Before the Moscow Patriarchate’s exarchate in Africa was established
in 2021, the Kremlin carried out its neocolonial policies in Africa mostly through the hard power of the Wagner group, which offered its services
to unpopular and undemocratic regimes in several African countries. The Moscow Patriarchate thus offered the Kremlin soft power. Now, Moscow has two arms stretching into the African continent: the Wagner group and the Russian Church.
The person in charge of the Moscow Patriarchate’s presence in Africa was until recently the above-mentioned leader of the turbo Z-Orthodox, Leonid Gorbachev. Because of his activities, he was defrocked by the Patriarchate of Alexandria
, but neither he nor Patriarch Kirill seem to care. Leonid’s lieutenants on the African soil, such as Georgy Maximov and Andrei Novikov
, also defrocked, are also turbo Z-Orthodox. The latter was a secretary of the diocese of Odesa, until he had to flee Ukraine after the Revolution of Dignity in 2014. Patriarch Kirill made him rector
of a prestigious parish in Moscow, where Igor Girkin and other radical proponents of the war were frequently spotted.
There is no evidence that Gorbachev himself collaborated with Prigozhin, even though one can easily assume that he and other representatives of the “African exarchate” were in touch with the Wagner people on the ground in Africa.
Russian embassies might be possible meeting points for the two arms of the Kremlin, the political and the clerical.
The patriarch, however, seems to believe that there was a connection between Prigozhin and Gorbachev. After the fall of the former, Kirill demoted the latter, first in September, by depriving him of his parish in Moscow
and, then, on October 11, by removing
him from the position of “African exarch.” This demotion was a clear signal that the patriarch seeks to distance himself from the turbo track, which Leonid represents.
In conclusion, one may say that the Russian Orthodox Church faces increasing fragmentation. On the one hand, there is a division between those who are for and against the war. On the other, there is a widening gap in the camp of supporters of the war between those who do not question Putin’s strategy in Ukraine and those who think that the Russian president is not decisive enough.