JRL NEWSWATCH: “Easter in Russia: Between Church and State, a New Divide Has Risen” – NYU Jordan Center/ Kathryn David

File Photo of Russian Orthodox Cathedral with Man in Religious Garb in Foreground

“… The enormous variances in how priests chose to observe Easter this year in Russia hints at the broader context that frames the divide between those following church-related COVID restrictions and those ignoring them: the complex relationship between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian state. While many commentators have remarked on the tight partnership between the church and state in contemporary Russia, with some going so far as to characterize the church as simply an instrument of Putin’s government, the responses of priests and parishioners to COVID restrictions reveals the cracks in the foundation of this relationship.

The willingness of the clergy to defy secular authorities in the extreme circumstances of this pandemic complicates the picture of a Church that is often presented to the public as unified among its ranks as a partner of the Russian state. The diversity of views among the clergy and Orthodox believers in Russia, long remarked upon by anthropologists and sociologists, has now been thrust into the spotlight. On Easter, which churches were open and which were closed, and how priests confronted (or not) the police sent to shutter their churches, has laid bare the divisions within the church and divergent views on the relationship between the church and the state. …”

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