One New President, One New Patriarch, and a Generous Disregard for the Constitution: A Recipe for the Continuing Decline of Secular Russia
The government of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC)—the country’s predominant religious group—recently underwent back-to-back changes in each institution’s respective leadership. This coincidence of timing affords a unique opportunity to reassess the status of constitutional secularism and church–state relations in the Russian Federation.
Following a discussion of the presidential and patriarchal elections that occurred between March 2008 and January 2009, the Article surveys recent developments in Russia as they relate to the nation’s constitutional obligations. In the face of this analysis, the Article argues that the government and the ROC alike continue to willfully undermine the constitutional principles of secularism, nondiscrimination, and equality through a variety of special privileges, cooperation agreements, and legislative initiatives. These practices do not merely follow but rather deepen the pattern developed under the leadership of former President Vladimir Putin. The Article concludes that as a consequence of the strengthened church–state relationship, respect for freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, as well as freedom of expression will continue to wane, resulting in a further deterioration of the human rights crisis in Russia and of the foundation of Russia’s constitutional order.