Is Russia’s Putin a devout Christian or has he weaponized religion to advance his personal ambitions?

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On Sunday, Russian State TV Channel 1 ran footage of Russian President Vladimir Putin attending a church on the premises of his Novo-Ogaryevo residency compound to honor the memory of the victims of the terrorist attack on a concert hall in a Moscow suburb. Putin was seen lighting a candle, making a sign of the cross with his fingers and bowing. 

This is not the first time the Russian strongman has used a religious ceremony to project a spiritual persona, especially at the time of a national crisis. Is Putin really a devout person of faith who believes in God? Or is he an evil man who has weaponized religion to attain his personal ambitions and advance the Russian state’s political agenda? The answer is more complicated than what is portrayed by the Western media.

To understand Putin’s relationship with faith and the role religion plays in Russia’s foreign policy, let’s take a look at his family’s connection to religion and Russia’s religious history. In his official autobiography, “First Person Conversations with Vladimir Putin (Ot Pervogo Litsa),” Putin told a story about his mother, a Russian Orthodox Christian, secretly baptizing him as a baby.

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