By Paul Goble
Aleksey Pluzhnikov, a former priest in the Volgograd bishopric who now edits the Ahilla.ru portal which provides one of the freest places in Russia for a discussion of Orthodoxy, says that the Moscow Patriarchate is ever more influential in the Kremlin but ever less so among the population.
Indeed, he says, the share of active Orthodox parishioners in the Russian Federation is no more than one percent, a figure that despite all expectations after the collapse of Soviet power has not risen in recent years and is unlikely to in the future (znak.com/2019-07-28/pochemu_vmeste_s_rostom_vliyatelnosti_rpc_iz_nee_uhodyat_veruyuchie_intervyu).
The reason for that, Pluzhnikov says, is that the church is divided between the masters who control everything and for whom the only truly unacceptable sin is disobedience to those above them in that hierarchy or the state and the peasants who have no say in the church or society.
As a result, the church has lost much of its Orthodox content and become little more than a mouthpiece for state propaganda. There are exceptions, of course, people who truly religious; but when they attract people to the church, the latter soon leave complaining that “you led us to Orthodoxy but we ended up in the ROC MP.”
The portal editor is deeply pessimistic about the capacity of the ROC MP to change. He says it could do so only under three conditions, none of which are likely to emerge: the state becoming indifferent to the church, the state resuming its persecution of the church, or the appearance of multiple Orthodox churches in Russia so people could vote with their feet.
Pluzhnikov dismisses the idea that there is something unique about the way the ROC MP functions under Putinism or that it will change once Putin passes from the scene. The ROC, he says, “always was attached to the authorities.” When there will be a new ruler, the ROC will attach themselves to it just as it did in 1917.