On request of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Alexander Verkhovsky, Director at the SOVA Information and Analytical Centre (Moscow, Russia), reflects on the place and perception of religion in the modern Russian society:
Russia, that left the process of a forced secularisation 25 years ago and has been going through a slow and controversial modernisation, not only abandoned relics of the past but has been steadily using those. There are two layers of such relics to be observed, which has been re-constructed by both the authorities and the society as a whole, namely, the imperial Soviet ones and imperial pre-Soviet ones.
The most evident example here is that we can observe extension of the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church and its “younger brothers“, ie recognised big organisations of other religions common for this country. This influence is based on the citizens‘ demand for an ethnocultural identity and the authorities‘ demand for a symbolic capital of religious communities as a legitimate factor. The first demand has been in action permanently and for a long period of time, while the second one is dependent on the political situation. Hence, the latter one has significantly intensified since the start of protests at the edge of 2011-2012, as the authorities needed a bottom-up support again.
But let us not forget that these are not just ideological or identity games: Various religous indicators have been slightly developing, though they can’t be always fixed by obsolete sociological methods.