Russian Orthodox Clergy and Laity Challenging Institutional Religious Authority Online: The Case of


  • Hanna Staehle



Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, Patriarch Kirill, religious authority,


With the rise of new computer technologies, scholars of religion and media came to raise questions of how digital communication affects institutional forms of authority. In the digital realm, a number of alternative platforms emerged that empower religious communities to partake in the production of religious narratives outside organized religion. is a recent example of such an alternative place facilitated by digital technology. Founded by a former Russian Orthodox priest in February 2017, the website is a response to the politics and official rhetoric of Orthodox Church hierarchs who appeared ever more comfortable in conflating religion and politics and presenting themselves as the moral voice of the nation. Since his enthronement in 2009, Patriarch Kirill has centralized and hierarchized the Church, widening the gap between the episcopate and the low-level clergy and laity. Criticism of institutional religious authority that provides space for the articulation of alternative views of Orthodox faith and identity is at the core of merits special attention, as it emerged not outside but within the Russian Orthodox Church and poses a challenge, via digital media space, to the dominant discourse articulated by Orthodox Church authorities and Russian mainstream media. This article seeks to answer the question of how online communication enhances media non-professionals to reflect upon their experiences within institutional religious settings and makes these experiences—previously unmediated and unknown—part of the media discourse.

Author Biography

Hanna Staehle

Hanna Staehle received her PhD in Slavic Cultural Studies (summa cum laude) from the University of Passau, Germany, in 2018. After graduating from Minsk State Linguistic University with a degree in German language and literature in 2008, she obtained a Master’s degree in Russian and East Central European Studies from the University of Passau in 2011. During her PhD studies, she was a research fellow at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and a visiting research fellow at the Russian Media Lab at the Aleksanteri Institute in Helsinki. Her articles appeared in Digital Icons; Zeitschrift für Slavische Philologie; Religion, State and Society. She is now working on her book, tentatively titled “Media and Religion in Russia: How Digital Criticism is Driving Transformation of the Russian Orthodox Church” and contracted for publication with Routledge “Media, Religion and Culture.”




How to Cite

Staehle, H. (2020). Russian Orthodox Clergy and Laity Challenging Institutional Religious Authority Online: The Case of Entangled Religions, 11(3).