To judge by some of the headlines, Russian Orthodox patriarch Kirill I appeared to side with the protesters against Vladimir Putin when the clergyman urged the authorities to listen to the protesters. Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the church's voice in the media and in the interfaith dialogues, also appeared to be sympathetic, warning the authorities of being "slowly eaten alive" if they stonewalled the popular protests.
These remarks were interpreted as showing that the church, identified with the Putin regime, was slowly starting to break ranks. This would be the equivalent of the estrangement between the Catholic Church in Spain and the regime of General Francisco Franco after years of close cooperation, that presaged the breakup of the Spanish dictatorship.
Such expectations are far-fetched. The Russian church needed to put a modicum of daylight between itself and the regime, but it had no intention of siding with the protesters. The protesters, argue the prelates, must content themselves with peaceful protests because violence might lead to a replay of the 1917 revolution which set Russia back. Were it not for the revolution, "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,”
Like Putin, the Russian Orthodox Church is innately anti-Western. Kiril's predecessor, Patriarch Aleksei II, associated the West with corruption involving pornography and social decay, all part of a "planned bloodless war" geared at destroying the Russian people.
Before he ascended to the highest post in the church, Kiril I praised the "Christian patriotism" of the Russian people, who view Orthodoxy as a national religion, while the Western competitors – Catholics and Protestants (whom Kiril called "sects") were threats to the religion of the nation and thus to the nation itself.
Back in November 1996, the same Kirill, then Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, condemned the activity of the Western churches in the post-Soviet era. Carol expected these churches to help Russian orthodoxy revise and instead "hordes of missionaries dashed in, believing the former Soviet Union to be a vast missionary territory." Instead of aiding the Russian Orthodox Church in its missionary endeavors, these proselytizing groups worked against the Church "like boxers in a ring with their pumped-up muscles, delivering blows."
When Alexei died, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov eulogized him as follows:, "It is impossible to overestimate the contribution of the Primate of the Church to strengthening the positions of our Fatherland in the world and enhancing the international prestige of Russia."
In return, Putin has helped the church abroad, using the ample state reserves to buy up expensive real estate on which to erect churches outside Russia, for example These ties are not going to be abandoned for a protest movement.