Religion and the Cold War Politics: The Election of Athenagoras as Patriarch

Serçe U.

Gaziantep Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, vol.21, no.2, pp.1043-1055, 2022 (Peer-Reviewed Journal)

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 21 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Journal Name: Gaziantep Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi
  • Journal Indexes: TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.1043-1055
  • Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University Affiliated: Yes


A critical development during the years of World War II was the change of the USSR’s policy towards the Church and its attempt to make use of the influence of the Moscow Patriarchate on the Orthodox world. This move of the USSR mobilized the United States, which assumed that the Soviet influence in the Balkan countries and the Middle East would be prevented by strengthening the Patriarchate of İstanbul. The US proposed Athenagoras, the Archbishop of North and South America, for the leadership of Phanar; a figure who was expected to be effective in the struggle with Moscow. This proposal was accepted by Turkey and Greece. However, Athenagoras’ election as patriarch was not easily achieved both because he did not have Turkish citizenship and because of the cautious attitude demonstrated by Turkey during the selection process. At the end of the election process during which the United States has taken a cautious stance with Turkey, Athenagoras was elected as the Patriarch. As soon as he started the job, with his pro-US rhetoric and close relations with the Turkish official circles, the new Patriarch showed that he was a cleric who could meet the expectations. Being the religious pillar of the Truman doctrine, as he himself stated, Athenagoras’ efforts were also welcomed by the US and Turkish authorities. At the same time, Athenagoras's pro-Turkish and proAmerican stance has caused discomfort within the Greek community over time, leading to some reactions against him.