The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the production of disinformation on Russia’s media scene. Religion has played a role in this development. The Moscow Patriarchate, which has backed state decisions about lockdowns and vaccination campaigns, has nevertheless lacked either the capacity or the will to prevent the proliferation of disinformation produced by its more conservative affiliates. These reactionary political groups and fundamentalist monks have thus taken the lead on producing conspiracy theories, highlighting the multiplicity of Orthodox Christian-based perceptions of the world and the complex continuum between the Russian Orthodox Church’s official positions and those of its many dissenters. This working paper by Marlene Laruelle and Ivan Grek was presented at a closed-door workshop on religion, nationalism, and populism hosted by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting on December 3, 2021.
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