Owen Matthews Owen Matthews

Russia’s puritan revolution

Russia is being presented as a moral fortress against gays and pornography

Last weekend a group of young activists turned out on a Moscow street to protest against western decadence. They were a hard-faced bunch, standing defiantly in military poses and wearing uniforms bearing the logo ‘Officers of Russia: Executive Youth Wing’ as they blocked access to an exhibition by American photographer Jock Sturges that featured images of nude adolescents.

‘We are here to protect people from paedo-philic influences,’ one Officer of Russia told journalists — while another protester sprayed the offending photographs with urine. At the same time, Russia’s state–controlled airwaves filled with senators, priests and government officials denouncing the wickedness of the exhibition (which shut down immediately after the protests) and calling for the organisers to be prosecuted. The outcry came just days after the Russian government banned two popular porno-graphy sites, youporn and xhamster, also on the grounds of protecting public morality.

Putin’s Russia is fast becoming a very puritan place. Ever since returning to the presidency in 2012, Putin has pursued an increasingly religious-conservative ideology both at home and abroad, defining Russia as a moral fortress against sexual licence and decadence, porn and gay rights.

Putin’s puritanism has grown hand-in-hand with the personal influence of two key conservative ideologues: his personal confessor Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov and the mystical geopolitical thinker Alexander Dugin. Bishop Tikhon is one of Russia’s highest-profile critics of the decadence of the modern western world — and his Every-day Saints and the Other Stories was the best–selling Russian book of 2012, rivalled for sales only by Fifty Shades of Grey. Dugin is the chief ideologue of Eurasianism, an ideology which holds that Russia has a special historical destiny to save the world from the corrupt moral values of western capitalism.

Owen Matthews on Putin’s puritanism

The influence of the Russian Orthodox church on public life is growing fast, thanks to Kremlin patronage.

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