Moscow Patriarch’s Policies Making ‘Estonian Compromise’ Impossible There And Elsewhere – OpEd


The Moscow Patriarchate’s insistence on appointing Russian citizens to head branches of the Russian Orthodox Church in former Soviet republics and the propensity of those churchmen to speak out in defense of Putin’s war in Ukraine may make what some have called “the Estonian compromise” impossible there and elsewhere.

That compromise has meant that in Estonia, there are two Orthodox churches, one subordinate to Moscow and the other subordinate to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, an arrangement many had thought might work for other countries that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

(For background on this compromise and hopes it might be model for other countries, see, and

Now, Tallinn has called all this into question. It has rescinded the residence permit of Metropolitan Yevgeny (Valerya Reshetnikov), head of the Moscow church in Estonia, and is requiring that he leave the country given that his continuing pro-war comments despite (

Moscow could name an Estonian citizen to head its branch office in Estonia, as it has done in Belarus. But finding one will be difficult as most of the senior clergy in the Russian church are Russian citizens. If Moscow can’t or won’t do that, the Moscow church in that Baltic republic is likely to wither further and reduce the ROC MP’s ability to maintain its control.

But more seriously, it will call into question the hopes many have had for the long-term survival of Moscow-controlled Orthodox churches in the former Soviet space and mean that the appearance of autocephalous alternatives or those loyal to Constantinople are likely to last farther into the future.

That prospect, of course, will likely lead Moscow religious and civil to take an even harder line against any independence of Orthodoxy in the region and may even become a casus belli in the case of Estonia or one of the other countries where this compromise had appeared to represent a way forward.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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