Staunton, April 6 – In the monthly ranking of Russian public figures the Agency of Political and Economic Communications prepares, Patriarch Kirill has seen his rating fall to the lowest level ever. Last month, he ranked 34th among Russian leaders, down from 20th a year ago, and well below the top ten in which he stood in the first years of his patriarchy.
This reflects less public unhappiness with him, experts with whom journalist Milena Faustova of Nezavisimaya gazeta spoke say, than his absence from public activities during the pandemic. And they add that his fall in this rating is no indication of any change in his influence. It was small and remains that way, they say (ng.ru/ng_religii/2021-04-06/9_505_rating.html).
Roman Lunkin, a specialist on religion at the Moscow Institute of Europe, says that issues about the church have been eclipsed over the past year by an overwhelming focus on the pandemic. And because the church isn’t being talked about, Kirill is also losing the expressions of public support he might otherwise receive.
Indeed, Lunkin argues, recent data showing the decline in the number of Russians identifying as Orthodox reflect the same factors that are driving down Kirill’s rating (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/03/fewer-russians-identifying-as-orthodox.html).
He cautions against thinking that the patriarch’s public rating says anything about his standing in the church or in the Kremlin.
Mikhail Smirnov, a specialist on religion at Leningrad State University, agrees. He says that Kirill’s political influence isn’t great because the Kremlin isn’t about to allow any religious leader to have an impact on it. And thus, this fall in the ratings won’t matter within the halls of government.
Moreover, the Petersburg scholar says, it is likely “premature” to speak of any fall off in Kirill’s influence either over those who identify as believers or within the church hierarchy itself. The former continues to defer to them as they have traditionally, and opposition to him within the church, while it exists, is not much affected by his public standing.
Few in society at large are paying attention to Kirill’s positions or troubles with dissident clergy. And thus, Smirnov says, his declining ratings reflect the absence of public coverage of his activities and his public activities have declined because Kirill is quite happy to live out his time as patriarch without shaking any boats.