Maria Ukhvatova

PhD in Political Science (Kandidat nauk). The main research interest is focused on religion and politics, Russian Orthodox Church and voting behavior. Wisconsin Russia Project Alumni 2018

Presentation title:
The Symphony is Over? The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Russian Orthodox Church-State relations

Presentation description:

(Ukhvatova & Scherbak, Published in Problems of Post-Communism Volume 69, 2022 – Issue 1: The Impact of COVID-19 on Politics in the Post-Soviet Space)

A conservative turn in Russian politics has made the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) a key beneficiary of the new policy. However, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have paused the strong alliance of the Kremlin and the ROC. When the government announced lockdown measures and demanded that all churches cease services with the public, not all priests agreed to comply. The church-state crisis manifested in two divisions: between the Church and the state, between pragmatists and fundamentalists within the ROC. We argue that although these cleavages posed a threat to the Patriarchate’s stability and power, the church leaders managed to maintain the loyalty of most believers. The authors show that the ROC proved its political loyalty to the Kremlin. Using individual-level data from the Values in Crisis project, the effect of religiosity on the support of government public health measures is explored. The findings reveal that higher religiosity is associated with higher levels of political loyalty. The congregation remained faithful to the pastors. However, the COVID-19 crisis illustrates that the illusion of an equal partnership between the state and the church vanished.