Three fourths of Russian citizens feel that the church should not participate in politics, and one fifth feel that it has become too politically active, according to new survey results out Tuesday from the Russian polling center VTsIOM.
According to VTsIOM sociologists, 44 percent of citizens feel that the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church could seep over into the spiritual and moral life of the public. Another third believe that the church’s activities should be limited exclusively to religious and faith-based issues.
The number of people who saw the active participation of religious institutions in all spheres of public life, including politics, as acceptable ranked at only 16-17 percent.
“Those in favor of limiting the influence of the church to issues of faith were mostly young people, highly-educated people, and those who don’t trust church ministers,” said the report. “Conversely, proponents of political subjectivity on the part of the church included those who trust church ministers, respondents above pension age, those without higher education, and residents of rural areas.”
VTsIOM pointed out that the level of trust in church ministers has fallen 15 percent over the past two years.
The question of the church’s participation in Russian political life became widely discussed following the arrests of three members of the punk band Pussy Riot in March. Two weeks earlier, the group performed a protest song in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior criticizing Patriarch Kirill’s calls to vote for Vladimir Putin for president. If convicted, the women face up to seven years in prison; prosecutors are asking for three. The verdict in their case is set to be delivered on Friday.