Author ORCID Identifier

Alar Kilp: ORCID: 0000-0002-4471-1432

Jerry Pankhurst: ORCID: 0000-0002-4953-9010


The chairman of the Department for External Church Relations (DECR) of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) was dismissed from his office on the 104th day (June 7, 2022) of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Was Hilarion dismissed because of his ‘silence’ on the Russian invasion? We study the 104 ‘war days’ of Metropolitan Hilarion from four dimensions: leadership as position; leadership as process; leadership as result; and leadership as person. Our findings are multivocal: the Russian invasion of Ukraine did become a leadership challenge for Hilarion the way that previous military interventions (in Ukraine and Syria) and thorough broadening of the collaboration between the Church and the military in Russia during his 13 years as the Chairman of the DECR did not; Hilarion refrained from the rhetoric (religious demonization of the adversaries) and narratives (e.g. ‘spiritual brothers cannot be in conflict,’ labelling the conflict ‘an internecine strife’) used by Patriarch Kirill, but Hilarion still opted to leave his position of professor in Fribourg University instead of condemning (delegitimizing) the Russian invasion of Ukraine; Hilarion had contributed to Patriarch Kirill’s doctrine of the ‘Russian world’ since 2009 and did not revoke any of his related positions during the 104 days of war. As the ‘religious’ concept of the “Russian world” is the key narrative whereby religious leaders of the ROC have legitimated Russian imperialism over the territory and population of Ukraine, the key indicator for Hilarion’s assumed ‘silence’ should be the rejection of the Russian world doctrine, not his commitment to the principle “war is not a conflict solution method.” Finally, we observe his successor (Metropolitan Anthony) to be even less vocal than Hilarion on religious and geopolitical issues related to Ukraine. This period studied started with a secular critical juncture (start of invasion) and ended with a critical juncture in religious relations on Ukrainian territories occupied by the Russian Federation, when with the June 7, 2022, decision of the Holy Synod of the ROC to relocate dioceses of the Orthodox Church in Crimea into direct subordination to the Moscow Patriarchate, the latter initiated cuius regio, eius religio paradigm in its relations with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (of Moscow Patriarchate).



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