Thursday, March 24, 2016

Moscow Patriarchate’s Church-Building Program Generating Anti-Clericalism across Russia, SOVA Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 24 – Even as many are expressing concerns about the influence of the Moscow Patriarchate on the Russian state, viewing it as a threat to the constitutionally-mandated secular nature of the country, ever more Russians are expressing openly anti-clerical attitudes, according to the SOVA Information Analysis Center.

                In its annual report on religious affairs, SOVA says that this reflects growing anger against the church and its activists who often seek to build churches in public parks and nature preserves, thus depriving Russians of their favorite recreational places. (For the complete text, see; for a summary see

            The central media have reported on protests against new church construction in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but SOVA documents similar protests in Ryazan, Anapa, Ekaterinburg, Novokuznetsk, Novorossiisk, Smolensk, Saratov, Balashikha, and Obninsk in Kaluga. It also provides details about conflicts between church activists and Russians over cultural events.

            These clashes are important not only as manifestations of a kind of activism which often is not considered “political” and therefore is dismissed but also as a potential problem for the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church in the future by suggesting that the harder the state and church push to advance church interests, the more Russians will resist.

            Indeed, while the SOVA report does not speculate on this point, there is a chance that the anti-clericalism the church’s construction campaign is generating may ultimately harm the Patriarchate’s interests either by prompting the Kremlin to distance itself from the church or by leading at least some Russian politicians to take up the cudgels for the people against the church.


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