Putin’s pride: Cossacks and the church

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  • Russian President Vladimir Putin projects an image of confident and strong president on the global stage. It’s a projection that has infected the confidence and ambitions of many of his people. Decades after the Soviet Union’s collapse, Putin is relying on Russian traditions and values from the tsarist past to kindle patriotism.

    This is particularly the case with the country’s religious communities, most notably the Cossacks, an ultra-conservative faith-based group that dates back to the 15th Century. Putin’s Pride: Cossacks and the Church examines the rising influence of this religious group in Russia, and how their embrace of the president is proving mutually beneficial.

    Many Russians see Vladimir Putin as the man who has returned pride, glory and honor to their nation. The Cossacks, an ultra-conservative group, are key to Putin’s grip on power. They are honored as guardians of traditional Russian values and serve Putin as nationalist paramilitaries. Tens of thousands of Russians identify as Cossacks. They trace their origins to horsemen who formed mounted bands in the Russian steppes during the 15th Century. Over the course of time, they served many masters – including the tsars.

    After the Communist revolution, they faced oppression and persecution. During World War II, some were active in Hitler’s armies. Now, President Putin is capitalizing on their nationalistic priorities. This documentary looks at the role Cossacks play in supporting police in Moscow, including during demonstrations by regime opponents. Another pillar of support for Putin is the Russian Orthodox Church.

    It has resurged under Putin, and exercises considerable political influence – an alliance that benefits both sides. Article 14, paragraph 2 of the Russian constitution defines the separation of church and state. But the Russian Orthodox Church sees itself as a bulwark against outside influence and supports the Kremlin, for example in its annexation of Crimea. It sees itself as the protector of Russian values, and views homosexuality as a sign of an impending apocalypse. The filmmakers show how nostalgia for “Glorious Russia” and the values of the tsarist period are playing out in modern day Russian politics.

    Directed by: Sébastien Bardos, Guillaume Dumant

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