World Congress of Families
The World Congress of Families (WCF) is a transnational network of conservative and right-wing activists who promote a traditional, heterosexual family model and oppose LGBT rights, reproductive rights, and gender equality. The WCF has been active in Russia since 2011, when it hired Alexey Komov as its regional representative. Since then, the WCF has forged close ties with Russian Orthodox oligarchs, politicians, and church leaders, and has advanced Russian political interests in Europe and beyond.
The WCF’s involvement in Russia reached its peak in 2014, when it planned to hold its annual congress in Moscow. However, due to the international sanctions imposed on Russia after its annexation of Crimea and its involvement in the Ukrainian civil war, the WCF’s American leadership publicly withdrew from the event. Nevertheless, a nearly identical conference took place under a different name: “Large Families: The Future of Humanity”. The conference featured many of the same speakers and sponsors as the WCF congress, including Komov and several prominent Russian figures who were sanctioned by the US and EU.
The conference also attracted some American participants who were sympathetic to Russia’s conservative agenda. One of them was a young woman named Elizabeth Mitchell, who claimed to have been harassed by US authorities upon her return. She wrote to Komov about her ordeal and asked for his help. Komov forwarded her email to several WCF leaders and allies, including Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an anti-LGBT group that also works closely with the WCF.
Mitchell’s email reveals how the WCF serves as a bridge between Russian Orthodox political interests and American Christian evangelical networks. The WCF not only promotes a common vision of family values across national and denominational borders but also facilitates contacts and exchanges between influential actors on both sides. The WCF thus contributes to the rise of a global right wing that challenges liberal democracy and human rights.
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- Barthélemy H (2018) How the World Congress of Families serves Russian Orthodox political interests. Southern Poverty Law Center Hatewatch.
- Human Rights Campaign (2014) Exposed: The World Congress Of Families — An American Organization Exporting Hate.