The Depiction of ‘Orthodoxy’ in Post-Soviet Space: How Vladimir Putin Uses the Church in His Anti-Western Campaign

Date01 December 2021
Published date01 December 2021
DOI10.1177/09735984211035178
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
25(2) 235 –252, 2021
© 2021 Jadavpur University
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DOI: 10.1177/09735984211035178
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Article
The Depiction of
‘Orthodoxy’ in Post-
Soviet Space: How
Vladimir Putin Uses
the Church in His
Anti-Western
Campaign
Punsara Amarasinghe1
Abstract
This article seeks to examine Russia’s recent interest in uplifting
the status of Orthodox church as a pivotal factor in the state. Most
importantly, the position of Orthodox Church has grown rapidly during
Putin’s administration as a solacing factor to fill the gap emerging from
the fall of the Soviet Union. The sixteenth-century doctrine propounded
by Filofei called ‘Third Rome’, which profoundly portrayed Moscow as
the last sanctuary for Eastern Christianity and the nineteenth-century
nationalist mantra of ‘Orthodoxy, Nationality, and Autocracy’, is
rejuvenated under Putin as the new ideological path to move away from
the Western influence. Specifically, it is an evident factor that ideological
movement that rigidly denies Russia’s hobnobbing with the Liberal
West is rather intensified after the Crimean crisis in 2014. Under this
situation, Putin’s usage of Orthodoxy and Russia’s spiritual legacy stands
1 Science Po University, Paris, France.
Corresponding author:
Punsara Amarasinghe, Science Po University, 13, rue de l’Université, 3rd floor, office
304, Paris 75007, France.
E-mail: punsaraprint10@gmail.com
236 Jadavpur Journal of International Relations
as a direct political tool, expressing Russia’s uniqueness of the global
affairs. This article will critically examine the historical trajectory of the
Orthodox Church in Russia as an indicator of its distinctiveness.
Keywords
Orthodoxy, Moscow, Russia, ideology, West, liberalism
Introduction
The ideological emptiness faced by Russia in the aftermath of the
dissolution of the USSR was a heavy one that kept the country’s spirit
in the doldrums for a decade. The revered attitude that Russians were
accustomed to Communism as an ideology was a unique one prevailed
among them through state-imposed conditions, and it was not an easy
task for such a society to embrace the winds of change. The economic
stagnation followed by the Chechen War and the internal turmoil in the
Russian society during Yeltsin’s period devastated the Russian
consciousness, creating a major social crisis like the rapid increase of
suicide rate in the late 1990s (Shleifer and Tresnamn 2005). The vacuum
emerged from the demise of the Soviet Union, and its severe
repercussions continued to torment the Russian society until Vladimir
Putin stepped into Kremlin.
The revival of state affinity with the Orthodox Church became a
salient factor under President Putin in Russia’s quest in search of a new
ideology. In examining Russia’s romance with seeking an ideology, it
was Orthodoxy that had dominated the Russian space in the pre-
revolutionary era. The ideology pervaded in the Russian Empire before
1917 was confined to three essential pillars, such as Orthodoxy,
Autocracy, and Nationalism (Pravoslavie, Samoderzhavie, Narondaost),
was a creation of Sergei Uvarov, the Russian Minister of Education in
Tsarist Russia in 1833. Russia’s intellectual transformation in the
nineteenth century took a crucial direction in search of an identity as the
Russian avant-garde intellectuals sought the discontent of the Western
modernity imposed upon Russia by Peter the Great. The twisted identity
of Russia’s historical mission remained ambiguous even at the height of
its imperial expansion under Empress Catherine, and they were aware of
their incompatibility with Europe, while, at the same time, they knew

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