1st Edition

Russian Church in the Digital Era Mediatization of Orthodoxy

By Hanna Stähle Copyright 2021
    238 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    238 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Russian Orthodox Church, the largest and most powerful religious institution in Russia, has become one of the central pillars of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarianism. While church attendance remains low, the religiously inspired rhetoric of traditionalism has come to dominate the mainstream political and media discourse. Has Russia abandoned its atheist past and embraced Orthodox Christianity as its new moral guide? The reality is more complex and contradictory. Digital sources provide evidence of rising domestic criticism of the Russian Orthodox Church and its leadership. This book offers a nuanced understanding of contemporary Russian Orthodoxy and its changing role in the digital era.

    Topics covered within this book include:

    • Mediatization theory;

    • Church reforms under Patriarch Kirill;

    • Church–state relations since 2009;

    • The Russian Orthodox Church’s media policy;

    • Anticlericalism vs. Church criticism; and

    • Religious, secular, and atheist critiques of the Church in digital media.

    Using contemporary case studies such as Pussy Riot's Punk Prayer, this book is a gripping read for those with an interest in media studies, digital criticism of religion, religion in the media, the role of religion in society, and the Russian Orthodox Church.

    1. Post-Soviet Religious Revival: Belonging without Believing?  2. The Russian Orthodox Church under Patriarch Kirill  3. Seeking Power: The Russian Orthodox Church’s Media Strategy  4. Atheist, Religious, Secular: Church Criticism in Digital Media  5. From Victim to Persecutor: The Russian Orthodox Church after Pussy Riot  6. Russia’s YouTube Generation and the Orthodox Church  7. Orthodox Clergy and Laity Voicing Dissent Online: The Case of Ahilla.ru 


    Hanna Stähle received her PhD in Slavic Cultural Studies (summa cum laude) from the University of Passau, Germany.

    "An indispensable contribution to the study of the contemporary Russian Orthodox Church, this book presents a very nuanced treatment of the role of the Church in Russian politics and society, revealing the multi-layered responses both within the Church itself and in society towards the Church."

    Scott Kenworthy, Miami University, Ohio, USA

    "Western commentators have become increasingly aware of the importance of the Orthodox Church in shaping contemporary Russian identity, but this is often seen in overly simplistic terms. Based on a solid grasp of post-Soviet developments, Hanna Stähle’s exciting new study uses the evidence of social media to reveal a much more complex and nuanced view. This being Russia, there is much that astonishes, much that disturbs, and much to admire in the many vivid examples she presents. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what is really going on in relations between Church and society in Russia today."

    George Pattinson, University of Glasgow, UK

    "Hanna Stähle provides a nuanced and well-argued understanding of contemporary Russian Orthodoxy by analyzing mediatized Church critique ranging from non-believers through religious to secular critics. The book represents a highly significant contribution to the field of media, religion, and culture studies by demonstrating how the theory of mediatization offers new insights for assessing the heightened visibility and political significance of religion in contemporary Russia."

    Mia Lövheim, Uppsala University, Sweden

    "This book makes a unique and timely contribution to a number of fields. Using the Russian Orthodox Church as its case study, it shows how in the twenty-first century any social or cultural institution exists not only as its official image but as a multitude of conflicting views and online debates. Very clearly written and argued, this is a wonderful study illuminating how phenomena now exist as digital social media objects."

    Lev Manovich, City University of New York, USA

    "This book opens up a new and much-needed perspective in the study of the Russian Orthodox Church, analyzing its public presence as extended to the digital realm. It demonstrates with compelling evidence how on the internet the official image of the Church can be contested and revised by multiple religious and non-religious voices."

    Ekaterina Grishaeva, Ural Federal University, Russia