Ideology in Favour of Russian Orthodox Church in Russian Film The Priest

Original article

Catharijne van der Berg,

MA (Journalism and Mass Communication), Film critic, Forbes, The Netherlands

Address: P.O. Box 14449, 3571 ZX Utrecht, The Netherlands


Article ID: 010511808

Published online: 2 June 2019




Quoting (Chicago style): Van der Berg, Catharijne. 2019. “Ideology in Favour of Russian Orthodox Church in Russian Film The Priest.” Beacon J Stud Ideol Ment Dimens 2, 010511808.

Language: Dutch

Download the full text:

Vol. 1 No. 1 Pdf

Download full-text translations:


Vol. 1 No. 1 ENG Pdf


Modern Russian film director Vladimir Khotinenko created complex ideological parable in his movie “Pop” (“The Priest”, 2009). He rethought history of Pskov Orthodox mission during World War II in a highly ideological way. He introduced an imagined character, Russian Orthodox priest Father Alexander Ionin whose prototype is Father Alexiy Ionov, a real member of Pskov Orthodox mission. Despite the similarity of their names, there is no real likeness between the historical man and protagonist of the movie. Vladimir Khotinenko rewrote the life story of the clergyman so that is could fit the two major ideological narratives of the movie: the story about pro-Soviet patriotism of Russian Orthodox Church clergy during WWII and the story about ancient Russian sanctity based on the archetype of Holy Rus.

Key words: Vladimir Khotinenko, “Pop” film, ideology in cinema, archetype, Holy Rus, Russian Orthodox Church, World War II, Great Patriotic war, Pskov Orthodox mission, Father Alexiy Ionov

Extended summary in English


In my paper, I examine the artistic and literary methods of building the ideological narrative in Vladimir Khotinenko’s movie “Pop” (“The Priest”) (2009), as well as make a historical analysis of the events shown in the film. I put forward a hypothesis that the main movie’s ideological narratives can be interpreted as a non-canonical artistic preaching of the Orthodox Christianity.


In order to build such a ideology, the director together with the author of the novel “Pop” Alexander Segen wrote a script about fictitious characters, operating in the territory of the Pskov Orthodox mission during its temporary German occupation in 1941–1944. Among these characters, the main one is Father Alexander Ionin. He may be deemed a vis-a-vis with his historical prototype Father Aleksey Ionov just by the consonance of their names. Despite the fact that Mr Khotinenko strongly deviated from the historical accuracy in depicting Pskov Orthodox mission, I believe that his movie “Pop” is one of the most instructive examples of cinematographic ideology in European and Russian cinema created during the last twenty years. The reason lies in the fact that Mr Khotinenko created the image of an ideal Russian Orthodox priest and at the same time a patriot of his Fatherland. So, the film director utilised the two ideological bases that may rally representatives of different social groups in modern Russia: 1) devoted patriotism and 2) archetypal idea of the “ancient Holy Rus.” The movie’s protagonist is the main propagator of the ideas of Orthodox Christian worldview and simultaneously a devoted patriot. The movie’s protagonist becomes a fighter against Nazism, an assistant to the Red Army, and a Russian Orthodox saint. This ideological alloy ensures the success of Mr Khotinenko’s ideological activities.


The Russian Orthodox Church is the main beneficiary of Vladimir Khotinenko’s ideological parable. The film director has built a competent and finalised ideological story that the Russian Orthodox Church. According to this story, the Church played an important role in the liberation of Soviet Union of the Nazis’ troops by the Soviet army, and at the same time managed to resist the power of Stalin and carried out the “second baptism of Russia.” On the whole, without taking into account several particular stories, it does not correspond to historical reality. However, the ideas of patriotism, victory in the Great Patriotic war (a part of World War II, the war between Soviet Union and Nazi’s Germany), and patriarchal Russian sanctity are a sure win for the Russian public. They can inspire the national ideas of Great Holy Russia.


Nevertheless, the movie was subjected to a torrent of criticism from the Russian Orthodox Church, historians, journalists and film critics. The movie “Pop” had little luck in the acceptance by both broad audience and intellectuals, and it was severely and bitterly criticised from the right as well as from the left. It seems very strange, because in recent years we can hardly find a more successful creation of an ideology in European and Russian cinema that would emphasise the exceptional historical and spiritual mission of the Russian Orthodox Church.


A thorough analysis of the Russian movie “Pop” filmed by Vladimir Khotinenko enables us to see the conceptual fundamentals of creating the modern day’s Christian cinematographic ideological parables.

© 2019 Catharijne van der Berg.
Licensee The Beacon: Journal for Studying Ideologies and Mental Dimensions.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( that permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

CC Licence

Return to the issue

go to