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The Visible Religion

The Russian Orthodox Church and her Relations with State and Society in Post-Soviet Canon Law (1992–2015)


Alexander Ponomariov

«The Visible Religion» is an antithesis to Thomas Luckmann’s concept. The Russian Orthodox Church in post-Soviet canon law suggests a comprehensive cultural program of modernity. Researched through the paradigms of multiple modernities and post-secularity, the ROC appears to be quite modern: she reflects on herself and the secular environment, employs secular language, appeals to public reason, the human rights discourse, and achievements of modern science. The fact that the ROC rejects some liberal Western developments should not be understood in the way that the ROC rejects modernity in general. As a legitimate player in the public sphere, the ROC puts forward her own – Russian Orthodox – model of modernity, which combines transcendence and immanence, theological and social reasoning, an afterlife strategy and cooperation with secular actors, whereby eschatology and the human rights discourse become two sides of the same coin.

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4. The ROC-State Cooperation from 1917 until 1991


This section provides a survey of the most protruding developments regarding church-state relations in the USSR between 1917 and 1991, representing the Soviet era of ROC history. From the external perspective, this period pushed the Church off into the private sphere, so it is problematic to speak about the public role of the ROC except in the context of the Civil (1918–1922) and Great Patriotic Wars (1941–1945). On the other hand, the cooperation between the ROC and the Soviet state throughout the period was at times intense and not only dramatic, or even tragic, but also complementary.

Other historical eras of Church history deserve a few words, including the pattern culture of Byzantium. In connection with Byzantium, the term “caesaropapism” suggests itself (cf. Dagron 2003: 282, 292). It is a hackneyed historiographic term implying “allegedly unlimited power of the Byzantine emperor over the church” (Papadakis/Kazhdan 1991: 364), thus fitting into one of the discussed models of church-state relations (see section 3.7). Indeed, on the one hand, “the emperor could not remain neutral. He was the guarantor and often the principal architect of the unity of the church” (Dagron 2003: 298). The tradition of ascribing the lopsided influence to East Roman emperors in ecclesiastical matters goes back to Eusebius of Caesarea († c. 340 C.E.),172 who “admitted that the emperor could directly interfere with the Church affairs, including her doctrine” (Khrapov 2004: 163).173 On the other hand, the evaluation of church-state relations in Byzantium...

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