Russian directions

Konstantin Eggert is Moscow Bureau Editor for the BBC Russian Service. He reflects on Russia’s confused attitude towards Islam and the West:

The Russian state seems to be confused about what to do. It prefers to pander to Muslim sentiments in foreign policy, showing support for Palestinians and Iran and striking up a relationship with the Organization of the Islamic Conference. At home official propaganda lumps Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism together as “traditional religions of Russia” and accentuates their contribution to Russia’s “distinct civilization” – a thinly veiled anti-western concept.

However, the Kremlin finds it more and more difficult to deal with the growth of radical Islam at home and also wants the West to look the other way in Chechnya, which is Moscow’s official battleground against “international terrorism”. This ambiguity will continue as long as Russia’s political class remains undecided as to which way it wants to take Russia. The question of Islam has become inseparable from the painful search for Russia’s new identity.

Like many other nations engaged in a “war on terror”, Russia’s “anti-terror” legislation is contradictory and unlikely to increase security for the Russian people.