Moscow, May 28, Interfax – Over half of Russians polled by VTsIOM in late April reported being aware of the “prayer standings” held in Orthodox churches a month before. 2% of the respondents said they personally took part in them, 14% said they watched them on live television, and 37% said they learned about the prayers from news reports, sociologists told Interfax.
The poll was conducted by VTsIOM in 138 populated areas in 46 regions, territories, and republics of Russia in late April.
43% of citizens, mainly residents of medium-sized cities (47%) and villages (46%), said they had not heard of those events.
Prayers in defense of faith, desecrated holy places, and the good name of the church were held in all Russian Orthodox cathedrals on April 22. The decision to hold the prayers was made by the Supreme Church Council in response to the blasphemy committed in the past months.
The chain of desecrations of churches began on February 21 when the feminist punk group Pussy Riot conducted what they called “a punk prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which the Russian Orthodox Church found to be blasphemous. On March 6, a man hit 30 icons with an axe in a cathedral in Veliky Ustyug. On March 18, a church was desecrated with inscriptions in Mozyr, Belarus. On March 20, a man broke into the Pokrov cathedral in Nevinnomyssk, damaged icons, stabbed the bow cross, beat up a priest, broke the holy gates, and desecrated the altar.
Public opinion studies show that 53% of the respondents approve of the prayers organized by the Russian Orthodox Church (the majority of these respondents are Orthodox (61%), women (57%), and older respondents (60%). Only 9% said they feel negatively about them (the majority of these people are people of faiths other than Orthodox and Muslim (18%) and non-believers (15%)). Another 28% said they are indifferent about these prayers.
46% of the respondents believe the Russian Orthodox Church needs protection. The majority of these people are Orthodox (52%) and older people (56%). 37% of the respondents (58% of them being non-believers) do not believe the Russian Orthodox Church needs protection.