Plural: History, Culture, Society (Dec 2014)

The Utopia of ‘Holy Russia’ in Today’s Geopolitical Imagination of the Russian Orthodox Church: a Case Study of Patriarch Kirill

  • Mikhail Suslov

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 2, no. 1-2
pp. 81 – 97


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The paper focuses on the myth of ‘Holy Russia,’ as restored and promoted by the Russian Orthodox Church under Patriarch Kirill (Gundiaev), and explores the new imagining identities and spatial configurations generated by this myth. While before ‘Holy Russia’ was a metaphor, associated with relics, deposited in Russian monasteries and churches, Kirill ‘geo-politicized’ it, informing it with practical political meaning, and as such it is viewed as including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and on many occasions Moldova, and less often – Kazakhstan. The paper discusses the metaphor of ‘Holy Russia’ as a geopolitical utopia, as a postcolonial invention, and as a method of mental mapping. It uncovers Kirill’s modernist philosophy of history, based on Messianic meta-narrations of enslavement and subsequent liberation. As such, ‘Holy Russia’ does not stop colonial practices, but perpetuates them in many aspects. It continues the ‘internal re-colonization’ of the Russian population by ‘re-churchizing’ it, and by claiming to be the cultural center of the Western civilization.