Rise of the Russian Orthodox Church

By Vladimir Radyuhin

, by The Hindu

Notwithstanding the indifference of most Russians, the Orthodox Church, with active support from the state, has effectively established itself as state religion.


After the collapse of the atheist Soviet Union, state persecution of religion came to an end in Russia. The new law on religious freedom adopted in 1997 identified four religions as “constituting an inalienable part of the historical heritage of the Russian people” — Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism. This in itself was a violation of the Constitution, which enshrines equality of all religious organisations. Moreover, the law set the Orthodox Church apart from other religions, noting its “special role” in Russian history. It was probably in line with this special status that Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar and Supreme Mufti Ravil Gainutdin lost the right to flash car lights several years ago.

The Orthodox clergy claim that religious belief in Russia has been rapidly growing stronger. Indeed, according to pollsters, two-thirds of ethnic Russians now identify themselves as Russian Orthodox believers, up from less than half in the mid-1990s. However, only 10-15 per cent of Russians go to church regularly, and just five per cent seek communion, which is a key act of faith for a true believer. Sociologists say the vast majority confuse their ethnic identity with religious belief.

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