By Paul Goble
Only nine percent of Russians connect their national identity with Orthodoxy, according to a new Levada Center poll; and even among those who identify as active measure of the Russian Orthodox Church, only 19 percent do so, figures that are dwarfed by the 53 percent who say their identity is based on the country’s history.
These figures help to explain, the polling service says, why most Russians have been far less agitated by the Ukrainian church gaining autocephaly than have the political and religious establishment. Indeed, as recently as December, only 27 percent of Russians said they’d hear about Ukrainian autocephaly and 36 percent more said they were completely indifferent about it (ng.ru/faith/2019-01-17/100_ortodox170119.html).
And that in turn means, although it is a point that Nezavisimaya gazeta journalist Andrey Melnikov does not make in reporting these figures today, that President Putin and Patriarch Kirill will not get the boost they seem to hope for by pushing Ukraine into a state of religious war. That simply isn’t an issue most Russians will even focus on.
Melnikov does acknowledge, however, that “even the representatives of the Russian Orthodox church admit that real participation in religious life is characteristic of only an extremely small share of the citizens of Russia. Russians today overwhelmingly don’t participate in church life, don’t know about the faith, and don’t see it as part of their identity.