Early on March 9th, the Georgian population learned that the Georgian Dream party announced the withdrawal of the draft on transparency of foreign influence. It was on March 7th that Parliament of Georgia, with a majority from the Georgian Dream party, passed the first reading of the controversial law on “foreign agents” (any organization receiving funding from abroad!). The law would limit freedom of the press and of non-governmental organizations, destabilize civil society by limiting contacts with the Western partners, and block potential for the country’s Euro-Atlantic expansion, and most importantly, safeguard the ruling party’s chance of winning elections in 2024.
Two days of protests followed, with thousands of people gathering in front of the Parliament, where police and special forces were mobilized against the demonstrators. First-day clashes ended with some people being injured and many detained; most of the protesters suffered from tear gas or the strong stream of a water cannon. Despite that, the next day more people went out, people of all ages, but the young dominated the scene. Thousands of angry citizens protested against the potential change to Euro-Atlantic choice of the nation.
Today, among those who are in opposition to the Georgian Dream, there is disagreement on the question, “How did we get here?”
In the context of contemporary events, protests, and the revolt spreading throughout Serbia, the matter can also be seen from a theological point of view. It is hard to say how well the churchgoing people are managing in all this. On the public stage, there are but a handful of voices that are perceived as the voice of the Church. However, in the general confusion, it is not easy to discern the Christian position. Christians are usually thought of as being exclusively interested in the Kingdom of Heaven, which is basically true. Yet the path to Heaven leads through the world in which we live. Our testimony in the world is a ticket to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is often forgotten that one part of the prayer Our Father reads: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” If there is no justice of God on earth, how will the Kingdom of Heaven descend on it?
This question concerns Christian action in the world. If Christians are silent or approving of injustice, are they on the path of the Kingdom of Heaven? If they rise up against injustice, then one might call that a rebellion, a rebellion against injustice. Only free people and those who strive for freedom are capable of rebellion. The obediently pious cannot rebel. In order to better understand things, we will look at and recall some things which are almost forgotten in the Church, and which are an essential part of its mission in the world. At the heart of this recollection is the idea of rebellion.
In Russia, there is a widely spread superstition that August brings national-scale catastrophes. The mass protests in Belarus against Alyaksandr Lukashenka are seen as such a catastrophe for the regime of Vladimir Putin. Even though Mr. Lukashenka struggled to preserve some independence for his country from Russia, Belarus under his rule represented the model of a Neo-Soviet colony that Russia has tried to impose on its neighbors since Putin’s presidency began. Belarus under Mr. Lukashenka preserved many symbols and most of the ethos of the Soviet era.
The key feature of the Soviet ethos is paternalism, which means that the regime offers its subjects basic social welfare in exchange for complete obedience. The Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity in 2014 (also known as the Maidan), for example, was a revolt against this sort of paternalism. What is going on now in Belarus looks more like a revolution that started within the paternalistic framework. There are good signs, however, that eventually the Belarusian revolution will turn against paternalism as such.
The reform of the judicial system, which practically never acquits and is fully subordinate to law enforcement agencies, has long been discussed in Russia. However, only civil activists are involved in the debates. The government keeps evading any participation in the discussion, and the courts continue arbitrarily to pass unreasonably strict verdicts for both civil activists and businessmen. In mid-September, a number of professional societies called for a review of the decisions concerning the cases of participants in unauthorized demonstrations in Moscow from July 2019. An appeal by Orthodox clergy was among the first, followed by public petitions by teachers, doctors, publishers, and philosophers. However, the clergy’s letter was most unexpected and had an unexpectedly profound resonance in Russian society.