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November 26, 2009

Russian Communists Seek to Eliminate God From National Anthem

Eliminate 'God' From National Anthem.
The Russian Communists Against Putin and Patriarchate

Evgeny Vorotnikov (AsiaNews, November 25, 2009)

Moscow, Russia - The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (Kprf) wants to delete the reference to God from the text of the national anthem. Boris Kashin, of the Chamber of Deputies of Moscow (the Duma), has submitted a bill to replace the phrase of the anthem that says "protected by God as our beloved homeland," with "protected by us as our beloved homeland”.

For the Kprf deputy reference to God undermines national unity and disrupts the multi-ethnic society in Russia. Kashin complains that the anthem does not respect the various non-Christian religions recognized in the Federation and offends the feelings of atheists.

Already in 2005, Alexander Nikonov, president of the Atheist Society of Moscow, had stated that the offending sentence is inconsistent with the constitutional rights of citizens and had lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court. Today, as then, no one believes that the anthem will be changed also because the Kashin proposal has not met the support of any political leader in Russia. However, the incident has reopened the controversy that emerges cyclically around the anthem and the summons of God

The proposal of the Kprf exponent was stamped by Lyubov Sliska, vice-chairman of the Duma and United Russia party as a "rude initiative." "If the communists think that the word 'God' is in contradiction with the Constitution - said Sliska - that means they think they can put themselves in the place of God and this is a grave mistake."

Even the Moscow Patriarchate has intervened in the debate arising from the Kashin proposal. Father Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Synod department for dialogue between the Church and Society, said that "the majority of our people have adopted this anthem and although some are still contrary there is no reason to remove the sentence that mentions God."

The history of the hymn is linked to the Russian Soviet period. The music was composed by Alexander Alexandrov, the text by Sergei Mijalkov. It was performed for the first time in 1944 to replace the International. The text contained praises to Stalin that were later cancelled in 1953 with the end of the cult of personality attributed to the "little father". With the death of the dictator, the anthem was played but without a text until the lyrics realised by Mijalkov in1977. With the fall of the Soviet Union the country remained without an anthem until Vladimir Putin, in 2000, decided to retrieve the music accompanying it with new text in which Russia is celebrated as the "Holy motherland", "unique" and "protected by God."

The controversy emerges cyclically and finds space in public debate, especially because it highlights a very debated Putin era: the use of religion to cement national unity. The premier is accused of wanting to restore a new form of Tsarism where orthodoxy is reduced to the handmaiden of political power.

Boris Nemtsov, former Yeltsin vice-premier and now deputy leader of the coalition of democratic forces Solidarnost, described with harsh tones that line in his latest book "Disaster Putin. Freedom and democracy in Russia. " Nemtsov writes: "Communism had its own ideology, Putin has nothing, so he uses orthodoxy as an ideology." For the former Yeltsin man the Patriarchate of Moscow, especially under the leadership of Alexei II, has neither remained immune from liability. For Putin, the union of political action and religious tradition is the basis of a solid power in Russia today. Nemstov speaks of a "regime" that "is based on two pillars: orthodoxy and self-sufficiency." But he adds that, however strong, "it is a structure that is not destined to last."