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Russia's Orthodox Awakening

The Fraying of Russia's Church-State Alliance

Patriarch Kirill and Vladimir Putin in Moscow Courtesy Reuters

When the Russian Orthodox Church is in the news, which has been quite often of late, the image that comes to mind is of an army of archbishops and abbots, commanded by Patriarch Kirill I, operating in conspiracy with the country’s authoritarian rulers in the Kremlin. This is not without reason. The church’s conservative clerics have, in fact, given their support to the government’s most polarizing recent laws, including the jailing of three members of Pussy Riot for offending believers’ religious sensibilities, legislation proscribing “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” and the institution of a limit of three legal marriages per Russian, to discourage divorce.

But to conclude that the Russian Orthodox Church is nothing more than a bastion of extreme conservatives is to miss the many ways that change is being forced upon it. In some sense, the church’s ultraconservatism is on the wane -- for

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