The successes in expanding and strengthening of the Church looked impressive but said nothing about the content of the faith that took shape in the 1990s and 2000s. Calling the revived faith in Russia traditional Orthodoxy was rather naive, though over decades it has become commonplace to say so.
The main problem is attributable to the fact that the ROC reluctantly and extremely ineffectively approached catechesis and religious education. The overwhelming majority of those who had joined the Church and been baptized retained both the worldview and habits of the Soviet era. Thus, a synthesis of Orthodox and Soviet emerged, which in 2011 I called
“post-Soviet civil religion.”
It combines elements of the Orthodox tradition, usually superficial and formal, and standard Soviet imperial content.
This synthesis was rather organically accepted by the state bureaucracy and a significant section of both society and the ROC itself.
There is an element of chance that this synthesis was successful, though you can’t deny that overall the post-Soviet civil religion turned out fundamentally well constructed, providing reliable mechanisms to channel religious ideas and historical myths into deeply secular post-Soviet society. The Commandments, which serve as guidelines for the life of a Christian, have been replaced by so-called “traditional values.” At the same time, the struggle for traditional values both in Russia and around the world has assumed the significance of an apocalyptic battle. The defense of traditional values has become the raison d'etre for many Christian organizations in Russia and the content of their activities, as well as an important element of domestic and foreign policy.
The concept of “Holy Russia” is no less effective, becoming in the secular context the “Russian World.” At the level of communication, the Russian language plays the central role in that, but in determining the general geopolitical contours of the “Russian World,” the most important contribution belongs to the ROC. It is the “canonical territory” of the ROC that has turned out closest to the contours of the “empire” that Vladimir Putin aspires to rule directly and indirectly.