By Paul Goble
The leaders of Russia’s four traditional faiths all called on Russian citizens to go the polls for the presidential election, but Muslim and Buddhist ones appear to have had a greater impact on their followers than did the Russian Orthodox hierarchy who saw participation rates in predominantly Russian areas lag behind.
Indeed, experts say, the role of Muslim and Buddhist leaders may have a greater impact on how many people vote than do pressures from the authorities not only because they suggest that participation is a “sacred” duty but also because the hierarchies of these two faiths are integrated with the local power elite (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/318003/ and asiarussia.ru/news/19202/).
In predominantly ethnic Russian and thus at least nominally Orthodox Christian areas like Siberia and the Russian Far East, in contrast, the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchies are less closely integrated with the power structures and participation was far lower in these areas than in the Russian Federation as a whole (svpressa.ru/society/article/195821/).
Obviously, other factors are at work as well, but religion may be playing a large rule than is commonly assumed, something that makes the relations between religious leaders and local elites a more important object of investigation than any but a few specialists on the North Caucasus now do.