Russians know state-sponsored violence only too well. No wonder they hate abortion

A cemetery for the unborn in Moscow. The inscriptions are what the unborn children might have achieved: one reads 'famous writer' (AP)

Having blogged here recently about the Russian Revolution and the violence of the early Communists, I was struck by the news here that more than 300,000 Russians have signed a petition calling for “the end of the legal murder of children before birth”. The phrase “legal murder” is not one used in the UK by pro-life groups. I suspect this is because the wording is too strong for people’s stomachs; it might even be illegal and interpreted as a “hate crime”.

Russians are not so squeamish. Having endured 70 years of state-sponsored violence of all kinds – against political dissidents, against innocent people who found themselves on the wrong side of the law, and against preborn babies – they are sick of it. The petition is aiming for a million signatures.

The revived Russian Orthodox Church has strongly supported the petition: Patriarch Kirill of Moscow is among the signatories. It also calls for a ban on abortifacient contraception (the morning-after pill), which the organisers call “an act similar to pagan sacrifices of children.” And again, in this complex society which seems much more spiritual than our own, the petition’s organisers warn that abortion, as well as affecting the country’s shrinking population, brings about the “loss of God’s blessings”.

This is not language that comes easily to the tongues of English people – or at least, not on a subject so emotionally heightened as abortion. We don’t like to do God in public.

I once asked a friend who had grown up in Tasmania what the country was like. He replied that it was still living under the shadow of its dark history (the Tasmanian white settlers literally hunted its native population to extinction in the 19th century.) It made me think that something akin to Jung’s idea of a “collective unconscious” might infect a whole country – what Christians would describe as “the sins of the fathers”.

In Russia, slow-burning “collective consciousness” has gradually brought about a deep revolt against the violent, godless society which previous generations of Russians endured. This is brought out in the comment by Fr James Rosselli of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, who commented, “It takes a long time for the light to finally overcome 70 years of brutally-enforced darkness but… the Church is flourishing and growing and “Holy Russia” is reawakening.”

In this country we haven’t suffered as the Russians have suffered. Sometimes it is only through suffering that we come to understand what really matters in life.