Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Some Orthodox in Kazakhstan Seek Independence from Moscow Patriarchate

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 9 – A group of Orthodox Christians in Kazakhstan led by a former priest of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is actively seeking autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, a move that will create yet another national church within Orthodoxy and cost Moscow influence.

            Russian commentators argue that this move is being orchestrated by the United States which is following the same game plan it used in Ukraine and warn that this church move is a harbinger of political moves that could turn Kazakhstan into another Ukraine (

            There are approximately 3.5 million Orthodox Christians in Kazakhstan, about 18 percent of the population. Most of them are ethnic Russians, and those behind the autocephaly drive want them to use the Kazakh language and identify completely with the Kazakhstan government rather than show any allegiance to Moscow.

            To show the way, the former Russian priest who heads this effort has Kazakhified his name. He no longer wants to be known as Iakov Vorontsov but rather as Jakyp Akkulak, a decision that reflects his anti-Moscow positions and the anti-Moscow position his “church” will inevitably adopt.

            It is uncertain whether he and his fellow dissenters will be successful. Astana has generally tried to avoid taking positions that are more symbolic than real when dealing with Moscow. But the fact that Russian commentators are taking notice of this suggests the die is cast and that a church conflict is thus likely to break out in yet another former Soviet state.


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