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April 11, 2022

Putin’s Orthodox Oligarch

One of the reasons the majority of Russians support Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is thanks to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Vladimir Putin’s personal ambition may indeed be the direct reason for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it would be false to assert that it is the primary reason. Poll after poll has been conducted seeking the Russian public’s opinion, and even accounting for the extreme bias of some pollsters like the Russian state media, they all show that a sizable majority of Russian people support the war. Furthermore, Putin himself enjoys some of the highest popularity he’s seen in years.

The question is this: Are the Russian people really being duped by Putin into accepting his nefarious agenda? Or is Putin simply a reflection of the nation’s own collective psyche?

The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle, as culturally crafted ideology often has great power to sway public sentiments even in the face of facts to the contrary. As evidence of this, look no further than the radical Left’s insistence that, despite well-established scientific biological reality, gender is not binary.

Back to the situation in Russia. It is clear that Putin has been a master politician who has deftly manipulated and maneuvered himself into the position of what is now for all intents and purposes a Russian czar.

But Putin hasn’t created this aura of himself as the glorious head of a resurrected Russian empire all on his own. Putin has had a significant partner helping to spread this narrative across the Russian landscape, and that man happens to be the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

In selling his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine to the Russian people, Putin justified it with both historical and religious motivations. “Ukraine is an inalienable part of our own history, culture, and spiritual space,” he argued. Kirill has been even more provocative in defense of the war, saying that Russian soldiers “cannot have any doubt that they have chosen a very correct path in their lives.” According to Kirill, it’s because they are involved in a holy war against the decadence of the West, for which he cites gay pride parades as an example. “We are talking about something different and much more important than politics,” Kirill declares. “We are talking about human salvation.”

It may be hard to understand this view of Putin’s invasion being a religiously justifiable “holy war” for “human salvation” juxtaposed with the revelations of the gruesome war crimes meted out on Ukrainian civilians by Russian soldiers, but it is undeniable that the Russian Orthodox Church led by Kirill has had a profound impact upon the Russian people’s view of themselves, Putin (whom Kirill has referred to as “a miracle from God”), and the war in Ukraine. Indeed, this past week, a Russian Orthodox priest told his congregation: “Hopefully soon, we’ll have Moldova, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Georgia, and the Baltic States join our great Russia.”

While it appears that Putin, with the help of Kirill, is using the Russian Orthodox Church to further his own political agenda, Putin in a way has realized one of the great errors that led to the eventual downfall of the Soviet Union — its attack against religion and the church. Communism gutted the Russian population of any significant motivating transcendent vision of the future. The cause of communism was ultimately limited and hollow, as it offered only a temporal vision that could not be shared by all. Putin, on the other hand, with the help of the Church, is offering the Russian people a transcendent vision of the future of not only Russia but the world. And, thanks to Kirill, many Russians appear to have been persuaded to believe that Putin is engaged in doing God’s work. Indeed, Putin himself may believe it as well.

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