Cossacks’ faith as identity
It’s about Russia, not God
The Russian Orthodox Church, which sees the Kiev patriarchate as a rival, cannot afford to alienate the 75% of the Ukrainian population who remain faithful to it: this is one of the few cases in which Moscow has not been able to count on the support of the Church.
Most Cossacks approve of the synergy between Church and state, which normally runs smoothly. But a few see it as a sign that the lessons of the past have been forgotten, something close to a betrayal. One young man showed me photographs of his great-great-grandparents, who were killed or died in exile after the Soviet authorities deported them in the 1920s.
Alexey Lebedev, a Cossack and priest of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church, was just as angry: ‘When someone tells you that anyone who believes in Orthodoxy has a duty to defend the state, he is repeating the religious line dictated by Vladimir Putin. Patriarch Kirill’s Church isn’t really a religious organisation, it’s just a department of the Kremlin in charge of Orthodox affairs.’