"The Russian Orthodox Church is helping the Putin regime strengthen its Russian presence in Africa," - Cyril Hovorun

05.02.2022, 15:54
"The Russian Orthodox Church is helping the Putin regime strengthen its Russian presence in Africa," - Cyril Hovorun - фото 1
The theologian considers the reason for the creation of its structures by the Russian Orthodox Church on the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Africa not only to be Moscow's response to the recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine by the Patriarch of Alexandria but also sees this step as a broader context for Russia's progress on the African continent.

Source: Publicorthodoxy

Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun, the lecturer in ecclesiology, international relations and ecumenism at the St. Ignatius Theological Academy, believes that after China's success in what can be called the recolonization of Africa, Russia was quick to seize the chance to get a share, which it sees as a second race for Africa.

"To gain a foothold on African soil, authoritarian regimes must offer local governments and the local economy. Russia cannot offer investments and infrastructure projects of the same scale as China's. True, it can offer bribes, as is done in Europe and other countries, but this is probably not enough.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, Putin has acquired a unique skill in defending authoritarian and violent regimes from their own peoples and from Western democratization efforts. He excelled at defending dictators in countries like Syria, where he convincingly demonstrated that the American "red lines" are nothing more than empty talk. Recently, he offered similar services to the repressive regime in Belarus. It is obvious that now Kazakhstan will be next in line to receive its services.

It seems that many African leaders, whose management style is not too different from that of Mr. Assad or Mr. Lukashenko, are interested in Putin's ability to protect unpopular regimes from public unrest and turn democratic procedures such as elections into imitations. And the Russian leader is ready to share his political know-how and ensure its use in the form of Russian paramilitary groups.

Having decided to take a chance in Africa, Putin uses both his semi-war formations and the Russian Orthodox Church. It is the soft power of the Putin regime that can help it strengthen its Russian presence in Africa. Previously, the Russian Church had some presence in Africa, showing pastoral care for Russian emigrants there. It had representative offices in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and South Africa. Moscow had Alexandria's consent to this. Now the Russian Church wants to replace the Patriarchate of Alexandria in caring for the indigenous African Orthodox, who make up a small but prominent group on the religious map of the continent.

The Russian Church claims that it is expanding its activities in Africa for the sake of ancient canonical norms. The irony, however, is that such norms are severely violated in favor of wider representation. Such a violation can only be explained if there are higher political stakes, which in this case is an attempt at a new "race for Africa," Kirill Govorun summed up.