The promise of order and justice after the collapse of the Soviet Union has not been fulfilled in Putin’s Russia, with no political symbol emerging for her national identity. Various social movements and political ideologies—liberalism, communism, Russian Orthodoxy—have offered themselves to define and symbolize Russian society, but none have been able to articulate a concrete political vision that reflects a consensus among elites and gained popular support. This confusion in Russian society not only creates social and political instability, but it makes it difficult to analyze Russian politics, particularly Russian political culture and civil society. This especially is true for positivists, with their focus on political behavior or psychological factors that influence behavior—not to mention of their fact-value distinction that prohibits normative evaluations. By focusing on political symbols and elite experiences that engender these symbols, this book adopts Eric Voegelin’s “new science of politics” in the hope to provide an alternative approach to the study of Russian culture, civil society, and politics that can clarify and evaluate the fundamental structures of Russian political reality.
Positivists make the assumptions that the natural sciences have access to the fundamental structures of reality and that these sciences are the model for all other sciences, including the social sciences. The result of these studies is confusion instead of clarification of the fundamental structures of political reality, with a subordination of theoretical relevance to methodological procedures. Realities like transcendence which can not be conceived by the mathematical method or objectified by the natural sciences are considered nonexistence or non-relevant to the subject of inquiry, and psychological studies of political actors become reduced either to positivist factors such as socio-economic class or to speculative psychoanalytical theories that have little relationship to the existing empirical data. The outcome is theoretical confusion that yields little understanding about the fundamental structures of political reality.
Eric Voegelin (1901–85) was a political scientist who rejected the positivist and psychoanalytical approaches to the study of politics. He conceived of politics as the human search for order and justice as experienced by their relationships to nature, society, and transcendence. These experiences become symbolized in political symbols, which society either accepted or rejected, and can be analyzed as ones of order and justice. But in order to evaluate these political symbols, and the experiences underneath them, the political scientist must understand the broader theoretical context from which these symbols arise, i.e., the historical context of these political symbols. This “new science of politics,” as Voegelin referred to it in 1952, is to reconstruct the experiences of elites’ consciousnesses and their relationships to nature, society, and transcendence with the available empirical data before us. Factors such as socio-economic class and political ideology are taken into account as are national events and international factors, but the primary focus is on the formation and articulation of elite consciousnesses as ones of order and justice or disorder and injustice. Which experiences constitute order and justice and which ones are disorder and injustice are explained throughout the book.
An analysis of contemporary Russian politics therefore is an analysis of its historical existence, particularly of its elites, and the political symbols that emerge from their experiences. By reconstructing the experiences of both the secular and ecclesiastical elites from Kievan Rus to Putin’s Russia, we discover that political symbols are dynamic entities that can fluctuate from order to disorder and back to order again. A political symbol may articulate experiences of order and justice and later become derailed and interpreted as a symbol of disorder and injustice; or a political symbol of order and justice may become detached from the original experiences that had engendered it and be used for ideological purposes of disorder and injustice. A political analysis of these two political symbols in Russian politics, the Russian Orthodox Church and state, requires a historical investigation that will provide an aggregate of diverse human experiences against which we can evaluate these political symbols.
Political Culture, Religion, and Civil Society
Voegelin’s new science of politics places him at odds with most approaches to the study of political culture. The predominant approach is positivist that focuses on political behavior or psychological factors that influence political behavior in a fact-value manner. Almond, Parsons, Inglehart, Putnam, and others all adopt positivist assumptions in their study of political culture, whether it was patterns of orientations, democratized modernization, or social capital. These scholars identified political culture with a concrete system of values, actions, and behavior and how they form a political culture, usually conceptualized in terms of structures and processes. This positivist approach often is employed in studies of contemporary Russian politics, usually adopting a consumer-type model, with public opinion polls and mass attitudinal surveys employed to reflect the national mood of the Russian public. Although these studies focus on the empirical data for their conclusions and shed some light on our understanding of political reality, they not only neglect the “production side” of their models, i.e., elites, but they fail to take into account other realities that resist the conceptualization of the natural sciences.
The symbolist school—as represented in the works of Wildavsky, Dittmer, Tucker, and others—conceptualizes realities that positivism neglected. These scholars understood political culture as a phenomenon that was dynamitic, complex, and full of competing discourses that tried to articulate a political vision for society, and this vision usually was defined as a set of value codes that imposed order on society and infused it with meaning. This approach to political culture is an improvement over positivism with its recognition that political reality cannot be studied from the vantage point of an Archimedean observer but only from within as a participant, and it incorporates normative evaluations into their analyses from which we can determine whether a politics is just. By focusing on the political vision, symbols, and discourses of a society, symbolists can better clarify and evaluate the structures of political reality than positivists.
Several scholars have adopted the symbolist approach to their studies of Russian politics. For example, Billington created a narrative out of Russian culture to analyze a variety of political symbols; Pipes and White concluded that autocracy was the only defining principle and symbol for the Russian people; Petro looked at civil society as a struggle between statists and non-statists; and Marsh, Gvosdev, and Warhola all examined the Russian Orthodox Church’s place in civil society as a potential supporter for liberal democracy. Others have re-conceptualized political symbols as categories of national identity, like Agadjanian, Tolz, and Urban. The study of nationalism particularly has been analyzed by the symbolist approach, as found in the works of Tishkov, Bokov, Alekssev, and others.
Voegelin’s new science of politics, of which is explained in greater detail in chapter 9, falls within the symbolist school but also is an improvement upon it, in that Voegelin recognized the political reality of transcendence and sought to incorporate it into his analysis. He postulated the existence of our relationship with nature, society, and transcendence, thereby making them amendable to analysis as a set of human experiences. By reconstructing human consciousness, Voegelin can examine elites’ conception and relationship with transcendence as it is articulated in political symbols. Although this method cannot yield the scientific certainty that mathematics or the natural sciences claim, Voegelin’s new science can make the study of transcendence and our relationship to it understandable for political analysis. This is something new in the studies of religion, especially with respect to the Russian Orthodox Church.
The literature on the Russian Orthodox Church is almost as vast and complex as the history of the Church itself. Most of the literature points out the unique nature of Russian Orthodoxy, particularly its relationship to the state in the paradigm of symphonia. Instead of a separation between church and state as developed in western civilization, Byzantine and Slavic society conceived of a complementary relationship between the two entities, as recently articulated by the 2000 Russian Orthodox Church’s Bishop Council.
The Orthodox tradition has developed an explicit ideal of church-state relations. Since church-state relations are two-way traffic, the above-mentioned ideal could emerge in history only in a state that recognizes the Orthodox Church as the greatest people’s shrine, in other words, only in an Orthodox state . . . In their totality these principles were described as symphony between church and state. It is essentially cooperation, mutual support and mutual responsibility without one’s side intruding into the exclusive domain of the other. The bishop obeys the government as a subject, not because his Episcopal power comes from a government official. Similarly, a government official obeys his bishop as a member of the Church, who seeks salvation in it, not because his power comes from the power of the bishop. The state in such symphonic relationships with the Church seeks her spiritual support, prayer for itself and blessing upon its work to achieve the goal of its citizens’ welfare, while the Church enjoys support from the state in creating conditions favorable for preaching and for the spiritual care of her children who are at the same time citizens of the state.
With this paradigm of symphonia, scholars have studied Russian Orthodoxy and its relationship to national identity, such as the “spiritual vacuum” thesis that Russian Orthodoxy has become the national civic religion of post-Soviet Russia. There also are studies, such as Smith’s and Billington’s, that look at Russian national identity in terms of collective memory, culture, and Russian Orthodoxy, and works that focus on the role that religion played in challenging the authority and legitimacy of the Russian and Soviet state. However, the greatest debate that the symphonic paradigm has generated is whether it supports or retards the development of civil society (grazhdanskoe obshchestvo). In 2000, Metropolitan Kirill made a statement that revealed the unique nature of church-state relations in Russia and helps clarify the nature of this debate.
Proselytism is not some narrow religious activity generated by a wrong understanding of missionary tasks. Proselytism is the fact of invasion by another culture, even if Christian, but developing according to its own laws and having its own history and tradition. This invasion is taking place after the old missionary patterns of colonial times. It is not merely a desire to reveal Christ to people—people who have confessed Christianity for over a thousand years at that—but also to refashion their culture in the Western mode. This understanding of the role of Orthodoxy in civil society also has led to a re-conceputalization of civil society, as Kharkordin claims that Orthodox civil society is one where religion “supplant the secular state and its use of the means of violence by bringing church means of influence to regulate in all terrains of human life.” This definition runs counter to western concepts of civil society as written by Gellner, Putnam, and those scholars who have used it in their studies on social capital.
This symphonic arrangement between church and state also leads to a different conception of justice in Slavic civilization as rooted in sobornost. Early Slavic society conceived of justice as based on the collective and the outcomes for it, whether it is the mir, krug, or some other social organization. This conception of justice continued until the fifteenth century with the introduction of western ideas that replaced the Slavic conception of justice as the fair and equitable distribution of goods and services among the members of the community. With Peter the Great’s policy of Westernization and the establishment of the Soviet Union, this Slavic conception was destroyed and supplanted with western theories of individualism, human rights, and socio-economic class analysis. In the post-Soviet period, justice is understood in terms of the state returning back into society under Vladimir Putin and the tolerance of certain civic organizations as long as they do not attack the authority and legitimacy of the state.
All these studies on political culture, religion, and civil society as they related to Russian politics are excellent, but their shortcoming can be summarized by one scholar as follows: “We seek here to explain the political question of how religion as a social phenomenon impinges on civil authority. The fact that it does is given. The philosophical and specifically metaphysical question of possible transcendence causes for a given religion’s perdurability are of a somewhat different, though perhaps no less significant, character.” Although some scholars have recognized the role of transcendence in politics, none actually have tried to conceptualize it as an object of inquiry. By adopting Voegelin’s new science, I hope to see whether transcendence can be studied in the reconstruction of elites’ consciousnesses and thereby avoid the debate whether Russian Orthodoxy contributes or detracts from the formation of a civil society. For Voegelin, justice is the correct experiences of humans’ relationships to nature, society, and transcendence that give rise to political symbols of order and justice. The examination of these political symbols and the experiences that underlie them, in a comprehensive and historical fashion will reveal whether Russian political reality has been, is, and will be one that is fundamentally ordered and just.
The Study of Political Symbols
Although the study’s focus is on the Russian Orthodox Church and state, it also looks at other political symbols that have played a prominent role in Russian history and politics. Unfortunately, I have omitted some social institutions and political symbols, like the Uniate Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, from this analysis because present scholarship already thoroughly examines these institutions. I use selected sources in both English and Russian for the study, using primary sources whenever possible.
In the first two chapters, “Kievan Rus” and “Muscovite Russia,” we see the crucial concept of symphonia as the governing arrangement between church and state in Russia. For both secular and ecclesiastical elites, the task was to convert the cosmological pagan society of the Slavs to the soteriological civilization of Christendom. During most of this time, both church and state respected the symphonic arrangement and laid down the foundations for a civilization based on order and justice. However, a series of schisms (raskol) afflicted the Church as it sought autocephalous and later patriarchal status, and the Church became weak both as a social institution and as a political symbol when confronted with an autocrat state. Each entity created their own ideologies to protect themselves—the state sponsored the ideology of tsardom, while the church protected itself with the ideology of Moscow as the Third Rome—with the result that both were so debilitated that neither could stop the Times of Trouble (Smutnoe Vremia). Once the Romanovs were elected as tsar, both the church and the state engaged in Gnostic enterprises that led both of them into disorder and injustice. These problems are examined in chapter 3, “Church and State Ideologies,” and chapter 4, “Derailment of Order and Justice.”
Chapters 5 and 6 cover the same time period (ca. 1700–ca. 1917) when the Russian Orthodox Church became secularized and subordinated by the state, started with Peter the Great’s policy of Westernization. The despiritualization of civil society was led by the state, with the Church being replaced by a variety of secular ideologies, most of which were ones of disorder and injustice. In its subordinate position to the state, the Russian Orthodox Church was unable to confront effectively the Marxist-Leninist ideology that emerged as the predominant political symbol of pre-Soviet and Soviet Russia. Chapter 7, “Secular Messianism,” looks at the ideology of the Soviet Union, its persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church, and its eventual demise, and chapter 8, “Competition for Order and Justice,” looks at some of the opportunities and problems for the Russian Orthodox Church and state in the post-Soviet period: an era of competing political discourse and symbols. The study finally concludes in “The New Science: The Search for Order and Justice,” with a review of the study and prospects for political symbols.
The incorporation of normative evaluation and the recognition of transcendence as a fundamental political reality to be analyzed is what set apart Eric Voegelin’s new science of politics, and this study seeks to see whether Voegelin’s new science can clarify and analyze political reality that examines empirical data. By reconstructing the consciousness of secular and ecclesiastical elites and the political symbols that emerge from them, this study will provide a novel interpretation on the interaction between politics and religion in the history of Russia as a quest for order and justice. My task is two-fold: to understand and to analyze the social institutions and political symbols of the Russian Orthodox Church and state and the experiences of elite consciousness that underlie them, and to see whether Voegelin’s new science, in the tradition of the symbolist approach to political culture, is a valid method to understand Russian politics.
It must be stressed here that normative evaluation and the study of human participation with transcendence does not equate into a refutation of the fact-value distinction; rather, Voegelin’s new science examines the empirical data in an alternative manner to clarify and analyze the fundamental political realities of Russia. Of course, this approach cannot provide scientific proof for its conclusions. It is true, but unfortunate, that the thoughts and passions of humans cannot be rigorously demonstrated as in mathematics or the natural sciences. Although this difficulty is formidable, it is not insurmountable. The reconstruction of consciousness from the available empirical data is to rely upon one’s own introspection with the hope of understanding other people. This procedure requires us to infer the motives, experiences, and perceptions of others by examining their situation, behavior, and self-interpretations. In the reconstruction of consciousness, we not only compare them with previous people in their society but also with our own, thereby creating an aggregate set of experiences from which we make normative evaluations. As Voegelin declared, “Theory is not just any opining about human existence in society; it rather is an attempt at formulating the meaning of existence by explicating the content of a definite class of experiences.” This study employs this introspective and imaginative method where its conclusions are not dependent upon positivist methodology but on my and your knowledge of human nature.
. For an introduction to the life and thought of Eric Voegelin, refer to Ellis Sandoz, ed., Autobiographical Reflections (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989).
. Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973); Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretative Anthropology (Basic Books, New York, 1983); Howard Wiarda, Corporatism and Comparative Politics: the Other Great “Ism” (Armonk, NY: Sharpe, 1997).
. Gabriel Almond and Sidney Vebra, The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963); Talcott Parsons, The Theory of Social and Economic Organizations (New York: Free Press, 1964); Edward Shils, Toward a General Theory of Action (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951); Sidney Verba and Lucian W. Pye, eds., Political Culture and Political Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965); John R. Gibbins, Contemporary Political Culture: Politics in a Postmodern Age (London: Sage Publications, 1989); Ronald Inglehart, Culture Shift in Advanced indusrial Societies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990); Robert Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).
. A review of these studies can be found in Frederic J. Fleron, Jr., “Post-Soviet Political Culture in Russia: An Assessment of Recent Empirical Investigations,” Europe-Asia Studies 48 (2 March 1996): 225–60; also refer to Thomas Remington, The Truth of Authority: Ideology and Communication in the Soviet Union (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988); Stephen White, “Political Communications in the USSR: Letters to Party, State, and Press,” in Ideology and Soviet Politics, ed. Stephen White and A. Pravda (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Sylvia Woodby and Alfred Evans, Jr., eds., Restructuring Soviet Ideology: Gorbachev’s New Thinking (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990); Richard Sakwa, “Subjectivity, Politics, and Order in Russian Political Evolution,” Slavic Review 4 (Winter 1995): 943–964; Neil Robinson, Ideology and the Collapse of the Soviet System (Oxford: Aldershot, Edward, Elgar, 1995); Gail Lapidus and Victor Zaslavsky, eds., From Union to Commonwealth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995); James Alexander, “Surveying Attitudes in Russia: A Representation of the Formlessness,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies (30 June 1997): 107–127.
. Robert C. Tucker, “Culture, Political Culture, and Communist Society,” Political Science Quarterly 88 (1973): 182; Aaron Wildavsky, Culture and Social Theory (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1998); Lowell Dittmer, “Political Culture and Political Symbolism: Toward a Theoretical Synthesis,” World Politics (1977); “Political Culture and Political Symbolism: Toward a Theoretical Synthesis,” World Politics (1977), 555; “Comparative Communist Political Cultures,” Studies in Comparative Communism (1983): 12.
. Christopher Marsh, Making Democracy Work: Social Capital, Economic Development, and Democratization (Lewinston, NY: Mellen Press, 2000); James W. Warhola, “Revisiting the Russian ‘Constrained Autocracy’: ‘Absolutism’ and Natural Rights Theories in Russia and the West,” in Civil Society and the Search for Justice in Russia, ed. Christopher Marsh and Nikolas K. Gvosdev (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2002), 19–40; Nikolas K. Gvosdev, “‘Managed Pluralism’ and Civil Religion in Post-Soviet Russia,” in Civil Society and the Search for Justice in Russia, ed. Christopher Marsh and Nikolas K. Gvosdev (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2002), 75–88; also refer to James H. Billington, The Icon and the Axe (New York: Knopf, 1966); Russia in Search of Itself (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 2004); Richard Pipes, Russia under the Old Regime (New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1974); Stephen White, Political Culture and the Soviet Politics (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979); Nicolai N. Petro, The Rebirth of Russian Democracy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995).
. Vera Tolz, “Forging the Nation: National Identity and Nation Building in Post-Communist Russia,” Europe-Asia Studies 50 (1998): 993–1022; “Conflicting ‘Homeland Myths’ and Nation-State Building in Postcommunist Russia,” Slavic Review 57 (1998): 267–294; Michael Urban, “The Politics of Identity in Russia’s Postcommunist Transition: The Nation against Itself,” <http://www.econ.uiuc.edu/~slavrev/upenn/fall94/MU.html> (27 October 2000); Alexander Agadjanian, “Religious Pluralism and National Identity in Russia,” Journal of Multicultural Studies 2:2 (2001), <http://www.unesco.orgs/most> (14 June 2001).
. Viktor Kozlov, Istoriia tragedii velikogo naroda Russkii vopros (Moscow: 1986); Victor Ostretsov, “Russkaia ideia kak fakt falsifkatsiia” in Russkii Vestnik (1992): 41–44; Arseny Gulyga, Russkaia ideia I ee tvortsy (Moscow: 1995); Tim McDaniel, The Agony of the Russian Idea (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996); Kh. Bokov and S. V. Alekssev, Rossiiskaia ideia I natsional’naia ideologiia narodov Rossii (Moscow: 1996); T. I. Kutkovets and I. M. Kliamkin, “Russkie idei,” Polis 2 (1997): 118–40; V. Tishkov, Ethnicity, Nationalism and Conflict In and After the Soviet Union (London: Sage Publications, 1997); Vadim Mezhuez, “O natsional’noi idee,” Voprosy filosofii 12 (1997): 3–14; S. V. Alekseev, V. A. Kalamanov, and A. G. Cherneko, Ideologicheskie orientiry Rossii (Moscow: 1998); Vladimir Kurashov Kazan, Filosofiia: rossiiskaia mental’nost (Kazan: 1999); Sergei Fomin, “O russkoi natsional’noi idee,” Moskva 1 (2000): 215–24.
. I have consulted numerous works on the Russian Orthodox Church for this study and listed them in the select bibliography.
. Russian Orthodox Church, “Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church,” adopted 13–16 August 2000, III(4), <http://www.russian-orthodox-church.org.ru/sd00e.html> (13 April 2001).
. Derek H. Davis, “Editorial: The Russian Orthodox Church and the Future of Russia,” Journal of Church and State 44 (2002) (Proquest); Barbara von der Heydt, “Russia’s Spiritual Wildness,” Policy Review 70 (1994): 12–19. For an opposing view, refer to S. P. Ramet, Nihil Obstat Religon, Politics, and Change in East-Central Europe and Russia (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998), ix.
. John J. Schrems Principles of Politics (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1986); Nicolai N. Petro, “Challenge of the ‘Russian Idea’: Rediscovering the Legacy of Russian Religious Philosophy,” in Christianity and Russian Culture in Soviet Society, ed. Nicolai N. Petro (Boulder: Westview Press, 1990), 203–227; James W. Warhola, “Religion and Modernization in Gorbachev’s Soviet Union: An Indirect Challenge to Secular Authority,” in The Religious Challenge to the State, ed. Matthew C. Moen and Lowell S. Gustafson (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992), 268–292; Billington, Russia In Search of Itself ; Kathleen E. Smith’s Mythmaking in the New Russia Politics and Memory during the Yeltsin Era (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002).
. Solzhenitsyn, A., Rebuilding Russia: Reflections and Tentative Proposals, trans. Alexis Klimioff (London: Harvill, 1990); Evert van der Zweerde, “Civil Society among Post-Russian Philosophers: A Major Sideshow,” in Resurrecting the Phoenix, ed. David C. Durst, M. Dimitrova, A. Gunogov, and B. Vassileva (Sofia: Phare, 1997); Vigen Guroian, “Human Rights and Modern Western Faith: An Orthodox Christian Assessment,” Journal of Religious Ethics 26 (1998): 243; Marcia A. Weigle, “On the Road to the Civic Forum: State and Civil Society from Yeltsin to Putin,” Demokratizasiya 10 (2002): Proquest.
. Kyrill of Smolensk and Klainigrad, “The Russian Orthodox Church and the Third Millennium,” Ecumenical Review 52 (2000): 74.
. Oleg Kharkhordin, “Civil Society and Orthodox Christianity” Europe-Asia Studies 50, no. 6 (1998): 951; also refer to her The Collective and the Individual in Russia: A Study of Practices (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).
. Gellner defined civil society as “institutional and ideological pluralism, which prevents the establishment of a monopoly of power and truth, and counterbalances those central institutions, which, though necessary, might otherwise acquire such a monopoly.” Ernest Gellner, Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and Its Rivals (New York: Penguin, 1994), 3–4; also refer to Robert Putnam, Making Democracy Work; “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital,” Journal of Democracy 6 (1995): 65–78. For studies on Russian social capital, refer to Timothy Colton, Moscow: Governing the Socialist Metropolis (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1995), 748–49; Thomas Nichols, “Russian Democracy and Social Capital,” Social Science Information 35 (1996): 631; Kathryn Stoner-Weiss, Local Heroes: The Political Economy of Russian Regional Governance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997); Nicolai Petro, “The Novgorod Region,” Post-Soviet Affairs 15 (1999): 235–62; Christopher Marsh, Making Democracy Work; Christopher Marsh, “Social Capital and Democracy in Russia,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 33 (2000): 183–99.
. James Warhola, “Revisiting the Russian ‘Constrained Autocracy.”
. Billington, The Icon and the Axe, 88.
. Nikolas K. Gvosdev, “‘Managed Pluralism.’”
. Warhola, “Religion and Modernization in Gorbachev’s Soviet Union: An Indirect Challenge to Secular Authority,” 279.
. CW5, 138.
This excerpt is from Political Symbols in Russian History: Church, State and the Quest for Order and Justice (Lexington Books, 2007)