By Paul Goble
Vasily Yakemenko, organizer of Nashi and other pro-Kremlin youth groups, says that Russia will never be a democracy because it is Orthodox rather than Protestant, a difference in faith that prefigures differences in culture and politics, predisposing Protestant countries to democratic arrangements and Orthodox ones to authoritarian regimes.
Democracy in the West arose out of Protestantism because that branch of Christianity is “based on dialogue and unending conversations, with God, with those near and far,” he says. People there are “accustomed to speak, listen and be listened to … As a result, they learned to reach agreement among themselves and with the state” (t.me/yakemenko/2417).
In Protestant churches, the minister faces the congregation. He leads but everyone sings and there is “created a space for dialogue. No one shines more brightly than the rest, none is higher than any other,” Yakemenko says. But “with us, it is entirely different” first in church and then in political life.
“The priest serves with his back to the congregate, and the altar is closed. He leads and we follow him … he enters a different space, inaccessible for us, and we calmly wait his appearance. He serves, the choir sings, and we follow in silence.”
In the Protestant West, “everyone thinks ‘I could become president.’ With us, people think ‘I never will become president.’” People believe that a president like a tsar must be born to the role, that “this is a special place before God.” And that view remains, and it is why no one views elections as important: what good is it to vote on someone God has ordained for the role?
All this informs and is reinforced by the requirement of ruling such a large and diverse country, Yakemenko says; and it is reinforced as well by those occasions when those in charge refuse to rule in a tough manner but try to be agreeable. That has happened several times in Russian history, most recently in the 1990s. And it was disastrous.
Expanding the number of people involved in governance in Russia is always a mistake: a small group around the ruler can make good decisions; the current Duma with its hundreds of deputies can’t, the activist and commentator says. And recognizing this, one must also recognize that Russia will never be a democracy and never should.