Church Group Forms; Surkov Named Envoy
Published: September 5, 2012 (Issue # 1725)
MOSCOW Ś Orthodox Church officials have announced plans toáset up aánationwide youth movement, just days after Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov, formerly theáKremlinĺs point man onáyouth affairs, assumed full responsibility foráoverseeing ties with religious organizations.
Tens ofáthousands ofáyoung people are ready toájoin theámovement, tentatively called theáVoluntary Association ofáOrthodox Youth, Vadim Kvyatkovsky, who is responsible foráyouth affairs ináthe Moscow Patriarchate, told Interfax onáFriday.
He said theáorganization would be open toárepresentatives ofáthe entire political spectrum andábe headed byáBishop Ignaty Bronnitsky, who chairs theáPatriarchateĺs youth affairs department.
Theámove comes as theáRussian Orthodox Church faces criticism atáhome andáabroad over theáPussy Riot case.
President Vladimir Putin endorsed theáidea ofáan Orthodox youth movement ináJuly.
While visiting theáLake Seliger youth camp, he said he would support such aámovement if it did not become ôa new quasi-Orthodox Komsomol,ö aáreference toáthe Soviet Unionĺs all-embracing Communist youth league.
Kvyatkovsky, however, was adamant that theáinitiative was byáno means artificial but driven byágrassroots demand ináparishes. ôLife is forcing us toámake this happen,ö he was quoted as saying.
TheáKremlin has ináthe past actively set up youth organizations toácounter perceived political threats. One ofáthe most publicized ofásuch groups, Nashi, was founded iná2005 ináthe wake ofáUkraineĺs Orange Revolution.
Surkov, believed toábe theákey official behind Nashi andáother pro-Kremlin youth movements, was last week confirmed as theágovernmentĺs new point man onáreligion.
Ináan Aug. 28 decree, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev appointed Surkov chairman ofáthe stateĺs commission onáreligious organizations, aájob hitherto held byáDeputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets.
Surkov until last year oversaw domestic policies as first deputy head ofáthe presidential administration, aájob that included ties with religious organizations. He was appointed aádeputy prime minister ináDecember, aámove widely seen as aádemotion ináthe wake ofámass anti-government protests.
However, Surkovĺs star rose again when he assumed theáadditional post ofáhead ofáthe White House administration ináMay. Ináearly August, he was given theáportfolio foráreligious affairsáŚ but not theácommission chairmanship.
Analysts have said Surkovĺs appointment toáoversee religious issues ináthe government is aátool toárepair theáimage ofáthe Orthodox Church, which has suffered heavily not only over theáPussy Riot trial but also fromáscandals like theáone prompted byáthe manipulation ofáa photo toáremove anáexpensive watch onáPatriarch Kirillĺs wrist.
Aágovernment source quoted byáKommersant onáFriday said Surkovĺs appointment was his first political mission since he was removed fromáthe Kremlin ináDecember. Theáreport also said that theácommissionĺs main tasks would be ôto prevent theáabuse ofáreligion foráextremist purposesö andáto mend theánegative image ofáthe Orthodox Church, among other things.