During the Soviet era, Communist authorities propagated a rigid form of atheism, while persecuting believers to varying degrees in different eras. These days in Russia, the opposite is the case: the state is upholding strict Orthodox Christian doctrines, while using the judicial system to muzzle non-believers and religious dissenters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long made common cause with an increasingly militant Russian Orthodox Church in defense of “traditional values,” both at home and abroad. In buttressing church doctrine, as interpreted by the Moscow Patriarchate’s leadership, representatives of the Russian government have stepped up enforcement of a 2013 law that makes it a crime to engage in “public acts expressing manifest disrespect for society, and carried out with the goal of insulting the feelings of religious believers.”
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Christopher Stroop is an analyst who specializes in religious affairs in Eurasia. He is currently a Provost's Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of South Florida. He holds a doctorate from Stanford University in modern Russian history and interdisciplinary studies in the humanities.