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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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As a country and culture, the Russian Federation acquired a fresh point of focus across the globe in early 2014, following the political crisis in Ukraine.1 The subsequent partnership with China, an active participation in solving the Iranian nuclear problem and lifting the Iran embargo in 2015, and a military operation in Syria significantly contributed to the need of reevaluating the Russian Federation as a phenomenon, searching for its internal drivers.

Among such drivers, it has been noted that the incumbent Russian president, Vladimir Putin, maintains close contacts with religious communities of the country and their leaders, including the largest religion in the Russian Federation, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which extends her influence far beyond both the actual religion and the state boundaries, representing one of the keys to understanding modern Russia.2 The interaction between the ROC and the state in post-Soviet Russia in the form of a close cooperation quickly became a norm, and the Kremlin actively appeals to religious images and figures of speech in its official rhetoric, shrugging off the erstwhile “pure” secularism and attaching more attention to post-secular models of coexistence. In this connection, the analysis of recent documents of the ROC on relations with state and society, apart from providing new insights for the academic discipline, is a timely initiative in the political sense as well.

For example, the primate of the ROC, Patriarch Kirill, on the background of a close cooperation between Moscow and Tehran, achieved in...

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