Russia is a key character in her book which shows how that state has increasingly positioned itself as a defender of ‘traditional values’. Over the past decade, Suchanow argues, Russia’s communist internationalism has been replaced by a far-right, religious fundamentalist version.
One of the people she interviews is Jolanta Darczewska, a Polish expert in security and eastern Europe, who agrees that ‘values’ campaigns aren’t always what they seem. “We think that what we’re dealing with are religious activities, but in reality, these might be political operations of another state”.
openDemocracy’s Tracking the Backlash investigative project follows the international networks, finances, strategies and impacts of many similar campaigns. These include the World Congress of Families network, which was founded after a 1995 Moscow meeting of ultra-conservative academics.
Last year, the World Congress of Families held its global summit in Verona, Italy, ahead of the 2019 European Parliament elections at which far-right parties aimed for record wins. Some succeeded, including the Italian far-right Lega, whose leader Matteo Salvini gave a keynote speech in Verona.
In an interview, Suchanow criticised such networks as anti-democratic and opaque. “They cannot be held responsible in any way”, she said, and yet they aim to influence laws and policies. “And once they enter the bloodstream, they will always side with the far right and help advance their interests”.
Suchanow notes how the World Congress of Families’ Russia representative is the well-connected Alexey Komov, a business associate of the ‘Orthodox Oligarch’ Konstantin Malofeev who is close to Vladimir Putin and is under international sanctions for allegedly financing Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
In contrast to this network’s 2019 summit in Italy, where it was met with mass protests, Suchanow notes how the World Congress of Families has received warm receptions across eastern Europe – including from local governments in Poland in 2007, Hungary in 2017, and Moldova in 2018.