OSW Studies

The altar and throne alliance. The Russian Orthodox Church vs. the government in Russia

The altar and the throne alliance

The Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate (ROC), the largest religious community in Russia, plays an essential role in the process of the cultural and national self-identification of the Russian people. Being a socio-political institution with a centuries-long history, it possesses great symbolic capital and enjoys public respect, which has been used for political purposes.

Since Vladimir Putin regained the presidency in 2012, in order to strengthen the political regime in Russia the Kremlin has begun to extensively draw upon conservative ideology and promote the traditional moral and social values which the Church is viewed as the guardian of. This has resulted in establishing closer relations between the secular government and the ROC, as well as in a greater engagement of ROC hierarchs and organisations in domestic and foreign policy issues. This situation exposes the ROC to criticism for being excessively involved in politics, and in the longer term, to the risks linked to potential destabilisation of the governmental system in Russia.