Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 5-2016


The Orthodox Church has been intimately wrapped up in the Russian state since Russia’s conversion to Christianity in 988. The relationship between the two is most succinctly wrapped up in Tsar Nicholas I’s so-called triad: “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality.” This paper seeks to explain the manner in which the Orthodox Church reasserted itself as a force in Russian politics after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 up through the first administration of President Vladimir Putin. The church under Patriarch Alexy powerfully reinserted itself into affairs of state during the August 1991 coup attempt, while its relationship with the state after the independence of Russian Federation was driven far more by the government. The 1997 law on religious freedom represented a sea change in the collaboration between church and state, paving the way for much more open collaboration in domestic and foreign policy.

Additional consideration is given to ethnodoxy, an idea proposed by University of Western Michigan sociologist Vyachslav Karpov which explicates how the church can exert such powerful influence in a country with very low statistical levels of religiosity. The cultural impact of Orthodoxy on Russian consciousness pre-1917 was brought forward by first the church and later the state as the Soviet Union broke apart to help develop a new Russian identity rooted in tradition. This church-state collaboration extended beyond simple ethnic nationalism and came to a core part of the policymaking apparatus of the Russian government.