Author: Shashwata Sahu, LL.M.
This paper is an in-depth examination of Russian Diplomacy's dealings with religion. For centuries, Russia has been seen as a country that prides itself on its uniqueness while also being widely perceived as a nation controlled by hardline nationalists. Utilizing auxiliary examination of hypothetical texts, the researcher's goal in this paper is to examine how the Russian Federation has used Religious Democracy, one of Russia's most important soft power initiatives, to improve its public image. Researcher's thoughts on Russia's religious diplomacy system are included in the study, along with recommendations for reform and concluding words.
KEYWORDS: Religious Diplomacy, Religion, Russia, Soft power and Cultural Security
There was a unique tension that emerged towards the close of the 20th century because of ideological disagreements between two geopolitical poles. It's when religion and spirituality became the standard bearers for a political philosophy that was nothing more than a means to gain political legitimacy. Although universally prepared people face terrible realities, it served as an identity aspect and continues to explain these realities today. Re-experiencing religion is often seen as an attempt to reclaim a lost heritage, a means of rediscovering one's national identity, and, last and most importantly, as a link to a long line of ancestral memories in post-socialist societies. There are many examples of this in the former Soviet states. The paradigm of a growing convergence of Russian state and religious society operations on the international stage is one such expression of "religious renaissance applicable in Russia's public arena." The Soviet era was no exception to the long-standing Russian practice of employing religion as a tool of national policy and diplomacy. With increasing speed and effectiveness, we can also see the Russian Federation attempting to structure its religious diplomacy. As an initial point, we can see that the transformation of religious conviction is closely linked to Russia's entire political and social structure. Many Russians, including members of the political elite, view religion as an important part of Russian culture and tradition. In their view, religion serves as both a source of values for Russian society and a means of regaining Russia's once-dominant status.
Also, it should be remembered that Russia's official idea of state policy has frequently included religion. Interfaith dialogue is encouraged in the country's cultural spaces, which are falsely referred to as a "civilizational pole." Cultural and interfaith engagement are intrinsically linked to the state's well-being and its soft power. Russia's most valuable diplomatic advantage is the ability of religious organisations to maintain their allegiance.
CULTURAL SECURITY AND SOFT POWER
The Russian Federation's foreign policy includes three texts that detail the country's religious framework. They are as follows –
(i) "National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation (2020)"
(ii) "Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation (2010)"
(iii) "Foreign Policy Concept of Russian Federation (2008)"
From the previously listed three sources, it's clear that religious beliefs and practices are important cultural and distinctive characteristics of human civilization, whether they stand alone or are part of a larger system.
Russian authorities are hopeful that they can avert any inter-ethnic and inter-religious violence within the country by promoting an effective interface dialogue just on the National Front. For Russia to be seen as a unique civilisation that lives on religious cohabitation, this could be a good place to start, as well as the beginning of building Russia's international credibility. In so far as the state's soft power is concerned, it's really no less than a cultural attraction and an asset.
When it comes to religious diplomacy, Russia's foreign policy notion is preparing for an abstract basis. As a multi-religious and cosmopolitan country, Russia has proven itself capable of fostering dialogue between faiths and cultures within international organisations such as "UNESCO, UN, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE," not even to mention its assistance in organising the Islamic conference as a whole. This is emphasised throughout the report.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RELIGIOUS DIPLOMACY
"Religion as a factor in foreign policy is what we mean by religious diplomacy, which is simply the use of religious associations to further national goals and international activities as a part of state collaboration in all aspects of foreign policy." To define the relationship between religious organisations with state institutions engaged in religious diplomacy, the word "cooperation" is purposely utilised. In spite of the lack of a clear pattern, we do occasionally witness this state employing gentler religious institutions as pawns. Without getting into all the fine points of the debate, we often observe that church-state relations are more like partnership, which is advantageous for both parties because it is built on conceptions of mutual dependence.[i]
In diplomatic terms, a state is deemed to be the more formidable opponent.[ii]The state's preeminence is often reflected in the fact that the views or appeals of people vary. This is the religious institution, not the secular authority, that responds to their needs.
TRANSITIONAL FEATURES OF RUSSIAN RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS
Russia's muftiates, under increasing pressure again from ROC's growing activity, have begun to build the capacity to carry out a wide range of operations beyond Russia's boundaries.[iii]Since that time, we've noticed that only a few unusual and specific contexts, such as acts related to the "Dalai Lama or the Jackson Vanik amendment," have piqued the interest of Russia's foreign affairs ministry, including those of Buddhist and Jewish organisations. This alone shouts that the ROC as well as the muftiates dominate Russian religious diplomacy to a large extent.[iv]
According to the prior statement, the ROC is capable of operating beyond the borders of the Russian Federation. As it is the worst canonical territory which includes the Soviet Union, except for Armenia and Georgia, which were not legally part of the Soviet Union. Observe that the ROC is responsible for maintaining the infrastructure of almost all of the churches as well as Parishes on not one rather six continents.
Russia's long history of industrialization has undoubtedly had an impact on the country's diplomatic experience. Even so, it's worth noting that the department responsible for external relations was first established on a professional basis in 1946. From 1960 through the 1970s, Bishop Nikodin's foreign relations department developed to be Moscow's most important se nodal department. Bishop Hilarion saw the department as the ROC's intellectual cauldron. The department became recognised as the birthplace of all new ideas under the reign of Bishop Kirill since it was believed to be accountable for developing the ROC's social vision. In addition, the selection of Bishop krill as Moscow's 15th Partridge shows how important the ROC's branch of foreign relations has become.[v]
For its relevant abilities and dedication to assisting the Russian diaspora as well as interfaith dialogue, the ministry of foreign affairs identified as Sergey Lavron praised the patriarchate's diplomacy on the 65th anniversary of the department of external relations in 2011. When it comes to collaborating with Moscow's Patriarchate, the Foreign Affairs Ministry stands out as the most enthusiastically emerging among all the other ministries.
To describe the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), we can say this is an institution that greatly signifies the Russian state on the international stage. Russian patriarch Kirill said on February 2, 2011: "The Moscow patriarchate is becoming more and more important and respected in international dialogue. Representatives of high political and diplomatic circles are interested in the ROC's opinion on concrete issues of current international affairs." North Korea, Iceland, as well as Cuba all have ties to Russia, which lends credence to this belief. The desire to expedite relations with Russia was a major driving force behind the establishment of an Orthodox Church in each of these regions. From Iceland, it was seen as a gesture of goodwill toward North Korea or a show of gratitude to the Russian government for their support. A strong ROC position is possible because of the country's inclusiveness in government. With regards to international relations, this is a religious and political institution.
Nevertheless, this can be observed that perhaps the Russian Muslim's diplomatic activity becomes less notable. Due to Russia's dispersion of Islamic institutions as well as a squabble here between mufti's themselves, the muftiates' transitional capacity is severely limited. Although various groups have attempted to set up a powerful central organisation to represent the entire Russian ummah, those areas considered to bear traditional Islam are now becoming increasingly fragmented but are on the verge of decentralisation.
Mufti's have a great desire to serve the interests of Russian Muslims on the international stage, as evidenced by the work of the Russian Council of Muftis on the "essential standards of the social programme of Russian Muslims" that was completed in 2001. Goals, internal and external activities by the Council of Muftis are discussed in this document. When it comes to international affairs, we can see that those who wrote the social programme for Russian Muslims acknowledge the importance of all agreements with other organisations, such as the "Organization for Islamic Conference (OIC), Arab League (Arab League), and Muslim states (such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), including Turkey, Iran, and Egypt." As a result, it is clear that the mufti wishes to play an important role in the development of Russia's strategic partnership with the aforementioned nations.
Because the muftis do not have any assets or government authority outside of Russia, the goal of this campaign is not only to restore their former prominence, but also to assist in the creation of a new international role for them. A major factor in why the Islamic groups devote less attention to foreign action than the Moscow patriarchate can be attributed to this.
RELIGION WITH RESPECT TO RUSSIA-UKRAINE CONFLICT
Ukraine's complicated political past with Russia is mirrored in the country's Orthodox Christian majority, which is split between a group centred in Kyiv that favours independence and another that is loyal towards its patriarch in Moscow. Even though Russia and Ukraine have both promoted religious nationalism, religious loyalty does not correlate with political loyalty in Ukraine's battle for survival. "Russian President Vladimir Putin" affirmed the invasion of Ukraine by claiming it was necessary to protect the Moscow-oriented Orthodox church. However, the leaders of both Ukrainian Orthodox factions, as well as the country's substantial Catholic minority, have adamantly condemned Russia's invasion.
Russia's flourishing religious diplomacy has backed a few accomplishments, the first of which is the assistance of the ROC, which has improved the Russians' ability to promote their imaginations and vistas on the international stage. Because of the church's increasing involvement on numerous international fronts and its growing transitional potential, the Kremlin has benefited greatly from the ROC series over time. Observer status at the OIC and the additional diplomatic channel that has contacts with Iran are considered unquestionably a notable success. To gain an edge over the United States and the European Union in their relations with the Islamic world, Russia has effectively and intentionally used the Muslim component to participate in organisations that are usually closed to the United States and the European Union. It's difficult to deny the ROC's influence, especially in the CIS, and the important role it plays in the Caucasus.
The greatest challenge for Moscow patriots in the post-Soviet region, on the other hand, is to establish a religious institution that can be trusted to serve the interests of all Russians. When countries like Ukraine and the Baltic states are involved, this is a serious issue.
While it is true that religious diplomacy can be a useful tool in international relations, it is also true that a number of erroneous assumptions about the concept itself exist. Interfaith dialogue is being touted as Russia's prized savoir faire, but there are legitimate concerns about its long-term credibility. In terms of Russian soft power, inter-religious harmony is seen as a key component, along with the nation's new image and its enticing mission statements. Inter-confessional strife is on the rise in Russia at the moment, however. It's widely believed that the precarious equilibrium is coming to an end. In 2010, a poll found that 54% of respondents had a positive view of the slogan "Russia for Russians." If this becomes an outpouring, Russia's reputation as a country that promotes inter-religious harmony will be tarnished. What we have here is an outright desecration of the religious model that grants preaching license exclusively to the most devout. Traditional mufti's who are just displaying a portion of the Russian Oh ummah are of particular concern.
However, there is at least one shortcoming in Russian soft power. The Kremlin's opinion is that even if the soft power is founded on principles of pure fabrication, it should succeed. As a result of the administration's attitude, it can appear as though the entire power of the sky is nothing but an illusion. Everything about this theory is faulty from the ground up since it is difficult to discover authenticity and faith in the disseminated beliefs. Accordingly, it can be concluded that Russia's cultural appeal is still seen to be weak outside of the CIS territory, and in particular in the regions of Georgia and Moldova due to their openness to western notions.
This type of religious diplomacy is not a Russian creation, but it has a lengthy history in this area. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's diplomacy and foreign policy have been greatly influenced by the revival of religion on the social fringes. Russia's religious diplomacy is just beginning to take shape, therefore assessing its potential as a transformative aspect of Russian soft power is a risky proposition.