Russia is not refraining on its ambition to influence the Balkans, Montenegro in particular, thus trying to change the political direction of this tiny Balkan country and have bigger influence over the western bloc. Kremlin claims and imposes itself as the protector of the pro-Russian and Serbian population, by expanding their influence in Montenegro through some particular media, the state of Serbia and especially through the church. And, the current divisions in Montenegrin (Montenegrins-Serbs) society serves this purpose and is directly connected to Russia.
According to a research done by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C., the Russian Orthodox Church, which is not fully controlled by Russia, is still an instrument of soft power that acts in coordination with the Kremlin and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help Russia meet its national ambitions abroad.
Although Montenegro and Russia have had friendly relations throughout history, especially during the rule of the Petrovic dynasty, between 18th and 20th century, today the situation is completely different.
Montenegro is a member of NATO, has recognized the independence of Kosovo and as an EU candidate country has backed EUs economic and diplomatic sanctions against Moscow since the conflict in Ukraine.
The Russian Orthodox Church, through the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, has used the orthodox crisis that occurred in the recent years for an anti-Western campaign, while using its influence to destabilize the country and participate in the political life.
This is a direct threat to European security, for which all actors are aware of and some analysts believe that the Russian Orthodox Church gives itself greater “competence”, considering that this influence in Montenegro has increased since the Montenegrin’s membership in NATO.
In a statement for The Geopost, Danilo Burzan, a longtime journalist and publicist from Podgorica, says that the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has long aimed for importance from “the pope” for all the Orthodoxy.
“ROC even targets the Patriarchate of Constantinople and considers it dependent on them. In this ranking, of course, they try to ‘dictate’ the behavior of all the dioceses and Orthodox churches. As it seems, they want to “protect” their Slavic brothers from the west and therefore they strongly seek a common Slavic identity and Orthodox culture, in order to have a greater influence, in all the countries where Orthodox are a majority, even in Montenegro “.
According to Burzan, they first try to achieve this by “teaching” and mobilizing the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, who wholeheartedly help the Kremlin’s efforts to revive Pan-Slavism and the “unification of the Slavic world”, of course – under the rules of Russia. He points out that the open intervention of the Russian Orthodox Church in the internal (immanent political) affairs of Montenegro was seen, for example, in 2016, before the decision of Western countries on Montenegro’s membership in NATO.
“At the time, Moscow openly and publicly expressed concern about the possible ‘departure’ of Montenegro, and after that the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro issued the statement reflecting on such Russian ‘warnings’, insisting, through the media, that for the membership in the Alliance ‘Montenegrin citizens should be put in a referendum’, and not only – as they said – the ‘ruling clique’”, Burzan emphasizes for our portal.
He states that “it is a special story of the efforts of the Russian and Serbian Orthodox Churches to prevent at all costs the renovation of the Montenegrin Autocephalous Orthodox Church, putting pressure on the Patriarchate of Constantinople and deliberately deceiving the public by hiding the documents that prove the Montenegrin Orthodox Church’s justification.”
Some of the political parties that make up the parliamentary majority in Montenegro, above all the Democratic Front, after the elections held a year ago, advocate the return of Montenegro to Moscow and try to put pressure on the Government not to support the policy of Brussels towards Russia.
While the Civic Movement URA, a small part of the ruling majority, says Montenegro will not change its foreign policy course.