Spokesman of Putin ‘spoke facts’ when describing Russia’s position on Hagia Sophia

  • Russian Orthodox Church
  • 20.Jul ‘20
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The press secretary of the Russian President Dmitriy Peskov asserted that should the cathedral/museum (underline as appropriate) be turned into a mosque, it in no way will harm the Turkey-Russia partnership.

In Peskov’s words, the cathedral won’t use its sacral value for the Orthodox as a mosque, and they will only benefit from the fact that the museum will become a functional mosque: “What counts is that it has some sacral meaning: it’s done so that the Christians, our tourists who come there could visit it. Let’s speak facts here… I’ll tell you more: tickets to Ayasofya were quite pricey. And now there won’t be any tickets; the entry is free. In that sense, our tourists will benefit from the fact.

It’s also of interest that the press secretary openly stated that the state position on the issue differs from that of the Russian Orthodox Church, though earlier the church and the government were almost never at odds in regard to international affairs. If there had been disagreements, they were hardly ever voiced. To sweeten the pill, Peskov assured the press: “We, the Orthodox, respect the position of our Patriarch.

All in all, this is a positive development. The church and the state should break their embrace of iron and act independently – if not in domestic affairs, then at least in international ones. Russian diplomats would only thank their fate for it: they would no longer need to make sense of the intricacies of church life and check national policy against rather unpredictable decisions of the church hierarchs. The church would benefit, too: it could enter a more productive dialogue with the countries that Russia has strained relations with, be it Georgia or the US. 

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