Russia’s attempts to establish neo-paganism and/or its blend with Russian Orthodox Christianity as a political religion constitutes a great danger for all Russia’s neighbors, both for post-USSR ones and, as the annexation of Crimea has shown, for European countries with great Russian-speaking population.
The signs that Russian powers had been building an aggressive ethnic-oriented pseudoreligion appeared in the early nineties.
Serious researchers didn’t pay attention to laughable ideology of imperial paganism with its claims like “Russians built all the great cities of the planet”, “Russians were the core Arians that brought sacred ancient knowledge to India”, “Russians wrote the original Vedas”, “Ra was Russian Sun-god, plagiarized by ancient Egyptians”, “Russian ancestors were the Gods of Cosmos”.
Russia’s aggressive external politics, and the role that religions play in building of “Russian World” requires research to understand why these ideas have quickly spread in Russian society, and why did they become so popular.
The mere acquaintance with the works and lectures of ideologists of Russian “paganism revival” (Hinevich, Trehlebov, Levashov, Cherkasov, Golyakov) and their followers’ practices helps us define its basic features:
- claim for the sole access to Higher Truth through the hidden pre-Christian tradition of wise men;
- “pagan” cryptohistory (Russians are the most ancient “race” and descendants of Slavic pagan gods);
- justification of territorial claims towards neighbors and killing of non-Russians based on alleged ancestor truth and pseudohistory;
- claims for Vedic heritage and search for its origin in pre-Russian culture (very similar to Ariosophy of German Nazis with its swastica cult and rune symbolism);
- easy blend with popular simplified and vulgarized form of Russian Orthodoxy;
- xenophobia, racism, and antisemitism based on the idea of spiritual superiority of “Russian race”.
This ideology looks very similar to Nazi occult esoterics of SS with its racial superiority theories, mystics, and the “revival of Nordic Gods”. Russians still see the collapse of USSR as a great geopolitical catastrophe and every ideology of revanchism receives acceptance in highly marginalized society.
Neo-paganism gives Putin an easy ideology based on sacraments, sacred symbols, and pseudoreligion suitable for poorly educated people, an effective weapon for mass manipulation and ideology that justifies aggression much better than traditional Orthodoxy with its Christian moral and commandments like “you shall not murder”.
Before the Russian war against Ukraine researchers of religion thought, that the Kremlin had been preparing these ultra-nationalist bands brainwashed with neo-paganism for its “inner market” – to rule via supporting Russia’s inner ethnic tensions.
Today we see that we underestimated Putin, and aggressive neo-pagan ideology can be used easily to justify and motivate outer aggressions, and can be easily exported and transplanted into Russian-speaking communies outside Russia. This militarized pseudo-religion threatens potentially to all former–USSR countries and even some former allies of Soviet Union in Warsaw treaty.
NEO-PAGANISM BLENDING WITH RUSSIAN ORTHODOXY
Though co-existence, symbiosis, and cooperation of Christianity with paganism seems theologically impossible, or, at least, contradicting to common sense and logic, it does somehow develop in Russia, though the leaders of Moscow Patriarchy tend to condemn it ex cathedra. To understand this we need to take a look at the history of Russian Orthodoxy under Russian empire, where Orthоdox priests used to be governmental officials and the Church had always been under tsar control, blessing and justifying every act of state power.
Under the officially atheist Soviet regime the situation got even worse. Almost destroyed by bolshevik rule before WWII Orthodoxy survived under USSR either in cryptic form or in collaboration and control of НКВД (predessesor of KGB).During the war with Germany Stalin mobilized every resourse he could find including the remnants of Orthodox Church which had received some freedoms in exchange for ideologic support of war effort (thus the “Great patriotic war” had became sacred in USSR). From that time the KGB established total control over Russian Orthodox Church and this control, or at least its major elements dominate Moscow Patriarchy inner and external politics, slowly transforming it into state religion with strong nationalist ideas, which give ideologic basis for cooperation with the nationalist neo-pagans and carefull acceptance of some of their “cosmic” ideas about special spiritual Truth perceived only by Russians. This new phenomenon is called “Russian Orthodox Extremism“, where “Orthodox” means something so broad that it can include even paganism.
The common European answer to this dark-age pseudoreligion should be “education and common sense”. However, it seldom works with adepts of Russian neo-paganism. The esoteric knowledge their gurus speak from Youtube and Vkontakte (their sermons easily receive hundreds of thousands views) provides great armor against any scientific arguments: “they don’t write it in official history books, but […] did happen”. Being scared for many years with the ghost of the West, Russian mentality is very vulnerable to such conspiracy logic – in Soviet Union everyone knew that one should never trust official books on history thus any absurd might be true.
Russian powers have managed to forge the pagan ideology, which at first glance doesn’t seem to be an important brick in the wall of “Russian World”, but it turns out to be an effective mass manipulation instrument prepared solely for aggression – internal and external.
The neo-pagan ideas and slogans reach hundreds of thousands, probably even millions people in the former-USSR countries. They are especially popular among low-educated youth, which is quick to implement them practically in persecution of believers of other religions and ethnic minorities in Russia, and among Russian mercenaries fighting in Ukraine like Russian Orthodox Army gang operating in Donbas.
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