Understanding the Ideology behind the Soviet-style Crackdown on Religious Minorities

Spiritual Security in Putin’s Russia

An Analysis by Julie Elkner

London/Moscow, 01.01.2005 (History and Policy) – Julie Elkner has earned her PhD in history at King’s College, Cambridge. Her dissertation research examined the cult of the secret police in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. A paper that summarized her findings provides an introduction to a new concept that has entered the Russian political vocabulary in the early 2000s: the concept of ‘spiritual security’. Ever since, Russian policies have been directed at suppressing religious minority groups. 

The idea that spiritual security is an important component of national security has gained considerable currency both on the fringes of Russian politics, and in the mainstream. Spiritual security is listed as a subset of national security in a number of official policy documents issued by the Putin government. This is a new development whose potential significance has been overlooked by western commentators. The current concern with spiritual security encapsulates a number of key political undercurrents and trends in contemporary Russia. The growing body of literature on spiritual security has the capacity to illuminate emerging visions of Russia’s future development.

Ostensibly, the government’s focus on spiritual security is designed to preserve and strengthen ancient traditional Russian values. When viewed in historical context, however, the discourse of spiritual security reveals greater affinities with Soviet-style attitudes towards ideological subversion. The emerging preoccupation with spiritual security has important political implications, particularly when viewed in conjunction with the increasingly pervasive celebration of the secret police in Russian public life under Putin.

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Read full paper here.

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