Features

A war for souls

"A war for souls" Continued...

Issue: "The waiting game," March 22, 2008

The deeper reality speaks of a creeping control over civil freedoms. The murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 drew some attention to the media's waning freedom: She was the third journalist from her outspoken newspaper to be murdered in four years.

Adelaja warns the West to not be deceived: "The Western governments tend to think if Russia is doing well economically . . . then things are not so bad. But things are really bad."

He said, "I'm afraid it might be too late for Russia. I remember there was a time 20 years ago when Russia was just opening up and many men of God were saying they felt that the door would be open for just a short while. It looks like that is exactly what's happening right now in Russia," he added.

Elliott is slightly more optimistic. He acknowledges a loss of pride among Russians since the collapse of the Soviet Union and a growing resentment toward the West. During a mission trip last summer to minister to orphans and help restore an old Orthodox church destroyed in the communist era, Elliott encountered several Orthodox priests who were "open and charitable." But one priest questioned his team's intentions, claiming Protestant missionaries are "spies" and "belong to totalitarian cults that attempt to brainwash people."

But Elliott is quick to point out that "Russia has always gone in cycles like this-periods of honeymoon with the West then periods of antagonism towards the West. It has gone back and forth for hundreds of years."

Elliott said he sees "much greater restrictions now in Russia in the media and evangelical activities than five to 10 years ago," adding that "it's still not like anything before glasnost-before the late '80s."

Most analysts agree on one thing: Only time will tell if Medvedev will remain a puppet for Putin and continue his tight-fisted social policies or break away from his mentor and come into his own. Whether Medvedev goes alone or accompanied to the July summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations will be an initial indicator.

But in a country that boasts the title of the world's second-largest oil producer and has a stockpile of nuclear weapons that surpasses any other nation, the stakes are high. And perestroika (order) before glasnost (freedom) can be detrimental in more ways than one. "There's a war for souls going on in Russia," Elliott said. "I don't think that's too dramatic of a description."

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