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When Gorbachev came to power, it took him a full year to assess the order in which he should tackle the myriad problems besetting the Soviet Union. Religious liberty was a subject which probably did not cross his desk in these early days. The more general issue of human rights did not, however, escape his notice and it offended his dignity when he travelled abroad to be confronted by Jewish activists and their sympathisers calling for freedom for Anatolii Shcharanskii, the imprisoned activist.30 Shcharanskii's release on 11 February 1986 was the first step in a major change of policy, but the Chernobyl disaster two months later undoubtedly accelerated the pace of change and after this Gorbachev began to proclaim the upholding of human values as something essential for his administration, as it sought to reform the Soviet Union under the slogans ofglasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring).

The pressure on the churches began to lift. Gradually they received some of their property back and the first stage commenced of rebuilding the desecrated churches and monasteries. In Moscow, most notably, the church undertook the huge project of restoring the Danilov monastery as its administrative centre (which, curiously enough, had been given back by Andropov in 1983, after doing duty as a boys' reformatory). It was only gradually that Gorbachev began to see that the Orthodox Church could be an ally in his quest for reform. In one of the coincidences of history, Gorbachev's short time in office fortuitously reached its heyday at the same time as the Orthodox Church was due to celebrate its millennium (St Vladimir had been baptised in 988). He readily, therefore, granted the Moscow patriarchate permission to put on an international 'show', the like of which Russia had never seen before.

With the anniversary due in early June 1988, Gorbachev received the leading clergy of the patriarchate in the Kremlin on 29 April, when he promised a new law and complete religious liberty in return for the church's support in promoting perestroika. 'Believers are Soviet people, workers, patriots', he stated, 'and they have the full right to express their convictions with dignity. Perestroika, democratisation and glasnost concern them as well-in full measure and without any restrictions. This is especially true of ethics and morals, a domain where universal norms and customs are so helpful for our common cause.'31

Virtually overnight the church achieved a high profile in the Soviet media. Every newspaper ran front-page articles extolling it and reporting specifically on its new relationship with the state. By the time June arrived and foreign

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