Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Patriarch Says His Church’s Canonical Territory Includes All Former Soviet Republics – Plus China and Japan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 30 – Patriarch Kirill says that the Russian Orthodox Church’s canonical territory currently includes all the countries that had been part of the USSR plus China and Japan, and his aides say that it could expand to include other countries where the Russian Church has taken the lead in missionary activity.

            Kirill made this expansive claim in an interview he gave at the end of last week to a Greek journal (patriarchia.ru/db/text/2930157.html), prompting the Orthodox magazine “Neskuchny sad” to publish a map of this territory (nsad.ru/pic/canonic_map_01.pdf) and an explanation  of what it means (nsad.ru/articles/kanonicheskaya-territoriya-russkoj-cerkvi-karta).

            Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, secretary of the Patriarchate’s council for relations with Orthodox churches, told the magazine that the term “canonical territory” is now used quite frequently, it has only recently been given definition in the Russian Church by a decision of senior clerics earlier this year.

            The term itself is “formally lacking in traditional canonical texts,” he said, but “the absence of the term does not mean the absence” of an understanding of the idea. Indeed, the canonical borders of the Russian Orthodox Church are referred to at church councils of the Eastern patriarchates as early as 1590 and 1593.

            The ancient church did not need the concept, Yakimchuk continued, because there did not exist major formations larger than individual parishes or bishoprics, “but with time, larger structures began to be formed, and the necessity arose of canonically regulating the borders among them.”

             The Eastern churches generally assumed the borders they have today in the Byzantine period, he said, but “the church borders of this or that Church can be broadened” to other territories where they have conducted missionary work. That is why China and Japan are part of the Russian Church’s canonical territory.

            Another “important moment” related to this, Yakimchuk said, is that the canonical space of a church is based on territory rather than statehood. “States may disappear or appear, their borders may contract or expand, but these changes do not mean the automatic shift of church borders.”

Asked what happens when “historically a certain territory belongs now to one patriarchate and then to another,” such as for example in Bessarabia, the patriarchate official said that chronology is defining: “If in the course of 30 or more years, the borders between two” such churches “are not disputed, they cannot be changed unilaterally.”

As far as Western Europe concerned, the situation is still confused. A century ago, Yakimchuk said, “no one could imagine” that there would be “hundreds of Orthodox congregations.” But now there are, and to whom they should be subordinate will be the subject of an upcoming Universal Orthodox Assembly.

Opinion on this subject is divided between those who support the right of any autocephalous church to control the parishes near it and those who believe that there should be a more rational division of labor among the traditional Orthodox churches of the world. The Moscow Patriarchate favors the former position, but believes it must emerge “naturally” rather than by fiat, a process that will “require not a little time and patience.”

Window on Eurasia: Daghestanis Again Will Form Half of Russia’s Pilgrims to Mecca This Year, Muslim Leader Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 30 – Even though Daghestan forms only two percent of the population of the Russian Federation and only 12 percent of that country’s historically Islamic nations, residents of that North Caucasian country will again this year form half of the Russian contingent on the pilgrimage to Mecca, a measure of just how Islamic that republic is.

                At a press conference in Makhachkala yesterday, Magomedrasud Omarov, spokesman for the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Daghestan, and Akhmed Khabibov, who helps organize support for hajis from the republic, talked about the state of the haj in that extremely religious North Caucasus republic (riadagestan.ru/news/2013/4/29/156068/).

                Omarov said that Daghestan had been given a quota of 8,000 haj slots this year, some 500 fewer than last year, because of increasing demands from Muslims in other parts of the Russian Federation, but that he expected that Daghestanis would, as they have in the past form about half of the 20,500 slots that the Saudis have given Moscow this year as in the past several.

                (In fact, at least over the last four or five years, hajis from the Russian Federation have, despite these quotas, often numbered far more. In 2011, for example, Saudi officials said that almost 40,000 Muslims from Russia made the haj, and Riyadh has put increasing pressure on the Russian authorities to rein in their citizens in this regard.)

            One reason that the number of Daghestani hajis is so large is that there are a number of charity organizations in that republic who fund the pilgrimage of those who otherwise could not afford it. One donor alone, Suleyman Kerimov, reportedly will be financing some 3,000 Daghestanis again this year.

            Omarov noted that “there have been years when Daghestan received as many as 12,000 or even more haj slots.” He said that the faithful in Daghestan should see the decline as something positive because it means that Islam is “strengthening” in other parts of the Russian Federation.

            According to the MSD spokesman, since the end of Soviet times, “one can boldly assert that the number of Daghestani pilgrims totals approximately one million,” a figure that he said does not include those who have visited the holy places outside of the haj times. If that is true, then almost one in every three Daghestanis may have made the haj.

            Omarov added that Moscow has done everything it can to simplify the process of obtaining the necessary travel documents for Daghestani hajis.  “Over the last three years,” he said, “there has not been a single case when an individual was not able to take part in the haj” because of problems with OVIR. 

Window on Eurasia: Few North Caucasians Rely on Internet to Support Their Identities, Survey Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 30 – A new survey of sudents in the Kabardino-Balkarian capital of Nalchik on the nature, sources and support of their ethnic, civic, and religious identities found that only one in every 33 said the Internet was a major way for them to maintain ties to groups they identify with, despite their frequent use of the Internet for their studies.

            That finding, just one of many intriguing observations offered in a report posted online at the end of last week, suggests the need to revise some of the assumptions many observers currently about the role of the world wide web in defining how young people, let alone others, in the North Caucasus, view themselves (caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=21139).

            Under the direction of Islam Tekushev, members of the Prague-base Medium-Orient Information Agency interviewed during the second half of February 2013 235 students of various nationalities between the ages of 16 and 30 at the three higher educational institutions in Nalchik concerning the mix and hierarchy of identities they have.

            The researchers published their findings for the group as a whole, for Kabardinian women, for Kabardinian men, for Balkar men and for Balkar women, an arrangement that highlights both the similarities and differences among these various categories concerning identity.

            Asked which social group they most identified with, members of the sample as a whole pointed to their ethnic community (72 percent), their status as citizens of the Russian Federation (66 percent), and their membership in a particular religion (44 percent). Respondents were allowed to list up to three.

            Forty-six percent of the sample said that they chose to identify with a particular group because it provides them with a defense of their ethnic righs, “above all the development of national culture and language,” while 30 percent said that the group gave them personal security,, and 27 percent said it helped them achieve materialwell-being.

            At the same time, 24 percent of the respondets said that they chose the group because it could ensure the defense of their religious rights, and 11 percent specified that their group membership helped provide them with “defense against the arbitrariness of government organs, above all the police and the tax bodies.”

            Regarding the institutions to which they turn for support of their identities, 47 percent of the sample said they used their parents, somewhat fewer their friends, but only three percent mentioned the Internet, even though as students they use the world wide web almost on a daily basis.

             The differences among the Kabardinians and the Balkars on certain questions were enormous, even at a general level. Seventy-two percent of the Kabardinians but only seven percent of the Balkars said they had a positive or generally positive attitude toward members of other ethnic groups. Only four percent of each had a negative view of the other.

            Most of the report about this survey concerns the attitudes of four groups: Kabardinian women, Kabardinian men, Balkar women and Balkar men. Among the Kabardinian women, 34.2 percent identified with all three kinds of identity (ethnic, religious and civic) and only 5.7 percent identified solely with a religious one.

            Among the Kabardinian men, 27.5 percent of the men identified with all three identities, andonly five percent with religion alone.  Their preference for two or three identities, “one of which is religion,” gives them “a feeling of defense against the risks of being an object of discrimination or persecution.”

            Unlike their female counterparts, the male Kabardinians were more likely to include religion in their identity mix and more likely to say that the rights of the members of their community were being violated, with 70 percent of the sample agreeing with the assertion that these rights are at risk.

            At the same time, 62 percent of the male Kabardinians list civic identity as part of their identity mix, an indication of the “quite high influence of [non-ethnic] Russian civic identity on the representatives” of the young in KBR and on the belief among that group that civic identity can also help defend them against the challenges they face.

            The situation with regard to the Balkars, women and men, is somewhat different, the study found, perhaps a reflection of their minority status in the republic. (According to the 2010 census, the Balkars form 12.7 percent of the population while the Kabardinians form 57.2 percent and the Russians 22.5 percent.)

            Balkar women were somewhat more likely to declare a mixture of identities than Kabardinian ones. And they were somewhat less likely to declare a clearly defined religious identity. Indeed, the authors of the study found, Balkar women listed religion only alongside other identitites rather than separately.

            Balkar men also differed from their Kabardinian counterparts.  Far more (62.5 percent) said their identity included all three elements, civic, ethnic, and religious, with fewer identifying purely in religious or ethnic terms and with more not being willing or able to identify themselves in any of these terms at all. None preferred exclusively civic or exclusively religious identities.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Draft Quota Changes Lead North Caucasians to Ask: ‘Do We Still Live in One Country?’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 29 – Reductions in the number of men drafted from the North Caucasus supposedly to combat dedovshchina in the ranks and then Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu’s promise to restore at least part of the draft quota for that region have sparked questions in that region which have serious political consequenes.

            In an article on the FLNKA.ru portal on Friday, Milrad Fatullayev, the editor of the Daghestani weekly, “Nastoyashchyeye vremya” and a contributor to Moscow’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” argues that perhaps the most serious is “do we live in a single country?” -- or at least a common legal space?  (flnka.ru//2136-armiya-esche-odna-liniya-raskola.html).

                With regard to the reduction and then elimination of draft quotas for the North Caucasus repubics, Fatullayev says, there is an obvious question: “On what basis” was that decision taken? What were its legal foundations?  The answer of course, that there weren’t any, and no one has explained why this happened.

            If draftees violate military rules, they must be disciplined, and if the military fails to do that or decides that the only way it can cope with such violations is not to draft people from one or another region, Fatullayev continues, then it is clear that “the state system cannot cope with draftees who violate the law.” Moreover, such a step is “a crude violation of the Constitution and of human rights.”

            Such questions are especially urgent now that Moscow has decided to restore all quotas in whole or in part.  That too requires an explanation, the editor continues, and it is obvious that in this case too “the law isn’t working.”  And involving the republics in supervising draftees from them is not only a diversion but itself a violation of the constitution and laws.

            Daghestanis “want to serve,” Fatullayev says. If one of them doesn’t or if he will not live according to the military rules, then he should be discharged from the military and sent home.  Only “those who are required or those who want to serve” should be in the military. “I don’t see problems here,” the editor argues.

            Those who don’t want to serve and are sent home certainly know that they won’t get a position in the police or the force structures or possibly elsewhere in the bureaucracy, but that is their choice.

            Why then did the Russian military behave in this way?  “It is possible,” Fatullayev writes, “that the former army leadership calculated that if there were to be a large number of Caucasians in the Russian army this would be a threat to Russian statehood” because those who served could use the skills they obtained against the state.

                But imposing “such limitations on the basis of ethnicity is not only a crudely mistaken but also a criminal decision of the higher leadership of the Army,” Fatullayev argues, but it represents a clear “path to the segregation of the country along ethnic, territorial, religious and other lines.”

             “A situation when the laws of the Russian Federation are applied selectively to its territories, nationalities or confessional groups is one road that leads the country to collapse” because it is “yet another line of division.” And what makes the whole situation still worse is that limitations applied to North Caucasians were not applied to the Muslims of the Middle Volga.

            The General Staff took this decision on its own, without legal basis, and tried to hide it, first cutting back quotas – seven times, according to Fatullayev’s information --  under the guise of a reduction in overall force levels and then finally forced to provide some kind of explanation when the military could not hide what it was doing any longer.

            This whole sad story – the reduction of quotas, the return of quotas, and the establishment of special oversight responsibilities to North Caucasus governments is not only illegal but “speaks about the weakness of the state, about the weakness of the administration, and about laws which do not work.”

            Residents of the North Caucasus are now asking themselves questions like: “Do we live in a single country?” “Do the laws apply to all alike independently of ethnicity or territory?” “Can we trust such a state?” and “Does the state trust us or not?” Clear and precise answers to these questions are absolutely “necessary.”

            “If the state does not trust an entire region,” he says, “that means that the residents of this region have a logical basis for having doubts about their trust in this state,” which appears to view them as aliens or worse, good only to be “driven into national, political or some other reservations.”

                The fact that these questions are being asked represents a serious political problem, he argues; the fact that they have not yet been answered represents a potentially even more serious one.