The Russian Orthodox church is Russia's church resurgent. But it may be a long way from being a church triumphant.

Despite appearances to the contrary, there is "no danger at all" that the Russian Orthodox Church will soon be the official state church, prominent Russian Orthodox historian James Krotov said at a recent forum sponsored by the Center for East-West Christian Studies.

However, a revised law of "freedom of conscience and religious organizations" was introduced in the Russian Parliament in late October. Dissident priest Gleb Yakunin contends the proposed legislation is similar to an Orthodox Church-inspired bill vetoed last year by President Boris Yeltsin.

Yakunin, a Parliament member, was defrocked last year after voting against the bill, which would have placed restrictions on foreign missionaries and religious minorities.

The church clearly is playing a more prominent public role. Russian Patriarch Aleksey II sits next to Yeltsin in some government meetings and recently secured air time for Orthodox preaching on Russian television, according to Krotov.

But that does not mean the patriarch is "part of the government," Krotov says. "The patriarch cannot influence political decisions, because the establishment does not want to share responsibility or influence.

"There are enough practical atheists and Marxists [in government] … for the church not to have any concrete political input," Krotov says.

While the news may come as a pleasant surprise to non-Orthodox observers concerned over growing Orthodox influence, it underscores a disturbing and deep spiritual void left by decades of atheistic communism.

While 75 percent of the population claim to be Russian Orthodox, 63 percent say they do not believe in God, according ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

June
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Also in this Issue
Graham Preaches Reconciliation in Atlanta Subscriber Access Only
Atlantans, black and white, strive for racial understanding.
RecommendedPew: Here’s How Badly Soviet Atheism Failed in Europe
Pew: Here’s How Badly Soviet Atheism Failed in Europe
In 18 nations across Central and Eastern Europe, religion is now essential to national identity.
TrendingThe Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
The Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
How the former FBI director’s interest in Reinhold Niebuhr shaped his approach to political power.
Editor's PickSasse: Adolescence Is a Gift, but Extended Adolescence Is a Trap
Ben Sasse: Adolescence Is a Gift, but Extended Adolescence Is a Trap
The Nebraska senator wants parents to get serious about shepherding kids into responsible adulthood.
Christianity Today
Russian Orthodox Church's Influence Expands
hide thisDecember 12 December 12

In the Magazine

December 12, 1994

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.