Religion and Politics in Cuba & Russia

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.


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.

  • Yes, Eduardo, what you say is true. But let us not confuse the obligation of socialists to support the human right of religious and spiritual freedom, on the one hand, with the obligation to oppose the many injustices carried out in the name of religion or of God.

    Under authentic socialism, people should be able to believe as they choose, and to carry out spiritual activities as they choose.

  • I pray to not be in God’s hands. Army, State and Church are very similar structures. Dimitri has wrote about Pussy Riot two weeks ago

  • I second that

  • It may be trivial, Graham, but I just have to say it. I love the title “Pussy Riot.” I sincerely hope they do not have to serve a prison term for expressing themselves.

    Besides that, thanks for a good and provocative post!

  • We have a saying in the ‘States that religion is the third rail of politics. The “third rail” in a subway system is typically electrified and therefore deadly if touched. The relationship between religion and politics in the US is like the relationship with in-laws. You respect that they exist no matter what! In Cuba, this “respect” is a new and uncomfortable but necessary evil for both totalitarian organizations. The RCC legitimizes the Castros and the Castros elevate the RCC above the santerias, the protestants, the jews, etc.

Comments are closed.