Jun 1 2012
Critics of Russian Orthodox Church say it's sold its soul to Putin [Excerpts]
The skinny dissident is thrown headfirst into a police van by camouflage-clad officers. Nearby, a dozen bearded men bearing Russian Orthodox crosses and wearing skull-and-crossbones T-shirts cheer on the cops.
It's the latest flare-up in a growing feud pitting supporters of the influential church, which sees itself as the nation's spiritual guide, against opponents who say the church has sold out to Vladimir Putin — becoming an arm of his regime more interested in gold than souls.
Many say Putin...has used the church as a potent tool in his command structure, allowing it to amass vast riches in return for unquestioning support of his policies and spiritual blessing for his leadership.
For more than a millennium, the church helped cement Russia's identity and culture in times of foreign invasions and political upheaval — and that legacy remains strong in the hearts of millions of Russians.
Under the atheist Soviet regime, the church suffered persecution, with tens of thousands of its faithful purged, jailed or executed. The 1991 fall of communism opened the way for a renaissance that many celebrated as bringing Russia back to its spiritual roots.
But resentment slowly grew over the perception that church leaders were becoming Kremlin stooges.
Critics said slathering gold-leaf on church domes was ostentation shameful for a country suffering through the hard times of the Boris Yeltsin years. The church has acknowledged that it ran businesses dealing in alcohol, tobacco and oil, and operated jewelry stores and organic farms, to raise money for restoration of churches and monasteries and education of priests.
(The Seattle Times Online, May 13, 2012).