Dukhovnye Skrepy-Antidote to ‘Soft Power’

The gradual re-invigoration of organized religion in Russia over the past 20 years is part of a process which Russians refer to as “dukhovnye skrepy” or “spiritual strengthening” in English. It should be noted that this is seen as having a primarily civic function insofar as it seen as indispensable to the country’s economic and (long-term) territorial self-defence, and to the maintenance of control over Russia’s vast natural resources.

Loosely speaking, this has a precedent in Russian history – Peter the Great had abolished the office of the Patriarch in 1700, and effectively made the Russian Orthodox Church a department of state. This bore resemblances to the “national church” model of many European Protestant monarchies. Peter saw this as necessary to his efforts to modernize Russian society, and to turn Russia into a great European power.

Current Russian President Putin’s gravitation toward the church, and the “dukhovnye skrepy” or spiritual strengthening in general, can be seen in similar terms. Most Russians believe that, as a precursor to any tangible attempt to gain control over Russian territory or Russia’s natural resources, western institutional actors will first attempt to depoliticize and infantilize the Russian people. The “dukhovnye skrepy” is seen as a prophylactic against the geo-strategic threat of western soft power. This, in turn, helps to explain why many Russian non-Christians, for example Russian Jews, see themselves as adjunct-stakeholders in the Russian Orthodox Church as a civic, cultural and intellectual project.

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