Russian Orthodox Church promoting national interests abroad

Russia is expanding its influence throughout the former Soviet territories and Europe by also advancing Russian Orthodoxy in these areas, reports the New York Times (September 13). From its critical stance on Western liberalism to its stress on conservative family values, President Vladimir Putin has mobilized Russian Orthodoxy to expand Russia’s reach and influence and help project the nation “as a natural ally of all those who pine for a more secure, illiberal world free from the tradition crushing rush of globalization, multiculturalism and women’s and gay rights,” writes Andrew Higgins. In Paris, a new Russian Orthodox cathedral is being built in proximity to government buildings, leading some French observers to fear that the spiritual center may also serve as a “listening post” for Russian intelligence.

The Russian push in Europe has taken a stronger turn in the French city of Nice, where the church tried to seize a private Orthodox cemetery and came into conflict with a French Orthodox association, just the latest “episode in a long campaign to grab up church real estate controlled by rivals to Moscow’s religious hierarchy,” Higgins adds. The same association, which is under the rival Patriarchate of Constantinople, lost control of the local cathedral when the Moscow Patriarchate installed its own priests. Religion has also assisted the Kremlin in former Soviet lands such as Moldova, “where senior priests loyal to the Moscow church hierarchy have campaigned tirelessly to block their country’s integration with the West. Priests in Montenegro, meanwhile, have spearheaded efforts to derail their country’s plans to join NATO,” Higgins adds.

2810352 19.03.2016 Епископ Корсунский Нестор (Сиротенко) на строительной площадке Российского духовно-культурного центра в Париже, расположенного неподалеку от Эйфелевой башни. Ирина Калашникова/РИА Новости