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“Belarus leader wants Orthodoxy as state ideology”

After Belarus was thrust into independence in 1991 its authoritarian president at first tried to use the Belarusian Orthodox Church to shore up his rule, as outlined in this 1996 article. However, the Belarusian national church is just a branch ("exarch") of the Orthodox Church of Russia, and therefore offered him little independence from the huge neighbour, so he next began looking to the Vatican to give help him find acceptance in the EU. 

However, Lukashenko's plan to use the Orthodox Church as an ideological bulwark is running into an unexpected hitch. Many Belarussians are leaving the state church to join other ones, and those who remain are much less likely to attend services than are Protestants or Catholics. [1]

Excerpts from
"Belarus Leader wants Orthodoxy as state ideology",
Reuters,  October 1996

MINSK -- Hardline President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday that Orthodoxy should replace communism as the new dominant ideology in Belarus and called for the restoration of Soviet-style ideological structures.

"After the break up of the former Soviet Union the system of ideological education was stupidly destroyed", [...] he said in a speech at Minsk University. "We should restore that system but with Orthodoxy at the centre rather than Marxism-Leninism."

Lukashenko, 42, won presidential elections in 1994 on a platform of fighting corruption and rebuilding ties with Russia, but his authoritarian style has since provoked domestic opposition and criticism from abroad. He has suspended trade unions, closed newspapers and sacked editors, effectively halted market reforms and jailed 200 people for demonstrating against an integration pact with Moscow. A former collective farm boss and "politruk" or political instructor in the Soviet Army, Lukashenko declared earlier this month that he "used to be an atheist but I have now become an Orthodox believer."

"I am ready to put my signature under all of the (Ten) Commandments. We have already done a lot to increase the role of the Orthodox Church (in Belarus)," he said at the university. Restoration of Orthodoxy as the official state ideology would take Belarus further along this road than Russia, where the church has an increasingly high profile but is officially separate from the state. Russian President Boris Yeltsin, now awaiting heart surgery, is not a believer but has often attended church services on religious holy days, candle in hand. Metropolitan Filaret, head of Belarusian Orthodox Church, a de facto branch of the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, has begun to appear alongside Lukashenko at public events. [...] [2]


1. Siarhei Bohdan, "Orthodox Church is Losing Belarus", Belarus Digest, 01 March 2012. 

2. "Belarus Leader wants Orthodoxy as state ideology", Reuters, reposted by PDS Russian Religion News, October 1996.

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