Greece, Russia and religious diplomacy: Between Greece and Russia, faith and diplomacy...

Greece, Russia and religious diplomacy: Between Greece and Russia, faith and diplomacy connect in curious ways

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ON THE face of things, the last few days have been a time of flourishing Greco-Russian amity, rooted in a common Orthodox Christian faith. As the ceremonial high point of Vladimir Putin’s visit to Greece, one of the few European Union members where he can count on a warm welcome, the Russian leader paid a visit to the ancient monastic polity of Mount Athos. He was received with pomp and ceremony not only by the leaders of the peninsula’s 20 monasteries but by Greece’s worldly head of state, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos. “Today as we resurrect the values of patriotism, historical memory and traditional culture, we hope for a strengthening of relations with Mount Athos,” Mr Putin declared.But as any historian of that part of the world can tell you, having a common creed and a common reverence for the same holy places and rites doesn’t always make for smooth diplomatic relations. Nations of the same faith can compete as well as co-operate. A good example of this is the events that unfolded just over a century ago in the huge Russian monastery of St Panteleimon which was part of the presidential itinerary at Mt Athos.In the summer of 1913, the tsarist navy made an extraordinary intervention in the affairs of the monastic peninsula and deported about 800 Russian monks, from St Panteleimon and ...

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