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New furniture doesn’t come cheap —at least if you’re looking for high quality stuff. Whether you’re upgrading a piece of furniture for your new house or replacing essential items, it can be costly.

However, there are many ways to reduce the cost of building your idea house. Looking back on my own experience, following are some tricks for any first-time home buyer.

Shopping Online
Some things you can do in-house to save money. The easier way you start saving money is shopping online furniture store that allows you to sort and search quickly without leaving your sofa. There are a variety of different websites, include Ikea, Amazon, Macy’s and Overstock often provide bigger sales and the best prices to save end up in your pocket.

Building Yourself
Can you save money by building your own furniture? First-time house buyers always ask this question. You can save money, but not too much. The only problem is the quality of the furniture you care about. If you like me, you don’t have $500 to spend on a coffee table, then making your own table by investing in a best miter saw that makes cutting wood a lot faster and a good Kreg Jig kit that is used for drilling small holes.

*Garage Sales *
A friend told me recently that he bought a really nice room table from garage sales. The trick here is using your imagination when you’re looking for this kind of furniture. You need to think how to use them in your house. You still need some tools to refurbishing these furniture. Design, measure, cut, and attach, that’s it.

Refurbish what you have
If you have enough furniture to fill your new house, but you’re not very satisfied the style and design. A little do-it-yourself skill and creative ideas can build some modern and unique stuff. For example, add fresh coat of paint on the used furniture and paint the walls with different color can save end up in your pocket.

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At a meeting in a villa in Kabul’s privileged neighborhood, Wazir Akbar Han in 2006, with impressive Turkmen carpets decorating the rooms, large LCD televisions and parked Lexus land cruisers in the courtyard, the glory of the villa stood in sharp contrast to the desperate poverty defining the rest of Afghanistan. While Akbar Bay, the host, was informing us about the newly founded “Türktabaran” (meaning descending from the Turks) party, he was uttering rather unpleasant words about the leader of the Uzbeks in Afghanistan, General Abdul Rashid Dostum. Despite what Akbar Bay had to say now, the truth is that he had been Dostum’s campaign manager during the 2004 Presidential elections. Akbar Bay was once Dostum’s closest ally and the times where he would tread carefully around him were not more than a few years ago. The truth behind the shift in loyalty is that Afghan President Hamid Karzai pulled one of General Dostum’s closest aides to his ranks in order to weaken his chances of cause instability in the north. In order to dismantle Dostum’s influence and divide the Uzbeks, Karzai provided financial support to Akbar Bay to found a new party.

This is in keeping with the classic divide and rule strategy common to Pashtun rulers as a tool to weaken Turks in the north. In the 19th century, Pashtun rulers skilfully used Uzbek and Turkmen khans against each other to control what is known as Afghan Turkistan, stretching from Badaksan to Herat. Whenever one of the khans became too powerful, he was prevented from wresting further control by propping up one of his competitors instead. It is no surprise that Karzai employs his forefathers’ strategic tactics quite well. Turkey launched a new foreign policy initiative for Afghanistan and Pakistan as soon as Ahmet Davutoglu became the new Minister of Foreign Affairs in May. Parliamentary committees from both Afghanistan and Pakistan came to Ankara to meet with officials there and soon after, Davutoglu visited both countries in June. Ankara, while trying to act as an honest broker between Afghanistan and Pakistan, is at the same time aiming to unite the Turkic groups under one roof ahead of the upcoming August 20 elections. Turkey seems to be putting Dostum, who has been protected and seen as the most important card in Afghan politics, on the shelf for the moment – with possible plans to use him again in the future. In many ways, the problems in Turkey’s Afghanistan policy began with its relationship and reliance on Dostum.

The struggle for power between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and General Dostum has been simmering for the last seven years, but took a new and dangerous turn since 2007. While Karzai sought ways to get rid of Dostum, seen as “Turkey’s man” in Afghanistan once and for all, the Uzbek General has been trying to regain the power he once claimed in northern Afghanistan between 1992 and 1997. Karzai dealt the first blow by sacking all pro-Dostum bureaucrats in the north of the country. In early 2007, the pro-Dostum governor of Sibirgan, Rozmuhammed Nur, was dismissed and replaced by Pashtun Cumahan Hamdard. Hamdard, as the leader of the Pashtun minority in neighbouring Balh city, was known to have aligned himself with the Taliban during the events which resulted in Dostum fleeing to Turkey in 1997 and during which the Uzbeks came under attack. The Uzbek leader Dostum could not remain silent to Handard’s appointment to the town where he was born and raised. Thus, when pro-Dostum Uzbeks poured out onto the streets to protest Hamdard, clashes erupted for days in Sibirgan and tens of Uzbeks died as a result of the police opening fire on the demonstrators. Dostum’s men retaliated by rocket attacks on Hamdard’s residence. Some time later, when Akbar Bay tried to open the Sibirgan branch of his party, he was opposed by Dostum’s supporters. Uzbek youth set the party building on fire. Dostum raided Akbar Bay’s villa with a 70 man strong militia force, kidnapped him and his son and brought them to his house. As a response, Afghan police, under Karzai’s orders, surrounded Dostum’s house in Kabul. After hours of siege, Akbar Bay and his relatives were rescued. During the siege, General Dostum swore to police from the top floor of his three-floor house, with a whiskey bottle in his hand. Although the Afghan Office of the Attorney General issued an arrest warrant for Dostum, it was never carried out. Karzai, acutely cautious of the delicate balances in the country, was aware that if Dostum were arrested, Uzbeks would revolt and instability would arise in the north of the country.

The ‘great game’ between the United States and the Soviet Union which was played out in Afghanistan during the 1980s, which ended with US victory, gave way to a broader regional game in the 1990s. This time, the great powers decided to play the game through their regional proxies rather than participating directly. The US camp was composed of Pakistan, which supported the Taliban, Saudi Arabia and various Gulf States; while on the other hand, the Russia-led alliance was composed of Iran, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which all supported the Northern Alliance. While every member in the American camp favoured supporting the Taliban, members of the Russian camp lent support to different group within the Northern Alliance. For example, Iran supported Shiite Hazars, Russia and Tajikistan supported Tadjiks under Mesud’s leadership and Turkey and Uzbekistan supported General Dostum. While Turkey stayed away from Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, renewed interest emerged when Dostum established an autonomous government in North Afghanistan in 1992. In those days, DYP (True Path Party) MP Ayvaz Gokdemir and Turkish officials rooted in the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) initiated shuttle diplomacy between the capital of Dostum’s autonomous government, Mezar-i Serif, and Ankara. In a short period of time, Turkey opened a consulate in Mezar-i Serif, which was followed by other forms of aid. While a bloody civil war engulfed other regions of Afghanistan, and especially Kabul, Dostum’s governmental area, which encompassed 7 provinces in the north, was in relative peace and stability between 1992 and 1997. Although Dostum was involved in the conflict in Kabul for some time, he was eventually forced withdraw to the north. But while his forces were present in Kabul during 1992-1994, they had much to do with the destruction, plunder, man slaughter and rape that gripped the area, and his men hence came to be known as “gilemcem”, or carpet thief. Dostum often displayed unpredictable behaviour. While he was known to turn a blind eye to his militias plundering and raping of women and girls, he punished simple acts of theft in unthinkable ways. World renown Pakistani journalist Ahmet Rasit tells one instance in his book Taliban: “When I went to Dostum’s villa to meet with him, I saw flesh and blood in the courtyard. I asked soldiers, naively, whether a sheep was sacrificed here. They replied that General punished a soldier who had committed robbery. While Dostum and his men stood watching, the soldier was strapped to a tank’s tracks and then the tank took a stroll around the courtyard until the body of the soldier become minced meat, scattered all around.”

Although General Dostum established an autonomous government in North Afghanistan, he was not able to establish full control. Many commanders in the north refused to listen to his commands, opting to act alone. In 1997, one of his closest aides, General Melik, changed sides and allied himself with the Taliban, forcing the Uzbek leader to flee to Turkey. Although he eventually returned to Afghanistan in September 1997 and established control over the north, it did not last long and he returned to Ankara after only a couple of months. This time he stayed in Turkey until the summer of 2001.

During Dostum’s series of zigzags from Afghanistan to Turkey, Turkish officials maintained their support for him. In the 1990s, Turkey gave millions of dollars to General Dostum and his Cumbis party, but Dostum spent the money more for his personal pleasures rather than establishing a solid foundation for the type of rule that would bring Uzbeks and Turkmens together. During the 1990s, it appeared that Turkey’s interests lay in supporting Dostum, mostly because the widely held belief was that he was protecting the rights of 5 million Afghan Turks and also that he would act as a shield against the increasing Taliban threat. However, Dostum failed to deliver on both. He was neither able to resist the Taliban, nor establish a strong unity between the Turkmens and Uzbeks. Only when Dostum fled to Turkey for a second time in early 1998 did Ankara, having miscalculated the Uzbek leader’s power and failing to grasp the plots that complicate Afghanistan, realize that its policies throughout the 1990s ended up in a fiasco.

Staff with little experience on Afghanistan were responsible for managing Turkey’s Afghanistan policy in those years. During a meeting with the then Turkish Ambassador to Afghanistan in September 2006, he spoke of his personal lack of finesse on Afghanistan, adding that, “Western states send Ambassadors to Kabul who are experts on this country, but these experts soon become party to political struggles on the Afghan agenda, and thus they lose their objectivity. On the other hand, since I do not know much about Afghanistan, I distance myself equally to everyone and remain neutral”. The then Ambassador explained Turkey’s diplomatic prowess and regional influence by asserting that, “When Turkey raises an angry eyebrow, everyone get in order”. But in reality the problems faced by Turkish citizens in Kabul and the Afghan police’s treatment of Turks did not support the claims of the Ambassador. Kabul police frequently arrested Turkish citizens for drinking alcohol, only to release them in return for large bribes. Persistent complaints and the Turkish Embassy’s attempts to resolve this and similar practices rendered no results. After returning to Afghanistan in the summer of 2001 upon Turkey’s insistence, it looked like luck had smiled upon Dostum for a second time, especially after the 9/11 attacks. General Dostum drove Taliban forces out of the north with the help of American Special Forces in November 2001 and was suddenly declared the saviour of the north. But it would not take long for Ankara, which had again become hopeful of Dostum, to realize that it was mistaken. After only one month, in December 2001, although leaders of all groups in the country were invited to an Afghanistan Conference in Bonn, neither General Dostum nor any other person representing the Uzbeks was invited. Americans skilfully used Dostum to clean up the Taliban mess in the north, and after the job was done he was thrown away like a used napkin. Not only did General Dostum not get what he expected from the post-Taliban government; he lost the most important city in the north, Mezar-i Serif, to his rival, the Tadjic commander Ustad Ata. Meanwhile in Maymana, Dostum’s oldest rival and archenemy General Melik gained a strong footing. The Uzbek leader who once ruled over 7 provinces in the north during the 1990s, now found himself stuck between two enemies in his birthplace of Sibirgan city. When Dostum, whose power and influence were significantly reduced in the new period, began to cause trouble in the north and became a thorn in the side of the Karzai government, Turkey was put into a difficult position as the only state that still supported the Uzbek leader. Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (Milli Istihbarat Teskilati) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to bring Fayzullah Zeki, one of Dostum’s closest aides, to the leadership of the Cumbis party to replace Dostum and to support Zeki as the new leader. Zeki, who was an MP from Sibirgan, had received his postgraduate education in Tashkent and was an experienced and clever politician. When Turkish officials in Kabul guaranteed that ‘Turkey will look out for your back’, Zeki agreed to replace Dostum and prepared to become the new leader of the Cumbis party.

Dostum somehow learnt of the secret meeting between Zeki and the Turks, and invited Zeki and his close MP friends Sakir Karger and Settar Derzabi to Sibirgan. Karger and Derzabi feared that something would go badly and avoided going to Sibirgan with excuses of “illness” and hid in Kabul for some time. Zeki, on the other hand, appeared in front of the General, confident that the Turk’s had guaranteed his safety. He was unaware that Dostum took an oath to punish his aide who was preparing to revolt. According to a secret source, soldiers heavily beat Zeki and even Dostum, unable to control his anger, gave a few good slaps and a kicking. Afterwards, soldiers, under the orders of the General, raped Zeki. In Afghanistan, rape is considered the most embarrassing and shameful punishment that could happen to a man. After being treated in Tashkent, Zeki returned to Kabul. Turkish officials, who learned about the event, went to Zeki’s home to offer condolences but the Uzbek MP reproached them by saying “You deceived me and threw me to a lion, then watched him tear me apart.” In North Afghanistan, where news of what Dostum had done to his closest aide spread quickly, Uzbeks began to move away from the General in disappointment. Afghan President Karzai, on the other hand, was watching the end of the troublemaker Dostum with great pleasure. Turkmens had been distant to Dostum since the beginning but an event that happened in March 2008 made this more apparent. In February 2008, after Dostum kidnapped his rival Akbar Bay, he was held under house arrest in Kabul but was allowed to see visitors. In front of a group of Uzbek and Turkmens that came to visit him, Dostum cursed at the legendary leader of the Turkmens, Abdulkerim Mahdum, and threatened to eradicate Mahdum’s family if he did not appeal to Karzai to revoke the house arrest. It should be noted that Mahdum is highly respected not only by Turkmens and Uzbeks, but also by all other ethnic groups in the north as the grandson of “Gizilayak Halife”, the leader of an important sect in North Afghanistan in the 1930s. Mahdum, who was elected as an MP from Sibirgan to the first parliament in Afghanistan in 1964, established good relations with Suleyman Demirel and Alparslan Turkes in the 1970s. Having heard about Dostum’s threat, the Turkmen community became agitated and hundreds of them crowded around Mahdum. Turkish officials, who saw the risk of Uzbeks and Turkmens becoming engulfed in escalating tensions, instantly took action. One NIO operative went from Uzbekistan to Sibirgan and calmed Turkmens after holding a meeting with Mahdum.

Karzai lost his patience towards Dostum, who could not keep silent even under house arrest and continued to stir trouble. When the Afghan President and American commanders told the Turks to “either control your man, or we know what to do with him”, General Dostum was hurriedly brought to Ankara in a plane that was sent from Turkey in December 2008.

Consequently, Turkey’s Afghanistan policy since 1992 resulted in a fiasco, mainly because Ankara’s policy was based solely on an unstable warlord. Ankara could have looked for other options when Dostum lost his rule for the second time in 1998 and was forced to escape from Afghanistan. For example, the Uzbeks and Turkmens could have been supported as two different groups or measures could have been taken to enable reputable figures like Mahdum to represent the Turkic people in Afghanistan. But Ankara, for unknown reasons, insisted on putting all its eggs into one explosive basket.

Iranian support propelled the Shiite Hazars, who were divided into tens of different groups in the 1980s, into an important political power centre in Afghanistan by uniting them under the Hizbi Vahdet (Unity Party). Thus, in the new government under Karzai, Hazars became one of the three significant government partners by acquiring seven Ministries and one Vice-Presidency. The Russian supported Tadjics became the second significant bloc in the government and gained considerable sway in the new period. But General Dostum, who Turkey had supported and attached high hopes to, was forced to escape from the country and vanished from Afghan politics, let alone control an influential office in the Karzai government. Today, Turkey seeks to unite the Uzbeks and Turkmen in North Afghanistan, where Dostum was skilfully uprooted, under the Cumbis Party ahead of the upcoming election scheduled for 20 August.

To this end, Turkish officials are promoting various Turkmen and Uzbek candidates from Turkic allied groups who are in close contact with the NIO but are perceived as “foreign tools” by their own people in Afghanistan. After turning a blind eye to the torture and havoc reaped by Dostum , even against his closest aides, and bailing him out with a private plane to Turkey when he was cornered, now Turkmens and Uzbeks see Turkey’s efforts as nothing more than a whistle in the wind. While Turkey may have won over one of the most horrible warlords of Afghanistan, still hosted in a villa outside of Ankara, it still stands to lose the Turkic groups in North Afghanistan.

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A turbulent year The past year has been extraordinarily turbulent for the global steel industry. Indeed, the first six months of 2008 saw the continuation of a protracted period of growth in the global production of steel, sustained largely by high levels of demand in China and India (and masking falling demand in Western Europe and the US) and reflected in unparalleled increases in the global prices of iron ore and coking coal. However, in recent months the combined impact of the credit crunch and difficulties in securing lines of credit, the economic downturn, and the collapse of consumer confidence have meant that the fortunes of the steel industry have taken a dramatic turn for the worse, with global demand for steel falling rapidly, steel prices collapsing, and steel companies slashing production (for example ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company has cut steel production from between 30 and 50% for its various products in the 4th quarter of 2008).

2. These turbulent times offer an important moment for reflection, particularly given the extraordinary transformation in the economic geographies of steel production over the last 3 years. Here, due to the limitations of space – but also reflecting our current research – we focus primarily on how changing economic fortunes are affecting two steel companies, Tata Steel (including its Anglo-Dutch subsidiary Corus) and ArcelorMittal. The organisation of these steel companies embodies shifting relations between the steel industry in Western Europe, and other parts of the Eurasian bloc (and particularly the Indian subcontinent and former Soviet states). The changing economic geographies of steel production The steel industry is no stranger to restructuring and reorganisation. The economic geography of steel making in Europe over the last 20 years, for example, has witnessed consolidation in the face of changing regulatory regimes and increasing global competition as formerly nationally-organised (often nationalized) companies merged to form transnational steel producers.

3. For example Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus was created through the merger of British Steel and Koninklijke Hoogovens in 1999 or the formation of Arcelor through the merger of Arbed (Luxembourg), Aceralia (Spain) and Usinor (France) in 2002. However, the geographical reach, magnitude and origins of cross-border mergers and acquisitions in the steel industry have shifted fundamentally in the past 3 years. In particular, the high-profile and aggressive programme of acquisitions pursued by Indian entrepreneur Lakshmi Mittal that culminated in the hostile takeover of Arcelor in June 2006 to form the world’s largest steel company, ArcelorMittal, alongside the takeover of Corus by Indian conglomerate Tata in April 2007 (an acquisition that catapulted Tata steel from 46th to 6th largest steel producer globally by volume), appeared to announce the arrival of India as a global steel power (although production in India currently accounts for a small proportion of Tata Steel’s output and revenues and ArcelorMittal have no steel plants in the subcontinent). It ushered in a new era of consolidation in the industry (whose fragmentation is often contrasted with the dominance of the mining sector by 3 mining multinationals, BHP Billiton, Vale and Rio Tinto) and the emergence of the first truly ‘global’ steel company in the form of ArcelorMittal, which operates plants in 14 different countries.

4. The rise of ArcelorMittal and Tata Steel have been widely seen as evidence of a more general trend to transnational agglomeration and consolidation in the global steel industry. However, it is important not to overstate the extent of this consolidation. For example, the fragmentation of steel and continued existence of many small steel companies in China, despite government policies geared to rationalising steelmaking into large, world-class steel companies, like the Shanghai-based Baosteel, rather than pursuing overseas acquisitions or cross-border mergers, offers an important counter-example to excessive claims of consolidation. Moreover, the corporate strategies driving mergers and acquisitions differ significantly, with ArcelorMittal focusing on creating a single, unified corporate identity, while Tata envisions its merger with Corus as a marriage (their corporate literature describes the ethos of integration as ‘one enterprise, two entities’) that also plays an important role in the conglomerate’s strategies for vertical integration (for example in 2008 Tata acquired Jaguar and Land Rover, providing a captive market for some of Corus’s UK steel production) . That said, these high-profile mergers and acquisitions – undertaken during an extended period of growth in the steel industry and at a time when credit was widely available – exemplify how new circuits of capital have become entangled with corporate strategies, international markets, state intervention and the activities of trade unions to produce new geographies of steel production. And as the global economic crisis has begun to bite these emerging economic geographies of steel will become more pronounced. The credit crunch and economic crisis as catalysts for restructuring? In Western Europe the privatisation of nationalised steel companies during the 1980s and 1990s, and the emerging need for steel companies to meet the expectations of capital markets, not only stimulated consolidation in the European steel industry, but also ushered in the market conditions under which the Mittal takeover of Arcelor and Tata’s acquisition of Corus were made possible. Both takeovers ran into opposition, as anxieties about the future of steel production and employment in France, Luxembourg, the UK and Netherlands surfaced with the transferral of decision making overseas. However, while the global demand for steel remained high and credit remained cheap – Mittal’s £13.7bn takeover of Arcelor and Tata’s £6.7bn takeover of Corus were heavily financed by credit – concerns about the movement of steel production away from Western Europe to lower cost, greenfield sites near raw material deposits in ‘emerging economies’ like India failed to materialise. Nevertheless, the need to reduce debt and respond to the global economic crisis has led to rapid reductions in outputs by both ArcelorMittal and Corus with both companies idling blast furnaces and reducing production by 30-50% from the last quarter of 2008 until at least March 2009, and seeking job cuts.

5. Tata is even playing the Dutch and UK governments against each other to received state-support for employees while they are temporarily laid off work, and there are reports of UK unions negotiating pay cuts with Corus to avoid further job losses. While the long term impacts of the takeovers on the geographies of steel production are unclear, the economic crisis is already accelerating restructuring in ArcelorMittal and led to the mothballing of expansion projects in Eastern Europe and India. However, what is evident is that both ArcelorMittal and Tata steel are seeking to shift their production away from Western Europe. For example, both companies have projects to develop greenfield steel plants in the eastern states of Orissa and Jharkhand in India, to serve a domestic market where steel consumption per capita is currently low, but is expected to grow rapidly of the next 20 years. Vertical integration One significant component of the trend to consolidation within the steel industry has been movements to vertical integration. This is particularly evident in the corporate strategies of the Tata conglomerate. For example, against the background of massive inflation in the prices of iron ore and coking coal over recent years, and the relative strength of a highly consolidating mining sector, Tata Steel has entered a series of joint ventures with mining multinationals in Australia and Mozambique as well as the state-owned mining interest, Sodemi, in the Côte d’Ivoire to enhance the raw material security of its European subsidiary Corus and meet the increased raw material consumption arising from the expansion of Tata Steel’s plant in Jamshedpur. However, the price of raw materials has fallen dramatically in concert with the collapse of steel prices and cuts in production, putting the short term need for hedging against market volatility and securing inputs in question. But Tata is not alone in seeking raw material security. For example, the Chinese steel industry has been trying to gain control of iron ore resources on a global scale through investments in African countries, and by actively stymieing the mining multinational BHP Billiton’s hostile takeover attempt of Rio Tinto at the height of the raw materials rush in the first half of 2008. The full impact of the collapse of the global demand for steel on both the mining sector (which is already undergoing massive restructuring following collapses in demand for coking coal and iron ore)

6. for steel companies strategies of vertical integration remain to be seen. Downstream the Tata conglomerate is also heavily invested in the automotive industry that consumes a significant proportion of the global steel production. For example, in the Indian subcontinent Tata Motors has recently launched the Tata Nano – heralded as the world’s cheapest car – while Tata also acquired Jaguar and Land Rover in the UK during 2008, providing an ‘internal’ market for some of Corus’s products. However, the motor industry has been particularly hit by the global economic crisis. Demand for new cars has dropped severely, leading to significant cuts in production, redundancies and threats of further job losses in the face of uncertainty over the extent of any bailout for the industry that might be offered by the US, UK or other governments. Tata’s massive expansion in both the motor and steel industries in recent years leaves it particularly exposed during these uncertain times. Steel communities The global ambitions of ArcelorMittal and Tata Steel are reshaping steel communities both in traditional steelmaking regions of Western Europe and in emerging regions of steel production. In Corus, for example, while early fears about plant closures and jobs losses were allayed, it is apparent that the company has been under pressure to further increase productivity and improve its margins per tonne of steel produced. But more importantly, it is as the steel industry enters a period of decline that the local impacts of changing geographies of ownership and different corporate strategies are likely to be most keenly felt. This is already the case within Corus, as blast furnaces have been idled at Ijmuiden, Port Talbot and Scunthorpe to cut production, over 400 jobs have been lost in the UK through cutbacks in the company’s distribution and tubes businesses, whilst the UK and Dutch governments are being enrolled to provide financial support to workers to prevent permanent layoffs, and trade unions are reportedly being placed under pressure to accept pay cuts of up to 10%.

7. Alternatively, the changing economic geographies of steel production are also having significant impacts on communities in so-called emerging economies. For example, it appears that in the next decade eastern India (and particularly the states of Orissa and Jharkhand) will emerge as a significant steel producing platform on the back of massive investments in greenfield steel plants by companies including ArcelorMittal, Tata and POSCO. While the short-term impact of the global economic crisis on these projects is uncertain, these investments are driven by desires for raw material security and an assumption that steel consumption per capita in India will be following a similar trajectory to increases witnessed in China. But even at early stages of development these projects are running into strong resistance. Indeed, one of the threats to the rise of Eurasian steelmakers could come in the form of community protests against sometimes heavy-handed tactics in land acquisition for steel plants and raw material extraction. In India for instance, Tata and Mittal’s projects in the state of Orissa have been held up by a combination of red tape and local Maoist guerrilla movements, as well as by attempts by Avidasi groups (a heterogeneous collective of ethnic and tribal groups that are indigenous minority in the subcontinent) to put a hold to projects seen as destructive of natural and cultural heritage and not benefitting the community economically and socially. In China, there are reports of grossly polluting steel plants in some communities, while the minerals extraction industry has taken its toll many times, just as it has in Russia or Mittal’s mines in Kazakhstan. The point here is that communities may increasingly rebel against these approaches to developing the steel industry in a fast-paced, brutal way.

Conclusion: uncertain shift towards the East? There is no denying that emerging transnational steel companies operating across Europe, former Soviet States, the Indian subcontinent and parts of South East Asia and those that gravitate around the latter (such as raw materials producers) have come a long way towards achieving global prominence in recent years. Gone are the days when they were considered second-tier players in the global steel industry…

In terms of quality and reliability as suppliers, and not just on price, these companies compete with their Western European subsidiaries, as well as competitors from the US and Japan. Indeed, the process of integrating steel companies following the Tata and Mittal takeovers has been characterised by two-way traffic in knowledge transfer, and in the case of Tata Steel production units in the UK, Netherlands and India have already achieved significant improvements in performance through the synergies of integration and sharing of tacit knowledge about production processes. However, there are some potential threats to the rise of these Eurasian players, not the least of which is the freeze on credit and the mounting stranglehold of debt, which is pushing Tata, after its heavily-leveraged buyout of Corus, to seek government subsidies in the UK and Netherlands. Mittal has been pursuing similar tactics in France.

8. Likewise, Russian steel companies are marked by the shadow of heavy-handed Kremlin tactics and talks of unfair business conditions.

9. In other terms, what the Eurasian companies have gained in competitiveness in the field of production per se, they may be losing in terms of image and goodwill, and this of course also applies to issues impacting local communities in their countries of origin. Another issue of concern is how things balance out between short-term profit and long term investments. Indeed, in the case of India for instance, the steel industry is plagued by l poor quality infrastructure, which means deliveries of finished products and raw materials are unreliable. Transportation infrastructure, be it by road or rail freight, is not up to the task, and the required investments are too heavy for the national and regional/local governments. This was illustrated, for instance, by repeated tinkering on the part of Indian Railways with ore freight charges, and a general lack of haulage capacity or reliability.

10. Translating into heavy financial, but also credibility, losses. On top of this, bureaucracy, and its fragmentation between federal and local levels, worsens the situation.

11. Similar concerns are raised in Russia in the case of the oil industry where recent boom conditions masked insufficient investment in equipment and transportation. The emerging global prominence of steel companies operating across Eurasia, and the projected growth of steel production in countries like India, do not signify the demise of the steel industry in Western Europe. Here steel companies have been and continue to invest heavily in increasing productivity, but also enhancing environmental protection and production efficiency, through programmes like the EU-sponsored ULCOS (Ultra-Low CO2 Steelmaking) project. While these companies cannot always compete on price, they are competitive in terms of logistics, product quality, innovation, and customer services. This last point reminds us of the importance of proximity to customers in this market, at least for the most demanding steel grades and applications. Moreover, it is also worth emphasising the need to distinguish between countries and companies within this internally heterogeneous Eurasian bloc: China is not India, which is not Russia or Turkey. These countries’ cultures, government policies and financial markets all play crucial roles, and therefore they will not be all necessarily winners in the new era of steel that is dawning after the credit crunch, and beyond.Dr Dan Swanton and Dr Fionn MacKillop are Senior Postdoctoral Research Associates in the Department of Geography, Durham University, working on the ESRC funded ‘The Waste of the World’ programme (ESRC RES 000-23-0007).

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If you want to know your past, look at your present condition, because it is the result of your past. If you want to know your future, look at your present condition, because it will be the cause of your future.”

This paper is too restricted in order to encompass in a detailed way the most important factors for building a culture of peace, thus the main purpose of this essay is to give a brief philosophical or a modest theoretical framework about the need, the capacity of societies and the possibilities to build cultures of peace. The stance adopted here is that of critical approaches of International Relations (IR) in general and of Peace Studies in particular. This impels us to treat theory not merely as a set of philosophical abstractions detached from the “real” political life or as a tool to view the world, but as constitutive of the reality it seeks to explain. From this perspective “thinking” has practical and political consequences in reality.

With the end of the Cold War the crisis our modern society was facing became even more obvious, showing explicitly the flaw of “the long negative peace” cherished by the neo-realist paradigm that both with its liberal counterpart called neo-liberalism tried to make the existing system work more smoothly, while legitimizing the political and economical actions of the superpowers. Among the critical approaches of the “existing order”, that were discontented with the “scientific” and parsimonious explanation of the world as a given and immutable realm, Peace Studies emerged as an emancipatory and inter-disciplinary approach with emphasis on “positive peace” since the years of the Cold War.

What is seen as one of the most obvious handicaps of orthodox approaches of IR today, are their assumptions about the immutable human nature and the structure of international system. The latter was seen as the realm of repetition and recurrence of the struggle for power between states since the times immemorial when Thucydides wrote The Peloponnesian Wars and Machiavelli his magnum opus, The Prince. As Ken Booth rightly put it, “Thucydides would feel at home today in seminars about the international politics of the Middle East, with all the talk of crises, aggressions and self-interest, with the powerful doing what they can, and the weak what they must.”1 From the traditional perspective, war was deemed as a compatible part or at least as an inevitable feature of world politics. Thus, “peace” could only exist as a dependant variable of war, which in this case represented the independent variable. From the angle of peace studies, this negative approach toward peace is largely rooted in the cultural thought throughout history as well as in the mainstream theoretical accounts which have nurtured the way of doing politics.

The challenges of Peace StudiesPeace Studies or Peace Research2 as it is largely known has similar intellectual roots with IR as regarding its concerns about the reduction and prevention of war as viewed in the idealism of the post-First World War.3 But there was its concentration on the concept of peace and its normative commitment to promote peace which gave her a distinct identity from IR.4 However the evolution of peace research has not a linear history. While it emerged in the idealism noted above, the peace studies of the 1950s, moved away from idealism’s normative rhetoric, focusing instead on the empirical and factual research5 according to the increasing fashion of positivism (remember the emergence of behaviouralism during this time) in U.S. Thus during the early years of Cold War, it “survived”6 by maintaining a narrow concept of peace which could be explained quantitatively and by ignoring the dynamics of structural violence and inequality as significant factors that helped explain war.7 However the peace studies as we know today developed outside the U.S. mainly in Norway. It was the work of Johan Galtung who set its distinctive lexicon and consequently helped distinguish it from conflict studies8 which dominated the peace research agenda. Even the early works of Galtung were built under the traditional positivist school he has revised continuously his prior work and have contributed by introducing the concepts of “positive peace” and “negative peace”, not to mention the concept of “structural violence” which had the effect to restructure all the discipline of peace studies. By defining the absence of war as “negative peace” and the “absence/reduction of violence of all kinds” as the “positive peace”9 which must be our goal, he helped in rethinking some of the central assumption of strategic studies about war and peace.

The concept of structural violence, introduced firstly by Galtung in his influential article, Violence, Peace and Peace Research, in 1969 was considered as a turning point in the discipline due to the fact that it produced an affiliation with the critical voices, by replacing his positivist approach.10 Galtung made a distinction between direct violence and structural violence. Broadly speaking, direct violence covers the armed acts of war like the physical assault of a party to cause damage and harm the opposite party.11 On the other hand, structural violence is a much broader concept that consists in “policies which deliberately or knowingly result in the deaths or suffering of others from starvation or disease… acting via the impact of unequal and oppressive power relations.”12 Shortly summarized, “peace research should focus more on the social origins of conflict and address the question of ‘invisible’ or ‘latent’ conflict”.13 Moreover, as Bilgin mentions, “Galtung (1969, 1996) also emphasized that to attain ‘positive peace’, it is not enough to seek to eliminate violence; existing institutions and relations should be geared towards the enhancement of dialogue, cooperation and solidarity among peoples coupled with a respect for the environment…for  Galtung peace is not a static concept; it is rather a process”14 similar with that of democracy or the concept of security as is advocated by critical security thinkers. Thus, the innovative work of Galtung, put the peace research vis a vis the Strategic Studies.

While the Strategic Studies considered war to be a perennial and somewhat normal feature of anarchical international system, peace researchers presented war as a problem that had to be eradicated.15 Thus peace research has been a challenger of the mainstream theories since the years of the Cold War. During the Cold war peace research was a critical voice in academic debates, even though it was largely ignored by the mainstream academics or even blamed as a Marxist surrogate16and viewed as ‘essentially an intellectual protest movement’17 rather than as a serious research area. Peace researchers questioned both the morality and the rationality of Strategic Studies as well as the meanings of war and peace.18 Peace research as such served as a springboard for the new (critical) approaches to security.19Cultures of peace: is change possible?

The critical approaches- or post-positivist turn20 as is known by its other label – to world politics and to human history raised many crucial questions about what was considered as timeless truths about social, cultural and political live. If “truth has a history” as Foucault stated then, we are in front of social constructions not of unchangeable truths. This format can be well applied to the approach of peace. If the culture of war is something constructed and invented and reinvented, it is possible to change it and replace it with a culture of peace, at least theoretically.

Thus, the emptiness caused by Derridean deconstruction of traditional truths, in our case the culture of war, can be filled with something positive like the culture of peace. But peace studies cannot be content only with a theoretical endeavor, they insist also in the action side, or to put it differently the work in terrain. This claim also, constitutes the distinction of peace studies from the other critical approaches like post-structuralism, mainly focused on meta-theoretical (theory about theory) debates.

The need for peaceThe idea of building a culture of peace first of all, rests on the belief, but not only, that it is possible to construct such a culture.  If human beings are able to build cultures of intolerance that lead to war they can also, be able to build cultures of peace that would lead to a peaceful social and political life. The need for peace also, was triggered by the dramatic political changes that occurred in the aftermath of the Cold War. What the modern international community needs in order to overcome the crisis is not a different approach based on the same ontology and epistemology, or a different writing of history, or use of force, but rather needs to reconceive humanity’s cultural, social and political life. This is what building a culture of peace is about as well as its starting point.Building cultures of peace introduces a very assertive claim. It is true that there is a myriad of cultural, economical and political obstacles that needs to be overcome to achieve this vision and some can argue that humanity is still pre-mature for such a universal enterprise. Another problem is that throughout history many ideologies, doctrines or belief systems that enthusiastically claimed to have found the most just and true society for human dignity, turned to be oppressors of humanity and of the values they claimed to enhance. This genealogy of “truths” impels us to be reflective for every idea or belief that yells “EUREKA!” about the way of life and political system humanity merits having.

From Plato’s utopian Republic, humanity has deliberately experienced many religious or secular political systems, each of them reflecting the specific attributes of the epoch to which they belonged, respectively being city-states, empires, theocracies, monarchies and nation-states. The political history where the actors above invented and controlled the “truths” leaves little room for an idea about a cosmopolitan or global society based on “universal” norms of human dignity that would lead to a positive peaceful life. All this history has generated a culture of fear, egoism and uncertainty in world politics but the real problem here is that many of us assume this situation to be natural and “real”. This way of thinking has a crucial outcome that is, negative peace. In the light of these facts, our endeavor must be in the direction of emancipation and seeking new tools for building cultures of positive peace. Here peace is understood not as an inter-state or intra-state condition but as a psycho-social condition.

If we would accept the culture of peace as a “set of values, attitudes, modes of behavior, and ways of living,”21 it is necessary to change social norms22 in order to achieve a culture based on positive peace. This peace must not be exclusive and specific to a given society or international society like in the case of “European Concert” in a certain historical moment. Moreover, this can be possible only in a post-national and post-religious realm, were the national and religious labels will not produce the “other” anymore and being human will be the highest label under which a myriad of identities can flourish freely. This cosmopolitan idea is not a new thing but it is new to think of it not merely as just an idealist and exhausted utopia.

Conclusion 
The Seville Statement on violence states that: “IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature.”23 It is obvious that we cannot anymore legitimize our actions referring to unchangeable and pseudo-natural assumptions about human nature, international systems, immutable agents and structures and even cultures.Building cultures of peace begins with awareness about the statement above and a mission for a better human life for positive peace. This mission allows humans to make their own history, and is a progressive alternative that promotes emancipation for all humankind. This is also, an open-ended process that shows us the direction of our efforts. As a result, the dictum of our era must change from the traditional one: “If you want peace prepare for war”, into a new one: “If you want peace, prepare for peace”.1 Ken Booth, “Dare not to Know: International Relations Theory versus the Future”, in Ken Booth and Steve Smith eds.

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The Russian Orthodox Church is known as the biggest Autocephalous Church in the world. Thus, when its Patriarch, Aleksy II died on December 5, 2008 at the historical Danilov Monastery in Moscow, about 135 million followers of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) held their breath until the announcement of the new Patriarch. As one of the key determinants of Soviet and Russian identity during and in the aftermath of the Soviet Union, the ROC is deemed as among the founders of the new Russian Federation. Therefore, the death and succession of the first Patriarch of the ROC is seen as a critical process, since the Church has always meant more than a religious institution in Russian politics.

Soviet ideology defined religion as a tool for class hegemony and the resulting exploitation; while Marxist ideology envisaged the gradual decline of the role and influence of religion to be replaced by the emergence of the ideal communist society. On the other hand, despite increasing suppression and control over religion, during the Soviet rule the Marxist interpretation of religion became a more and more controversial subject. Thus, the ROC is one of the most intriguing examples of the theory versus practice dichotomy apparent during Soviet rule. Ultimately, the ROC has been and still is one of the key actors in Russian politics, both in domestic and international issues.

Religion and the Russian Orthodox Church during the USSRDespite widely held belief, the attack on religion neither began nor intensified under Stalin. Long before him, all religions experienced suppression until World War II, when religion began to be seen as a mobilizing factor for Soviet war efforts. The ROC played a key role during the war as a unifying force behind the resistance against Nazi invasion. After Stalin, the ROC and all religions under Soviet rule began to suffer the ideological and political consequences of Soviet policies on religion. Thus, it is argued that the number of existing churches after Stalin’s death far exceeded (i.e. three times more) the number when Gorbachev died. Khrushchev’s anti-religious campaign (1959-1964) resulted in the mass closure of places of worship, most of which were composed of mosques and churches. Soviet state ideology attacked religion by suppressing religious elites, closing religious education institutions, decreasing the number of clergy, destroying religious life and imprisoning the “believers”.

After Khrushchev, the anti-religious campaign was abandoned. During the Brezhnev era, the ROC stood among the increasingly organized and persistent human rights movement. During Gorbachev, the Soviet state seemed to change its attitude towards the ROC, adopting a more tolerant and even supportive stand.

This era of tolerance under Gorbachev emanated from the Millennium of Eastern Slav’s conversion into the Christian faith. Gorbachev could no longer ignore the increasingly vocal demands for religious and human rights. In 1986, he granted pardon to one of the most famous victims of anti-Semitic propaganda, Anatolii Shcharanskii and the famous nuclear scientist and human rights defender Andrei Sakharov was permitted to return to the USSR. Irina Ratushinskaya, the young poet and Christian convict was released from prison and permitted to emigrate. But the Chernobyl disaster prevented the Soviet state from implementing a coherent religious reform program. Still in 1987, all those who were imprisoned for religion, human rights and nationalist crimes were pardoned.

The ROC had its golden year in 1988 when Gorbachev surprisingly permitted the millennium celebrations for the adoption of Christianity. The celebrations were taken to mean Holy Russia’s revival, and inevitably gained political importance for Soviet rulers. Gorbachev asked for the Chruch’s support for his rule in return for the restoration of the Danilov Monastery, the centre of the Holy Synod of the ROC in Moscow. It is not a coincidence that the monastery’s opening ceremony was attended by the then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Gorbachev’s Soviet state was trying to exhibit its newfound tolerance for religion in the new era, while the ROC was celebrating its rebirth.

The revival of the ROC during the final years of the USSR did not occur despite the Soviet state, but rather because of it-involving a process that was tolerated by the state which was eventually strengthened by it. In this way, Perestroika also revived the institutional basis of the ROC. By the year 1990, 11,940 regional churches (parishes) joined the mandate of the Patriarchate of Moscow. Even in Kazan, after a new cathedral was opened in 1990, nearly 10,000 individuals applied for religious education. In 1991, the Council of Religious Affairs, responsible for the organization and control of religious activities in the USSR, was dissolved.

The Life of Patriarchate Aleksy IIIn 1990 when Patriarchate Pimen I died, Aleksy II was chosen as the new Patriarch of the ROC. As the USSR neared its dissolution, the Church began to become more and more influential in political life. Thus, the Church tried to maintain the solidarity against the secessionist threat. This new mission of keeping the USSR intact required a new ideology which would strengthen and even replace Marxist ideology in order to save the USSR. The Church played a key role in the formation of this new ideology, and although it failed to keep the USSR intact, it constituted the back bone of the new Russian Federation.

Aleksy II’s rise in the ROC and his contribution to the new Russian Federation as the Patriarch has its roots in his personal life. He was born in 1929 at Tallinn-a city which is defined as central to Orthodox Christianity-into a Russian speaking Swede and German origin family who immigrated to Estonia in 1917. His father was an Orthodox priest, and Aleksy II (Aleksey Ridiger) followed in his footsteps, graduating from the Leningrad Theology Academy at the age of 21. His graduation thesis was on Filaret Drozdov, the Moscow Metropolit of the 19th century. After his graduation he began to work for the KGB with a code name “Drozdov” as he was appreciated for his patriotic ideas and his family tree. The KGB mission provided him a steady rise in the ROC. He was appointed as Bishop of Tallinn by means of KGB reference, and also encouraged to take part in international missions. Ridiger was promoted as Archbishop in 1964 and Metropolit in 1968.

Aleksy (he was renamed in 1961) was promoted as the Chancellor of Moscow Patriarchate in 1964 and became a member of the Holy Synod the major administrative organ of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1968. Until his promotion as the Patriarchate, Aleksy continued his Chancellorship, which was a clear sign of the Soviet state’s trust. Thus because of his close relations with the Soviet state he was criticized for his support for the anti-religious campaign carried out by the state. In 1992, when the KGB archives were opened for a short time, it became clear that Aleksy was a trustworthy informant as he fulfilled his duties, i.e. suppression of clergy protests against the state in the churches. Moreover, during his international assignments, Aleksy became a member of the Central Committee of the Council of the World Churches in 1961,where he would become president in 1972 and general secretary in 1987. During these international assignments, he was recognized as the most loyal bishop to the USSR in 1974 and was rewarded by the KGB in 1988 for his cooperation with the KGB and the Council of Religious Affairs of the USSR.

Aleksy appointed as Leningrad and Novgorod Metropolitan (1986) during Gorbachev’s term in office, was one of the first hierarchs who demanded that the Church have more say on public life. He was elected to the new USSR Congress of People’s Deputies, formed by Gorbachev in 1989 and remained in office until the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. In June 1990, he was named the 15th Moscow and Russian Patriarch after Patriarch Pimen’s death.

During the office of Aleksy II the Russian Orthodoxy assumed the mission of filling the ideological gap that had occurred in the post-Marxist era. Interestingly, Orthodox Christianity became the religion of the state. While the ROC grew as a power on its own, the growing power of the Church turned out to be an advantage for the state. During the Yeltsin era, the ROC handed support to the state in return for the fulfillment of certain expectations. When Yeltsin launched an offensive against the parliament in 1993, Aleksy warned against the risk of a civil war, expressing his deep concerns over bloodshed and proposed to act as a mediator. This initiative by Aleksy was welcomed and gained the respect from both sides. However, after clashes during the demonstrations held on September 3 and the subsequent harsh response of the army, Aleksy II and the Holy Synod made statements in which they merely accused the instigators of these events and made no criticism about Yeltsin.

The Chechnya War was yet another critical event of the Yeltsin era. Aleksy II spoke out against the Chechnya War, which was seen as lacking public support in general. In a written statement, Aleksy II called out for the cease of the military intervention and the resolution of the issue on the negotiation table. However, in another statement issued two months later, Aleksy II called on young Russians to enlist and join the army to defend their country.

In the same vein, Aleksy II endorsed Yeltsin in the Presidential election of 1996. The ROC was provided with large sums of funds to be used for the restoration and construction in return for this endorsement. Furthermore, the bill on the further enhancement of religious freedoms was approved without delay in 1997 and such entities as Orthodox Russia, Union of Orthodox Citizens and All Russian Christians received broad support. Yeltsin seized every opportunity to benefit from close cooperation with the Church, which was one of the most prestigious institutions in Russia, second only to the army.

Aleksy II supported Putin in the war in Chechnya when he became president. Putin’s power and influence caused the Church to limit its actions on the political scene. But both Putin and Medvedev reaped benefits from Aleksy II and the ROC on many matters, and particularly the public sphere.

The Russian Orthodox Church under Aleksy IIAleksy’s promotion as the Patriarch coincides with the rise of the Soyuz and other nationalist movements in the USSR. However, the ROC was viewed as the key institution with the capacity to resolve the challenge of solidarity and maintain unity against these nationalist movements and the political elites by replacing the degraded Marxist ideology with a new one. Which is why the ROC tried to promote religious rights and the sense of historical Russian identity as a bulwark against the dissolution of the Soviet state. Still, Aleksy II’s relations with the state cast doubt on the role of the Church during this critical period.

Aleksy II was educated in accordance with the Sergianstvo ideology , which assumed that the interests of the State and the Church are in full congruity. Thus, Aleksy II’s attempts to keep the Union Republics from seceding aimed to maintain the State unity. He was among the parties who signed the famous 53s Letter, which called for harsher precautions against secessionist and anti-state movements. Aleksy II also denounced the failed coup attempt in 1991 and called the army to keep calm. Nonetheless, his devotion to the Soviet state was not enough for the Church and other institutions to prevent the dissolution of the USSR.

Following the break-up of the USSR, the ROC gained more independence from the state and intelligence institutions. The Church played a key role in defining the new state ideology during that period. Defined as four major policy contributions, the Church:

a) Reclaimed its role as the integral element of Russian national identity,

b) Acted as a unifying factor for the Russians living in the ex-Soviet space,

c) Attempted to re-unify the Russian Federation, Belarus and Ukraine,

d) Ensured that the Russian influence in the ex-Soviet space would continue and promoted integration in that area.

The First All-Russian Assembly convened at the Danilov Monastery in 1993 and identified key areas of influence for the new Russian Federation. Sponsored by the ROC, the Assembly defined the political role of the Church under the Russian Federation. The Eurasianist approach was prioritized by the Church; there were even proposals for the establishment of a Eurasia Orthodox-Muslim Union. The Church was also in favor of establishing a Commonwealth of Independent States Government, as the Church prioritized a process of re-integration among the ex-Soviet states. There was also an interest in the Orthodox peoples and churches residing in Lebanon, Syria, Greece, Crete, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria.In that context, the results of the Assembly laid down the foundation for Russian foreign policy and the Church’s role in defining this policy.

The Assembly:

1. Prioritized defining Russian identity, asserting that “the term Russian is a generic, collective concept that includes Great Russians, Little Russians, and Belarusians.”

2. Called for the recognition that Russians were a divided nation and that the right of the Russian people to unite be solemnly proclaimed. Essentially, the Church was declaring that the Russians outside the Russian Federation should also be a priority for the state. A strategic declaration at the time, this continues to be relevant to Russian foreign policy today, legitimizing Russian intervention where interests are threatened.

3. Declared that the separation of powers was a Western invention unsuitable for Russia, and that it would never take hold on Russian Orthodox soil promoting instead “All power to the Soviets!”

4. Asserted that the Russian army and its martial traditions must be maintained.

5. Called for a struggle with crime and corruption.

The Russian Orthodox Church in the Near AbroadIn this context, the most important issue is to define the term “Russian” and to create relevant spheres of influence. According to this, defining Ukraine and Belarus as “Russian” seemed an appropriate and necessary tool which was needed by the Church and state to create a new empire and continue its role in the region efficiently. However, reality has not been able to keep up with this objective.The demands of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to leave Moscow had begun even before the collapse of the Union. Ukrainian nationalists emphasized that an independent Church was a pre-condition for an independent Ukraine. As a matter of fact, the level of commitment of the ROC to Moscow was interpreted as a sign of what would come: that the Russian influence would persist unless the Ukrainian Church severed its ties with the Moscow Patriarchate. Leading authorities of the Ukrainian Church and Ukrainian nationalists stated that the Church had to become Autocephalous so that Ukraine could safeguard its own independency. On the other hand, Alexi II had purged the secessionists in the Ukrainian Church by changing the status of the Church to an autonomous level. In the nineties, Leonid Kravchuk, Head of State in the Ukraine at that time, was under Russian pressure to refuse the idea of a separate church. Furthermore, there was an undergoing crisis which was the underlying rationale behind the decision that relations with Russia had to be restored. At the present day, three different Orthodox Church exist in the country. One of them is affiliated with the Kiev Patriarchate, the other to the Moscow Patriarchate, while the third one is named “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.” This last one shows nearly no presence and receives limited aid from the Ukrainian Diaspora in the U.S. and elsewhere. There had been an attempt to unite the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the Orthodox Church in Istanbul, however the result was failure.

Similarly in Latvia, there are four separate churches: those bound to the Moscow Patriarchate, to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, to the Autocephalous Latvia Orthodox Church and to Latvia Orthodox Church-in-exile. In Moldova, there has been a more problematic situation compared to the Ukrainian case, as Russia supports the Trans-Dniester. Besides, Romanian Catholic Church has been more successful than the Russian Orthodox Church in Moldova after the dissolution of the USSR. Although the Ukraine-Istanbul merger was successfully prevented, the ROC failed to prevent the Moldova-Romania connection.

Unification of the ChurchesAleksy II’s last success had been the unification of the ROC and ROC Outside Russia in 2007. When in 1917 the Bolshevik’s confiscated the Church’s properties, the Romanov family and the Moscow Patriarchate was killed, and clergy emigrated to Yugoslavia and founded an Orthodox Centre. The Russian clergy outside Russia took an oath not to come back until religious freedom was fully established in Russia. After the dissolution of the USSR, the two separate churches tried to be brought together, until Putin’s initiative and Patriarch Aleksy II proved successful in 2007.

The unification brought prestige to the ROC against the Western Orthodox Church, namely the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Fener. In the aftermath of the USSR, when the churches in the Baltic, Ukraine and some CIS countries decided to separate themselves from the ROC, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Istanbul had tried to penetrate these countries, which the Russian Church considered a Russian Orthodox space. Thus, unification also was a victory against the Vatican, which had been sending missionaries to the ex-Soviet space which the ROC took as a direct threat. This struggle between the churches in the post-Soviet space can also be seen as a manifestation of the Russian and Western attempts to gain political influence in this strategic region.

The Russian Orthodox Church experienced a renaissance during the Patriarchate of Aleksy II who was influential in the foundation of the Russian state and national identity. After the dissolution of the USSR, the ROC helped strengthen the power of the state and the Church in the transition period. When the competition between Russia and the West began to simmer again at the end of the 1990s, the ROC also found itself at the core of a struggle for influence in the ex-Soviet space. Like his processor, the new Patriarch Kiril is also known to have close ties with the state, which indicates that the role of the ROC will not break from the past and will continue to be in harmony with the Russian state. The global economic crisis will curb Russian power, which will require the Church’s support in maintaining political and social solidarity. New struggles in the post-Soviet space will also propel the role of the Church in Russian foreign policy.

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