Russia's War in Ukraine One Year Later: Orthodox Christianity, Geopolitics, and Power
One year since Russia launched a military invasion of Ukraine, academic and policy experts have focused extensively on the military and economic dimensions of the prosecution and impacts of the war. Yet, a nuanced understanding of Russia’s war in Ukraine is impossible without analyzing the significance of religion for types of power and meanings of geopolitics at stake. This presentation deconstructs Russia’s war in Ukraine by providing a synopsis of: the Kremlin-Moscow Patriarchate perspective on religion as part of global geopolitical competition; the Russian Orthodox Church’s aspirations to hegemony in global Orthodox Christianity; and, the deployment of religion as a tool of diverse forms of power. The presentation suggests the importance of taking religion seriously as a factor in 21 st -century geopolitical contests over interests and values in Europe, Eurasia, and beyond.
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In the News
A PBS interview with Patriarch Kirill, patriarch of Moscow, and Cyril Hovorun, a Ukrainian orthodox priest and professor, showcases how religion is front and center in Russia's war against Ukraine. From the beginning of the war until now and on both sides of the conflict, religion has condoned both attacks and defense. Read more about religion's hand in the war with these first account interviews.
Photo Credits: Christopher Soldt, MTS
Elizabeth Prodromou, a visiting scholar in Boston College's International Studies Program, spoke at the Boisi Center, presenting on Orthodox Christianity, geopolitics, and the power that has influenced Russia's war in Ukraine.
Prodromou looked at understanding and explaining geography by spheres of identity rather than physical territories. She analyzed how geopolitics focuses more on these identities - ethnicity, race, civilization, language, culture, and religion - than on the arbitrary lines between nations. In the case of this discussion, Prodromou looked at religious spheres involved in Russia's war in Ukraine. She described how these identities can work with or against the state, allowing non-state, though still authoritative voices, to emerge in geopolitical events. She considers this relationship as the"geopolitics of religion," which is when religious actors utilize relationships with the state to influence state identity among religious adherents toward a political end.
Discussing the geopolitical and religious impact within Russia and Ukraine, Prodromou emphasized the idea of a disruptive relationship within religious geopolitics, when states use religious power to buttress the rationales for their actions, and religions use state power for their own ends. She examined the Orthodox Christian traditions in Moscow and Kyiv to illustrate the power transfers and disputes between political and religious leaders, such as the dispute over religious property regarding ownership, access, and use of Caves Monastery in Kyiv.
Many students and faculty attended the event leading to a great Q&A section. The questions led to discussions about just and holy wars, "Russian Nuclear Orthodoxy," the relationship between Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill, the religious freedom of enemy combatants, and liberation theology.