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Is Vladimir Putin trying to build a new Orthodox empire?

The vast majority of Russians now identify as Orthodox—a stark change from the immediate post-Soviet period. Recent years have seen a flurry of church construction throughout the country. And perhaps most important of all, there’s a committed believer—Vladimir Putin—in the Kremlin, a man who surrounds himself with other influential people of faith and regularly invokes God in his public statements. Yet all is not as rosy for the Orthodox Church as it appears on the surface. The blurring of the line between church and state in Russia, what critics call an attempt to turn religion into a branch of the government, has alienated many former believers. The recent crisis in Ukraine has also exposed a potentially dangerous split in the millennium-old institution.

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