Both Russian “President” Dima Medvedev and Russian “Prime Minister” Vladimir Putin attended church services on Russian Orthodox Christmas, which occurs on January 7th. But very few of their fellow citizens followed their lead. A shocking 90,000 people did so in Moscow, less than half the number that went to church in St. Petersburg, a city one-half Moscow’s size. And across the country in Russia, just 2 million people went to church — barely more than 1% of Russia’s population. Nearly 100,000 security forces were marshaled to keep these worshipers in line, lest the church’s words in support of the protest movement lead to Russians getting out of hand.
It appears, then, that very little has changed in Russia since Soviet times. The country is ruled by a proud KGB spy and the vast majority of Russians reject religion. Those who do not are closely supervised by governmental forces. If there is one change, it is that now Russia’s rulers rather than seeking to wipe out the church are instead seeking to manipulate it for their own purposes. Thus, even though Patriarch Kirill warned the Kremlin to heed the concerns of the protesters, he also issued a stern warning to the protesters: “If demonstrations ahead of the 1917 revolution had ended in the expression of peaceful protests and had not led to a bloody revolution and a fratricidal war, Russia would have had a population of more than 300 million and would have challenged or maybe even surpassed the United States from the point of view of economic development.”