Steve Turley, an author and online self-promoter who spoke at the recent World Congress of Families global summit, has posted an interview he did during the gathering with Alexey Komov. The World Congress of Families is a global network of anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice activists. Komov is WCF’s representative in Russia and a key connection between American religious conservatives and the Putin-allied billionaire Konstantin Malofeev, known as “God’s Oligarch” for his devotion to the Russian Orthodox Church. Turley called Komov “a mover and shaker in world conservatism.”
Turley’s interview was the friendliest of puff pieces, with Turley joining Komov in mocking critical media portrayals of his influence, and allowing Komov to adopt an “aw shucks, I’m just a guy who loves God and conservative ideas” persona.
“I believe in ideas,” Komov said. “I think that ideas rule the world. And if you have a good idea, with the help of God, you can achieve everything.” Having the support of billionaires doesn’t hurt, either. Komov acknowledged that his “ideas” had won him the support of people with money and influence like Malofeev and Vladimir Yakunin, one of the Russian leaders sanctioned by the U.S. after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Komov told Turley that he traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado—a major hub of conservative Christian activism—a decade ago to start building relationships that would help advance his vision of conservative Christians from around the world working together more closely.
In 2013, Komov’s benefactor Malofeev attended the WCF in Sydney, where he reportedly said that “Christian Russia can help liberate the West from the new liberal anti-Christian totalitarianism of political correctness, gender ideology, mass-media censorship and neo-Marxist dogma.”
Komov organized what was supposed to be the next World Congress of Families summit in Moscow in 2014. As Right Wing Watch noted at the time, at a press conference promoting the event, “Komov suggested that during the era of Ronald Reagan, the U.S. was free, pro-Christian, and pro-capitalist, while Russia was mired in communism. He suggested that under Obama and Putin, a role reversal is under way. He said he would hesitate to say which country is more free, Russia or the U.S.”
Due to U.S. sanctions after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the WCF dropped its official sponsorship of the 2014 summit, though the event went on largely as planned with WCF officials attending in their “personal” capacities. That event ended with a call for other countries to adopt Russian-style bans on pro-gay “propaganda.” And the partnership between Putin’s allies and the U.S. and global Religious Right has continued undisturbed. In 2016, when the World Congress of Families was rebranded as a project of the International Organization for the Family, Komov traveled to South Africa to take part in its launch.
Komov and Malofeev have reportedly played a role in coordinating collaborations among European far-right groups. Turley portrayed Komov as a personal friend of Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister of Italy who, in Turley’s words, “electrified” the WCF crowd in Verona. Komov called Salvini the number one populist politician in Europe, one of the “new wave of politicians that hopefully will further rise and change Europe, change the world to be a better place.” Komov noted that he spoke at the 2013 convention of the Northern League party (now known simply as the League) when Salvini was elected to lead the party.
“The old split between right and left is not relevant anymore,” Komov told Turley. “It’s really whether you are in favor of this globalist financial bankster type of arrangement, with LGBT and all those gender fantasies, or you are for sovereignty, independence, and the true power of people.”
During the Obama administration, when the promotion of LGBTQ human rights was part U.S. foreign policy, Religious Right figures eagerly embraced Putin’s anti-gay policies and the portrayal of Russia as a savior of Christian civilization against a decadent, secularist West. Before the recent summit in Italy, WCF held its 2016, 2017, and 2018 summits in Georgia, Hungary, and Moldova, lending its support to pro-Putin and anti-European Union officials and factions in those countries.
Komov and his deep-pocketed friend Malofeev have also launched Tsargrad, a right-wing TV network modeled on Fox News. In his interview with Turley, Komov explained that Russians see Moscow as the third Rome; Constantinople was the second before if fell to Muslim rule, and Tsargrad was its Slavic name. It’s also a reminder that Malofeev has envisioned Putin being crowned a new Tsar.
Komov is also sponsoring a Russian-language Christian homeschooling curriculum—something he promoted during the 2018 WCF summit in Moldova. He told Turley that he and his wife have translated and adapted to Russian culture a U.S. Christian homeschooling curriculum, “Classical Conversations.”
Komov dismissed as “fake news” the idea that he was acting as some kind of agent of the Kremlin, which Turley said came from the same people who accused Trump of collusion with Russia. “There was no collusion,” said Komov. “I’m clean.”
“I’m a true Christian and I’m a believer in the global union of conservatives,” Komov said, and he believes conservatives everywhere should be working together to oppose attacks on the “natural family.”
It is notable that Turley’s published interview did not include any questions for Komov about attacks on religious liberty in Russia, a topic about which the U.S. Religious Right has been relatively soft-spoken. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recently released its 2019 report, which put Russia in its most repressive category. An excerpt from that report:
During 2018, Russia accelerated the repressive behavior that led USCIRF to recommend its designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, for the first time in 2017. The government continued to target “nontraditional” religious minorities with fines, detentions, and criminal charges under the pretext of combating extremism. Russian legislation targets “extremism” without adequately defining the term, enabling the state to prosecute a vast range of nonviolent, nonpolitical religious activity. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, whom the government banned outright in 2017, faced severe persecution by the state. By the end of the reporting period, hundreds of members remained in detention, had travel restrictions imposed, or were under investigation, and church property estimated at $90 million had been confiscated.
The persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses was recently acknowledged by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who now serves on USCIRF, but FRC and other U.S. Religious Right groups have a long tradition of working with even the most religiously repressive regimes in the world in order to resist international recognition of the rights of LGBTQ people and to ensure that countries are free to continue enforcing “traditional” ideas of gender, sexuality and family.