Orthodox Christianity

Authored by: Marko Veković

The Routledge Handbook of Religion, Politics and Ideology

Print publication date:  August  2021
Online publication date:  August  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367417826
eBook ISBN: 9780367816230
Adobe ISBN:


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We live in a world where some of the most interesting debates are happening in the virtual realm. For example, in March 2014, Twitter hosted a very lively and interesting debate on the role of Orthodox Christianity in Russian politics. Speakers included Carl Bildt, a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, and Michael McFaul, a renowned Stanford professor. Bildt claimed that McFaul was possibly underestimating the force of Putin's anti-Western and “anti-decadence” line, saying that such ideas are deeply rooted in conservative Orthodox Christianity (Marty, 2014). In other words, according to Bildt, ideology and religion in contemporary Russia are closely related. In this chapter, I take a close look at this relationship. The goal is to explain how and to what extent Orthodoxy and ideology interact in contemporary Russia. However, my starting assumption is that Orthodox Christianity, as a religious tradition, does not have a clear ideological standpoint (for a more detailed analysis of Orthodox Christianity's political theology, see Papanikolaou, 2012). However, it appears that Orthodox Christian Churches across Eastern Europe are favourably inclined towards monarchy-type political systems. This preference for monarchs, particularly in the Russian case (Turunen, 2007), can be understood as the product of communist rule in these countries. But when it comes to specific ideologies, it would be wrong to try to apply any particular ideology to Orthodox Christianity, including in our particular case: the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). However, the ROC has often been used as a supplement, or an asset, of different political and ideological systems in Russia. Scholars tend to explain this process as the “ideologization of religion” (Rachik, 2009: 347). And in the case of the Orthodox Christian Churches across Eastern Europe, the main explanations for close relationships between different ideologies, state and Orthodoxy, can be found in the specific historical experience, and of course, for doctrinal reasons (Pipes, 1974; Prodromou, 2004).

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