Orthodox split bolsters Russia’s political regime

Photo of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople
Aug. 31, 2018: Patriarchs Kirill of Moscow (L) and Bartholomew of Constantinople (R) could not overcome their differences at a chilly last-minute meeting in Istanbul (source: dpa)
  • Autonomy for Ukraine’s church will cost Russian Orthodoxy one-third of its parishes
  • The split will further split Ukrainian believers and help fuse church and state in Russia
  • “Orthodox totalitarianism” in Russia would be a bitter defeat for Westernizing liberals

Recent events suggest that Russia’s political regime, forced to tackle certain traumatic reforms, has begun to lose focus.

As discussed in a previous report, the social contract, which had been the cornerstone of stability for nearly 20 years, has been broken. President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings have gone down by a third. The September 9 local elections in 80 out of Russia’s 85 regions have shown not only a general decline in support for United Russia (nominally the country’s ruling party), but several conspicuous defeats; in four regions, runoff elections for governor will be required, which has not happened for quite a while.

The meaning and consequences of these events will soon become clear. But in the meantime, a different plot is developing. This train of events could lead to an opposite result, facilitating a new consolidation of Mr. Putin’s Russia and a hardening of its domestic and foreign policies.

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