His Holiness Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Cyril explains why the worldly powers plot against the Russian Orthodox Church.
When Vladimir Putin rose to the presidency of Russia in 2000, he inherited the remains of a once-fearsome communist-atheist imperial state.
In the intervening 19 years, he has transformed Russia back into an imperial power with global ambitions. One of his key tools in that transformation has been the Russian Orthodox Church.
Putin often invokes the Russian Orthodox Church in his public speeches, giving the church a much more prominent place in Russian political life than under his predecessors. But these invocations hardly seem sincere in the religious sense. Rather, he has used the church to justify Russian expansion and to try to discredit the West’s influence in Eastern Europe.
Russia and Ukraine both trace their history to medieval Rus in Kiev, where Vladimir the Great baptised his subjects into Orthodoxy en masse in 988AD. Today, there are about 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world.
Russia, which accounts for a third of those followers, has long been the largest and most powerful group within the faith’s 14 jurisdictions. That pre-eminence — which prompted some theologians in pre-tsarist Russia to call Moscow the “Third Rome” — made it a pillar of the Russian empire, a status Putin has drawn on in building his modern state. Since he came to power 20 years ago,
Russian Orthodoxy has risen in status: tens of thousands of churches have been built; oligarchs have sponsored church charities; and Putin has regularly — and publicly — sought the advice of church elders in matters spiritual and profane.
He has used religion to highlight divisions between Russia and the supposedly amoral west, and to elevate the idea of the “Russian world”, a sort of spiritual dominion bringing together Russian-speaking former Soviet citizens, that has been promoted by the church and the state.