Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Ecclesiastical Populism in Contemporary Russia: "the People" in the Moscow Patriarchate’s Political Discourse

Fri31  Mar01:00pm(15 mins)
East Quad Lecture Theatre


Bojidar Kolov1
1 University of Oslo, Norway


The figure of “the people” occupies a central place in the Moscow Patriarchate’s contemporary political discourse. Patriarch Kirill and other leading hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church consistently refer to “the people” as the primary agent of Russian history. At the same time, they narrate the Church as a national institution expressing “the people’s voice and interests”. Who are “the people” constructed by the Patriarchate’s discourse, and what is their political agency? How do Church, State and Nation relate to each other in this context? Does the official Church articulate a grammar of popular empowerment or it deepens the citizens’ subjugation instead? How does the ecclesiastical leadership construct its own political subjectivity, and what does that mean for Russia’s political system? Drawing on postcolonial and poststructuralist theories, this study will examine the discourse of ecclesiastical populism in Russia and will analyse what power relations it enables. As a preliminary hypothesis, the study suggests that the Patriarchate, being itself a voluntary agent of statist hegemony, effectively renders “the people” voiceless by speaking both about them and on their behalf.