Russia, the West and persecuted Christians - There is evidence that Russia is, for whatever motive, interested in protecting Christians. One article in Interfax(1) bears the title “Putin vows Russia will defend persecuted Christians abroad.”
So how sincere are the Russians? There has been a plethora of commentaries on the subject here in the US, mostly attacking Russia for defending her own interests under the pretext of Christian concerns. Who knows?
But here are some things to contemplate:
1-Even in the atheistic Soviet Union, churches that had been bombed out in the war were lovingly and painstakingly restored, at enormous cost to the nation, as were other places of cultural value. The Russian government may have publicly criticized Christianity, but the Russian people would not have stood for the physical destruction of Russian Orthodox churches. Now, I did visit one such church in Leningrad (name now reverted to Petersburg), which was, sadly, converted to the so-called Museum of Religion and Atheism, a deplorable example of desecration and unveiled blasphemy. But the entire building and its furnishings, including the icons, were in mint condition. Unlike in Mao’s China, traditional things and antiques were not destroyed, quite the opposite.
2-The Russian opposition to Western intervention in Kosovo was also culturally/religiously rooted. The Slavic population there is and was mostly Russian Orthodox, with church services generally being held in Old Church Slavonic, an archaic variety of Russian. Let us recall the themes of Christian repentance in the novel Crime and Punishment, and the pro-Christian message of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Both books were printed and published in the Soviet Union and were available to the public at low prices throughout much of Soviet history (I know because I bought my copies directly from the Soviet Union, and for a pittance). The name Raskolnikov, the protagonist of the former novel, comes from “raskolniki,” a persecuted Christian sect of 17th Century Russia which stoically suffered excruciating torture for their faith. The Russian soul empathizes with persecuted Christians, particularly those of its own brand, but by extension, with all varieties of Christianity.