Tag Archives: Dmitry Uzlaner

Beyond Secular Critique? The Trial Speech of Yegor Zhukov

by Dmitry Uzlaner

Yegor Zhukov

The wave of political protests sparked by irregularities during the 2018 mayoral election in Moscow led to a number of arrests of activists and protesters. One of them, a student, Yegor Zhukov, was tried and convicted at the beginning of December 2019 and sentenced to three years of probation. This case, among other things, attracted the attention of the public with a powerful speech delivered by the defendant on December 4—the day before the verdict was announced.

I will not reproduce this speech here, it has already been translated into English and is easily accessible. Instead, I’ll pay attention to the theological and religious background of what was said. Yegor Zhukov, explaining the motives of his political activity, began to talk about traditional values, of which Russia claims to be “the last defender.” In addition to the “patriotism” and “the institution of the family” that are constantly mentioned, he named Christian faith and the Christian ethics that follows from this faith as the main traditional value. In Yegor Zhukov’s theology, Christian ethics implies two main values: responsibility (“Christianity is based on the story of a man who has decided to put the suffering of the whole world on his shoulders, the story of a man who has taken responsibility in the greatest possible sense of the word”) and love (“‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. This is the main phrase of the Christian religion”). According to Yegor Zhukov, these two Christian values motivate him in his social and political activities. He then asked the question: “How does the current Russian state, which proudly defends Christian values and hence the values, that were mentioned above, actually protects them?” His conclusion is disappointing: the policy of the Russian state is a policy of “atomization” and “de-humanization.” As Yegor Zhukov said: “We have become a nation that has forgotten how to take responsibility. We have become a nation that has forgotten how to love.”

What is remarkable about this speech from a religious, theological point of view? Continue reading

Eastern Orthodox Identity and “Aggressive Liberalism”: Non-Theological Aspects of the Confrontation

by Dmitry Uzlaner

This essay is part of a series stemming from the ongoing research project “Contemporary Eastern Orthodox Identity and the Challenges of Pluralism and Sexual Diversity in a Secular Age,” which is a joint venture by scholars from Fordham University’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center and the University of Exeter, funded by the British Council, Friends of the British Council, and the Henry Luce Foundation as part of the British Council’s “Bridging Voices” programme. In August 2019, 55 scholars gathered for an international conference at St Stephen’s House, Oxford. These essays are summaries of presentations given in preparation for the conference and during it. They together reflect the genuine diversity of opinion that was represented at the conference and testify to the need for further reflection and dialogue on these complex and controversial topics.

angry mob

I am not a theologian, and I am not going to speak as a theologian. I am scholar of religion. And my perspective is that of an outside observer. It is the perspective of a person who has been studying contemporary Orthodoxy (in Russia) for many years—with special focus on religious conservatism in its different manifestations.

In the discourse of contemporary Orthodoxy (Russian), one of the most important topics in recent years has been the struggle with what is called in this rhetoric “aggressive liberalism” or “aggressive secularism.” “Aggressive liberalism” is a multidimensional concept, but the most threatening part of it which is often mentioned as an evidence of why liberalism is dangerous is “sexual diversity,” in particular non-traditional sexual relations, same-sex marriages, feminism, etc. It seems that Church’s vision of itself is structured around this confrontation, around this feeling of being attacked by an aggressive ideological enemy imposing some alien values and practices. Continue reading