The union of the Russian Orthodox Church and state is the new normal in Russia.
The country's 1993 Constitution clearly describes Russia as secular, where no religion can be obligatory or official. However, the unique Eastern Orthodox tradition has united the ecclesiastical and temporal spheres of the country and it is vastly different from the European Roman Catholicism. This doctrine mixes the Church's spiritual influence with government power. The hierarchy has no choice but to follow the ruler.
The ascent of religion can be traced back to Russian citizens' yearning for ideological certainties to fill the void in the years following the fall of the Soviet communist regime. Under the Vladimir Putin era, the Russian Orthodox Church has clawed back to its pre-eminence. Once almost annihilated under the Soviet regime, the church has now returned to its central and visible role in Russia.
This new reality comes with a twist: the border between secular and sacred has become blurred. Priests have now become a regular fixture in hospitals, army and other public institutions. This was blatantly shown when President Vladimir Putin gave his speech to the Russian parliament. With him was seated Patriarch Kirill, who holds equal position as the pope in Orthodoxy. Many leaders have tried to legitimize their position with the backing of a church that has buttressed the era of the czars and before it for 1,000 years.
The efforts of the church to reclaim properties once taken away by the communists is supported by President Putin himself. He has also limited the activities done by foreign missionaries, including Protestant and Catholic ones.
The state Duma, Russian parliament's lower house, has in its ambit a committee related to property affairs. Sergei Gavrilov, its chairman, also coordinates the inter-factional group of State Duma. The group has the aim to defend Christian values.
When the government has helped the church, the church has also helped back. Kirill, who is known in religious circles as “Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia” and who is the top person in the Russian Orthodox Church, has actively backed the military as guarantor of integrity concerning “Holy Russia.”
In contrast, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in independent Ukraine and the Greek Catholic Church of the same country have communion with Rome. Both of them function as religious branches of their respective governments. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church saw Kyiv Patriarchate separate from it and severed ties with Moscow Patriarchate after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1992.