The religious situation in Ukraine is entering upon a critical stage. The situation is a three-vectored issue that involves Constantinople, Moscow, and Kyiv. The Russian Orthodox Church has always been a tool in the hands of the tsars, the commissars, and the new bare-chested star of the Kremlin. After the fall of the USSR and the ideological vacuum that this created in Russia, the Church was again pulled into an intimate relationship with the Kremlin, especially under Vladimir Putin, to offer a conservative and nationalist vision known as “the Russian world”.
Russia failed to anticipate that its invasion of Ukraine in 2014 would cost it one of its most powerful levers of influence over its neighbor: the formal authority of the Russian Orthodox Church over its Ukrainian counterpart. But it has done so, and that unintended consequence could lead to others: a decline in Russian influence within the Eastern Orthodox world, a deeper division in the Orthodox community—and even perhaps the largest schism in Christianity since 1054. The international community has a key role in determining how this unfolds and must act to ensure the worst scenarios don’t come to pass.
By: Eric Patterson
Russia recently imposed new restrictions on religious groups outside the Russian Orthodox Church. Although some allege that this is a return to a Stalinist state, these actions are best understood in the immediate context of September’s parliamentary elections as well as in the longer term as Russia’s continuing suspicion of “foreign” influences.
By: Geraldine Fagan
This July, Vladimir Putin introduced the severest restrictions on religious freedom in Russia since the Soviet era. The regulations on ‘missionary activity’ form part of a sprawling package of legislation nicknamed the Yarovaya law after its main sponsor. Its express aim is “to counter terrorism and ensure public safety.” The new controls are the long-awaited fruit of fierce lobbying by opponents of religious freedom in Russia.
By: Paul Goble
Students of Russia know that court decisions there do not have precedential value, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t precedents in Russian legal practice. One of the most typical and despicable is now very much on public view: the application of harsh new laws to minorities lacking in support, in order to define the limits of the permissible and set the stage for attacks on other larger and more popular faiths later, effectively recreating the situation Pastor Niemoeller described in Nazi Germany.