Sunday, December 12, 2021

Establishing Russian Bishopric in Armenia Creates Problems in Region and in Moscow’s Ties with Orthodox World, Soldatov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 16 – Two days after hosting the senior religious leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Moscow, Patriarchate Kirill orchestrated via a special online meeting of the Holy Synod the creation of a Yerevan-Armenian bishopric of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.

            And he appointed to its head Archbishop Leonid who retains his position as deputy head of the ROC MP’s Department of External Church Relations and is widely viewed as Kirill’s point man in the projection of the power of the Moscow Patriarchate beyond the borders of the Russian Federation in the Middle East and Africa (

            While there have long been a small number of ROC MP churches in Armenia, they have always been under bishoprics located beyond the borders of that republic; and the creation of a bishopric for them within Armenia raises questions about Moscow’s intentions there and also about new ROC MP churches in Qarabagh.

            The ROC MP in the past has always been respectful of the Armenian Apostolic Church, religious affairs expert Aleksandr Soldatov writes in Novaya gazeta; but now it has taken an action which looks like a challenge to Armenian Catholicos Geregin II and his ancient church (

            That move has already sparked an angry reaction among many Armenians who view it as an effort to Russify their religion and their country, and it has raised serious questions about what Moscow’s intentions are regarding church administration of parishes set up in Qarabagh for the Russian forces now there (

            Were Moscow to subordinate them to this Armenian patriarchate, that would offend both the government in Baku and the Russian Orthodox leadership in Azerbaijan. Indeed, it could fuel more talk about the possibility of the pursuit of autocephaly by the small but influential Orthodox church in Azerbaijan (

            Consequently, whatever hopes the Kremlin had that Kirill might promote a settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan with his meeting of religious leaders have been replaced by concerns that the Russian church leader as has often been the case in the past has taken a difficult situation and made it far worse than it was.

            But there is another reason for the Kremlin to be alarmed by this. The Armenian Apostolic Church is not only ancient – more than a millennium older than the Russian church – but is a leader of a brand of orthodoxy rooted in fifth century disputes and politics that still splits the Orthodox world and which Moscow has sought to overcome.

            Instead of contributing to that outcome, Kirill’s move has reminded everyone of Russian heavy-handedness and made it more rather than less likely that the Orthodox world that has been allied with Armenia in the past will become ever less willing to listen to the Russian church on issues not only in the Caucasus but also on autocephaly in Ukraine and elsewhere.


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