This article reflects on the practice of inter-religious dialogue within the Russian Orthodox Church. The Russian Orthodox Church, or the Russian Patriarchate, as it is otherwise called, is currently the largest (with respect to the number of faithful) autocephalous church within the Orthodox world. Within the Russian Federation, the Orthodox faithful form a majority. However, the Muslim population has increased steadily in recent years and now forms a significant minority. Indeed, in certain regions the Muslim population has, in fact, become the demographic majority. Therefore, inter-religious contact is a lived reality within the Russian context. This article examines Russian Orthodox attempts to come to terms with this reality. It does so by examining official statements (i.e., theory), and by reflecting on the Church’s approach to the issues (i.e., practice) which arise from the attempt to implement the official approach within the Russian Federation (e.g., ‘orthodoxization’, lackluster education, proselytism). Furthermore, this article reflects on the repercussions for the entire Orthodox World which result from the events unfolding in the Russian Church.
Ataullah Bogdan Kopanski, ‘Burden of the Third Rome: The Threat of Russian Orthodox Fundamentalism and Muslim Eurasia’, Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations9/2 (1998), 193-216; Serge Keleher, ‘Orthodox Rivalry in the Twentieth Century: Moscow versus Constantinople’, Religion, State and Society 25/2 (1997), 125-137, doi:10.1080/09637499708431772.
Vasily Rudich, ‘Russia’s Muslim Reality’, Foreign Affairs(June 2014), website of Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/russian-federation/2014-04-17/russias-muslim-reality. On 23 September 2015, a new complex of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque was officially opened after a large-scale reconstruction. Among those who attended the ceremony were Vladimir Putin, President of Russia; Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey; Mahmoud Abbas, President of Palestine; Mufti Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, chairman of the Spiritual Board of Russian Muslims; Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic; Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, head of Ingushetia; Rustam Minnikhanov, President of Tatarstan; Sergey Sobyanin, Mayor of Moscow; Alexander Beglov, Plenipotentiary Envoy of the Russian President to the Central Federal District; as well as Muslim spiritual leaders from various countries and ambassadors of European states (‘Metropolitan Hilarion Takes Part in Official Opening of New Complex of Moscow Cathedral Mosque’, website of The Russian Orthodox Church, https://mospat.ru/en/2015/09/23/news122958/, accessed 18 February 2016.
Curanović, The Religious Factor in Russia’s Foreign Policy, 518-519. The author quotes ‘Klerikalizatsiya — glavnaya opasnost’ na puti integratsii Rossii v soobshchestvo tsivilizovannykh stran” — predsedatel’ Dukhovnogo upravleniya musulman Aziatskoy chasti Rossii, sopredsedatel’ Soveta muftiyev Rossii sheikh Nafigulla Ashirov (October 1, 2008), website Portal Credo.ru, http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/print.php?act=news&id=56420. In the quoted article, mufti Ashirov, raises the issues of state symbols as noted in the text, however, the main issue is with the usage of religious symbols within state institutions (icons, crosses and crucifixes), as well as the practice of assigning patron saints to military units.
David M. Herszenhorn, ‘Russia Sees a Threat in Its Converts to Islam’, The New York Times, July 1, 2015, website of The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/02/world/russia-sees-a-threat-in-its-converts-to-islam.html. The disproportion between our presentation of these two tragic cases is a result of a disproportion of available sources regarding cases similar to that of Maksim Baidak.