"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Post-Soviet Orthodoxy

Among scholars of "religion" today, Russia occupies a place of central fascination, and we have seen a number of recent books devoted to religious practices and beliefs in the late Soviet and post-Soviet periods. A recent release from Routledge continues this exploration: Katja Richters, The Post-Soviet Russian Orthodox Church: Politics, Culture and Greater Russia (Routledge, 2012), 224pp.

 About this book the publisher tells us:
In recent years, the Russian Orthodox Church has become a more prominent part of post-Soviet Russia. A number of assumptions exist regarding the Church’s relationship with the Russian state: that the Church has always been dominated by Russia’s secular elites; that the clerics have not sufficiently fought this domination and occasionally failed to act in the Church’s best interest; and that the Church was turned into a Soviet institution during the twentieth century. This book challenges these assumptions. It demonstrates that church-state relations in post-communist Russia can be seen in a much more differentiated way, and that the church is not subservient, very much having its own agenda, yet at the same time sharing the state’s, and Russian society’s, Russian nationalist vision.
The book analyses the Russian Orthodox Church’s political culture, focusing on the Putin and Medvedev eras from 2000. It examines the upper echelons of the Moscow Patriarchate in relation to the governing elite and to Russian public opinion, explores the role of the church in the formation of state religious policy, and the church’s role within the Russian military, and discusses how the Moscow Patriarchate is asserting itself in former Russian republics outside Russia, especially in Estonia, Ukraine and Belarus. It concludes by re-emphasising that, although the church often mirrors the Kremlin’s political preferences, it most definitely acts independently.

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