Staunton, October 5 – The Russian Orthodox Church increasingly functions like the CPSU did in Brezhnev’s times, Kseniya Kirillova says; but its actions are restricted by the state of which it is a part – it can’t attack people like Ramzan Kadyrov, for example – and so it is directing its energies elsewhere.
On the one hand, the Moscow Patriarchate is positioning itself as a major defender of the Russian world abroad and of the uniqueness of Russian culture, both with state support. But on the other, it is increasingly attacking the old “faiths of the small indigenous peoples, including those protected by law at the regional level” (afterempire.info/2017/10/05/clerical-empire/).
That has led to some serious clashes, the US-based Russian journalist says. A year ago, for example, the Russian church attacked a Chuvash cultural celebration accusing its organizers of “paganism and separatism,” charges that were not taken up by the political authorities at the time.
The Russian church has also gone after paganist groups among Slavs in the Urals region, and against shamanism in Tuva, despite the fact that in the latter case, that is one of “the three dominant religions” in the republic. And the church has backed Cossack attacks on the faith of the Nentsy in the Far North.
Some of this activity may enjoy official government support, some may be sanctioned by the Moscow Patriarchate, and some may simply be the work of local priests and bishops who see this as a way of building their authority among Russians by attacking others. But however that may be, this has the potential to create serious problems.
That is because the government does not appear to be in full control of “the demons it has unleashed” and thus has created a situation in which Orthodox fundamentalists feel free to act within what they but not necessarily all the powers that be in Moscow define as “the clerical empire” they want Russia to be.