Staunton, May 13 – The Kremlin has a vested interest in the growth of formal if not genuine religiosity, Mariya Ukhvatova says, because the more Russians engage in religious practices, the more likely they are to vote for Vladimir Putin or any other incumbent member of the party of power.
In a new study, “Religion and Electoral Behavior in Russia,” the political scientist at the St. Petersburg branch of the Higher School of Economics says that as Russians have become more religious in self-identification and formal practice, the more they are inclined to back those already in office (iq.hse.ru/news/205891769.html).
More generally, Ukhvatova says, among Russians, “religiosity is positively linked to voting for United Russia in 2011 and Vladimir Putin in 2012,” a pattern that she suggests continues to this day and explains why incumbents do so well in what she calls “the religious belt” of Orthodox Russian regions.
She distinguished between two factors that she suggested are “capable of influencing voting for the party of power and the president.” Those people who are less religious but more socially active are inclined against incumbents, while those who take part in religious rituals are more likely to support them.
Putin himself fully understands this and as a pragmatic politician is quite prepared to exploit religion for political goals. He once told Sergey Pugachev, Putin’s “Orthodox banker,” that “of course, the Russian Orthodox church is stronger than any United Russia will ever be” (svoboda.org/a/28437045.html and graniru.org/opinion/mitrokhin/m.260881.html).