President Alexander Lukashenko is looking for a mobilization exercise rehearsal to take place after consulting with the Orthodox Church.

Lukashenko admitted that Belarus is part of the war against Ukraine, although he argued that they had not taken violent action against Ukrainian troops.

The dictator stated that military commissariats have and will continue to assess military personnel and those expected to serve in reserve. Once this is implemented, he implied that it should be done smoothly in each district. Additionally, Lushenko claims it had no connection with mobilization. However, recent reports suggested that the Kremlin has experienced several complications in attaining the desired number of soldiers, including logistical difficulties, quarrels between services, a lack of instruction, and a significant number of desertions and draft evasion.

What Is the Reason for the Russian Orthodox Church’s Backing of Lushenko?

The Russian Orthodox Church’s (ROC’s) endorsement of Lukashenko appears due to the Moscow Patriarchate’s ambition to preserve its spiritual influence in the area and its custom of upholding Russia’s geopolitical goals. Nevertheless, their decision to stand by the Belarusian President despite the continuous and widespread demonstrations against him may result in the ROC being alienated from its people and gaining a negative standing in Belarus.

In the middle of August, the people of Belarus assembled in large numbers to demonstrate against Alyaksandr Lukashenka (Alexander Lushenko), who had fraudulently declared a sweeping success in the presidential election. Unsurprisingly, this unrest sparked an inquiry about the reaction of the Kremlin, which might not be averse to the uproar in the neighboring country, yet would prefer that the long-time leader of Belarus stays in power. After offering a mere formality of post-election congratulations, Russian president Vladimir Putin waited for more than a fortnight to express his explicit endorsement of Lukashenko amidst the protests, promising that Russia would intervene if the embattled leader became unable to handle the situation. 

Regardless, another influential figure in Russian politics, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), immediately showed their support for Lukashenko’s government. ROC’s leader, Patriarch Kirill, issued a statement soon after the elections, praising Lukashenko for his commitment to the Orthodox congregations and urging for a “fruitful interaction between the state authorities and the Belarusian Exarchate.” 

This is proof of how the Moscow Patriarchate is driven by its desire to keep its religious authority in the region, as well as its traditional backing of Russia’s geopolitical interests. However, its decision to back the Belarusian leader despite the continuous, popular protest against him could lead to the loss of trust among its congregations and damage ROC’s reputation in Belarus.

Partnership Longevity

Holy Spirit Cathedral
Holy Spirit Cathedral in Minsk (Source: Insider/Wikimedia Commons)

Orthodox Christianity is the most popular religion in Belarus, and the President has preserved friendly ties with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) during his 26 years in power. The Belarusian Orthodox Church (BOC) is the biggest of the 25 authorized religious denominations in the nation; about 53 percent of the adults are a part of it. The BOC is an exarchate of the ROC and is subject to the Moscow Patriarchate and Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the world’s largest community of Orthodox Christians. The law of Belarus recognizes the BOC’s “important role” in developing the country’s spiritual, cultural, and state customs; it is the only faith to be given state grants and has many alliances with Belarusian state organizations. Not surprisingly, Kirill made supportive comments following the election due to the past good relationship between Lukashenko and the ROC. However, the Moscow Patriarchate sacked the BOC leader, Metropolitan Pavel, in a more meaningful show of backing for Lukashenka, for he had been sending contradictory messages about the election results and had not communicated the ROC’s point of view to the BOC clergy. Pavel had first congratulated Lukashenko on his win but later apologized and met a group of Christian activists. He then made an announcement aiming to mollify the Belarusian government, where he criticized BOC leaders and clergy who had voiced support for the protesters, condemned electoral fraud, or criticized the post-election violence and Lukashenka’s system. Metropolitan Veniamin was chosen to take Pavel’s place, who had previously spoken against “mass riots” and called for stability in the country to be restored. A few days later, Kirill wished Lukashenko a happy birthday and again expressed his desire for a sustained connection between the ROC and the Belarusian government.