Staunton, Jan. 7 – Pictures of Vladimir Putin attending Christmas services by himself have spread around the world, with many suggesting that they are a clear illustration of his increasing isolation. But far less attention has been paid to the fact that on this high holy day, those in church were vastly outnumbered by those believers who did not go.
According to the Interior Ministry – and it is emblematic that it should be the agency to report this fact – only 1.3 million Russians attended services, less than one percent of the population of the country and only about 1.4 percent of the number of Russians who say they are followers of the Russian Orthodox Church (newizv.ru/news/2023-01-07/vopros-dnya-pochemu-v-hramy-na-rozhdestvo-hristovo-prishli-vsego-0-9-protsenta-rossiyan-392739).
Some observers are blaming this low figure on the abnormally cold temperatures that have spread across the Russian Federation. Others suggest that Russians got out of the habit of attending during the pandemic. But most argue that it is a continuation of a long-term trend of declining interest in Orthodoxy in particular and religion in genera.
All those factors may have played a role, but there may have been an additional one this year: The ROC MP’s outspoken and uncritical support for Putin’s war in Ukraine may have led some of the faithful not to attend, a way of voting with their feet as it were against the church’s violation of the principles that Christianity was founded on and is supposed to defend.