Political leaders in Russia have been profoundly affected by Samuel Huntington’s theory of the clash of civilizations, all the more so, one Moscow commentator suggests, because of the late Harvard theorist’s suggestion that Orthodox Christianity constitutes the basis for one of those civilizational blocs.
In a provocative article posted online last week entitled “Why Huntington was Wrong about ‘Orthodox Civilization,’” Vladimir Mozhegov argues that it should have come as no surprise that Russian leaders would be attracted to and then fundamentally misuse Huntington’s ideas (www.russ.ru/pole/Pochemu-Hantington-oshibsya-s-pravoslavnoj-civilizaciej).
The Moscow publicist says that Moscow elites, political and especially religious, were drawn to Huntington’s theory less because of his call for a multi-polar world and criticism of the West for its application of “double standards” around the world than for his comments about the existence of a Russian-centered “Orthodox civilization” at odds with other civilizations.
The notion of a distinctly “Orthodox” civilization, as Mozhegov notes, has long been a favorite idea of Patriarch Kirill and has been elaborated most fully by his close aide and advisor Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, Kirill’s longtime deputy in the Patriarchate’s External Affairs Department and now head of the Church’s department for social relations.
More than two years ago, in an article entitled “Five Postulates of Orthodox Civilization,” Chaplin argued that “a religiously neutral” state in an Orthodox country like Russia was “impermissible,” unlike in the West where that notion lies at the foundation of civil society (http://www.pravaya.ru/side/584/11462).
According to Mozhegov, Chaplin in his 2007 essay was simply expressing in a “traditional Byzantine-Soviet” manner Huntington’s ideas and insisting the following hierarchy for Russia: “at the top are the powers that be, a little lower is the Church, still lower is society, and at the very bottom is the individual.”
Traditional Byzantine-Soviet manner...that phrase just makes my head hurt. Unfortunately, the clash of civs argument, whether or not Huntington's book is one of the causes, seems to be at the heart of what Moscow is doing these days.