A recrudescent Russian Orthodox Church has reoccupied much of the social space that had been its domain throughout Russian history, giving it a privileged place among religions -- putting it in a league with political leaders and making it a partner of the state and a powerful presence in schools and the army. The Garrards credit the recently deceased patriarch, Aleksy II, with much of the church's recent success, pointing out the skilled way he parlayed his 30-year association with the KGB into a restoration of vital church relics and sanctuaries, his subtle ability to marry restored church tradition with a rebirth of Russian nationhood, and the progress he achieved toward a reconciliation with the Russian Orthodox diaspora. Whether he deserves the praise they award him for blunting the truly ugly anti-Semitic strains within the church's membership, particularly among the National Orthodox Movement, and the pass they give him for his own intolerance toward Western Christianity, particularly the Catholic Church, can be debated. After the long dark eclipse of the Soviet period, the Russian Orthodox Church is again central to an understanding of contemporary Russia, and this book provides a fine starting point.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.
More Reviews on Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Republics From This Issue