By Paul Goble
Russia is currently spending 150 billion rubles (2.5 billion US dollars) on the construction of Orthodox Churches, an enormous sum at any point and an increasingly insupportable one at a time of economic malaise and the closing of thousands of schools and hospitals.
The ROC MP has been anything but forthcoming about how much it is spending and where the money is coming from, but Lyudmila Butuzova of Novyye izvestiya says that church affairs experts have been able to come up with that figure on the basis of the prices the Patriarchate gave for churches in 2010.
At that time, ROC MP officials said a large church for 500 parishioners would cost 250 to 500 million rubles (four to eight million US dollars), a small one for 250 parishioners 90 million rubles (1.5 million US dollars), and village ones 9.9 million rubles (150,000 US dollars) (newizv.ru/news/society/30-05-2019/ekonomika-hramostroitelstva-kto-i-kak-platit-za-duhovnye-skrepy).
The ROC MP has been equally reluctant to release figures on where all this money is coming from, preferring to live behind the myth that parishioners are paying. But most of them are older and poorer and certainly can’t come up with that kind of money, Butuzova says calculations show.
And the money isn’t coming from the state except in the case of the restoration of some major church buildings. More than 90 percent in fact is coming from business interests and contributions, with wealthy people seeking to solidify their standing in Russian society by building a church
The Novyye izvestiya journalist lists some of the major companies and wealthy individuals who have paid for the construction of churches, but she notes that about half of the money coming in is given anonymously, raising serious questions as to just how private much of that is.
Because of this influx of money, the ROC MP has grown enormously at least in terms of the buildings and lands it has. In 1988, the ROC MP had 76 bishoprics and 74 hierarchs, 6893 churches (to be sure only 12 percent of the pre-1917 number), 6674 priests and 723 deacons, two monasteries, two spiritual academies and three seminaries.
Today, Butuzova reports, the ROC MP has 293 bishoprics, 354 hierarchs, 40,000 priests, 944 monasteries, five spiritual academies, three Orthodox universities, two theological institutes, 38 spiritual seminaries and nine spiritual schools. Extraordinarily impressive growth of a kind to be sure.