic as well as in the international arena, and I will provide a number of examples to substantiate this claim. The political human rights agenda of the Moscow Patriarchate is expressed by what Agadjanian has called the “inward” and “outward” orientation of the Human Rights Doctrine. The “inward orientation” entails providing a clear guideline to church members on how to deal with human rights issues and how to use this legal instrument for the purpose of protecting the rights of the Church and its members (Agadjanian 2008, 15). As a part of this “inward orientation” the Church avails itself of the human right of religious freedom in order to raise claims within the Russian system concerning church–state relations. In its “outward orientation,” in contrast, the document addresses the human rights discourse more generally and makes a distinctively Orthodox contribution to a national and international debate about human rights. The issues at stake here are not so much religious freedom, but other questions of social welfare and family politics. In this context, Russian Orthodoxy presents itself as majority voice that seeks to remind the Russian society, the Russian state (and the international community, for that matter) that the Russian Orthodox Church has been a “formative factor” for the Russian cultural ethos, and therefore Christian anthropology, Christian vision of dignity and freedom, Christian
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda version of rights, must deﬁne—at least in a certain degree—the public discourse of values and morality. (Agadjanian 2008, 18)
This outward agenda eﬀectively means that the Church “lobbies” (to use a modern term) in the arena of domestic and international politics in order to have its position heard by law- and decision-makers. This role as a lobbyist is also directly invoked in the Human Rights Doctrine, which enlists among the areas of ecclesiastical human rights activism the “expertise of legal acts, legislative initiatives and actions by the authorities in order to prevent encroachment on human rights and dignity and aggravation of social morals” (V.2). What I aim to show in this chapter is that the relative range of positions manifested in the Orthodox human rights debate in the period from 2000 to 2008 has been narrowed down in the course of the political process. In contrast to the signs of a general opening up of the debate in the years before 2008, and in contrast to the ambivalence of the Human Rights Doctrine itself, what we can observe since is a new ideological closure. This ideological closure works in two directions: in the domestic and in the international arena. The domestic face of the Church’s human rights debate, represented by the Patriarchate’s Department for Church–Society Relations and the World Russian People’s Council, is turned towards the “patriotic” Russian public; it is hostile to secular and liberal civil society, and deeply at odds with international human rights standards. The external face of the Church’s human rights agenda, represented by the Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations and its representations in Brussels and in Strasbourg, is turned to the outside world of international organizations and Western religious dialogue partners. In this chapter, I look at these two diﬀerent faces of one and the same church debate separately. First, I examine civil society reactions to the Church’s human rights debate and diﬀerent recent legislative processes that are indicative of the Church’s inﬂuential role in issues such as LGBT rights, freedom of expression, and education. I dedicate one sub-section to the trial of the punk group Pussy Riot, which, at the time I began writing this book, was the single most important event for any discussion of the relationship between the Church, the Russian state and human rights in contemporary Russia. In the second part, I look at the international human rights agenda of the Russian Orthodox Church, focusing on reactions by other European churches and on the debate on traditional values at the United Nations. I also once more consider cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights and describe the position and activities of the Moscow Patriarchate in its regard.
The Church and human rights in Russian society and politics In what ways has the Russian Orthodox Church actively engaged in human rights issues inside Russia on the basis of the rights agenda described in this
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
book? In this section, I try to answer this question, examining debates, legislative proposals and controversies on issues related to human rights that involve church argumentation. Most of these examples are extremely recent or are unfolding at the time of writing, and there is a certain scholarly diﬃculty in oﬀering conclusive interpretations of material which is evolving as one is observing it. My aim here is therefore modest: to describe the facts and open diﬀerent perspectives for interpretation. Civil society reactions to the Human Rights Doctrine The human rights debate inside the Russian Orthodox Church sparked a discussion among human rights activists in Russia, ﬁrst in 2006, when the World Russian People’s Council published the Human Rights Declaration, and then again in 2008, when the Human Rights Doctrine was ﬁnally passed by the Bishops’ Council of the Moscow Patriarchate. This discussion was not as vivid or vocal as one might have expected; a large part of Russia’s human rights community apparently decided to ignore the debate.1 Some representatives of civil society expressed moderately critical judgments on the human rights agenda of the Russian Orthodox Church (e.g. Kurennoi 2006; Gefter 2008); others considered it an outright attack (e.g. Jegorow 2008; Klin 2008; Minin 2008; SOVA 2008). The ousted liberal wing of Russian Orthodoxy had only critical comments for the Church’s human rights debate, seeing in it further evidence that the Moscow Patriarchate was linking up with the Russian state (Musin 2006; Krotov 2008). There were also, however, conservative and nationalist religious intellectuals who welcomed the debate (Nikiforov 2004; Solzhenitsyn, in Interfax Religion 2006; Maler-Mat’yazova 2007). The critical reactions followed two patterns: commentators either scrutinized the church documents themselves and criticized what they found to be a wrong understanding of human rights (e.g. Lev Ponomarev, in Moscow Helsinki Group 2006); or they focused on the fact that the Church engaged in the human rights debate at all and considered this a positive development (e.g. Vladimir Lukin, in Moscow Helsinki Group 2006). Generally there appeared to be a lot of uncertainty as to the purpose of the Patriarchate’s human rights engagement. “It is hard to say,” one observer writes, whether the new willingness of the Russian Orthodox Church to defend human rights is based on an inner readiness of the church to discuss these topics, or whether the Moscow Patriarchate simply seeks to expand its inﬂuence in Russian society and in Europe. (Krug 2006) A similar assessment is given by Sergej Buntman, a columnist of Radio Echo Moskvy, who expressed the fear that “this Orthodox concept of human rights” could be just another example of conceptual hijacking of liberal
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
political vocabulary with thoroughly illiberal intentions, comparable to the terms “sovereign democracy” or “socialist rule of law” (Buntman 2008). Some journalists also pointed to the internal function of the human rights debate and called it a “course correction” of the Patriarchate with respect to the fundamentalists inside the Church. In fact, the most reported upon event at the Bishops’ Council in June 2008 was not the publication of the Church’s teaching on human liberty, dignity and rights, but the expulsion of Bishop Diomede of Chukotka, an Orthodox fundamentalist hardliner who had spoken out against “the heresy of ecumenism,” and against identity cards and tax identiﬁcation numbers (Moshkin 2008; Yakovleva 2008). Among the Russian human rights activists, Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the SOVA Center and author of several books and articles about the Russian Orthodox Church and religious nationalism, has provided the most extensive treatment of the Patriarchate’s Human Rights Doctrine. He has observed the debate from the beginning, reported on several of the intermediary steps, and documented the ensuing discussion on the website of SOVA. Verkhovsky is clearly aware of the diﬀerent ideological factions inside the Russian Orthodox Church and he is therefore not at all surprised by the contradictions in the Doctrine. He sees in its ambivalence and internal contradictions the main reason why the document did not have the impact the Church might have wished for. Verkhovsky also suggests that the driving force behind the Human Rights Doctrine is the Church’s desire for power. “The Russian Orthodox Church, like any serious organization,” he writes, “seeks to increase its inﬂuence” (Verkhovsky 2012b). In another article Verkhovsky analyzes what he calls “the Kirill Doctrine,” the Moscow Patriarchate’s ideological agenda. At the center of this agenda, he writes, lie civilizational nationalism and political authoritarianism; with this ideological mixture the Church seeks to cater to public opinion far beyond church circles. But the ideological–political nature of the “Kirill Doctrine” may have a detrimental eﬀect inside the Church and alienate those believers who resent the Church’s political role (Verkhovsky 2012a). Verkhovsky’s analysis is representative of how informed liberal and secular Russian civil society looks at the Church. His essay conveys a certain degree of bewilderment at the frankness with which the Church defends its authoritarian political choices and also a sense of disillusionment that the pluralism of ideas inside the Church (of which these observers are clearly aware) regularly fails to translate into a more open stance of the Patriarchate. It is hard not to agree with Verkhovsky, particularly in the light of the close church–state relations we are witnessing during Putin’s third presidency. It is also hard not to agree with Verkhovsky when we take into account the Church’s “eﬀorts” to actually reach out to the Russian human rights scene in the course of its debate on the subject. The Church’s leadership itself has always taken a confrontational line vis-à-vis the liberal and secular part of civil society. Representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate on several occasions expressed willingness to discuss their human rights concept with secular
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
human rights activists, but at the same time they repeatedly accused Russian human rights activists of being “foreign agents” inﬂuenced by the West through foreign ﬁnancial support. In this way the clerics contrasted the “Russian” identity (samobytnost’) of the ecclesiastical human rights debate with the “foreign” nature of the secular human rights debate (Kirill 2004; Chaplin 2007). I actually think that the Moscow Patriarchate, despite lip service to the contrary, did not really consider its human rights debate as an opportunity to enter into dialogue with Russia’s human rights activists. From the start, it designed its human rights agenda as an “alternative” human rights discourse, in competition with secular liberal human rights activists, not in dialogue. It is noteworthy in this regard that the Church does not seem to have engaged much with any of the institutions created for a dialogue on human rights between civil society and the Russian government, neither with the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights (Sovet po razvitiyu grazhdanskogo obshchestva i pravam cheloveka) nor in the Civic Assembly (Obshchestvennaya Palata). In 2012–13, the Russian Orthodox Church was represented in these institutions by Vladimir Legojda, head of the press department of the Moscow Patriarchate and member of the working group that drafted the Human Rights Doctrine, with no evidence that his presence had had a major impact in the two institutions.2 Apparently the Church prefers diﬀerent channels for pushing its human rights agenda in the domestic sphere: while keeping its distance from liberal and secular civil society, the Patriarchate engaged in an active dialogue with the nationalist and religious–conservative part of civil society. Several representatives of “patriotic” organizations took part in events related to the elaboration of the Human Rights Doctrine; for example the 2004 round table of Radio Radonezh (see Chapter 1, second section). Further evidence of the unwillingness of the church leadership to seriously engage with secular and liberal activists over questions of human rights was the fact that Patriarch Kirill designated as head of the Synodal Department for Church–Society Relations (Otdel Moskovskogo Patriarkhata po vsaimootnosheniyam tserkvi i obshchestva) Protoiereii Vsevolod Chaplin, a controversial hardliner and deﬁnitely not a man of dialogue (e.g. Shvedovskii 2012). Considering Chaplin’s statements alone, one would get the impression that all there has ever been in terms of a Russian Orthodox human rights debate is the anti-Western and Russian nationalist rhetoric of the Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council. Formerly vice-speaker of the Department for External Church Relations, Chaplin was promoted to domestic aﬀairs in 2009. This change in function for Chaplin is in line with the observation I made earlier regarding the Patriarchate’s double strategy of communication: a conservative, diplomatically and moderately attuned traditional-morality-and-human-rights agenda in the international sphere, and a polemical confrontation with secular human rights activists and liberal Russian civil society in the domestic sphere. This polemical confrontation with liberal Russian society and the backing-up of Russian
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
Orthodox nationalism is the domain of Chaplin, who describes himself as a “conservative coming initially from the liberal environment” (Interfax 2013). From the beginning of the debate, Chaplin has emphasized that the aim of the Church’s human rights debate was to aﬃrm “that some rights are higher than human rights, like the rights of the Fatherland, of the nation, security” (Chaplin 2005, 2004). The goal of these and other statements was clearly to antagonize liberal human rights activists (cf. Radzievskij 2005). On the occasion of the publication of the Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council, for example, Chaplin declared “What we do not want to see in the future are attempts to aﬃrm some radical-liberal view on human rights as the sole possible option which has no alternatives and cannot be disputed” (Chaplin 2006). On the eve of the publication of the Human Rights Doctrine of the Bishops’ Council in 2008, Chaplin organized a round table on the theme of homosexuality to which he invited Paul Cameron, an American anti-gay activist. Cameron, who claims to have scientiﬁcally proven the harmfulness of homosexuality to society, has been expelled from the American Sociological Association for not respecting research standards. His dubious professional career and credentials were obviously not critically discussed in the press releases about the round table in Moscow, which instead simply reported his controversial statements and Chaplin’s approving reaction. Chaplin’s statement at that round table is noteworthy for a number of reasons. First for the way in which he talked about that part of civil society which defends LGBT rights—he calls them “our opponents”—and second for the way in which he equated homosexuality with prostitution and drug abuse: “Our opponents sustain the illusion of the happy and free life of homosexuals, prostitutes and drug addicts” (Blagovest-Info 2008). Third, for the way in which he positioned the Church’s Human Rights Doctrine in the context of this debate: Now are the last days to reﬁne the document on the position of the Russian Orthodox Church on human rights, we will try to answer the question if right are those who say that a person is originally good and if he is entirely liberated, the society itself will come to a normal life. (Interfax Religion 2008c) —or, we read between the lines, if only the morally well-behaved person can actually be said to be good. With this statement, Chaplin returned full-circle to the Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council and its controversial statement that human dignity is conditional on moral behavior (see Chapter 2, third section); and this only a few days prior to the publication of the oﬃcial Church document which expressly corrected this view. The World Russian People’s Council remains a constant in the domestic human rights strategy of the Patriarchate, and, judging from Chaplin’s statements, it really seems as if one part of the Church’s human rights debate has not gone beyond the Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
from 2006. During the period under discussion in this book, the Council ﬂourished as an institution, held regular meetings, expanded its activities, and renewed its external communications. Its nationalist agenda has remained unvaried since its foundation in 1993. Even Dunlop’s characterization of the Council as an “empire-saving” institution (Dunlop 1995) has turned out to be prophetic in the light of certain developments in recent years which point in the direction of the re-establishment of certain features of the Soviet Union. The World Russian People’s Council also created its own “Human Rights Centre” (Pravozashchitnyi Tsentr Vsemirnogo Russkogo Narodnogo Sobora) in 2006. The self-described aim of this center is “the defence of the religious feelings of believers,” of the “rights of the nation and ethnic groups for their religion, language and culture,” and of the rights of children, soldiers and prisoners (PRAVOVRNS 2013a). How this agenda translates into concrete political action will be exempliﬁed in the following section; what is important to note at this point is that the World Russian People’s Council is a strange hybrid in Russian civil society, in that it is a non-governmental and nonecclesiastical organization with organic ties to both centers of power, the Kremlin and the Patriarchate. Suﬃce to say that, at a press conference in January 2013, the person chosen to present the Council’s agenda for the coming year was again Chaplin, side by side with the director of the Council’s Human Rights Center, Roman Silant’ev. This only emphasizes once more that the World Russian People’s Council, its Human Rights Center and the Synodal Department for Church–State Relations are working hand in hand, guided by one and the same “patriotic” agenda. The Church, human rights and national legislation How much inﬂuence does the Patriarchate have on Russian legislation and politics? Papkova, writing before 2008, suggests that the Patriarchate is less powerful in political terms than it may seem: Considering the high proﬁle of the ROC in post-Soviet Russian society, and the lip service paid to the church by much of Russia’s political establishment as the source of Russian culture and statehood, the Patriarchate’s diﬃculty in inﬂuencing federal policy … is striking. This result also stands in contrast to the widespread images of the ROC as successfully pursuing the clericalization of Russian life—a concern highlighted particularly by Russian human rights activists and American policy makers. (Papkova 2011, 73–74) This assessment, I think, has to be revised in the light of the developments since 2008. The main cases on which Papkova bases her conclusion—the Church’s lobbying for a school subject dedicated to Orthodox culture and for military chaplaincy, both undecided as of 2008—have since been concluded in favor of the Church. In addition, several other legislative proposals, some of
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
which I analyze more in detail below, have been brought forward which testify to the inﬂuence of the Church. It is not easy to advance one straightforward explanation as to why the Patriarchate’s inﬂuence on domestic politics appears to have dramatically increased after 2008, but I have some hypotheses: the ﬁrst is that the Church’s lobbying for certain legislative ideas and proposals simply took a long time to go through, in other words, from 2009 onwards the Church has been reaping the fruits of several years of eﬀorts to shape the rights discourse inside Russia. The second hypothesis is that after 2009 the Church’s human rights discourse shifts from being prevalently about church–state relations and religious freedom to topics of social morality, family, and values. This focus is welcomed and actively endorsed by the increasingly autocratic Russian political leadership. The third hypothesis is that many of the ideas promoted by the Church actually enjoyed wide support among the population. I will now consider some concrete examples before coming back to these three hypotheses. The two main cases which cast into question Papkova’s conclusion regarding the relative powerlessness of the Moscow Patriarchate—the successful implementation of the school subject “Fundamentals of Orthodox culture” in Russian public schools and the successful establishment of a military chaplaincy—have been analyzed in depth by Richters, which is why I will not go into detail here (see Richters 2013, chs. 3 and 4). These two legislative proposals, together with the 1997 Law on Freedom of Conscience, were part of a process of consolidation of the status of the Russian Orthodox Church as a religious institution of public law in the Russian Federation. They did not amount to turning the Russian Orthodox Church into a state church, as some critics feared, but they strengthened the position of the Church to a suﬃcient degree as to allow the Patriarchate to shift its attention to other areas of legislation. Children’s rights, anti-gay legislation and legislation against moral oﬀense to religious believers are only some of the legislative proposals which have reached the State Duma during the past two years, and they demonstrate the inﬂuence of the Church’s human rights agenda in domestic politics. In 2009, the Russian Federation ratiﬁed the revised European Social Charter. Under this Charter, which contains basic social rights, Russia is obliged to reform its juvenile justice system. This reform was worked out under President Medvedev and the reform bill submitted to the State Duma in autumn 2012. At this stage of the legislative process, the seemingly uncontroversial topic turned into a major political issue, which saw the Church up in arms together with other nationalist forces against the “imposition of foreign rights standards.” Clerics and parents’ associations were particularly upset about the idea that under the new legislation parents could be deprived of their right of parental care. At a protest rally against this reform, Chaplin declaimed that the reform was imposed by “international organizations” and “so-called Russian experts sponsored by foreign money” (in the nationalist lexicon a clear reference to secular and liberal human rights activists). The Church, he said, was against the idea that the state should
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
interfere with the educational rights of parents in any way (VRNS 2013). In February 2013, the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church issued a declaration in the same vein, stating that “any system of children’s rights should be adapted to national culture and traditions” (VRNS 2013); and religious media fanned fears that the reform would lead to children from lowincome families being taken away from their parents, undermine parental authority, and foster corruption (PRAVOVRNS 2013b). At this point, opinion polls showed that the Russian public had a largely negative attitude to the juvenile justice reform, though lacking a clear understanding of what this reform actually consisted of (RIA Novosti 2013a). In view of this public opposition, Putin promised to revise the legislative proposal (RIA Novosti 2013b, 2013c). At the time of writing, the outcome of the reform is still open, but what is noteworthy already is the motivation for the Church’s intervention, which appears at least twofold: ﬁrst, relating to religious ideas about family and parent–child relations, and second to the purely political decision to oppose a legislative reform induced by Western human rights instruments. There is evidence that the second, nationalist motive actually lies at the root of the whole discussion. Already back in 2009, Russian media reported that “nationalist circles” were mobilizing against the ratiﬁcation of the European Social Charter and had approached the Patriarch for support. Opponents argued that this reform would lead to a reform of the Russian education system and the introduction of sex education in schools. Commentators were convinced that such pious reasons were only a pretext for purely political opposition, but the Patriarchate nevertheless joined the initiative and spoke out against “certain interpretations” of the Charter. As a kind of way out of the conﬂict at the time, the leader of the majority party Edinaya Rossiya suggested that in future the Patriarchate should monitor and comment on legislative proposals that came out of the ratiﬁcation of the Charter. The Patriarch was satisﬁed by this proposal and welcomed the idea that the Church should closely follow and comment on legislative proposals (Stieger 2009). The Church’s protest against the juvenile justice reform therefore seems not so much provoked by the law itself, but rather appears as part of a larger and long-term project of patriotic monitoring of legislation being developed by conservative and nationalist– religious forces in response to Russia’s international human rights commitments. And after all, this is the domestic agenda which the Patriarchate and the World Russian People’s Council professed from the beginning: “What we do not want to see in the future are attempts to aﬃrm some radical-liberal view on human rights as the sole possible option which has no alternatives and cannot be disputed” (Chaplin 2006). The second case regards LGBT rights. Homosexuality, and in particular the public manifestation of it through gay parades, has been a topic of conﬂict for the Russian Orthodox Church ever since the 1990s (see Chapter 1, third section). Laws restricting the holding of gay parades have been in place in a small number of regions of the Russian Federation for several years, most
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
prominently in the cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Notwithstanding the condemnation of this ban by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, similar legislation was passed at federal level in 2013. The law on the banning of “gay propaganda to minors” makes it illegal to hold gay parades anywhere in Russia or to speak about homosexual and transgender issues in public or on public media, inasmuch as underage children could be aﬀected by such “gay propaganda.” The legislative measure is justiﬁed by Russian politicians with reference to “Russia’s traditional values.” An exemplary statement by foreign minister Sergej Lavrov clearly followed the familiar pattern of the Church’s human rights discourse: “Given that the overwhelming majority of our country’s population profess the Orthodox Christian faith, or at least follow the Orthodox Christian traditions,” the minister said, Russia would not ﬁnd it acceptable to “load universal approaches with one’s own additional views of the human rights, as is the case … with sexual minorities” (Interfax Religion 2012b). From the Church’s perspective, the ban on “homosexual propaganda” brings to a conclusion a controversy which has played a key role in the Church’s human rights debate from the start. Not surprisingly, there is some evidence that the Moscow Patriarchate was involved in lobbying for the law at the federal level (Interfax Religion 2012c). Another controversial law related to the previous two which was supported by the Church was the law on “non-proﬁt organizations,” approved in spring 2012. This law obliges organizations which receive funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents” and to present a ﬁnancial balance sheet twice a year (other organizations have to do this only once a year). Failing to respect these regulations can lead to the closure of an organization. Already in February 2012, the head of the Patriarchate’s Department for Church–Society Relations, Chaplin, called for “transparency” regarding non-proﬁt organizations with foreign funding, arguing that many of these organizations “promoted projects that are foreign to the culture of the Russian people, such as the propaganda of sexual perversion, sexual education and the reform of the juvenile justice system.” The World Russian People’s Council also supported the law (Zwahlen 2010c). During the ﬁrst half of 2013, the full impact of the new law became apparent when several organizations, including religious associations, faced strict controls and were threatened with closure (Stieger 2013a). A further indication of the coordination between Church and state in legislative matters is the law on “The Defense of Religious Sentiments of Citizens of the Russian Federation.” This law was drafted by the majority party in the wake of the Pussy Riot case (see below) and aimed at introducing harsher punishment for actions against “religious feelings and objects.” The bill was passed in the Duma with an absolute majority at its ﬁrst reading on 11 April 2013. Harsh criticism from abroad and Russian civil society eventually led to some reformulations: the law which was approved in ﬁnal reading on 15 April 2013 did not actually create a new “blasphemy” paragraph in
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
the Russian penal code, but added new provisions to article 148 on “The violation of the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion”—a purely cosmetic change in the eyes of most critics. The new provisions foresee ﬁnes up to 500,000 roubles or prison sentences of up to 3 years for “public actions with the intention to harm the religious feelings of believers.” The Moscow Patriarchate welcomed the new legislation (Stieger 2013b). What are we to make of these examples of close coordination between the Putin administration and the Moscow Patriarchate? It is not easy to give a deﬁnite answer to this question, not least because the facts are so recent; nonetheless I will try to oﬀer an interpretation in the light of the decade of ecclesiastical human rights debate elucidated in this book. For me, it is apparent that church–state coordination on legislative proposals like the ones outlined above is a direct outcome of the Church’s morality-and-traditionalvalues agenda in the ﬁeld of human rights. Russian domestic policies under the administration of President Putin, in oﬃce for a third time, are putting this agenda into practice. But whereas the fact of such coordination is really beyond dispute, the reasons for it are more diﬃcult to pin down. What do these examples show? That the Moscow Patriarchate is politically inﬂuential? Or that it is being politically instrumentalized? For an answer, let me return to the three hypotheses outlined at the beginning of this section. My ﬁrst hypothesis was that the Church’s lobbying for certain legislative ideas and proposals, such as a military chaplaincy and religious education in schools, took a long time to go through but was ﬁnally crowned with success. This success is partially due to eﬀorts on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate to translate its claims into a rights-compatible language and format. Just consider that, during the 1990s, the Church started oﬀ with the idea of introducing the subject of “Orthodox culture” into Russian state schools, a proposal that sounded clearly discriminatory vis-à-vis religious minorities or non-religious pupils. What it got in 2008 was a share in a newlycreated curriculum of religious and secular ethics, a program which at least on paper respects cultural diversity and a pluralism of worldviews. From the perspective of this ﬁrst hypothesis, the Church has been successful in obtaining rights because it has been persistent and because it has agreed to refrain from maximalist claims. My second hypothesis as to why the Patriarchate’s human rights discourse has become politically cogent is that this discourse has shifted from being predominantly “inward” oriented and theological (about church–state relations and religious freedom) to being “outward” oriented and political (about society, family, and values). Today, the Patriarchate’s human rights discourse has been replaced by a traditional values discourse, taken on in full by the political establishment. There can be no doubt that Patriarch Kirill, in his function as a conservative modernizer, is the person chieﬂy responsible for this shift. The Patriarchate’s political agenda is no novelty. It is perfectly in line with the tradition of church–state relations worked out during the Soviet era, when the Moscow Patriarchate would regularly manifest political
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
positions in line with the government (see the ﬁrst section of Chapter 1). However, the historical parallel also shows that the line between political inﬂuence and political instrumentalization is very thin. My third hypothesis to explain why the political impact of the Church’s traditional values discourse on domestic politics appears so strong is that many of the ideas promoted by the Church actually enjoy wide support among the population. Opinion polls have time and again revealed that a large part of post-Soviet Russian society is conservative and receptive to nationalist ideas. Trust in the moral authority of the Church is high. Political parties, in particular Putin’s Edinaya Rossiya, try to tap into and proﬁt from this trust by engaging in political projects favored by the Church. John Anderson even speaks about an “asymmetric symphonia” regarding the way in which Putin has made political use of the Church’s agenda (Anderson 2007). However, polls show that most Russians do not support the idea that the Church should be directly involved in politics (Rogov 2013). For the Church, the political exploitation of its moral authority is double-edged: in the short term it renders the Church powerful and inﬂuential, but in the long term it risks alienating a portion of its believers. Opinion polls such as those cited above, and the events surrounding the Pussy Riot case, which I now turn to, demonstrate that such an alienation of believers is already a reality. The sacredness of the person and the rights of the believer In February 2012, a group of young women in colorful dresses, leggings and balaclavas entered the Christ Savior Cathedral in Moscow and performed a song in the area around the main altar. It was only a few minutes before they were forcefully removed from the scene by security guards. Shortly afterwards, a video of the performance appeared on the web, a carefully edited clip which combined original footage and additional audio-visual material. The clip was entitled “Punk Prayer” (punk moleben) and the text of the song, which had been subsequently added to the footage, called for the Mother of Christ “to throw out Putin” and used strong, oﬀensive language to accuse the Patriarch of subservience to the government. Subsequently, three of the young women were arrested, while the identities of the others remain unknown. The three arrested women—Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyochina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich—were put on trial for hooliganism and extremism; the ﬁrst two were convicted and sentenced to 2 years conﬁnement in a prison camp, while the third was released on bail. Their case created enormous international repercussions: Western rock musicians like Madonna expressed their solidarity, Western politicians voiced concern over Russia’s respect for human rights standards, and a baﬄed Western audience learned about the reality of politically orchestrated court cases in today’s Russia. The case appeared at ﬁrst sight to be just one more in a series of events manifesting the tension between art and religion in contemporary Russian society (see the third section of Chapter 1). If anything, this action served to
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
further escalate the lingering conﬂict. Orthodox believers in 2003 and 2007 could choose not to visit the exhibitions in the Sakharov Center, but the 2012 performance took the confrontation right to the symbolic heart of Orthodox power in Russia today: the Christ Savior Cathedral. I argue therefore that the performance, and the public debate and court trial that followed it, are indicative of a hardening-up of the confrontation between secular civil society activists and the Church. The Pussy Riot case has many diﬀerent facets and this is not the place to explore all of them (for an excellent comprehensive account, see Willems 2013). The one aspect which is most salient in the context of this book is the question of what role human rights arguments played in the public debate about the case. In order to understand this role, it is important to take a step back and ask what kind of event the action of Pussy Riot actually was. The Russian sociologist Dmitry Uzlaner has suggested interpreting the Pussy Riot case as a phenomenon of postsecularity; that is, as an example of shifting boundaries between the religious and the secular space and of a renegotiation of the relationship between the two (Uzlaner 2013). He points out that initially there was no consensus among the religious and secular public on the “correct” interpretation of the event. By now the controversy has become widely perceived as a conﬂict between secular art and religious sensibilities, but in the beginning, Uzlaner points out, this interpretation was not the only one possible. The name of the action itself—“Punk prayer”—could be taken as an indicator that the artists intended this to be a religious act; a religious act directed against the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church. One group of clerics in the Moscow Patriarchate actually interpreted the case in this way. Deacon Andrej Kuraev wrote in his blog: “If I had been the priest in charge on that day, I would have fed them with pancakes, would have given them a cup of med and would have invited them to return on Forgiveness Day” (Kuraev 2012). What he is referring to here is the Russian tradition of maslenitsa, a week of carnival before Lent. The action of Pussy Riot did indeed fall into this period, and Kuraev suggested interpreting their action in a religious key, as a carnivalesque form of transgression. This interpretation was a minority position, and for reasons which Uzlaner analyzes in his article, this “oppositional postsecular viewpoint” lost out against the other interpretation of the event, the “power-conforming postsecular viewpoint” (Uzlaner 2013). The “power-conforming” perspective was sustained by most Russians, the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government, but also by Western observers. For them, Pussy Riot had engaged in an antireligious artistic performance, not in a religious protest. From the perspective of the Russian Church, this action had taken place in a space that should be protected against such an outside intrusion. The Patriarch even compared the performance to the religious persecution under the Bolsheviks (Interfax Religion 2012a). Uzlaner interprets the insistence on this interpretative key as a sign of the desire of the ecclesiastical authorities to retain a monopoly on
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the deﬁnition of a religious space. The Church wanted to control the distinction between the religious and the secular and be the sole authority on the deﬁnition of traditional and on the prohibition of non-traditional forms of religiosity. “The ‘punk-prayer,’” Uzlaner writes, “was interpreted by the Church leadership as an unauthorized attempt at redrawing the border separating the religious and the secular, and for this reason could not be considered a form of prayer—but only blasphemy and disorderly conduct” (Uzlaner 2013). Many Orthodox believers were actually quite unhappy about this turn of events, and did not support the hard line of the Patriarchate (e.g. Beljakova 2012; Bremer 2013). The secular-vs.-religious-forces interpretation of the event also prevailed in Western media. The iconography of colorfully dressed young women opposing old men in black cloaks proved irresistible. And Uzlaner also admits that in the course of the trial any possible religious reading of the event completely receded into the background. The Pussy Riot event became, and went on trial as, a conﬂict between secular civil society and religious belief. It may sound paradoxical, but in my view it is important to recognize that the framing of the Pussy Riot case in terms of a conﬂict over human rights—Western artists and secular civil society calling for freedom of expression, the Church calling for protection of religious feelings—furthered the power-conforming interpretation of the event. It made it easier for the Church leadership and the government to frame the conﬂict in terms of “them” (artists, secular human rights activists, Western commentators) against “us” (Orthodox believers, Russian patriots). Two competing rights claims were set against each other: the right to freedom of expression, and the “right” of believers not to be oﬀended in their religious sensibilities. I put this second right in inverted commas because strictly speaking no such right exists in international human rights documents (for a discussion of positive religious freedom in the human rights framework, see Bielfeldt 2010); however, it is important to be aware of how and why religious actors in Russia invoke it. So what is at stake? Many religious commentators in Russia called the action by the punk musicians “a sacrilege” (koshchunstvo) and “blasphemy” (bogokhul’stvo) (ROC 2012b; Radio Ekho Moskvy 2008). What they meant most of the time, however, was something diﬀerent, namely “moral harm.” If Pussy Riot’s action was to be called “blasphemy,” then what would be at stake would be a conﬂict between human rights on the one hand, and divine rights on the other. We would have a conﬂict between the sacredness of the divine (object, symbol or practice) and the sacredness of the person (speaking in Joas’s terminology (2013)). But when we speak about “moral harm,” then that what is at stake is a conﬂict between diﬀerent understandings of human rights, or more precisely between diﬀerent understandings of the sacredness of the person. The sociologist Saba Mahmood has elaborated the diﬀerence between “blasphemy” and “moral harm” with regard to the Danish cartoon crisis. Her essay deals with reactions in the Muslim world to the publication in a Danish
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newspaper of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, but the argument applies to all situations of impasse between what the religious side considers an oﬀense and the non-religious side regards as an exercise of freedom of expression (Mahmood 2009, 66). The point Mahmood makes is that the sense of moral injury or oﬀense experienced by the believer is quite distinct from [what] the notion of blasphemy encodes. The notion of moral injury … entails a sense of violation, but this violation emanates not from the judgment that the “law” has been transgressed but from the perception that one’s being, grounded as it is in a relationship [with the divine], has been shaken. (Mahmood 2009, 78) This observation is important: moral harm does not (or not only) entail a sense of violation of some divine law, but actually a sense of personal oﬀense, an individual oﬀense. The individual dimension of “moral harm” complicates established ways of balancing principles of free speech and freedom of religion. In the international human rights documents, this balance is usually spelled out in an individualist–collectivist key. The so-called limitation clauses (comma 2 of articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) express the principle that individual rights may be subject to restrictions for reasons of collectivity (“public safety, public order, health or morals”). That which should not be threatened by the exercise of an individual right is “society” as a whole. This legal arrangement has historically led to the accommodation of majority religious traditions, as it balanced the tension between free speech and morality in terms of individual versus collective rights. However, in today’s conﬂicts over oﬀensive speech and moral harm, we no longer have a conﬂict of individual free speech against a collective sense of morality. What we get instead are two individual rights brought into confrontation with another: the right to free speech and the “right” to freedom from moral harm. This is also why in the wake of Pussy Riot the Russian parliament discussed the new law on “The Defense of Religious Sentiments of Citizens of the Russian Federation” instead of simply relying on the limitation clauses in place in the Russian Constitution and in international human rights instruments. The Church’s position in the Pussy Riot case demonstrates, in my view, that something has changed in the Russian Orthodox human rights debate since the mid-2000s. This debate did indeed start oﬀ with the agenda of balancing out “individual” freedoms against “collective rights.” But in the course of the debate the human rights agenda of the Church has changed and it has become a debate about the very deﬁnition of what makes up the “sacredness of the person” that modern human rights institutionalize. Oﬃcial statements by individual church representatives may continue to oscillate between the “old” individual vs. collective argument and this “new” secular
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individual vs. religious individual argument, but the fact that more and more often we hear religious representatives claim that human rights controversies are really disputes over anthropology is indicative of the fact that the second perspective is gaining ground (ROC 2013). The controversy unleashed by the Pussy Riot case has brought out into the open a shift that is taking place within the international human rights system regarding the freedom of religion: a shift from viewing controversies over religious freedom in the key of individual vs. collective rights to competing individual rights. This shift does not originate in the Russian Orthodox Church alone, but in international human rights debates more generally. Before coming to a ﬁnal evaluation, we therefore have to look at the place of Russian Orthodox Church in the international human rights system.
The international human rights agenda of the Russian Orthodox Church Since 2008, representatives of the Church and the Russian government have pursued an active human rights agenda at international level, in particular in the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations and the Council of Europe. The Church’s international human rights agenda appears so much as part and parcel of Russia’s “religious diplomacy” (Curanovic´ 2012) that I have suggested elsewhere that Russian foreign politics was the main reason for the Church’s engagement in the human rights debate (Stoeckl 2012). In the context of this book-length study of all the various aspects of the debate, however, I refrain from such a strong claim. I think that other aspects, such as the ideological struggles and clariﬁcation processes inside the Church and domestic religious–secular human rights controversies played at least as important a role in pushing the Moscow Patriarchate into clarifying its standpoint on human rights. However, even if the motivation for the human rights debate was pluralistic, the outcome of the debate was not: the one arena where the Human Rights Doctrine has enjoyed greatest visibility and promotion has been external Church relations. In the domestic discussion, the Church’s rights discourse became politically cogent, but I have not come across a single instance where a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate has intervened in a controversy by making a direct reference to the Human Rights Doctrine. In the international arena, in contrast, it happens all the time. This observation is congruent with the institutional claim I advanced earlier: the Human Rights Doctrine is the product of a tradition of Church diplomacy that goes back to Soviet times and that is characterized by close coordination between the Church and the state, an overlap of interests, and strategic alliance-building with likeminded religious and secular actors in the West.3 It is within these parameters that the Human Rights Doctrine is mainly put to use. The international human rights politics of the Russian Orthodox Church take place chieﬂy in two arenas: the religious (ecumenical) arena, and the political arena of international organizations. It is typical of the way
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in which the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate has worked since Soviet times that interconfessional theological discussions and international political agenda-setting are promoted by the same persons at one and the same time, making use of one and the same set of ideas. Religious reactions to the Human Rights Doctrine In the period in which the Human Rights Doctrine was being drafted, the Moscow Patriarchate engaged in an intense dialogue and exchange with other religious actors in Western Europe, in particular the Catholic and the Protestant churches. The Patriarchate interacted with representatives of the Vatican, with members of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, with the Conference of European Churches and with the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe.4 Several consultative meetings took place between 2006 and 2008 (see ﬁrst section of Chapter 2), and there were also numerous individual interactions between Russian theologians and their Western colleagues at conferences and meetings. The Christian churches in Europe must therefore be considered well informed about the human rights debate inside the Russian Orthodox Church from the beginning and they doubtlessly constituted an important source of input for its elaboration. Of all the meetings recorded for the period before the publication of the Doctrine, I want to pick out one in particular: the conference entitled “Human Rights and National Identity” organized by the Department for External Relations and the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation in April 2007 in Moscow. The conference brought together Catholic and Protestant clerics from Germany, German members of parliament from the conservative party, representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, and Russian politicians. Among the non-clerical Russian participants there were also Natalya Narochnitskaya and Igor Ponkin, both of whom have also appeared at other events related to the Church’s human rights debate. The meeting was recorded by two outside observers, Alexander Verkhovsky and Stanislav Minin, whose reports convey the actual tensions that emerged among the participants, tensions which are usually ironed out in the ﬁnal communiqués published after such meetings (Interfax Religion 2007a; Minin 2007; SOVA 2007). The two observers noted that the Protestant view on human rights diverged considerably from the Orthodox position, whereas the Catholic participants at the meeting actually shared most of the views put forward by the Moscow Patriarchate (Interfax Religion 2007b; Rauch 2007). The meeting and the reported nature of the debate clearly shows that the Moscow Patriarchate was establishing ties with the more conservative wing inside the Catholic Church, while it was becoming increasingly estranged from the more liberal Protestant churches. This state of aﬀairs was conﬁrmed after the publication of the Human Rights Doctrine, when the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe published a critical statement on the Doctrine, and a group of Catholic
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theologians set out to defend it. In the summer of 2009, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe published a discussion paper in which it reacted critically to the Human Rights Doctrine published the year before (CPCE 2009). The declared scope of this paper was to continue the dialogue on human rights in which the Protestant churches had been involved during the preceding years. In fact, the thrust of the document can only be understood in the light of these preceding discussions, because the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe focused on the question of dignity and morality and accused the Russian Orthodox Church of misunderstanding and relativizing human dignity. This accusation was, as I have pointed out in Chapter 3, incorrect, because the Doctrine actually committed to an unrelativized notion of human dignity, but it was perfectly in line with the spirit of the preceding discussions where human dignity had indeed been played out against morality by the Russian theologians. However, the Moscow Patriarchate at this point, in summer 2009, no longer appeared interested in any further discussion of its position. There was only one oﬃcial response to the document, an article by Igumen Filaret (Bulekov) (2009). There was, however, a lengthy response and debate of the Protestant paper by a group of Catholic theologians (Hallensleben et al. 2009), followed by a series of articles from both Protestant and Catholic theologians that discussed this debate (Hallensleben 2009; Mathwig 2009; Gabriel 2010; Gabriel and Tobler 2010; Tobler 2010; Wasmuth 2010; Zwahlen 2010a; Hurskainen 2012). The dynamics of the ecumenical debate sparked by the Russian Orthodox human rights document are remarkable: at ﬁrst the Orthodox human rights debate appeared as an Eastern Christian take on a subject Western Christian churches had long come to terms with; then the Orthodox position revealed its potential to create conﬂict along confessional lines, pitching Protestants against Catholics; and eventually the debate developed into an intra-Catholic confrontation between one side that supported the Russian view (Hallensleben 2009; Hallensleben et al. 2009) and another side which remained critical of the anti-modernist stance of the Russian document and shared the Protestant criticism of it (Gabriel 2010; Gabriel and Tobler 2010). From the point of view of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, the whole undertaking must have been seen as a veritable accomplishment: it successfully identiﬁed conservative allies inside the Catholic Church and sidelined liberal Catholics and Protestants. This interpretation is corroborated by the fact that, in December 2008, an oﬃcial Catholic–Orthodox forum met for the ﬁrst time in the Italian city of Trento.5 The topic of the ﬁrst meeting, which was attended by Bishop Ilarion from the Department of External Church Relations, was “Family: A Good for Humanity.” The forum issued a ﬁnal statement that the goal of the forum was “to help deﬁne common positions on social and moral questions” and to “help each other realise just how close our moral and social doctrines are.” The participants in the forum also addressed the issue of international human rights documents and expressed their concern that “the ideological
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introduction of the gender theory” was undermining the fundamentals of the family as a union of man and woman (Interfax Religion 2008b). It constitutes a bit of a puzzle for me that in the theological ecumenical dialogue surrounding the Orthodox Human Rights Doctrine, the Germanspeaking theological academia appears to have played the most important role. Why did German (and Austrian and Swiss) theologians engage so intensively with the Russian debate, whereas other theologians in Europe remained rather uninterested? My guess is that two factors were decisive for this Russian– German axis: the ﬁrst is a well-institutionalized German–Russian ecumenical dialogue that goes back to the Cold War and Soviet religious diplomacy (Overmeyer 2005). The second is a strong normative tradition among German-speaking theologians, including a special focus on church–state relations. Whereas Italian, French, British or American scholars of Orthodoxy tend to concentrate on spirituality, theology and history, German theologians pay special attention to questions of rights and state–church relations.6 This normative theological tradition could explain the greater sensibility for the political content of the Human Rights Doctrine and the heightened interest with which the document was met in the German theological world. United Nations Human Rights Council: lobbying for traditional values In the institutional context of international organizations, the Russian Orthodox Church presents itself as spokesperson for the “voiceless” religious majority of the world. At a speech before the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in March 2008, Metropolitan Kirill reiterated a proposal, already voiced by the Russian foreign minister at the UN General Assembly in the previous year, that a forum for dialogue between religions with advisory status at the United Nations should be created (Interfax Religion 2007c; Lavrov 2007). Such an institution was eventually founded in 2009 under the auspices of UNESCO: the consultative group “Peace and Dialogue of Cultures.” The ﬁrst meeting of this body took place in Moscow in June 2009 and was chaired by Patriarch Kirill. The Moscow Patriarchate has also promoted interfaith dialogue in the context of meetings of the states of the G8 group, resulting in annual meetings of religious leaders since 2006 (Curanovic´ 2012, 149–50). One example of concrete human rights “lobbying” after the publication of the Doctrine is the debate on “traditional values” in the United Nations Human Rights Council. On 2 October 2009 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights was called to decide on a resolution “Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind.” Resolution 12/21 was presented by the representative of the Russian Federation to the Human Rights Council, Valerij Loshchinin, and it requested “to convene, in 2010, a workshop for an exchange of views on how a better understanding of traditional values of humankind underpinning international human rights norms and standards can contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights and
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fundamental freedoms” (UNHRC 2009). This resolution was adopted without the votes of the Western countries and, a year later on 4 October 2010, the requested international seminar entitled “Traditional Values and Human Rights” took place at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. The press service of the Moscow Patriarchate reported extensively on the workshop and the preceding resolution, presenting it as the outcome of Kirill’s address to the General Assembly of the United Nations in March 2008 (Ryabykh 2010b). From the Russian side, several members of the Moscow Patriarchate’s working group on human rights were among the participants of this meeting. One other Russian speaker, Natalia Narochnitskaya, had also already taken part in the Radonezh round table on human rights in 2004 (see ﬁrst section of Chapter 2). The Russian diplomat to the United Nations who had tabled resolution 12/21, Loshchinin, also had connections to the Moscow Patriarchate, as demonstrated by a prestigious award which he received from Patriarch Kirill in recognition of his “his outstanding support for the church” immediately after the workshop (ROC 2010c). In his speech at the seminar Igumen Filip (Ryabykh) made direct reference to the Human Rights Doctrine (one of those direct references to the Doctrine which are frequent in the external politics of the Russian Orthodox Church but are completely absent from the domestic debate): “Based on this document,” he declared, “I would like to oﬀer a few general propositions about the relationship between human rights and religious traditions” (Ryabykh 2010b). He deﬁned religious tradition in terms of national culture and in terms of a globally shared religious sentiment, and expressed the opinion that secular human rights with their “abstract” principles of freedom were prone to violate both. Religious views on matters of human rights should be taken into account in the development and establishment of international human rights standards in order to counteract eﬀorts to promote a “new generation of human rights” such as “the right to sexual orientation, euthanasia, abortion, experimentation with human nature.” “It is about time that the ideological monopoly in the sphere of human rights is over,” he said, and added: “from the point of view of democracy, it is important to provide an opportunity for representatives from diﬀerent philosophical and moral views to participate in the development of the institution of human rights” (Ryabykh 2010b). This statement by the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church at this workshop made clear the aim of the Patriarchate’s lobbying for a resolution on human rights and traditional values: to counter the extension of human rights into areas of family and private law which the Church considered morally sensitive. Controversies over LGBT rights were at the center of this debate, and the Russian Orthodox Church explicitly took issue with them. It should be added that the last phrase of Ryabykh—”from the point of view of democracy, it is important to provide an opportunity for representatives from diﬀerent philosophical and moral views to participate in the development of the institution of human rights”—can be interpreted as a
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reference to an ongoing normative debate on postsecularism in democratic theory, in which the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas has claimed that democratic deliberation should in principle be open to include religious arguments (Habermas 2006). I will return to this point in Chapter 5, where I will interpret the Russian Orthodox human rights debate in a postsecular key and also point out the limits of such an interpretation. Before that, however, let me come back to the United Nations. In March 2011, the Human Rights Council again adopted a resolution entitled “Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind” (UNHRC 2011). Resolution 16/3 aﬃrms that “dignity, freedom and responsibility are traditional values.” It also notes “the important role of family, community, society and educational institutions in upholding and transmitting these values.” Dignity, freedom and responsibility are, as I have shown above, key terms in the Russian Orthodox human rights debate. But not only the wording suggested a close involvement of the Moscow Patriarchate in the drafting of this resolution. The press service of the Russian Orthodox Church also reported: The approval of the resolution continued the Council’s work on traditional values begun on 18 March 2008 by an address of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, who was the head of the Department for External Church Relations in the rank of metropolitan, at the UN Human Rights Council. (ROC 2011b) Resolution 16/3 contained a request to the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee to prepare a study on how a better understanding and appreciation of traditional values of dignity, freedom, and responsibility could contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights, and to present that study to the Council before its twenty-ﬁrst session. By the time this session started in September 2012, the study had not been ﬁnished, but the rapporteur for the report tabled a new resolution, entitled “Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind: best practices” (UNHRC 2012a). Resolution 21/3 stated that the Human Rights Council remained focused on the matter of traditional values, it took note of the fact that the Advisory Committee was in the process of preparing the aforementioned study on the topic, and it requested an additional study with the aim of “collect[ing] information from states members of the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders on best practices in the application of traditional values while promoting and protecting human rights and upholding human dignity.” This new study is to be submitted to the Human Rights Council before its twenty-fourth session, scheduled for the second part of 2013 and therefore too late to be considered in this book.7 Resolution 21/3 was commented upon in the Russian press as a successful joint venture of the Patriarchate and Russian diplomacy. The Ministry of
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Foreign Aﬀairs released a press statement in which it emphasized that the Russian proposal for a resolution on “best practices” in the promotion of human rights through a better understanding of traditional values had been approved by the Human Rights Council by an “absolute majority” of votes, including votes from countries that belonged to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League. The press statement mentions that “despite Russia’s openness for dialogue and cooperation,” the United States and the European Union had voted against the draft resolution. The negative attitude of these countries, their unwillingness to work on the text and their “ﬂimsy arguments” against it are called “regrettable.” The press release of the Ministry of Foreign Aﬀairs also states that “no state or group of states has the right to monopolize the interpretation of human rights norms” and concludes that the Russian Federation, together with “likeminded partners” will continue to promote the topic of the “inextricable relationship between human rights and traditional moral values” (MID 2012). This press statement was taken up by the websites of the Moscow Patriarchate and of the World Russian People’s Council, which reported the news and added that this position of the Russian Foreign Ministry has been developed in dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church and other traditional Russian religions. The understanding of human rights in the context of the dignity of the person has been worked out in the document “The Teaching of the Russian Orthodox Church on Human Dignity, Freedom and Rights,” adopted by the Bishops’ Council in June 2008. (ROC 2012a; VRNS 2012) As to the “Study of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on Promoting Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms through a Better Understanding of Traditional Values of Humankind,” which was ﬁnally presented on 6 December 2012, it should be added that, as compared to the above-mentioned resolutions, it did not receive the Church’s attention or publicity. One reason for this scant attention (and maybe the reason why the Russian diplomats immediately tabled the additional “best practices” study) could be the fact that the study actually presented a very balanced view on traditional values and human rights, reﬂecting “on both the negative and the positive impact that traditional values may have on the eﬀective implementation of human rights” (UNHRC 2012a). The study did not address directly questions of central importance for the Church, for example the establishment of LGBT rights within the framework universal human rights, and instead stated: States should respect the cultural diversity and pluralism that exist within communities and societies as a source of enrichment and value added to the social and cultural fabric of those communities and societies, as well
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as of marginalized and vulnerable groups; this should not, however, justify any breach of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. (UNHRC 2012b) I think that there is no need for any further evidence of the direct inﬂuence of the Moscow Patriarchate on the human rights agenda of the Russian government in the context of the United Nations Human Rights Council. What are we to make of this? The example of the traditional values debate in the United Nations Human Rights Council clearly shows that the Russian government and the Moscow Patriarchate coordinated their eﬀorts in pushing through an anti-liberal human rights agenda. Both actors emphasized repeatedly that human rights should not be “monopolized” by a Western liberal and secular interpretation. However, even though the agenda and the strategy of the Russian government and the Patriarchate are in complete accordance on this point, I think it is important to recognize that their ultimate goals are diﬀerent. The Russian government wants a multipolar international system without the constraints of a supranational legal order based on human rights, and it does not want international interference in its domestic politics. The Patriarchate, on the other hand, wants to prevent the extension of human rights into areas of family and private law, and it wants to seal oﬀ Russian society from “harmful” liberalization and pluralization. Both for the Patriarchate and the government, the “ideal” Russian society is a non-pluralistic and closed society; the only diﬀerence is that the government wants it for reasons of power, the Patriarchate for reasons of mission. I am aware that my interpretation here is controversial, and some might object that I am being too charitable to the Patriarchate by attributing to it a religious reasoning where others see only power-pragmatism. What is at stake here is the same question that I asked in the previous chapter: do these events demonstrate that the Church is politically inﬂuential? Or that it is being politically instrumentalized? The close coordination with Russia’s Foreign Oﬃce in terms of human rights is, in my view, born out of institutional pathdependency and reciprocal convenience. The privileged channels of communication between the foreign service and the Department of External Church Relations appear not to have changed since the times of Soviet religious diplomacy, nor has the marriage of convenience on “soft issues” such as morality, peace, and traditional values. On these topics, the government welcomes the input of the Russian Orthodox Church (cf. Anderson 2007). But this does not mean that the Moscow Patriarchate should not, at the same time, clarify its own position vis-à-vis the state and secular civil society. The Russian Orthodox Church is, in principle, an independent actor. I am inclined to interpret the active international human rights agenda of the Church as evidence for this independent, agenda-setting role of the Church, rather than as proof of its instrumentalization by the Kremlin (in the domestic sphere the situation is diﬀerent, see the ﬁrst section of Chapter 4). It is also important to recognize that the human rights debate in the Russian Orthodox Church took
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place at a time of general religious resurgence and of, at least in post-war Western Europe, unprecedented conﬂicts over the right place of religion in the public sphere. The Moscow Patriarchate’s concern over the relationship between the human rights regime and religion was not only a matter of Russian sovereignty and nationalism, but a question which also interested many other international religious actors. I will explain this last point in the next sub-section, which focuses on the European Court of Human Rights. European Court of Human Rights: Lautsi vs. Italy and other controversies In the course of the human rights debate, representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate have time and again expressed their concern that international human rights standards could have a detrimental impact on legislation in Orthodox countries, exercising a harmful inﬂuence on the life of the Church and the faithful. The following quote from an interview with Kirill in 2006 expresses this fear very clearly: We have a problem of a one-sided interpretation of the idea of rights and liberties of man, an interpretation which, in our view, is dominant today especially in the theory and practice of inﬂuential international institutions. And even if European organizations refrain from exercising direct inﬂuence on the design of the Russian legal space, there remains a danger that this false perception of freedom and justice could in the future have a harmful impact on legal processes in Russia. (Kirill 2006c) This negative view of international human rights legislation is not conﬁned to the Church; it permeates the entire Russian human rights debate. Criticism of the European Court of Human Rights is commonplace among Russian conservatives. Bill Bowring has shown that the Russian debate about legal sovereignty and the conservative “battle” against the European Court of Human Rights started around the year 2006, just at the time when the Patriarchate also picked up the topic in a more systematic fashion (Bowring 2013, ch. 7). I do not think it is a coincidence that the Moscow Patriarchate and the conservative right were leading the same kind of discourse on national sovereignty and international human rights during the same period. Nor is it a coincidence that Putin from 2007 onwards has started to refer repeatedly to traditional values in the context of human rights (Zakharova 2013). Some scholars would interpret this parallelism as another sign that the Kremlin dictates its agenda to the Moscow Patriarchate (e.g. Curanovic´ 2012); others would instead emphasize the independent agenda-setting capacity of the Church (e.g. Richters 2013). What I suggest here is that it does not really matter who comes ﬁrst in agenda setting; the important point is that in the course of the religious–political discussion of human rights and legal sovereignty among conservatives and the Church leadership, from the Church’s
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
perspective the debate boils down to defending the role and place of religion in the public sphere against attacks by “militant secularists” and “Christianophobes” (see Chapter 2, fourth section). The reasons for this narrowing down can be found not only in the domestic Russian, but also in the international arena, where the front lines between secularists and religious actors are hardening up as a whole, independently of direct Russian or Orthodox inﬂuence. In November 2009, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the compulsory display of the cruciﬁx in Italian state schools represented a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (article 9 on freedom of conscience and religion and article 2 of the optional protocol on education). The disputed case, Lautsi vs. Italy (ECHR 2011), involved the complaint of a Finnish citizen, resident in Italy, that the display of the cruciﬁx in the classroom attended by the family’s children violated their right to freedom of conscience. The claimant argued that according to the principles of state secularity, explicated through the Italian Constitutional Court in 1989, no religious symbols should be displayed in the public space of a school. In its ﬁrst verdict in November 2009, the European Court of Human Rights adopted the point of the view of the claimant, eﬀectively demanding the removal of cruciﬁxes from Italian classrooms. The judgment caused a heated debate both in Italy and internationally about the place of religion in the public sphere and about the power of the Strasbourg Court to interfere with church– state relations in individual countries. Many critics of the verdict felt that the court had, as summarized by the Italian legal scholar Marco Ventura, “imposed a vision of laïcité that is modelled on the pluralistic neutrality of the great Western liberal democracies” (Ventura 2011), but was not necessarily congruent with the cultural tradition and religious history of the Italian state. The ﬁrst Lautsi decision evoked a strong reaction from the Russian Orthodox Church. Archbishop Ilarion sent a letter to the Vatican’s secretary of state in which he said that the Moscow Patriarchate considered the verdict “an attempt to impose radical secularism everywhere despite the national experience of churchstate relations.” He added that religious communities in Europe should work together to discuss the fact that “the Court has turned into an instrument of promoting an ultra-liberal ideology” (ROC 2009a). Patriarch Kirill sent a letter to Italian prime minister Berlusconi in which he stated his “full and unconditional support for the intention of the Italian Government to appeal this decision … in cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church” (ROC 2009b). The judgment convinced the Russian Church’s leadership that “on the European continent an encroachment on the religious symbols of Christianity is taking place” (Russkaya Narodnaya Liniya 2011). Church oﬃcials repeatedly mentioned the Lautsi case in public interventions between 2009 and 2011 as evidence that “aggressive secularism” and “Christianophobia” were on the rise in Europe (Doerry et al. 2009; ROC 2009a; Metropolitan Ilarion 2010; ROC 2010b, 2010c). The Italian government appealed against the ﬁrst ruling, supported by the Vatican and a coalition of several countries, namely the Russian Federation, Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco, Romania,
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
and San Marino. In March 2011, the ECHR overturned the ﬁrst ruling and found that it was up to Italy to decide whether there should be cruciﬁxes in Italian public schools (in juridical terms, the court accorded Italy a “margin of appreciation”). The verdict conceded that it was not possible to derive one speciﬁc model of “admissible” church–state relations from the European Convention of Human Rights, but instead that “every country is free to decide ‘which place to give to religion’ and to favor Christianity, or rather the dominant churches” (Ventura 2011). Ventura also observed that Italy has been supported by the more confessional of European countries, Russia and Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus, which the European Court has repeatedly condemned for the oppression of minority religions. From today, Italy is the country which has defended the Central-Eastern Europe of traditions against the Western Europe of pluralistic neutrality. (Ventura 2011) The Russian Orthodox Church took an active role in the coalition of supporters of the Italian government in its appeal, a coalition which included also the US-based European Centre for Law and Justice, an evangelical conservative law ﬁrm. This particular alliance has been analyzed by Pasquale Annicchino, who has pointed out that the collaboration of these conservative groups from diﬀerent religions was decisive in turning around the ﬁrst verdict of the court on appeal (Annicchino 2011). The particularly important role of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church in the Lautsi appeal was later recognized by the Italian government during a meeting between the Italian ambassador to Russia and Patriarch Kirill (Interfax Religion 2011; ROC 2011a). The Lautsi case was not the only one in front of the European Court of Human Rights that the Moscow Patriarchate followed closely. Another case was Eweida and Others vs. the United Kingdom (already mentioned in the ﬁrst section of Chapter 3). This case again involved the religious symbol of the cross. A British Airways stewardess of the Coptic Christian faith, who had decided to wear her baptismal cross around her neck in a visible fashion, was forced to take unpaid leave from her job in 2006 unless she agreed to wear the cross in a less conspicuous fashion. Even though British Airways eventually found a regulation which allowed her to wear the cross, the company refused to pay the wages that the claimant had lost during the time period of her suspension, and the case was taken to Strasbourg. It is noteworthy that the European Centre for Law and Justice was again involved in advising on the case, and the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Strasbourg also followed the case closely (REOR 2013a, 2013b, 2013c). The Moscow Patriarchate even published a detailed theological statement on the Orthodox view of the wearing of the baptismal cross (Ryabykh and Ponkin 2012).8 The Lautsi and Eweida cases demonstrate two things: ﬁrst, there has been a shift in the way human rights legislation deals with religious claims; and second, established religions are in diﬃculty as to how to deal with this new
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
situation. It should be remembered that clause 2 of articles 8 through 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and article 29 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, express the principle that individual rights may be subject to restrictions for reasons of collectivity (“public safety, public order, health or morals”); that what should not be threatened by the exercise of an individual right is society as a whole. What the initial judgment in the Lautsi case demonstrated was that the European Court of Human Rights is increasingly reluctant to balance out the interest of the collectivity against the freedom of the individual. The very articles which Metropolitan Kirill and Patriarch Alexii cited so frequently before 2008 are actually hardly applicable in today’s international human rights jurisprudence. In this new situation, religious actors have two possible ways of reacting. They can, as did the Italian Catholic Church in the Lautsi appeal, rely on a strong state for protection. Or they can, as did the claimants in Eweida, avail themselves of the protection of their positive individual religious freedom. The ﬁrst strategy presupposes that a church can convincingly claim to represent the majority of the population so that its claim to be deﬁning public morality is actually plausible. The second strategy acknowledges that strong moral majority claims are no longer plausible in pluralistic societies, and for this reason the focus shifts to individual entitlements, to the individual believer endowed with rights. The Moscow Patriarchate is following both strategies at one and the same time, but in diﬀerent arenas. In the Russian domestic sphere it pursues the strategy of claiming majority status in deﬁning Russia’s “traditional values”; in the international arena of the United Nations Human Rights Council and in the Council of Europe it ﬁghts a battle for positive religious freedom. One example of this battle, even though not involving the Russian Orthodox Church directly, is provided by a debate on conscientious objection in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 2010. This debate concerned the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection by medical personnel. In some cities or regions in Europe, the report submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly for discussion stated, it was diﬃcult to have a legal abortion because the medical personnel refused to perform this practice for reasons of conscience (PACE 2010a). The draft resolution “Women’s access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection” strove for an aﬃrmation that no medical practitioner should be able to refuse to perform a legally permitted medical procedure on grounds of conscience. But after a heated debate and twenty-nine amendments, the resolution adopted in October 2010 stated that “no hospital, institution, or person may be subject to pressures, or be held liable to suﬀer discrimination of any kind for refusing to perform, allow or assist an abortion” or any other contested procedure (Lobjakas 2010). The original sponsor of the draft resolution, a parliamentarian from the UK, ended up voting against the Declaration as it was adopted (PACE 2010b). From the verbatim report of the debate in the Parliamentary Assembly, it is not apparent that Russian diplomats played any particular role in substantially changing the draft
The ROC’s domestic and international agenda
resolution, but what is noteworthy is that at a meeting between Patriarch Kirill and the Assembly’s president, Mevlüt Çavus¸og˘ lu—an encounter which was surely scheduled beforehand but happened to take place only a week after this debate—Patriarch Kirill thanked Çavus¸og˘ lu, “for making important steps … to maintain traditional moral values” (Interfax Religion 2010). These examples from the European Court of Human Rights and the Assembly of the Council of Europe demonstrate that the human rights discourse of Russian Orthodox Church is connected with Europe-wide conﬂicts over the right place of religion in the public sphere. The Church responds not only to secular–religious conﬂicts inside Russia, and not only to issues that concern Orthodox Christianity, but it also takes part in an ongoing debate on religion in the public sphere. What I shall now try to do in the last chapter of this book, is to oﬀer an interpretation of the place of the Russian Orthodox Church’s human rights debate in this global struggle over the deﬁnition of the place of religion in the public sphere.
Notes 1 This assessment is conﬁrmed by the observations of scholars working in the ﬁeld of human rights groups in Russia. 2 With the exception of one dissenting opinion in the Presidential Council regarding internet control (Sovet 2012). 3 Alicja Curanovic´ has deﬁned the goals of church–state cooperation in Russian foreign politics in the following way: identity formation (civilizational identity and the vision of the global order: that is, civilizational multi-polarism), community-building (depending on the context, a union of conservative civilizations, a union against American imperialism, a union of those excluded, of Orthodox believers and so on), legitimization (due to its religious tolerance in the role of mediator between civilizations … ), and … cultural expansion (russkiy mir) and diplomacy. (2012, 150)
4 5 6 7 8
Curanovic´’s book oﬀers a wealth of detail on the religious diplomacy of the Russian state and much of what she says supports the hypothesis of institutional pathdependency between Soviet and post-Soviet church–state relations. However, I do not subscribe fully to her account, because throughout the book she bases her argument on the assumption that the Russian Orthodox Church is used in an instrumental way by the government and that the state dictates the agenda to the Church. This, I think, is not entirely correct; in my view it is the Church which has taken the lead in the human rights debate. The collaboration with the World Council of Churches seems less important in this ﬁeld. The forum subsequently convened on a biennial cycle, 2010 in Rhodes, Greece, and 2012 in Lisbon, Portugal; the 2014 meeting will be hosted in Minsk, Belarus. I owe this observation to Thomas Bremer. This means that the debate on traditional values under Russian leadership inside the United Nations Human Rights Council is far from over. The co-author of this article, Igor Ponkin, was one of the legal experts at the trial of Pussy Riot. He has also taken part in seminars organized by the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ 2012).
Religion and human rights in postsecular society
In this book I have described and explained the ways in which the Russian Orthodox Church debates the topic of human rights and how it has put into practice a particular human rights agenda in the domestic and in the international sphere. I am conﬁdent that scholars interested in Russia and in the post-Soviet Russian Orthodox Church have learned something new from this account and I hope to have unsettled some preconceived judgments about church–state relations in Russia through a nitty-gritty reading of the ideological positions inside the Moscow Patriarchate. But I also have a second aim in throwing this spotlight on one particular ideological battle inside the Russian Orthodox Church, and that is to understand what this case can teach us with regard to religion, democracy, and human rights in the contemporary world. Religion is back in the public sphere of Western societies (if it was ever really away) and political debates (among theoreticians as well as policymakers) revolve around the question how to accommodate religious claims in the secular state. After 9/11, this problem has, in practice, often been limited to the question of the compatibility of Islam with secular liberal democracy; but, on a more general level, the issue is really one of democracy and pluralism. How much pluralism does a democracy need, how much can it support? Ever since starting work on this topic, I have looked at the human rights debate inside the Russian Orthodox Church as an example of a religious voice that calls for a legitimate place in the public sphere while challenging the very fundamentals of liberal democracy, and I have asked myself how to evaluate this religious intervention if we think of the public sphere as postsecular, that is, as in principle inclusive of religious claims. In other words, I consider the human rights debate inside the Russian Orthodox Church as a case of a religious claim in postsecular society. This is the interpretative frame which I stick to in this concluding chapter, and this is the area of social and political theory to which I seek to make a contribution by adding one instructive example and challenging case study.1 One note on terminology is necessary before moving on: I use the term “postsecular” consciously and emphatically, and I use it both with reference to Jürgen Habermas and his idea of the “complementary learning process”
Religion and human rights in postsecular society
(Habermas 2006) and to Charles Taylor and his notion of “mutual fragilization” in the secular age (Taylor 2007). I will spell out more clearly below my understanding of the postsecular based on these two sources, but by way of introduction it is important to stress that, unlike some important scholars with whom I otherwise ﬁnd myself much in accordance (cf. Roy 2007; Bader 2012), I believe that the term “postsecular” does add normative depth to our contemporary debates about religion in the public sphere in ways which earlier debates about the religious–secular divide did not. The Russian Orthodox human rights debate is a test case for this claim.
How to understand religious majority claims In the Introduction, I outlined ﬁve leitmotifs for the interrelation between religion and human rights which are relevant for this book. (1) The idea that from a human rights perspective the individual is, ﬁrst and foremost, endowed with rights, whereas from a religious perspective what comes ﬁrst are the duties of every single person. (2) The idea that from a human rights perspective the individual comes ﬁrst, whereas from a religious perspective the community comes ﬁrst. (3) The fact that human dignity has become a contested term that is used both in human rights as well as in religious discourses, but is endowed with diﬀerent meanings. (4) The argument that religions adapt to the modern language of human rights out of a pragmatic calculation in order to claim their stake in secular societies, as well as the opposite view that their engagement with the modern world is a sign of genuine modernization. (5) The majority–minority nexus according to which religions which represent a majority in a political context tend to criticize human rights, whereas religions in a minority position avail themselves of human rights. What we see now, at the end of this book, is that all ﬁve of these motifs play an important role in the human rights debate of the Russian Orthodox Church, but we have also learnt that the ascriptions of the diﬀerent positions to either religion or the human rights regime are not always clear-cut. (1) It is true that from a human rights perspective the individual is ﬁrst and foremost endowed with rights, but we have seen that also the human rights treaties contain a reference to duties. Religions, for which duties come ﬁrst for theological reasons, can make an appeal to the notion of duties incorporated in the human rights system and they can argue for duties in completely secular terms. This is precisely what the Moscow Patriarchate did when it said its role was to remind the world of a “more original understanding” of human rights. (2) It is also true that from the human rights perspective the individual comes ﬁrst, whereas from a religious perspective the community comes ﬁrst, but we have seen that from a religious perspective individual claims are possible on the grounds of a theological elaboration of human dignity. The example of the shift from the 2006 Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian People’s Council to the 2008 Human Rights Doctrine shows just how crucial the theological elaboration of human dignity is for a religious aﬃrmation of
Religion and human rights in postsecular society
the individual. Whereas the earlier document referred chieﬂy to the community, the later document actually elaborated the precarious balance between the freedom of the individual and the community. (3) Human dignity is obviously a contested term, but we have also seen that at the very end of it, the scope of human dignity is similar from a religious as well as a human rights perspective: from both perspectives the notion of dignity serves to place the singular human being beyond the reach of arbitrary human interference and manipulation. (4) I have proposed in this book that the Russian Orthodox Church adapts to the modern language of human rights both for pragmatic reasons, as well as out of a genuine aspiration to modernization. Both elements played a role in the process, and from the tensions and the ambiguities in this debate it is clear that not all the actors and members of the Russian Orthodox Church involved in the process of elaborating the Church’s oﬃcial position on human rights were moved by the same reasoning. It should also not be forgotten that I have added a third reason, and that is institutional pathdependency. The history of religious diplomacy of the Soviet Union also plays a role in the way in which the Russian Orthodox Church deﬁnes its standpoint on human rights in today’s globalized world, just as in the past world of nuclear confrontation it deﬁned its standpoint on peace and disarmament. (5) The last leitmotif, the majority–minority nexus according to which religions which represent a majority in a political context tend to criticize human rights, whereas religions in a minority position avail themselves of human rights, also has to be qualiﬁed. We have seen that the Russian Orthodox Church actually plays both roles depending on the situation. In the domestic sphere it tends to play the majority card, and in the international sphere it avails itself of its status as a religious minority. But even this domestic–majority and international–minority separation is not always entirely clear-cut: just think of the example of Russia’s involvement in the Lautsi case or its lobbying for traditional values in the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. In these cases the Russian Orthodox Church criticized human rights on the international level in the name of a self-proclaimed religious majority. What these ﬁndings from the case of the Russian Orthodox human rights debate show, then, is that a religious tradition and the modern human rights regime are not two closed and immutable systems of reasoning. Religious traditions and theologies are evolving over time—most of the time very slowly, but sometimes rapidly, as the shift in the oﬃcial position on human rights of the Moscow Patriarchate from the Social Doctrine in 2000 to the Teaching on Human Dignity, Liberty and Rights in 2008 demonstrates. This confrontation of the Russian Orthodox Church with the human rights topic was not only a question of self-defense and pragmatic adaptation, but also a matter of human creativity and a question of institutional path-dependencies and internal bargaining processes. The human rights regime is also not a closed system that has been encoded once and for all in the Universal Declaration or in the European Convention. The cases cited in this book have shown that the new frontier of the human
Religion and human rights in postsecular society
rights regime is gender equality, non-discrimination and LGBT rights (cf. Casanova 2012). This is where a signiﬁcant proportion of eﬀorts by secular civil society are concentrated, only too often followed en suite by conservative civil society and various religious actors which lobby against rights for homosexuals and against gender equality. But the most important change in the human rights regime today, in my opinion, is the changing evaluation of the balance between individual rights and freedoms and the collectivity.2 Recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights show that judges today are increasingly reluctant to balance out the interest of the collectivity against the freedom of the individual. They instead see the role of the state as ensuring tolerance and pluralism in a democratic society. The model of the state contemplated in the framework of the European Convention of Human Rights is a pluralistic democratic state, and this model, while allowing for various forms of selective or privileged cooperation between a state and speciﬁc religious groups, does not consider admissible the encroachment on individual rights and freedoms for the sake of the collectivity.3 What this means is that the very clauses which the Russian Orthodox Church identiﬁed in its eﬀorts to aﬃrm “a more original understanding of human rights” are actually hardly applicable in today’s human rights jurisprudence. In the light of this shift in legal understanding of the balance between the individual and the collectivity, how can we understand religious or cultural majority claims today? In the Introduction I cited Jakelic´’s observation that “collectivistic religions” are frequently informed by a strong sense of national self-determination and by historically rooted resentments against religious and secular Others, and I asked whether we should conclude from this that a religion’s majority status is where the problem lies and that the only solution for reconciling religions and the human rights regime is that all religions become (or come to perceive of themselves as) minorities. Maybe, I asked, there could be diﬀerent ways of conceptualizing human rights and religious majorities? The majority–minority nexus is the key problem raised by the Russian Orthodox human rights debate and by the political impact it has had on Russian domestic and foreign politics. I will therefore spend the rest of this concluding chapter trying to disentangle the argument and its implications. I ﬁrst look at the political side of the problem, and then at the religious side.
Church–state relations and religious majority claims in the postsecular liberal framework The ﬁrst point to be clariﬁed is how religious majority claims are evaluated in the framework of postsecular democratic theory. The “postsecular” liberal agenda of political philosophy has been shaped in particular by John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas, and holds that an ideology of secularism is not an integral part of liberalism. Their point is that secularism as a political ideology is discriminatory against religious citizens. All citizens must in principle be free
Religion and human rights in postsecular society
to enter into public debates from within the framework of their “comprehensive doctrines,” provided that they are ready to deliberate over political norms in a reasonable fashion and in the view of a consensus valid for all. Habermas’ contribution to this debate is informed by his previous work on communicative action and deliberative democracy. The norms that underlie our modes of political coexistence, and this is Habermas’ most basic position, do not lie out there in “principles from nowhere,” nor do we need to abandon the idea of general guiding norms in the light of a multiplicity of moralities and beliefs; agreement on “principles valid for all” can, instead, emerge in the process of communication and deliberation, they can be the fruit of a mutual learning process and general consent. Habermas himself describes this kind of reasoning as “post-metaphysical,” because it aﬃrms the validity of moral and political principles not by indication of some transcendental point of reference, but through an immanent deliberation process. The equality of public deliberation is threatened, however, when the secular public discourse renders it diﬃcult for religious citizens to voice their arguments. Habermas responds to this particular problem with the assertion that not only should religious citizens be asked to translate their claims into the language of secular public discourse, but also the non-religious citizen is asked to play his part, namely, to scale down his secularist aspirations. Such a reciprocal work of translation should give rise to what he calls “the complementary learning process” (Habermas 2006, 2008). Likewise, Rawls promoted the possibility of consensus between citizens who hold diﬀerent, religious and non-religious worldviews. He argued that “even though our comprehensive doctrines are irreconcilable and cannot be compromised, … citizens who aﬃrm reasonable doctrines may share reasons of another kind, namely, public reasons given in terms of political conceptions of justice” (Rawls 1997, 805). The crux of Rawls’ argument is the word “reasonable”: reasonable refers to those views that comply with the idea of reciprocity and equal respect; it is not the absence of religious argument that is reasonable, but the “overlapping consensus” on democratic principles between citizens who otherwise hold diﬀerent comprehensive doctrines. What Habermas and Rawls show is that democracy, by its own standards, must treat religious and non-religious citizens equally, and this means that democratic public debate must be able to accommodate religious arguments. The two philosophers have shifted the normative debate about democratic principles away from a secular consensus on “rationality” towards a postsecular consensus on “reasonableness.” They oﬀer a third, a postsecular way of understanding the relationship between democracy and religion beyond the particularism of irreconcilable worldviews and beyond the universalism of political norms “from nowhere.” Critics have argued that Habermas and Rawls fall short of their good intentions and have detected a “secularist bias” that still puts a greater burden on religious citizens than on secular citizens (Taylor 2010). I have to admit that this question is not the most urgent for me when it comes to postsecular
Religion and human rights in postsecular society
democratic theory, because for me it is apparent that the “burden of translation” is not equally distributed even among religious citizens, let alone between religious and secular citizens. The assessment of the diﬀerent ways of religious argumentation explored in this book has shown that some ways of religious argumentation will ﬁnd it easier to communicate with the secular world than others. My concern, instead, lies with the fact that neither Rawls nor Habermas conceives of the possibility of making a qualitative distinction between diﬀerent comprehensive doctrines. In the postsecular liberal horizon, all expressions of religious doctrine or diﬀerent worldviews are considered on equal footing, according to the model of a free market of religions and ideas. This type of reasoning is problematic not so much for theoretical, as for practical reasons: we live in a world where majority religious traditions continue to hold a special place in the public spheres of their countries and where the cultural mainstream in most countries continues to be informed by a speciﬁc religious history (Jakelic´ 2010). In these countries, the liberal principle of equality and neutrality can clash with traditional church–state relations. The Lautsi case in Italy has demonstrated a reality that is plainly before our eyes: traditional churches do more than claim rights in a democratic system—they actually seek to give shape to that system; and in saying this I do not have in mind religions that want to overthrow or replace democracy with theocracy. At least in Europe, the dominant churches do not question democracy as such, but for historical and cultural reasons they claim to have a privileged voice in decisions on the institutional and legal make-up of the polity. What place do these religious majority claims have in the postsecular framework? It has become something of a commonplace in today’s debates about religion in Europe that the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the inter-religious Thirty Years War (1648) constitutes the starting point of the secularized modern state system. José Casanova has pointed out, however, that in reality the Treaty of Westphalia brought about not the creation of the secular, but of the homogeneously confessional state (Casanova 2008). For this reason, the political scientist John Madeley speaks about the “chimera of neutrality” with regard to church–state relations in Europe. He rightly observes that the religiously neutral state, which has become “the deﬁning feature of liberalism,” is not the European norm at all and that “the heritage of the European confessional state is still around for all to see” (Madeley 2003a, 27). There is a considerable discrepancy between the liberal idea of state neutrality and actual regimes of church–state relations in most European democracies, both in Western Europe as well as in South and Central-Eastern Europe: The occasionally bizarre and anomalous sets of arrangements which are conventionally referred to under the label ‘church–state relations’ can of course be dismissed as much less important than they are colourful. Alternatively, it can be argued that, in a period where religion-related controversies seem to have a rising proﬁle, such anomalies deserve serious attention, not least from political scientists, who have tended collectively
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to ignore the subject. The fact of this neglect is perhaps all the more surprising because of the great stress given by normative political theorists of a liberal persuasion to the principle of neutrality in matters of religion of the liberal democratic state and its arrangements. With this in mind one might have expected greater attention to be paid to the many diﬀerent ways in which actual arrangements in Europe have deviated—and continue to deviate, some more, some less—from any feasible notion of neutrality. (Madeley 2003b, 4) In his article, Madeley observes that the selective cooperation of the state with a limited number of state-recognized religious traditions is the rule in Europe, rather than the exception, and he adds that “in the USA, all of these commitments … would be deemed contrary to the First Amendment ban on establishment” (Madeley 2003b, 14). The observation that state neutrality vis-à-vis religions is not the norm, neither in the European nor in the global context, has been captured with the term “multiple secularisms” by Alfred Stepan (Stepan 2011). Stepan observes that diﬀerent forms of religion–state relations and diﬀerent patterns of secularism appear compatible with modern democracy. Between the two poles of complete separatism and theocracy (both of which are problematic with regard to democracy: theocracy for the obvious reason that it locates political power in the religious institutions; complete separatism because it risks the exclusion of religious members from the political process), we ﬁnd a whole range of models of “twin tolerations” between state and religions (Stepan 2001). Contrary to liberal “ideal theory” that privileges strict state neutrality, and contrary also to the US tradition of disestablishment, the European experience of church–state relations therefore shows that selective cooperation must not necessarily be democratically problematic. What is democratically problematic is the regulation of religions’ access to selective cooperation (cf. Bader 2007). According to what criteria does a state decide with which religions to cooperate? At the one extreme end of the spectrum of possible arrangements we could imagine a church–state model in which a state cooperates only with one religion and ignores all other religious confessions present on its territory; and at the other extreme end there would lie a state that enters into cooperation with any individual or group that declares itself a religion. Despite this variety of possible arrangements, contemporary normative debates on religion and politics continue to revolve around the idea of strict state neutrality and a free religious market. Contemporary juridical discourses also hinge on these concepts, as the ﬁrst verdict in the Lautsi case (in 2009, demanding the removal of the cruciﬁx) has demonstrated. What is needed, it seems, is therefore a new and practically informed postsecular debate in order to evaluate correctly the normative and practical implications of selective cooperation (cf. Bader 2008).
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Such a debate is already under way: Charles Taylor has recently argued that we need a new understanding of secularism, one which departs from the idea that secularism is about the relationship between the state and religion. Taylor argues that secularism is more correctly understood in terms of the response of the democratic state to pluralism (Taylor 2010, 8). The modern state is faced with questions that the pre-modern state did not have to answer, questions like “Who is this state for? Whose liberties does it safeguard? To what worldviews and attitudes does it give expression?” The political identity of the modern democratic state rests on normative principles (democracy, human rights, equality), but also on historical, linguistic, and religious traditions. Under conditions of societal pluralization, Taylor notes, democracies may have to undergo a redeﬁnition of their historical political identity (Taylor 2010, 17). What is important about Taylor’s argument is that, on one hand, he acknowledges the importance of historical, cultural, and religious traditions for the deﬁnition of the identity of the state, but on the other hand, he also insists on the contingency and potential for redeﬁnition of this identity in the face of societal change and pluralization. For postsecular liberal theorizing, this shift in perspective means that we should incorporate the concept of selective cooperation into our normative reasoning as a ﬂexible distinction that is open to debate and to change. For an evaluation of the Russian case, this theoretical perspective means, ﬁrst of all, that the Russian model of church–state relations, while not being exceptional in the European context of selective church–state cooperation, has one important deﬁciency: the preamble of the law which enlists Russia’s “traditional religions” suggests that there is a closed list of candidates for selective cooperation. Religious groups in Russia that fulﬁll the criteria in terms of years and members can be oﬃcially recognized by the state, but their rights will never extend beyond the letter of the law, to the status of a “traditional religion” according to the preamble. The democratic test for the Russian system of church–state relations does not hinge on the nature of the arrangement itself, but in the way this system will be open to newcomers. I have thus turned around the question of religious majority claims. Irrespective of whether a religious community thinks of itself as the majority or as a minority, the democratic state has to remain principally open to changing patterns of church–state relations. The cultural and religious identity of a polity is, as Taylor has pointed out, not ﬁxed once and for all. It cannot be excluded that at a given moment in history one religion can actually claim majority status in a democratic polity, but this status must remain open to redeﬁnition as a result of societal change and pluralization. Modern societies are pluralistic societies, with diﬀerent religious and secular worldviews coexisting next to each other. The question addressed by Rawls was how the modern polity can be held together in the light of this radical pluralization. His answer was the “overlapping consensus” of otherwise mutually exclusive comprehensive doctrines. Rawls rejected the idea that
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societies could be held together merely by a “modus vivendi,” with the diﬀerent actors consenting to the rules of the democratic game only because they have failed to achieve the necessary majority for overthrowing the system. Rawls has been criticized for his unequivocal rejection of the modus vivendi as a viable political form. Critics like John Gray or John Horton claim that in the real world, the ideal overlapping consensus may just never be reached (Gray 2006; Horton 2010). What is crucial in their eyes is not that the political arrangement is “acceptable” according to some philosophical standard but that it is on the whole accepted by those who have to live under it:4 The idea of a modus vivendi … carries with it the sense that the arrangements are to some extent accepted as legitimate by the various parties to it, even if that acceptance is, as it often will be, to varying degrees reluctant, grudging and qualiﬁed. (Horton 2010, 442–43) What a political theory of the modus vivendi can add to the normative assessment of the majority claims of the Russian Orthodox Church is the insight that a democratic society can function without an ultimate consensus on the “good,” but not without a durable consensus on the legitimacy of the political process. When representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church speak about their religion as the “majority,” what they claim is that the majority of Russian citizens are Orthodox. This claim ﬁnds a backing in sociological data according to which 80 percent of Russians declare themselves to be Orthodox (Willems 2013, 13–14; see also Greeley 1994; Inglehart and Norris 2004, 111–32; Müller 2008, 70). At the same time, however, scholars have pointed out the limits of this often purely nominal attachment and the diﬀusion of idiosyncratic forms of religiosity (Epstein 1999). We should not deny in principle the plausibility of the argument that Orthodox Christianity is the leading religious orientation in Russia today, but we have to remain critical in the face of the Church’s claims to “majority” on the basis of “tradition.” It is important to remember that the Russian Orthodox Church today is not only a religion on the rise, but also a religion on the defensive; it competes as much with other religions as with secularist worldviews. The Church’s confrontation with the modern human rights regime is evidence of this competition. My analysis of this debate and of the European debates to which the Moscow Patriarchate is responding has shown that human rights are essentially contested, not least because the tendency of today’s human rights regime is to expand human rights into ever more diversiﬁed issue areas. A democratic polity can accommodate this contestation, but it may look more like a polity of modus vivendi, and not like the religiously neutral liberal state nor the family-like nation of the Orthodox patriot; it would be a decent state with robust democratic procedures in order to give legitimacy to majority claims and allow for change when majorities falter. The Russian
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Federation under newly-elected President Putin, who has used harsh measures to restrict political opposition, does not correspond to this idea of a decent state. And the Moscow Patriarchate? It can embrace the authoritarian state inasmuch as the government promises to fossilize its status as majority religion, or it can work for more democratic legitimacy. The diﬀerent positions taken inside the Russian Orthodox Church in response to the trial of the punk group Pussy Riot, which Uzlaner has deﬁned as “power-conforming viewpoint” and “oppositional postsecular viewpoint” suggest that the last word on the political strategy of the Russian Orthodox Church has not yet been spoken.
Orthodox Christianity in the postsecular age Many scholars of the Russian Orthodox Church would argue that the Moscow Patriarchate cannot but embrace the state because the model of symphonic church–state relations is part of its historical consciousness. I am not convinced by such a civilizational type of argument, because it underestimates the power of human agency and creativity (cf. Wagner 2012). The Moscow Patriarchate did not formulate its position on human rights in order to back up the politics of the Putin government, but because for a religion in the twenty-ﬁrst century this was a logical thing to do. Modern society has become the natural living environment for the majority of Orthodox believers, and even though the Church may criticize the excesses of modernity, it also has to respond to the legitimate desire of the Orthodox believer to be a part of modern society. This includes a clariﬁcation of its standpoint on human rights (for a similar assessment, see Agadjanian 2010, 98). From this perspective, the way in which the human rights debate developed inside the Russian Orthodox Church is indicative of a dual process: a religious–political arrangement (a matter of historical contingency), about which I have already said enough, and a process of theological renewal (a matter of human agency and creativity and, from a religious perspective, divine inspiration), which I want to elaborate now. My analysis of the human rights debate inside the Church prior to 2009 has shown that the ideological forces at work in this debate were not unanimous and that the Human Rights Doctrine itself oscillates between a crude rhetoric of nationalist traditionalism and a cautious opening towards a postsecular type of debate. We are now in a position to specify more accurately what this postsecular nature of the debate consists of. First, we have to recognize, I think, that the human rights debate is as much a sign of the strength of Russian Orthodoxy as it is a sign of self-defense. Why engage at all with the human rights question, if not because the Church is aﬀected by this new reality and new understanding of the “sacredness” of the person? Second, this engagement with a topic unrelated to theology is, in my view, indicative of a process that Taylor has called “mutual fragilization,” which he deﬁnes as “the undermining sense that others think diﬀerently” (Taylor 2007, 303).5
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Mutual fragilization is an important qualiﬁer for our understanding of the postsecular situation so optimistically sketched out by Habermas. When reading Habermas one might glean the impression that in a postsecular society religious citizens eﬃciently translate their religious ideas into a language that is comprehensible to their secular co-citizens, who are in turn eager to listen and debate back politely, and in this way a complementary learning process sets in which leads to greater reciprocal understanding and better politics. I don’t deny that sometimes public controversies could work like that, but I doubt that this is or can always be the case. It is much more realistic to assume, as Taylor does, that this pluralistic coexistence leads not to greater understanding, but to greater insecurity. Mutual fragilization sets in when the other with his or her diﬀerent beliefs becomes very similar to myself: as long as the alternative is strange and other, perhaps despised, but perhaps just too diﬀerent, too weird, too incomprehensible, so that becoming that is not really conceivable for me, so long will their diﬀerence not undermine my embedding in my own faith. But this changes when through increased contact, interchange, even perhaps inter-marriage, the other becomes more and more like me, in everything else but faith: same activities, professions, opinions, tastes, etc. Then the issue posed by diﬀerence becomes more insistent: why my way, and not hers? (Taylor 2007, 303–4) Taylor concludes that in modern societies, mutual fragilization is at its maximum. Pluralism and fragilization can of course lead to conﬂicts. However, if I understand correctly what Taylor is saying, then postsecular conﬂict is not a situation in which I simply reject the other as a stranger. The other has become so similar to myself that I cannot reject him or her without questioning myself at the same time. Mutual fragilization implies self-reﬂectivity. Postsecular society is a place of mutual fragilization. This, I think, is what the preﬁx post adds to theories about secularism and religion. Critics of the concept of the postsecular often reject the term because they argue that on the ground nothing has really changed, religions coexist with secular societies today just as they have done for centuries, all that has changed is our (that is, the political theorist’s and sociologist’s) way of looking at it. What I would hold against this view is that in today’s pluralistic societies, which are rendered ever more permeable through modern communication technologies, something has indeed changed, and this something is captured by Taylor’s concept of “mutual fragilization.” Postsecular society is a place where the negotiation of the relation between diﬀerent religions and between
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religions and secular worldviews is not a confrontation between self-contained ideological universes, but an encounter that unsettles each of the actors involved through a process of self-reﬂectivity. In the case of the Russian Orthodox Church, such self-reﬂectivity was even invoked by Metropolitan Kirill in the article which in 2000 started oﬀ the entire human rights debate. Kirill called the critical and creative engagement with liberal values one of the most important tasks of Orthodox theology (see Chapter 2, ﬁrst section). Why is it that this debate, in the ﬁnal analysis, has had the kind of outcome we have seen in Chapter 4? Why is it that the Russian Orthodox Church, in the end, seems to recoil from the fragilization eﬀect of this debate? Apart from the political–sociological analysis that I have oﬀered in this book, I think there is also a theological argument that needs to be made. While I am not an expert in Orthodox theology, I nonetheless would like to advance some ideas as to why the human rights debate of the Russian Orthodox Church eventually fell short of Kirill’s promising opening. A premise is necessary here: in the study of the Russian Orthodox Church the symphonic model has been so powerful that most scholars have de facto overlooked the independent role of theology. If considered at all, the independent role of religious thinking has been relegated to the Russian religious intelligentsia (from Vladimir Solov’ev all the way to Sergej Averintsev and Aleksej Losev), with the assumption that this has had little impact on the life of the Church itself (I have myself taken this perspective in Stoeckl 2008). In the case of the human rights debate this way of looking at religious ideas in Russia—pragmatism and theological immobility on the side of the Moscow Patriarchate and creativity and theological innovation on the side of the Russian religious intelligentsia—does not work. The Russian Orthodox Church’s teaching on human rights is not only an interesting case for postsecular democratic theory; it is also a part of a theological discourse that goes beyond the Russian context. As political scientist I have opted for a political–sociological analysis of the Russian Orthodox human rights debate, but as an outside observer I have not failed to notice the theological dynamic at play. Since 2008, the key term in the Russian Orthodox debate is no longer “human rights” but “traditional values.” My suspicion is that the tradition that is being invoked here is not the theological tradition, but a cultural tradition. Why should this be problematic? With regard to the Catholic Church, Casanova once observed that tradition can never be an argument for uniformity, but only for pluralism—because “tradition” has always been the sum total of a multiplicity of visions of religious life and teaching, all gathered under the umbrella of the Church (Casanova 2012). In theological terms the reference to tradition does not mean doctrinal certainty, but rather the opposite: openness. Along these lines, the Greek theologian Pantelis Kalaïtzidis has pointed out that the term “tradition” in Orthodox theology should not be understood in a historical sense. “A certain version of theology,” he writes,
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has turned Tradition into traditionalism and taught us to associate the identity of the church mainly—or even exclusively—with the past, making us accustomed to an Orthodoxy that is permanently out of step with its time and history in general. (Kalaïtzidis 2012, 89–90) Instead, the Eastern Orthodox tradition should be conceived in the light of eschatology: “The fullness and identity of church is not located in the past or the present … but in the future” (Kalaïtzidis 2012, 111). And he quotes from John Meyendorﬀ: Without eschatology, traditionalism is turned only to the past: it is nothing but archaeology, antiquarianism, conservatism, reaction, refusal of history, escapism. Authentic Christian traditionalism remembers and maintains the past not because it is past, but because it is the only way to meet the future, to become ready for it. (cf. Kalaïtzidis 2012, 89) If one takes this criticism seriously, then, paradoxically, the Russian Orthodox treatment of human rights falls short of its potential not because of an excess of tradition, but because of a lack of it—a lack of tradition in an eschatological sense. Not only the reference to “tradition,” but also the claim to “majority” has been evaluated critically from a theological perspective. Aristotle Papanikolaou, who has made a case for human rights from the perspective of the theology of personhood (Papanikolau 2012, 87–130), has criticized the Russian Orthodox Church for clinging on to its majority status: The principle of divine-human communion demands, ironically, that Christians promote a space that maximizes the possibility of rejecting God, and not the more intuitive privileging of the Orthodox Church because of its claims to truth. To be consistent with all that Orthodoxy says about the human destiny for the communion with God, the Russian Orthodox Church must work toward securing a space in which such a relationship with God is free; thus, it must act so as to secure a space in which rights to religious freedom, including atheism, are guaranteed, even if this means diminishing its own role within Russian society. (Papanikolau 2012, 128) Nothing could be further from the claim to majority in the formal discourse of the Russian Orthodox Church than this encouragement to self-minorization. I conclude my book about the Russian Orthodox Church and human rights on this theological note, because it is there—in theology—where the future trajectory of the encounter of Orthodoxy and modernity is being mapped out.
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Notes 1 By doing so, I leave out (at least) one other possible interpretation that the Russian Orthodox human rights debate could be a considered “a case of”: a case of transnational religious actor and soft power (Toft et al. 2011; Haynes 2012). The exploration and elaboration of theoretical conclusions regarding this particular aspect of the Russian human rights debate will need to be the topic of a separate publication. 2 For an analysis of this shift with regard to the right of religious freedom see Laborde 2012; Zucca 2013. 3 In Alekseyev vs. Russia, the judges wrote: [paragraph] 61. As has been stated many times in the Court’s judgments, not only is democracy a fundamental feature of the European public order but the Convention was designed to promote and maintain the ideals and values of a democratic society. Democracy, the Court has stressed, is the only political model contemplated in the Convention and the only one compatible with it. By virtue of the wording of the second paragraph of Article 11, likewise of Articles 8, 9, and 10 of the Convention, the only necessity capable of justifying an interference with any of the rights enshrined in those Articles is one that may claim to spring from a “democratic society” … [paragraph] 63. Referring to the hallmarks of a “democratic society,” the Court has attached particular importance to pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness. In that context, it has held that although individual interests must on occasion be subordinated to those of a group, democracy does not simply mean that the views of the majority must always prevail: a balance must be achieved which ensures the fair and proper treatment of minorities and avoids any abuse of a dominant position. (ECHR 2001a) 4 I am grateful to Ulrike Spohn for allowing me to borrow this phrase from her forthcoming dissertation and for having drawn my attention to the debate in the literature. 5 I am grateful to Peter O’Brien, who has drawn my attention to this notion in Taylor’s book A Secular Age (Taylor 2007).
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abortion 46, 54, 60, 76, 78, 110; conscientious objection 117 Agadjanian, Alexander 2, 7, 46, 53, 55, 60, 78, 91–2, 128 Alexii I, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia 23 Alexii II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia 33, 35, 50, 52, 62, 117 anti-liberal attitudes inside the ROC 27, 30–2, 45–7, 56–7, 76, 92, 113; see also Chaplin, Protoierej Vsevolod; liberalism, the ROC’s criticism of; ROC, fundamentalist wing/ traditionalist wing of; World Russian People’s Council Arab League 112 artistic blasphemy 84, 104–5; campaign against 80–1, 100; see also Law on the Defence of Religious Sentiments; Pussy Riot atheism 37, 43, 65, 81, 86, 131; militant see militant secularism authoritarianism viii, 27, 94 autocephaly 9 Baptists 52, 59 Buchanan, Pat 45 Buddhism 20, 30, 82 Bulekov, Igumen Filaret 50, 52, 87, 108 Cameron, Paul 96 canonical: jurisdictions 38–9; territory 31, 38–9, 48 Casanova, José 122, 124, 130 Catholic–Orthodox Forum 108 Catholics see Roman Catholic Church “Caution, Religion!” exhibit see Sakharov-Center
CEC (Conference of European Churches) 52, 59, 64, 107 Chaplin, Protoierej Vsevolod 47, 52, 59, 98–9, 100; his positions inside the Moscow Patriarchate 50; and the World Russian Peoples’ Council 88–9, 95–7 Christian Peace Conference 21, 24 Christianophobia 66, 115 Civic Assembly of the Russian Federation (Obshchestvennaya Palata) 95 civil society: liberal and secular viii, 1, 19, 51, 67, 81, 87–8, 92, 100, 103–4,113, 122; during the Perestroika 34; reactions to the Human Rights Doctrine 93–7; the ROC as a part of 3, 54; the World Russian Peoples’ Council as civil society branch of the Moscow Patriarchate see World Russian Peoples’ Council; see also see also Department for Church–Society Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate; human rights activists clash of civilizations 49, 56–7, 59, 67, 86 Cold War viii, 10–11, 18n1, 19, 40, 43, 86; peace and disarmament propaganda during 21; relations between the Soviet government and the churches 20, 23, 24; religious diplomacy during 22, 25, 26, 109 collectivistic religions 7, 122 conscientious objection see abortion, conscientious objection conservative: ideas in the ROC 32, 46, 53, 81, 95, 102, 131; Christian groups 12, 45, 49, 67, 107–8, 116, 118n3; Right in the West 45–6, 49, 64, 107
conservatives viii, 10, 93, 95, 99, 114, 122; see also Buchanan; Kirill, as conservative modernizer; ROC, traditionalist wing of; Thatcher Council of Europe 6, 13, 37, 39, 50, 52, 106, 117; Parliamentary Assembly of 30, 62, 117–18 CPCE (Community of Protestant Churches in Europe) 107–8 cross: display in the public 66, 115–16, 125; see also ECHR, case Eweida et al. vs. UK /case Lautsi vs. Italy CSCE (Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe) see OSCE democracy viii, 1, 33, 119, 123–6; in judgments of the ECHR 39, 132n3; in Putin era viii, 94, 127–8; ROC’s attitude towards 27–8, 75, 110; in secular human rights documents 77 Department for Church–Society Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate 89, 92, 95–6, 100 Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate 22, 26, 43, 50, 52–3, 63–4, 68n1, 88–9, 90n1, 96, 108, 111; during Soviet times 25, 107; representations abroad 52, 87, 90n3, 92, 116 East–West dichotomies 27–8, 49, 61, 64–5 ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) 85; case Alekseyev vs. Russia 35, 132n3; case Eweida et al. vs. United Kingdom 90n3; case Lautsi vs. Italy 66, 80, 114–17, 121, 124–5; case Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia et al. vs. Moldova 38; case The Moscow Branch of the Salvation Army vs. Russia 30; case Svyato-Mykhaylivska Paraﬁya v. Ukraine 38; religion in the rulings of 39–40 ecumenical dialogue 2, 9, 12, 48, 52, 106, 108–9; during the Cold War 21, 25, 109; see also Protestant Churches; Roman Catholic Church Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople 11–12 Edinaya Rossiya 99, 102 Enlightenment 5, 16, 19, 43, 69 Europe, church–state relations 40, 48, 63–4, 80, 90n4, 115–16, 122, 124–6; see also separation of church and state
European Centre for Law and Justice 116, 118n8 European Charter of Fundamental Rights 6, 47, 69–70, 75, 77–8, 80, 82–4, 90n4; Romanian and Greek Orthodox criticism of 12–13; Russian Orthodox criticism of 61–2; see also human rights regime European Convention on Human Rights 23, 37, 60, 69–70, 117, 121–2; article 9 6, 38, 105, 115–16; morality in 61–2; see also human rights regime European Court of Human Rights see ECHR European Parliament 47, 65, European Social Charter 98–9 European Union 12–13, 63, 112; Christian heritage of 48; Representation of the ROC to 47–8, 50, 68n2 Ferrari, Silvio 39–40, 79 free speech see human rights regime, right to free speech freedom: of choice 74, 80; of expression see human rights regime, freedom of artistic expression; from sin 74; negative versus positive 25, 74–5; of religion see human rights regime, freedom of conscience; see also Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Association; Human Rights Doctrine, on freedom fundamentalism see ROC, fundamentalist wing Fundamentals of Religious Cultures and Secular Ethics 82; see also Human Rights Doctrine, on religious education G2W 10, 18n1 Greek Orthodox Church 10, 12–13, 17 Guroian, Vigen 15 Habermas, Jürgen vii–viii, 111, 120, 122–4 Harakas, Stanley 10, 13 hardliners see ROC, fundamentalist wing Helsinki Final Act 20, 23–5, 37, 40n1 Henkin, Louis 3–6 “holy fool” 82 homosexuality: as controversial topic during EU enlargement 13;
Index de-penalization of 13, 35–6; ROC’s attitude towards 34–6, 63, 84, 96, 99–100; see also ECHR, case Alekseyev vs. Russia; LGBT-rights; Moscow gay parade human dignity 5, 52, 69, 120; in documents of the UNHRC 111–12; in documents of the WWC 12; in the Human Rights Doctrine 2, 69–74, 80; religious vs. secular deﬁnitions of 4, 6, 121; vs. human worth 57–8, 97; see also morality human rights activists see Law on registration of NGOs; liberal human rights groups; Memorial; Moscow Helsinki Group; Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights; SOVA; Yakunin Human Rights Declaration of the World Russian Peoples’ Council see World Russian Peoples’ Council Human Rights Doctrine (The Bases of the Teaching of the ROC on Human Dignity, Liberty and Rights): on civil and political rights 83; on collective rights 83–4; on death penalty 78; on freedom 74–5; on freedom of artistic expression 80–2; on freedom of conscience 78–9; on freedom of religion 78–9; on human dignity see human dignity; on morality 70–4; on religious education 82–3; on right to equal access to law 84–6; on right to fair trial 84–6; on socio-economic rights 83 human rights regime, viii, 13, 19; civil and political rights 8, 83, see also UN Covenant on civil and political rights; collective rights 83–4, 105–6; competing claims 1–2, 104–6; death penalty 8, 70, 78; education 82; freedom of artistic expression 1, 35, 37, 80, 104–5; freedom of conscience 38–40, 41n4, 78; LGBT rights see LGBT-rights; limitation-clauses 39, 41n8, 61, 76, 80, 105; morality 4–5, 80; religious freedom 6–7; right to free speech 104–5; right to property 24, 83; as sacredness of the person viii, 5–6, 69–70, 102, 104–6, 128 humanism: Christian 65–6; secular 54, 65 Ilarion (Alfeev): Bishop 47, 48, 50, 54, 63–6, 115; Metropolitan of Volokolamsk 9, 11–12, 62
International Peace Movement 11, 21–2, 24; see also Christian Peace Conference Islam: and democracy 120; in the postSoviet Russian religious space 30; religious education of 82; in Soviet foreign politics 20; see also Organization of Islamic Cooperation Italy: the case Lautsi vs. see ECHR, case Lautsi vs. Italy; ecumenical relations between ROC and 52 Jakelic´, Slavica 7, 122, 124 Joas, Hans 5–6, 8, 69, 105 Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate 24, 68n3 Juvenile justice reform 98–100 Kalaïtzidis, Pantelis 11, 130–1 Keston Institute 10, 18n1 KGB 33–4 Kirill: as conservative modernizer 26, 45–6, 49–50, 101; continuity with Soviet foreign diplomacy in the work of 50–1, 118n3; in dialogue with European institutions 47–8, 52; as Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad 26, 42–5, 47, 49, 109, 114, 117; as Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia 1, 26, 33, 50, 95, 110–11, 115–16; as promoter of the Human Rights Doctrine 51–2, 60, 63, 65, 87, 89, 130; on the status of morality in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 61–4, 88; “the Kirill Doctrine” 94–5 Konrad Adenauer Foundation 52, 107 Krakhmal’nikova, Zoya 11, 24 Kunitsyn, I. 46 Kuraev, Deacon Andrej 47, 82, 103 Ładykowska, Agata 73 Lavrov, Sergej 100, 109 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations 28–31, 37, 41n2, 41n8, 67, 79, 98 Law on Registration of NGOs 100 Law on the Defence of Religious Sentiments 100–1 LGBT-rights: activists, 36, 99–100; as a cause of controversy 35–6, 84, 92, 96, 110; in the system of human rights 35–6; 84, 112–13, 122; see also ECHR, case Alekseyev vs. Russia; Moscow gay parade
liberal democratic societies, religion in vii–viii, 115, 120, 122–8; see also postsecular societies liberal human rights groups in Russia viii, 19, 27, 32–3; and the demand for transparency 33–4; and freedom of artistic expression 36–7; their marginal role in the ROC’s human rights debate 47, 81, 95–6, 98–9; their reaction to the ROC’s Human Rights Doctrine 93–5; see also LGBT-rights; Memorial; Moscow Helsinki Group; Sakharov-Center; SOVA; Yakunin liberal human rights regime 13, 19, 60, 63, 66; see also human rights regime liberalism 28, 46–7, 64, 74, 122, 124; the ROC’s criticism of 13, 30; 40, 43–7, 50, 60, 63–4, 76, 113, 115, 130; see also anti-liberal attitudes inside the ROC; ROC, liberal wing liberals vs. conservatives in ecumenical dialogue 107–8 Loshchinin, Valerij 109–10 Madeley, J. T. S. 124–5 Mahmood, Saba 104–5 majority religions see religion, majority vs. minority Makrides, Vasilios 2, 18 maslenitsa 103 Memorial Human Rights Society 33–4 Meyendorff, John 131 militant secularism 37, 65–6, 81, 115 Minin, Stanislav 93, 107 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation 111–12 minority religions see religion, majority vs. minority modus vivendi, political theory of 127 Moldova 37; Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia 37; Metropolitan Church of Moldova 38 moral harm 104–5 morality: and human freedom 58–9, 74–5; in the human rights framework 4, 39, 60–3, 105; politics 113; public 15, 34–6, 38, 61, 67, 91–2, 98, 117; religious understanding 4, 70–2, 75, 85, 108; in the Russian Constitution 41n8; shift to “traditional values” 73–4, 101; vs. ethics 15–16; 72–4; see also nravstvennost’; traditional values Moscow gay parade 35–6, 39, 99–100; see also ECHR, case Alekseyev vs. Russia
Moscow Helsinki Group 33, 40n1, 93 Moscow Patriarchate see Department for Church–Society Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate; Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate; ROC multiple secularisms 125 mutual fragilization viii, 120, 128–9 Narochnitskaya, Natalya 46, 107, 110 Narodnyi Sobor 36–7 nationalism: in Eastern Europe 7; Russian viii, 19, 27–8, 114; Russian Orthodox 29, 31–2, 40, 41n6, 45–6, 94, 96; see also ROC, fundamentalist wing/traditionalist wing; World Russian People’s Council NGO see Law on registration of NGOs Nikiforov, Evgenij 45, 93, Nikodim, Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod 24–6, 50 nravstvennost’ 72–4 Organization of Islamic Cooperation 112 Orthodox theology (general) and human rights 8–18; 131 OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) 20 Osipov, Alexei 24–5, 68n3 Osipov, Vladimir 45, 68n3 Pan-Orthodox Council 9, 11–12 Papanikolaou, Aristotle 131 Papkova, Irina 3, 27–30, 32, 34, 68n1, 97–8 patriotism 32, 36, 41n6, 76, 82, 92, 95, 97, 99; see also nationalism pluralism: human rights as a way to protect 4, 35, 39, 117, 122, 132n3; inside the ROC 94, 104, 128; “managed” 29, 67, 113; religious 30, 80, 101, 112–13, 115; as a threat for the ROC 15, 34, 39, 67, 79; and tradition 131; see also democracy; mutual fragilization; religion, majority vs. minority; ROC, fundamentalist wing/liberal wing/traditionalist wing Ponkin, Igor 107, 117, 118n8 Ponomarev, Lev 34, 93 postsecular: complementary learning process viii; democratic theory of 111, 120, 123–6, 129–30; perspective in the ROC’s human rights debate 43, 57, 59, 67, 88, 128; Pussy Riot as
Index phenomenon of 103, 128; society vii, 119–20, 128, 129; see also mutual fragilization postsecularism 111 propaganda: “gay” 35, 100; peace and disarmament 20–1; religious nationalist 27 Protestant churches viii, 2, 15; Orthodox dialogue with 21, 107–9; in post-Soviet Russia 29; in the World Council of Churches 12; see also CPCE Pussy Riot 1, 81, 92, 100, 102–6, 118n8, 128 Putin, Vladimir 1, 94, 99, 101–2, 114, 128 Radonezh 45, 89, 95, 110 Rawls, John 122–4, 126–7 Regelson, Lev 23–4 religion: majority vs. minority 6–8, 40, 66, 105, 132n3; ROC’s status as 29, 66, 91, 109, 117, 128, 131; in theories of church–state relations 120–4, 126–7 religious education see Human Rights Doctrine on religious education; human rights regime and education REOR see Department of External Church Relations, representations abroad Richters, Katja 3, 30–2, 54, 98, 115 ROC: Bishops’ Council 51, 53, 64, 69, 87–8, 93–4, 96, 99, 112; in domestic politics 32, 54, 91, 97–102; fundamentalist wing 27–8, 32, 34, 42, 44–5, 54, 94; international human rights agenda 60–5, 106–7, 109–18; liberal wing 27–8, 34, 41n7, 42, 45, 54, 73, 93; moral authority 102; repression and collaboration during the Soviet Union 20–6; traditionalist wing 27–8, 32, 42–3, 45, 47, 49–50, 54, 60, 67; see also Moscow Patriarchate Roman Catholic Church viii, 5–7, 9, 15, 45, 49, 117, 130; debate about the ROC’s Human Rights Doctrine 2, 52, 54, 64, 107–9, 115; in post-Soviet Russia 29–30 Romanian Orthodox Church 10–11, 13 Russia Cristiana 10, 18n1 Russian Constitution 37, 41n8, 60, 105 Russian Orthodox Church Abroad 10 Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights 95 Ryabykh, Igumen Filip 46–7, 50, 79, 110, 116
sacredness of the person viii, 6, 69–70, 102, 104–5, 128 Sakharov-Center 36, 81, 103 secularism vii, 47, 49, 54, 64, 123, 125–6, 129; see also Christianophobia; militant secularism; multiple secularisms; postsecularism selective cooperation see Europe, church–state relations separation of church and state: in Europe see Europe, church–state relations; in the Social Doctrine of the ROC 54; theories of 79–80, 124–5 Sergii, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia 20, 22–3 Shafarevich, Igor 45 Social Doctrine (The Bases of the Social Concept of the ROC) 50, 57, 60, 76–7, 86, 121; on civil disobedience 55–6; on human rights 53–6 Solzhenitsyn, Alexander 11, 93 SOVA Center 46, 52, 93–4, 107 Soviet Union see Cold War; ROC, repression and collaboration during the; USSR Stalin 20, 22 Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas 9 symphonia 29, 102 Taylor, Charles viii, 75, 120, 123, 126, 128–9, 132n5 Thatcher, Margaret 45 traditional values: in documents of the UNHRC 93, 109–14, 117, 118n7; in the human rights debate of the ROC 36, 48, 65, 73–4, 117, 121, 130; in Russian domestic politics 100–2, 115, 117 traditionalism, theological critique of 130–1; see also ROC, traditionalist wing Ukraine 31, 38; Autocephalus Orthodox Church 23; Kyiv Patriarchate 38; Uniates 48 UN 20, 23, 31, 41n5, 70, 92; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 10, 19, 37, 83; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 10, 20, 37, 83; UNHRC 12, 52, 106, 109–14, 117, 118n7, 121 United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 30, 79
Universal Declaration of Human Rights: article 29 in the argumentative strategy of the ROC 61–5, 105, 117; evolution 5, 20, 23, 121–2; in the Human Rights Doctrine 69–70, 74–5, 77–80, 82–4, 88; Orthodox reception of (general) 8–10; religious freedom 6; ROC’s post-1991 reception 43, 61; ROC’s pre-1991 reception 19–20, 22–5; see also human rights regime USSR 2, 22, 27, 31, 34, 37; see also Soviet Union
West see clash of civilizations; East–West dichotomies World Council of Churches (WCC) 12, 18n1, 21, 118n4; Nairobi Assembly 23–4, 34; see also Regelson; Yakunin World Russian Peoples Council 28, 63, 99, 100, 112; as civil society branch of the Moscow Patriarchate 31, 51, 88–9, 92; Human Rights Center 97; Human Rights Declaration 32, 51, 53, 56–60, 67, 68n6, 70–2, 76, 86, 89, 93, 95–7, 120
values see traditional values Vatican 67, 91, 107, 115, 107 Verkhovsky, Alexander 27, 32, 52, 94
Yakunin, Fr. Gleb 11, 23–4, 34, 41n1 Yannaras, Christos 15–18, 18n4, 18n5, 73, 77 Yannoulatos, Archbishop Anastasios 13–15, 18, 73–5, 77
Webster, Alexander 10–11, 21, 24