Moscow is increasingly anxious about potential new moves in Belarus and Moldova in the coming weeks toward achieving autocephalous status for the local Christian Orthodox churches. Such an outcome would further undermine President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to promote his “Russian World” (“Russkiy Mir”)—an ideological concept based not only on language but also on culture defined in religious terms. Indeed, the Kremlin is still alarmed by what the extension of autocephaly (independent self-governance) to the Ukrainian Church has meant. As one commentator described it, this was as the most important step Kyiv has taken, other than offering military resistance, since the Russian invasion of 2014; consequently, Moscow views it as an unforgiveable political attack on Russia (see EDM, September 13, 2018; Glavred.info, November 17, 2018). Russia’s fear now is that developments in Belarus and Moldova may succeed in winning autocephaly, which could easily spark similar moves in other former Soviet republics or even lead some Orthodox within the Russian Federation to seek autonomous status for themselves. This would further isolate the Moscow Patriarchate within the broader world of Orthodoxy and reduce Russian influence abroad.
Moscow Worried Orthodox in Belarus and Moldova May Gain Autocephaly – Jamestown