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: Karrie Koesel and Christopher Marsh
When the regime you are engaging has invaded the territorial sovereignty of its neighbor (Ukraine, a U.S. ally), and is also on the brink of war with another one of your alliance members (Turkey) over the shooting down of one of its aircraft, it seems that the promotion of religious, civil, and political liberties is hardly a primary concern. Part I ended by asking the million-ruble question: How does the international community promote basic human rights in Russia? We first detailed the nature of religious freedom in contemporary Russia, how it has transformed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and identified the challenges facing religious communities at risk. Next we lay out several strategies of engagement, some cautious and some more ambitious.
By: Jon Kyst
As Russian president Vladimir Putin’s popularity in the West decreases along with the value of his currency, the ruble, religious implications of his policies seem to increase. Finding himself under immense pressure, it is perhaps no wonder that Putin keeps a spiritual hotline open, for several reasons. In part, he appeals to religion in search of legitimization; but of course, religion can also at a later point become relevant for forgiveness and atonement, should that become necessary.
By: Nicholas Fedyk
The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, sparked by the Euromaidan protests in Kiev exactly one year ago, now feels like a proxy of the Cold War. Vladimir Putin jabs regularly at Western leaders at international summits; Ukrainian and Russian military forces eye each other across the border (or more accurately, within Ukraine’s border); and Western allies have suspended visas, imposed economic sanctions, and warned against further Russian aggression.