Staunton, July 20 – The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church has decided to revive the Orthodox Missionary Society, something that will disturb all non-Orthodox believers in Russia given its past overreach, and to intensify work among the numerically small peoples of the North who in the main follow traditional animist religions.
According to the Patriarchate, such efforts are needed to counter “the romanticization of neo-pagan cults” and to block Orthodox among these peoples “from cooperating with any lobbying of neo-pagan organizations masquerading under commercial structures, sports groups, and folklore, ethno-national, environmental and other social movements.”
(For information on this decision and the church texts calling for this change, see
currenttime.tv/a/rpts-missionerstvo/31368366.html, foma.ru/na-cerkovnom-sezde-rekomendovali-vozrodit-pravoslavnoe-missionerskoe-obshhestvo.html and patriarchia.ru/db/text/5812165.html.)
This decision will be very popular with the Russian government and Russian business interests because the numerically small peoples of the North have been increasingly active in challenging both the government and business about their activities in the North. Now, the ROC MP will throw its weight on the side of those in power.
But it is likely to be very unpopular among the numerically small peoples of the North whose traditional faiths are an important part of their culture and who are certain to view efforts to convert them to Russian Orthodoxy as another step toward their assimilation and the destruction of their identities and ways of life.
And because that is so, these peoples are likely to resist this effort, setting the stage for conflicts between the population and the Russian Orthodox missionaries at a time when Moscow wants to project a positive image of its role in the North given its recent assumption of the chairman of the Arctic Council.
As far as the Moscow Patriarchate is concerned, it seems likely it decided on this step to win favor with the Kremlin especially after the high-profile case of Shaman Gabyshev in Sakha, the resistance of the Komis to the development of a trash dump in the Far North, and the Russian government’s desire to develop the Far North in the name of Russian national security.
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