Russian Foreign Minister Links Russian Diplomacy to Orthodox Church

An interesting piece from Interfax Religion:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov believes the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian diplomacy have been traditionally united with common purposes.

‘Work of Russian diplomats has been consonant with the aspirations of the Russian Orthodox Church for centuries,’ Lavrov said on Monday evening in the Church Councils hall of Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral at the annual awarding ceremony of the Orthodox Peoples’ Unity Foundation.

Lavrov received an award for “strengthening relations with the countries of Eastern Christian tradition and developing common humanitarian space in Europe”:

‘Common spiritual heritage has always been an efficient factor of closing in for Orthodox peoples while outside efforts to disturb this unity appeared unworkable,’ the foreign minister stressed.

He thinks that Russia’s relations with Orthodox countries especially with Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Serbia have reached new level.

In particular, Lavrov indicated Russian support for the Serbian cause in Kosovo.

The importance of the Russian Orthodox Church for Putin was noted a few months ago by Time, following the announcement of the reunification with ROCOR (the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia):

Nationalism, based on the Orthodox faith, has been emerging as the Putin regime’s major ideological resource. Thursday’s rite sealed the four-year long effort by Putin, beginning in September 2003, to have the Moscow Patriarchate take over its rival American-based cousin and launch a new globalized Church as his state’s main ideological arm and a vital foreign policy instrument…The Church’s assertiveness and presence is growing — with little separation from the State.

However, while the Russian Orthodox Church is keen to foster Orthodox unity, it has also for a long time challenged the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and a few months ago Russian church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin called for “All-Orthodox meetings” despite relutance from Constantinople. Given the tenuous position of Patriarch Bartholomew – perennially obliged to rely on the good graces of the Turkish government – the subtext seems to be that Moscow ought to be taking the lead here, as it did back in the days when the city was known as the “Third Rome”.

As well as religious unity, the Russian Church likes to promote Slavic solidarity, which is also very useful for Putin. Among those who have been honoured by the Moscow Patriarchate for “strengthening unity of Slav peoples” is none other than Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus (of course, that was before the Russia-Belarus gas dispute).