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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Despite Small Numbers Involved, Moscow Worried about Loss of Orthodox Parishes in Baltic Countries

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 4 – Even though the number of parishes in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania currently subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate totals only a few more than 200, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian government are worried by moves in all three countries to break ties between these parishes and their hierarches at the ROC MP.

            Among the most important reasons for this is that the three countries provide alternative models on how to go about this, thus raising the possibility that Orthodox churches in other countries will choose them as models and thus reduce the presence of the ROC MP abroad more seriously and transform the Moscow church into a narrowly national one.

            And that has created an unusual situation: while there have been moves in all three countries to reduce or even break ties between Orthodox churches in all three, moves that are likely to intensify in the future, the Moscow Patriarchate has been restrained in its reaction lest it provide support for the view in the Baltic countries that its churches are agents of Moscow.

            Moscow’s remarkably low profile given Baltic moves and especially Riga’s efforts ( is a striking indication of how things have changed with the Russian world and its religious component outside the current borders of the Russian Federation.

            In the past, the Moscow Patriarchate spoke out frequently and harshly to any move against it, but now it appears to have concluded that the only way it has any hope of surviving is by avoiding doing anything that would highlight the way in which its churches abroad serve not religious needs but Russian state interests (

            Whether that presages a broadscale shift in the Moscow Patriarchate’s position or is possible only where the number of parishes and bishoprics is relatively small as in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania remains to be seen, but it suggests that the Russian church is losing ground and is now trying to figure out how to cope with that reality.

2644322 Window on Eurasia — New Series

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