fragments of an attempted writing.

A fascinating post, though a year and a half old - Militant Orthodoxy in Georgia.

My understanding was that the Russian political youth organization Nashi, mentioned at the end of the post, is explicitly anti-fascist, though it is a front group for Putin and has been involved in physical conflicts with other political organizations, both communist and liberal, so that would seem to beg the question of what Nashi is if not fascist.

As one commenter on the linked-to thread said, the photo above looks like something out of Flash Gordon.  It's hard to imagine such outfits and silly salutes inspiring anyone, but fascist aesthetics so often rest on, ironically, the caricature of homoerotic parody.

For the record every Georgian I have ever met in person (all here in the States, at least that I know of) has been the furthest thing from a fascist.  But this sort of phenomenon does appear to be on the rise in Eastern Europe.  I wonder if there is any way for traditional forms of Christianity to seek cultural and political influence with any success outside of the patterns of fascism seen in the early 20th century and today.


  1. I wonder what the Georgian hierarchy thinks about these organizations, in particular their admired Patriarch. The award to the priest isn't exactly a slam-dunk, as ignoring specifically political activities or simple "time served" clerical awards aren't uncommon.

  2. Georgia is a really fascinating society at the moment. They were left to their own devices to a huge degree under the Soviet period, whether it was because of Stalin's own Georgianness or the huge pain in the ass it would be to try and modernize their social structures, which are arguable pre-medieval, let alone pre-modern. On the other hand, their current government is wildly neo-Liberal and now pursuing their own kinds of social and economic restructuring, top-down. And so there's a lot of tension-- anxiety about sexual liberalization is especially palpable there. In practice, though not in dress, it's more sexually conservative than any Islamic country I've spent time in.

    The Georgian Church, from what I can tell, is the only element of society that has the social prestige to counter-balance the state, and so there is a lot of friction between the two, though in practice the church at its best acts as both a counterbalance to the state (think of its role in the 2008 war), while also counterbalancing some of the more extreme expressions of Georgian nationalism (see also the 2008 war).

    Since I don't read Georgian, I'm not really able to say anything about these kinds of organizations other than what I hear from Georgians, but I get the impression that they use "Orthodox" simply as a banner of (faux?) populism. So far as I can tell, they cause more problems that not for the institutional church, which has other, more effective ways of influencing society. Being tied to a weak political party in essentially a single-party state is never wise.

    The history of the Romanian church's complicated, uncomfortable relationship with the Iron Guard seems to be the most paradigmatic example of Orthodoxy and fascism....

  3. Ari,

    On one occasion I saw a priest made an archpriest by a bishop whom the priest in question told me hated him. On another occasion I saw a layperson given an ecclesial medal even though he had divorced the bishop's sister or cousin or some female relative in what was said to have been a nasty affair on his part. But the awarded man had loads of cash. So yeah, I agree with you here, it may mean nothing.

    Samn!, I read this book a couple years ago ( ) and since then have been talking with several Romanian-American friends about the Iron Guard. These Romanians all hate the Iron Guard, and they assure me that the support for the Iron Guard among the rural village Orthodox was not as cut and dry as one would think. I have no idea how much of that is based on sentiment and how much based in fact. And so I wonder what sort of support these Flash Gordon groups have on the ground in Georgia. Nonetheless, fascism presents itself as a means of being nationalistic, anti-neoliberal, pro-Church, pro traditional culture, and the like. The hard anti-capitalist left is generally antagonistic towards the Churches, which is unfortunate though in most arenas understandable given the history in many places of a cozy relationship between the Church and the upper classes (and their interests). There is no third way system which has presented itself as a viable political option. The Christian social dem movement appears to be virtually dead on the world scene. So what options do these folks have? The several Georgians I have talked to (about Georgian politics) here in the states all seemed to have some reservations about the neo-liberal project in Georgia - they all struck me as basically social dem in their politics.

  4. Owen,

    I don't know many Georgians who are fans of the neo-liberal thing except those who are obviously standing to gain from it. Most that I met in Georgia didn't have any real ideology other than more-or-less uncritical support for the person of the patriarch, increasing mistrust of Saakashvili, and ambiguous feelings about the soviet period. The symbolic act of taking shelter under the mantle of the Church as a form of political dissent isn't unusual there-- outside the apartment where I was staying, there was a man begging with a placard in English, Russian, and Georgian that said something like "Political prisoner of President M. Saakashvili. Please help." that was festooned with icons and pictures of the patriarch. I never felt comfortable going up to ask him his story. I do get the vibe (though no more than that) that neo-Liberalism is deeply feared by the Church as antithetical to Georgian and Christian values, but I'm not familiar enough with Georgian church-intellectual scenes to see what, if anything, is being proposed as an antidote. The Church there does engage in a crazy number of business enterprises, and, aside from the government's project of importing Afrikaans farmers, has the only project to modernize agriculture there (since the fall of the soviet union, Georgian tax law is written to prevent cooperative enterprises among Georgian farmers).

    Politics there tend to depend more on issues of personal loyalty than ideology as such, since everyone is one kind of rabid nationalist or another. At least in Tblisi and the other places I've been, while there is a felt presence of Orthodox moralistic politics, theatrical fascism isn't really visible. Though, the political situation in the country there is likely to take a sharp turn into any number of strange directions over the next decade.

    I haven't read that particular one on Cioran, though I'd like to. I did read "Cioran, Eliade, Ionesco : L'Oubli du Fascisme" by Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine a number of years ago... these guys were my absolute favorite people to read in high school and college. From what I've read about the Iron Guard, it does sound like any village support they had was on account of their antisemitism and not because of their other weirdnesses. It seems like their support among intellectuals included both church-minded people as well as non-religious germanophiles like the young Cioran-- I have a copy of his Schimbarea la față a României on my bookshelf, but I never got very far through it...

  5. Samn!, Afrikaans farmers! Is that another potential far right wing ingredient in the stew?

  6. The situation with the Afrikaaners is one of the more bizarre things out there. They've been given more-or-less free land in some areas and all kinds of tax inducements to immigrate to Georgia. From what I can tell, there are two reasons behind it-- settling foreigners along the border with Russia so that the next war will be more of an international incident (as if anyone cared about Afrikaaners), and, more importantly, land redistribution. Because Georgian farmers aren't allowed to form collectives-- even at the simple level of sharing equipment-- they're basically back to subsistence-type farming in many areas. The Afrikaaners, who have the capital and subsidies to do modern industrial farming, presumably will wind up buying out their neighbors' holdings and modernize...

  7. Not allowed to share equipment. An Ayn Randish wet dream if ever I heard one, wherein charity and collectivity are outlawed.


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