Russian President and the Patriarch on Mount Athos

On May 28th, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay a pilgrimage visit to Mount Athos. Together with the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, who arrived on Athos day before, the president will take part in ceremonies to mark the millennium of Russian monastic presence on Mount Athos.

The importance of Mount Athos for the President

The Russian president arrives on Mount Athos for the second time. Prior to that, he was last on the Holy Mountain in 2005, when he became the first Russian head of state to visit Mount Athos. This fact demonstrates the special attention that the current ruler of Russia pays to spiritual factors.

The spiritual meaning of the visit

Both the Russian government and the Russian Church is now in need of spiritual support from the Athos elders. The State holds back the tide of the godless Western liberalism, which increases the pressure on Russia in all directions and unambiguously threatens to start a direct military conflict. The Church wages a spiritual war, and is preparing to confront the ecumenical and Renovationist trend at the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council in late July.

Not two, but three

The joint visit of the Patriarch and the President on Athos can be a perfect illustration of the concept of the Byzantine symphony of powers, but in its particular dimension. The head of the temporal power and spiritual power, the main lay and chief cleric of Russia are in the world center of Orthodox monasticism. Taking the veil does not mean the adherence of man to the church clergy, but separates it from the laity. Thus, along with the clergy and laity, monks are the third component of a fully-fledged Orthodox society. The Institute of elders is a form of special spiritual and informal power, which complements the traditional dyad Byzantine symphony. On Mount Athos, in contact with the bearers of the living tradition of tacit pray and chain of elders’ succession, the Russian Symphony of powers gets its complete embodiment and obtains a universal dimension.

The visit of the Russian Patriarch and the President of Russia on Mount Athos is an appeal to their own Byzantine roots and to the Byzantine imperial paradigm underlying the Russian culture and statehood.