In an interview with Muslimpress.com, Vladimir Rodzianko talks about the religiosity of Russian people and their relationships with religious minorities, especially Muslims.
MP: How’s the relationship between church and state in Putin’s government? Are they totally separated?
Vladimir Rodzianko: The relationship between church and state in Russia is separate. However, the Russian people have been and always will be instinctively spiritual. Since Prince Vladimir baptized Rus in the year 988, the Russian people have been predominantly Christian - even during the dark days of religious persecution of the Soviet Union. Having said that, the Russian Empire, and continuing with the current Russian state, has always been tolerant of other religious minorities. This is essential for Russia's survival in maintaining its vast territory.
MP: Does Mr. Dugin set President Putin's religious mindset?
Vladimir Rodzianko: I don't think Mr. Dugin influences Putin any more than say Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church does, or any other figure in society. Putin is a very intelligent and pragmatic leader. His decisions making is calculated and moral. Aside from Putin's politically diverse cabinet of liberals, progressives, and conservatives, Dugin brings a diverse expertise on religious geopolitics. At the end of the day, I don't believe Putin acts on certain proposals from Dugin considering Russia's vast religious and cultural diversity and acts in the interest of the Russian nation.
MP: How has the religiosity of Russian people – especially their attitude towards Islam - changed since the collapse of communism?
Vladimir Rodzianko: As I mentioned above, the Russian people as a whole have always been inherently spiritual, something the Godless Bolsheviks could not even suppress during the Soviet Union. Religiosity in Russia accelerated dramatically since the collapse of the Soviet Union. For the first time in 3 generations, people were able to profess and practice their religion openly. People still prayed during communism's reign, but secretly in their homes for fear of persecution. That fear of persecution was all too real, and to this day, is something most Christians would not want anyone else to go through. This partly explains Russia's tolerance to other religious minorities.
MP: In some Western countries, Islamophobia has been on the rise in recent years. Do you think Russia has the same problem?
Vladimir Rodzianko: The idea of fearing Islam was created by Western media, to justify wars in the oil-rich Middle East, among other things. I find people in Russia are more tolerant of religious minorities, including Islam, than in the West. Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists, have lived together for centuries within the borders of Russia. Aside from the bloody confrontations with separatists and extremists in Chechnya in the late 90's, Muslim-dominated regions are again united, peaceful, and flourishing economically. Russia historically has had favorable relationships with Muslim countries.
MP: How do Muslims live in Russia? Do they face anti-Muslim bigotry?
Vladimir Rodzianko: Again, you see this far more in Western countries. The media portrayed Muslims as bad people following the 9/11 attacks, just as they are today portraying local law enforcement in the US as white supremacists and racists. The media magnifies certain incidents, and labels them a trend instead of studying the facts. This type of labeling and propaganda against Muslims or any other minority does not occur in Russia.
MP: What does Russian people think about Muslims? Do they consider them as outsiders?
Vladimir Rodzianko: I think a summarization of my answers from above can answer this question. Russians come in all shapes, sizes, and colors - Russia is the largest melting pot in the world. Many Muslims consider themselves Russian. Those who may consider Muslims as outsiders, are not a representation of the Russian people.
Vladimir Rodzianko is managing director and writer for TheDuran.com