The Orthodox Church and Russian Politics by Irina Papkova

Sofia Tipaldou

Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article reviewpeer-review


In this comprehensive research monograph, Irina Papkova assesses the role of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in Russian federal politics from 1991 to 2008. Her book came out at a moment of rising international concern about Russia's democratic path. Vladimir Putin's re-election for a third presidential term triggered massive demonstration waves that got, by and large, suppressed. After the fall of the Soviet regime, the percentage of Russians that self-identified as Orthodox increased significantly. This fact made scholars attribute to Orthodoxy a central role in post-communist transition (see Zoe Knox's Russian Society and the Orthodox Church: Religion in Russia after Communism (2005), p. 10). Given the fact that Russian society and elites have become seemingly less liberal over the last two decades, Papkova seeks to explain to what extent the ROC has influenced this shift and what we should expect in the future.

The book's main argument is that the ROC's direct causal impact on the societal and governmental ideological shift has been minimal. In other words, the Church's cultural contribution does not automatically translate into political impact at election time, except for a small portion of the clergy and active laity. Papkova thus argues that the mainstream scholarly interpretation of the causal relationship between Church and state should be reversed: it is the state that has been integrating Orthodox symbolism and cultural capital into both the construction of its own legitimacy and the construction of a viable post-Soviet national identity, and not the other way round. The author makes it clear that her research accounts for political developments at the federal level, and therefore does not underplay the ROC's importance in the regions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)967-969
Number of pages3
JournalNationalities Papers
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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