Graham Sowa

The Russian Orthodox Church in Havana

HAVANA TIMES — In Cuba the Catholic sect of the Christian religion is proactively broadening topics of discourse in the country.  In fact, today might be the first day that the singing voices of Gloria Estefan and Celia Cruz are heard over Cuban radio after being uncensored.

At the same time, in the supposedly democratic and free country of Russia, a trio of female musicians is facing a seven year incarceration for their less than one minute song protest in the Russian Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

The three members of the punk-rock group (writer’s disclosure: I enjoy punk rock music) Pussy Riot are being charged with occupying the alter of the cathedral to sing a prayer for the “Mother of God to drive Putin away”.

Aside from being uninvited to utter their desires for supernatural intervention I don’t see how exactly they offended anyone since a cathedral, at the very least, is a place of prayer.

But their prayer was not politically correct.  Like Cuba, Russia has been fortifying its relationship with the only other societal institution with a history as old, and a hold on power as divine, the church.

But not just any church, the Russian Orthodox Church.  Interesting that in both countries the leaders choose to pick the oldest and most established sects of Christianity as their allies.

Plaza of the Revolution during the Pope’s visit to Cuba in March 2012.

In Cuba these alliances between the Catholic leadership and Communist leadership seems to open the doors of discourse.

Back in Russia the alliances between the Orthodox Church and the Russian leadership are colluding to limit freedom of expression in ways that are much more draconian than benign.

I often keep my ear to the political tracks of the United States.  I am accustomed to hearing passionate or contrived invocations of religion mixed with public policy plans.

This is in spite of the fact that detached deists and skeptics were the authors of the incorporating documents of the United States.

Over the centuries our politicians have come to embrace the Christian religion, almost universally.

But in the United States it seems like the relationship between votes and dogma is much more symbiotic than opportunistic as in Russia or Cuba.

It seems that Cuba wants to create a legitimate political opposition without having to recognize another political party.

And the Catholic Church is glad to oblige this role, as it is positioning to take on the growing Protestant congregations in the country with its new legitimacy in the eyes of the Cuban politburo.

In Russia the pulpit is where only the divinity of God and Vladamir Putin may be spoken, as the trial of the Pussy Riot singers confirm.

 


Graham

Graham Sowa: I've been living in Cuba for three years now. I would like to blame my obvious hair loss seen in this updated photo on the rigors of life here and medical school, but it is probably just genetic. I've made some of the strongest friendships during my time in Cuba from other writers on this website. The strength of those friendships has almost restored my faith that the online world can lead to offline and real life change. On that same note I've adjusted to using internet one or two hours a month. In the meantime I have rediscovered things like flipping through the pages of books, writing stuff down by hand, and having to admit that I don't know something instead of rapidly looking up the answer on Google while the teacher isn't looking.

6 thoughts on “Religion and Politics in Cuba & Russia

  • Eduardo, I agree with you 100%, any institution as big as a government, army or church needs similar structures of power to retain control. I especially like Michel Foucault´s analysis of the prison and the clinic and how power functions in each one of those.

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