By Deiniol Jones
Russian Prime Minister Medvedev warned recently of the advent of a new Cold War. His boss, Vladimir Putin, contradicted him. It’s a confusing situation, and the confusion is only compounded when HRH Charles Prince of Wales pops up to make a revealing comment, comparing Vladimir Putin to Hitler.
Does history repeat itself in precisely the same way? Is Putin a Hitler, a Stalin or just…well, just a Vladimir Putin? Is it possible to abandon historical analogies and concentrate on the man himself?
Take two oligarchs from the higher echelons of Russian politics, both of whom are important politicians and close to Putin. Russian Railway boss, billionaire Yakunin – a man who is banned from entering the USA under the recent sanctions regime – is also head of an organisation called The Foundation of St Andrew the First Called, a trust which funds various Russian Orthodox Church causes such as The Centre for National Glory, which takes a keen interest in youth education. Yakunin and his Trust were involved in bringing holy relics from Mount Athos in Greece to Russia. He and his wife Natalia are linked, via the World Congress of Families, to another oligarch, Konstantin Malofeyev, who also runs various conservative programs concerned with motherhood, the defence of the family and traditional values, under the auspices of The Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. Recently Malofeyev was involved in a scheme to bring the gifts of the Magi to Kiev. Reportedly, he said that Kiev was ‘possessed by demons’. It is not clear, whether he was referring to democrats.
When top Russian oligarchs belong to organisations named after medieval saints, it’s an indication that politics is becoming more complex. According to Oleg Kashin, a well known Russian journalist, Malofeyev is actually directing the war against Ukraine. For some of its protagonists, what is happening in the Donbass region of Ukraine is a holy war. It is being fought, at least by the ‘pro-Russian side’, as they say, with iconography and knives, priests and manpads. There are reports of a self-declared, Orthodox Army fighting a Jihad in the Donbass region.
Orthodoxy and arch conservatism are integral to Putin’s current regime. Some have even claimed that a coterie around Putin – notably the extremist Dugin, who is referred to by some in Russia as a ‘publicist’ for his own ideas – are planning to ‘reform’ the Russian constitution, so that Putin can be crowned Tsar, which is a possibility that cannot be ruled out. Neo-authoritarianism is Putin’s legitimating ideology. It is designed to cement his grip on power inside Russia, but also to spread his appeal internationally. And some people seem to like it.
Recently a group of far right neo-authoritarians met in Vienna. A Swiss newspaper – Tages Anzeiger – broke the story. The group met on the 200th anniversary of the founding of the ‘Holy Alliance‘, part of the Congress of Vienna that ended the revolutionary Napoleonic Wars. Then as now, the founding principle of this ‘holy alliance’ is a desire to do battle with liberal values and institutions. As strange as it sounds, we can speculate that the hope of these neo-authoritarians is to somehow break NATO and the EU. They view Paris and Berlin as potential allies in a new, pan-European and arch-conservative order, but not benighted, liberal Anglo-Saxon London, with its hedonism and gay marriage.
Some journalists have called this group a ‘holy union’, others have used the phrase ‘Europe’s fifth column’. The name ‘Black Internationale’, my personal favourite, stresses the need for a battle to defend liberal, democratic values from attack by a sinister international network determined to destroy them. The term was coined recently by an Italian journalist who helped break the story. And in case you were wondering, the group uses the phrase ‘satanic lobby’ to describe its opponents.
This is a network that comprises oligarchs, warlords, the European far right, artists, capital firms, financiers, industrialists and aristocrats. The heir to the FIAT fortune is involved, and so are various Le Pens.
To grasp the essence of the ‘Black Internationale’, you might need to think like bestselling conspiracy-theory novelist Dan Brown, or be familiar with Orthodox or perhaps even Catholic saints. This movement has a spiritual centre that requires you to ‘think out of the matrix’. The first step? Convince yourself that the sun revolves around the earth, and the earth around the ideals of high religious orthodoxy. The second step? Believe that those values are centered in Moscow, and that the Kremlin’s historic mission to spread this power across the whole of Europe. If you can reach this far, then you may have a sense of the mission.
People have asked whether Putin is a Hitler or a Stalin. Filtered through the lens of the Holy Orders of George, Vasily or St Andrew, Putin appears more like like the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, who turns up to denounce Christianity in the name of the Church, and promote the inherent ‘mystery’ of power.
And who will make it to the Black Internationale’s next meeting, planned for January 2015 in Moscow, the spiritual home of the new endeavour? It will be very interesting to observe.
In case you are wondering how close Putin is to this arrangement: Putin wrote the forward to Malofeyev’s booklet presented to his conservative ‘World Congress of Families Convention in 2010.’ Archimandrite Tikhon, often called Putin’s spiritual Godfather, is said to serve on the board of Trustees of the Church Fund of St Basil the Great, alongside Konstantin Malofeyev. Tikhon is also a member of the radical Izborsky club, which recently opened a branch in Donbass under separatist leader Gubarev. Sergei Ivanov, long-time Putin Chief of Staff, works with Malofeyev’s capital group ‘The Marshall Fund’, and also has connections to Yakunin’s St Andrew Fund. Is this alliance of church and state moving forward with its plans? As former Putin advisor Illarionov said recently before a NATO Parliamentary Assembly, for some time Putin has wanted to place the holy city of Kiev under his control. The Grand Inquisitor is only just beginning his work.