FORCES OF OLD PUSH FOR SLAVIC-ORTHODOX UNITY.

Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 111

Outside the formal framework of the CIS or on its fringes, “integration” efforts are being energized more and more by traditional forms of Russian nationalism and pan-Slavism. Three primary political factors seem to account for this growing trend. First, the proven ineffectiveness of the CIS itself as a mechanism for restoring Russia’s authority over the now independent states. Second, a mounting sense of urgency about reversing the fragmentation of the former Soviet or Greater Russian space, before that fragmentation becomes irreversible. And, third, the Putin factor–a source of regained confidence in the Kremlin’s capacity to lead a restorative effort and to support the corresponding political forces in Russia and in CIS countries.

Communists, Russian nationalists and Red-Brown groups bridging those two flanks sponsored a congress of Slavic peoples on June 1-2 in Moscow. Approximately 1,000 delegates and invitees from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Serbia and some other CIS and non-CIS countries attended. Russian Duma Chairman Gennady Seleznev doubled as chairman of both the organizing committee of the congress and the event itself.

Putin, his Belarusan counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Patriarch Aleksy II of the Russian Orthodox Church sent messages of greetings to the congress. Putin’s message, read by the Presidential Representative for the Central Federal District Georgi Poltavchenko, called for “strengthening Slavic unity” around a nucleus of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Lukashenka’s message defined those same peoples as “three branches of one and the same trunk.” Aleksy accentuated the theme that Ukraine is inseparable from Russia and Belarus in the view of the Orthodox Church. Cumulatively, these remarks reflected the paramount importance attached by Russian nationalist and pan-Slavic circles to the goal of reversing Ukraine’s present course. In his speech, Seleznev imputed that course to an “external plan and effort at tearing independent Ukraine away from Russia.”

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma refused to send a message to the congress, even though he came under some political pressure to do so in the runup to the event. Leaders of the Ukrainian organizing committee of the Slavic Congress announced that they had drafted the message and submitted it to the president. Those leaders are Petro Poroshenko and Serhy Kiashko of the Solidarnist group in the Verkhovna Rada, a group whose support was required for approval of Kuchma’s nominee Anatoly Kinakh as the new prime minister. Yet Kuchma did not yield.

The Ukrainian component of that organizing committee seems to have become a standing body, as have the counterpart groups in Moscow and Minsk. The Kyiv group is predominantly Communist and leftist. To camouflage that fact, the “centrist” Solidarnist is being put forward as official leader.

On June 4-5 in Hrodna, Belarus, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Russia-Belarus Union held a regular, yet unusual session. It enjoyed an unprecedently large attendance from other countries–namely, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia and Serbia, among others. The assembly resolved to draft a Constitutional Act of the Russia-Belarus Union State and an electoral law of that state, then to call a referendum on the act and hold elections to a Union parliament, endowed with legislative powers. Those elections are envisaged for early 2001–that is, shortly after the presidential election in Belarus.

At this session, parliamentary deputies from Moscow, Minsk and Kyiv founded the ZUBR Union, the acronym meaning “For the Union of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.” A ZUBR group had recently been founded as an above-party caucus in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada. Pointing to that group, Seleznev–who co-chaired the Hrodna assembly–professed to conclude that “Ukrainians have had enough of independence and are now turning their gaze toward the East.”

The tripartite ZUBR will from now meet regularly and maintain a permanent headquarters in Moscow. The group’s working language will be Russian. On its inaugural day, June 4, it issued an international appeal “for the protection of the civil rights of the Slavic movement leader in the Balkans, the legitimate leader of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic,” and “in support of the Yugoslav people’s struggle for independence.” Speeches to the assembly accentuated the “integrating” role of the Orthodox Church among “Slavic peoples.”

The assembly confirmed the status of Serbian Skupstina [legislature] deputies as observers to the Russia-Belarus Parliamentary Assembly. It conferred that same status on Armenian deputies, the Ukrainian ZUBR group and the Moldovan parliament.

The conferral of that status on the Moldovans is the most significant among these steps, because it concerns that parliament as an institution, not just groups or factions within it. During the recent electoral campaign that brought it to power, the Communist Party of Moldova promised to consider the issue of Moldova joining the Russia-Belarus Union and the possibility of holding a referendum on that issue. Moldova is of course not a Slavic country, but its current leadership seems sufficiently russified and sufficiently Red to qualify for incorporation at least symbolically in some leftist Slavic-Orthodox conglomerate (Itar-Tass, ORT, Belarusan Television, Belapan, UNIAN, Basapress, Flux, June 1-5).

The Monitor is a publication of the Jamestown Foundation. It is researched and written under the direction of senior analysts Jonas Bernstein, Vladimir Socor, Stephen Foye, and analysts Ilya Malyakin, Oleg Varfolomeyev and Ilias Bogatyrev. If you have any questions regarding the content of the Monitor, please contact the foundation. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at [email protected], by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4516 43rd Street NW, Washington DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of the Monitor is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation Site Maintenance by Johnny Flash Productions