A major theme throughout Vladimir Putin’s presidency has been the murky role of the Orthodox Church. This is not new. Stalin had recognised in the 1930s the potential of harnessing the Orthodox Church to strengthen the Kremlin’s rule over a largely superstitious and god-fearing population. Since the start of the ‘special military operation’ religious leaders have been seen consecrating Russian tanks and blessing military hardware. The Orthodox Church provides the Kremlin with a religious foundation to their adventure in Ukraine, which has emboldened the church in Russian society. Patriarch Kirill gave a speech in 2022 claiming that the death of a soldier in Ukraine will “wash away one’s sins”.
Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Orthodox Church, said this week that the birth rate in Russia is “too low” and that he hopes for a nationwide ban on the ‘promotion’ of abortion.
Abortion in the Russian Republic of Mordovia has already been outlawed since August 2023, while private clinics in the Kursk region have recently said they will no longer assist women in abortions. Other private clinics in Crimea and the Tver region have recently reported doctors refusing to conduct abortions unless the woman has passed a psychological evaluation. More regions are considering the possibility of issuing fines for those who ‘promote’ abortions.
Senator Margarita Pavlova said this week in an interview at the Eurasian Economic Forum that access to higher education for Russian women should be limited. According to Pavlova, the recent demographic crisis is not the result of economic collapse and a weak welfare state, or even because of the war in Ukraine. The senator believes it is a result of too many women from working-class backgrounds with a desire to study and find successful careers. Pavlova claims that “Russian women have forgotten their purpose” and need to be ‘persuaded’ to have more children.
Since the ‘special military operation’ we have seen more than five thousand Russian women fly to Argentina in the final weeks of pregnancy to provide their unborn children with the prospect of an alternative citizenship. The Kommersant newspaper also reported that drugs for abortion reached a record high in 2022, according to data by Russian pharmaceutical companies. The instability within Russia means planning to make a family extraordinarily difficult. Rather than ask the difficult questions about population decline and instability, it is Russia’s poorest and most vulnerable women who must provide the answers.
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