Putin increases attention to state manipulation of religion


SOVA Center for News and Analysis, 5 July 2021


The new National Security Strategy devotes greater attention to counteracting "destructive forces" and protection of "traditional spiritual and moral values."


On 2 July 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an ukase approving a new National Security Strategy. It replaces the previous document of the same type, which was adopted in late 2015.


The updated Strategy differs substantially from the previous version. There is a notable change in the tone of the introductory section regarding the international position of Russia. Now it specifically speaks directly about attempts of the West to maintain world hegemony and of the desire of transnational corporations to restrict the role of states. Moreover, the authors of the Strategy consider that "against the background of the crisis of the western liberal model" some states are making the attempt "to deliberately erode traditional values, distort world history, revise the views on the role and place of Russia within it, rehabilitate fascism, exacerbate inter-ethnic and inter-confessional conflicts, formulate a hostile image of Russia, restrict the use of the Russian language and the activity of Russian news media, introduce sanctions against athletes, and accuse Russia of hacking attacks. In addition, according to the document, they are "trying to exploit the social and economic problems existing in the Russian Federation for the destruction of its internal unity, inspiration and radicalization of the protest movement, support of marginal groups, and division of Russian society."


The national interests and strategic national priorities of Russia were updated in a relevant manner. The list of priorities now includes the following:


Insulation of the people of Russia and the development of human potential;

Defense of the country;

State and social security;

Informational security;

Economic security;

Scientific and technological development;

Ecological security and rational exploitation of nature;

Protection of traditional Russian spiritual and moral values, culture, and historical memory;

Strategic stability and mutually beneficial international cooperation.


In the section about the ensuring of state and social security, the authors of the Strategy again recall "the destructive forces abroad and within the country," which are trying to exploit social and economic difficulties "for the purposes of stimulating negative social processes, exacerbating inter-ethnic and inter-confessional conflicts, and manipulating the information sphere." Here they mention espionage, including the use of controlled public associations and individual persons. The "destructive activity" also includes propaganda activity "of international terrorist and extremist organizations." Finally, it is mentioned that for "dissemination of unreliable information and arranging of illegal public demonstrations, the possibilities of global internet companies are widely used."


The Strategy includes as measures to ensure state and social security "prevention of interference in the internal affairs" of Russia, halting of intelligence activity and all activity "causing harm to national interests," including by means of "inspiring 'color revolutions,'" "prevention and halting of terrorist and extremist activity," "prevention of manifestations of radicalism, prevention of extremist and other criminal phenomena, primarily among minors and youth," prevention of criminality on the internet, including money laundering, financing of terrorism, distribution of drugs, and illegal use of cryptocurrency. Measures for ensuring security include "counteracting illegal migration; strengthening control over migration flows and the social and cultural adaptation and integration of migrants;" and also—within the Strategy's spirit of combating extremism—"prevention and neutralization of social, inter-confessional, and inter-ethnic conflicts, separatist phenomena; prevention of the spread of religious radicalism, destructive religious movements, formation of ethnic and religious enclaves, and the social and ethno-cultural isolation of separate groups of citizens." Such measures also include "ensuring the legal protection of Russian citizens and legal entities from politically motivated decisions by foreign and international (inter-state) courts."


Separately the Strategy prescribes the objectives of policy in the area of information security, based on the premise that transnational corporations are using monopoly positions on the internet and are introducing censorship and blocking alternative information platforms, and also that anonymity on the internet facilitates the commission of crimes. Among the objectives, the Strategy mentions the "development of forces and means of informational warfare," and also "counteracting the use of the information infrastructure of the Russian Federation by extremist and terrorist organizations, intelligence services, and propaganda structures of foreign states for effectuating destructive information influence upon citizens and society."


The section on the priorities in the area of culture has been substantially updated, in comparison with former versions of the Strategy, in that greater attention is devoted to the maintenance of traditional spiritual and moral values and historical memory. "More and more, fundamental moral and cultural norms, religious structures, the institution of marriage, and family values have been subjected to destructive influence. The freedom of the individual is absolutized; propaganda of permissiveness, immorality, and egoism has been activated; the cult of violence, consumption, and pleasure is being promoted; the use of drugs is being legalized; and communities banning the natural continuation of life are being formed," the text of the Strategy says. According to the authors of the document, "the inculcation of alien ideals and values" leads to an "intensification of disunity and polarization of national communities," destroys the "foundation of cultural sovereignty," and undermines the "foundations of political stability and statehood." Moreover, the text states explicitly for the first time that traditional values "are being subjected to intense attacks on the part of the U.S.A. and its allies, as well as on the part of transnational corporations, foreign noncommercial, nongovernmental, religious, extremist, and terrorist organizations," and "informational and psychological diversions and 'westernization' of culture are intensifying the threat of the loss of the cultural sovereignty of the Russian Federation." Mention is also made of attempts at "weakening the state-forming people" (we recall that earlier the concept of the "state-forming people" was inserted into the Russian constitution).


Accordingly, the tasks in the area of culture now include, among others, the protection of historical memory and the strengthening of the institution of the family. For protection of historical truth, the Strategy provides for forming a state procurement system in the area of science and art. It also provides for "support of religious organizations and traditional confessions" and for the "defense and support of the Russian language," including suppression of the public use of profanity. Confessions that are not viewed as "traditional" and the languages of the peoples of Russia are not mentioned in this section of the Strategy. (tr. by PDS, posted 5 July 2021)

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