The Church and Religious Diplomacy in Russia’s Foreign Policy

Document Type : Original Article


University of Isfahan


Religion is more than a national phenomenon, for it is concurrently a fundamental element of transnational identity. Accordingly, a state might be able to extend its soft power to its coreligionist neighbors by using religious ideas as instruments of foreign policy. Russia shares Orthodox Christianity with some of its post-Soviet neighbors which were completely subject to policies dictated by Moscow until the dissolution of the USSR. Despite the independence of these former Soviet Republics, Russia still enjoys a high degree of influence in the post-Soviet space. Consolidating Moscow's grip on the near abroad is one of the main strategic guiding principles of Kremlin's foreign policy. When the communist era came to a dramatic end, Russian policymakers searched for an alternative to the ideology of communism and became aware of the potential role that Christianity could play in realizing their foreign policy goals. The main objectives of the authors are to answer the following research questions: 1- What is the role of the church as a source of soft power in the foreign policy of the Russian Federation? and 2- How effective is Russia's religious diplomacy (the use of religion as a non-coercive instrument) in Ukraine and Georgia? In their research hypothesis, they assert that Moscow's religious diplomacy has increased its influence in Ukraine and Georgia; but religion has contributed more to Russia’s hard power than its soft power.


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