Academic journal article
By Papkova, Irina
Journal of Church and State , Vol. 49, No. 1
This essay examines some of the ways in which the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has influenced political outcomes in the Russian Federation between 1995-2005. It is useful to begin by exploring political ideology as a potential point of intersection between the ROC s preferences and those of the people whom the church purports to represent. If the ROC speaks for the overwhelming portion of Russian society that identifies itself as Orthodox, as the religious leadership has consistently claimed, then it is logical to expect that the political views of that population will display at least some congruence with the official positions of the church. Moreover, this should be a conscious phenomenon: ostensibly Orthodox voters and politicians should demonstrate to at least some degree that they have purposefully referenced the ROC's official ideology when defining their own political stance. The influence of the ROC on voter choice has been explored in depth elsewhere, and has been found to be minimal. Here, I look beyond the voters to determine whether or not the ideology of Russia's political elite has been affected at all by the church's positions. This essay, then, assesses the platforms of twelve political parties that have played a visible role in Russian politics in the period under examination, to determine whether there was a significant increase in their purposeful orientation towards the ROC.
A careful study of the available evidence reveals a division within the political elites. On the one hand, some of the party platforms show that politicians tend to assign the ROC more influence over voter choice than the church actually yields. On the other hand, analysis of the programs of the more successful parties, particularly in the Putin era, shows a distinct movement away from spiritual matters. Indeed, the party platforms examined here are filled with references to spiritual matters; yet a scrupulous reading of the relevant documents over time demonstrates that in fact the parties' understanding of spirituality generally and Orthodoxy specifically have little in common with the church's own worldview. Moreover, the focus on spirituality/Orthodoxy peaked in the mid-1990s and has been decreasing in the discourse of the more successful political parties, especially since the advent of the Putin regime.
Despite the limited nature of the ROC's actual influence on voter choice, many Russian politicians since the early 1990s have vocally paid homage to the Orthodox Church as a symbol of Russian culture and national unity. The phenomenon of previously atheist political figures standing awkwardly through the long hours of Orthodox liturgy has been well documented. The question here is whether outward reverence for Orthodoxy reflects a real ideological shift among Russia's ruling post-Soviet elite towards the Patriarchate's political preferences. Answering this question requires looking at the political programs of Russia's major political parties since the 1995-96 electoral cycle. Presumably, if the political class has moved in a direction inspired by the Orthodox Church, there will have been a visible effort on the part of political parties to include the positions of the ROC in their own platforms. At a minimum, this should include a concrete proposal to involve the church in the construction of post-Soviet society through the creation of a partnership between the ROC and the state along the symphonic model favored by the former. More precisely, sijmpnonia presumes an equal partnership between church and state, in which the state is supposed to provide the population with a secure environment to pursue their daily lives and cultivate the salvation of their souls.
The peculiarities of the Russian political party system should be kept in mind throughout this essay. In established multi-party democracies, parties are expected to manage political debate by acting as shorthand for a complex of ideas and policy objectives. …