Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Online Presence of Russian Religious Mirrors Their Real-World Situations, Belovodyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – The Russian Orthodox Church dominates religious coverage in the official media and has sought to promote itself online as well. But YouTube and other channels work according to a different and more open principle; and as a result, Roman Catholics, Protestants and Muslims have achieved more there, Daniil Belvodyev says.

            But in all four cases, the way in which these faiths operate in the real world is with remarkable exactitude reproduced in their online activities, the Daily Storm journalist argues (

            Russian Orthodoxy even on YouTube operates largely on the basis of a top-down model in which official outlets operate according to principles laid down by the Patriarchate two years ago – see – although some independent church bloggers have emerged.

            Some of them have attracted tens of thousands of subscribers, but they have also found themselves trapped in scandals when comments on their YouTube channels turn out to be at variance with Russian government or Patriarchal positions.  Some of them are then forced off, but others manage to hold on and even grow.

            The official YouTube channel of the ROC MP has fewer subscribers than some of the others, but it sets the tone. One thing that may be limiting its growth, the journalist suggests, is that almost all of channel’s content is devoted to the activities and statements of Patriarch Kirill rather than including other Orthodox leaders and issues.

            Protestantism is represented by a variety of sites, the most popular of which are Russian-dubbed YouTube programs from the West like “Joyce Meyer Serves.”  That and other Protestant YouTube channels also feature “prayer walls” in which people can post prayer requests and then see how many people have responded to them.

            Some Protestant sites attract attention by being critical of Orthodoxy or Russian policies. The most prominent of these is Mikhail Kotov’s “Source of Life” which Orthodox and government outlets often criticize, attracting more attention to it than it might otherwise garner, the journalist continues.

            Most Protestants in Russia see their basic goal as missionary outreach. But what is most striking in comparison to Orthodox sites is the nearly complete absence of references to “authoritative sources,” something ROC pages almost inevitably include. That makes for diversity but can lead to confusion about just what these sites are.

            Unlike the Protestants, Catholics in Russia focus on their existing community rather than expanding it, and their sites bear “more the character of a diaspora” than of a mission. Not surprisingly, the largest YouTube site for Catholics in Russia is the Vatican’s official channel, although it has only about 3,000 subscribers.

            Muslim sites reflect two important facts of life about the Russian Islamic community: they do not divide between Sunnis and Shiia but rather between traditional and radical views and they do not follow a single line given that there is no single hierarchy insisting on one as there is for the ROC MP.

            Like the Protestants, many of the most popular YouTube pages are produced abroad and then dubbed in Russian.  Domestic ones typically have smaller audiences, although there is the YouTube page, “the Path of Islam,” promoted by Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov, that has more (   

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