• In Modern Russia: A Revival of … the Church of Vladimir Putin?

    Surge Summary: The Russian Orthodox Church is experience a resurgence in Russia these days. Unfortunately, that resurgence has come at the price of a disquieting alliance with the Russian government – including a disturbing promotion of dictator Vladimir Putin and some of the nation’s militaristic objectives.

    by Herb Reese

    It may come as a surprise to some, but after decades of repression under communist rule, the Russian Orthodox Church has been enjoying a resurgence among its countrymen of late. In fact, the proposition can be made that the church has supplanted communist ideology with its own and reestablished itself as the central bulwark of Russian identity.

    “In the new Russia, the former KGB who run the country – Vladimir Putin among them – proclaim the cross, not the hammer and sickle. Meanwhile, a majority of Russians now embrace the Orthodox faith with unprecedented fervor…. [Patriarch] Aleksy orchestrated this transformation, positioning his church to inherit power once held by the Communist Party and to become the dominant ethos of the military and government…. The revived church under Aleksy prevented mass violence during the post-Soviet turmoil…. Aleksy astutely linked the church with the army and melded Russian patriotism and faith.”1

    Exhibit A in this link between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian military is The Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, situated in a military theme park outside Moscow, called Patriot Park. The cathedral is the third tallest Russian Orthodox cathedral and opens this May 9.

    “It will be the set piece of an ostentatious memorial complex merging Russia’s Orthodox tradition with the most sanctified episode of the country’s past: the Soviet Union’s victory over invading Nazi Forces in what Russians call the Great Patriotic War.“2

    But not everyone is pleased with this reversal of fortune for the Russian Orthodox Church.

    “Some are uneasy with the militaristic tone of the [cathedral] project and the message it appears to send…. ‘This is an excessively vulgar involvement of the church in militarism and state affairs,’ said Sergei Chapnin, the former editor of the Moscow Patriarchate’s official journal. ‘We have a secular state, and when it tries to involve the church in its campaigns, it’s obvious it’s not about faith but about government propaganda.’”3

    Excessively vulgar indeed. One beautiful artwork in the cathedral depicts Jesus Christ looking down on worshipers from the central dome. But a mosaic in the cathedral includes none other than Vladimir Putin himself. Joseph Stalin appears in another mosaic. One even celebrates the annexation of Crimea. And it has been widely publicized in Russia that the central icon in the cathedral was paid for by a donation from Putin.

    Militarism, propaganda, leader worship: proof positive that when the church gets too chummy with the state, the church loses its ability to serve as a prophetic witness.

    This post first appeared in NewCommandment.org

    1. Introduction to Russian Orthodoxy Resurgent, by John Garrard and Carol Garrard, Princeton University Press
    2. A Cathedral For Russia’s Armed Forces Has Clergy Wary Of Merging Militarism With Faith, Matthew Luxmoore, Radio Free Europe, May 8, 2019
    3. Ibid.

    The views here are those of the author and not necessarily Daily Surge.

    Originally posted here.

    Image: Adapted from: Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10229693

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