Double life of Russia's patriarch

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Patriarch Alexiy II, who died on Friday, had an extraordinary career, in which he switched from suppressing the Russian Orthodox Church to being its champion.

A favourite of the KGB, he was promoted rapidly through the Church hierarchy, doing the Kremlin's bidding at a time when dissident priests were thrown into jail.

As the Church's effective foreign minister, he helped cover up the repression of Russian Christians, defending the Soviet system to the outside world.

He rose quickly through the ranks, being elected head of the Russian Orthodox Church at a crucial time, in 1990, with the Soviet Union on the path to collapse.

Surprisingly, perhaps, he seized the moment, and went on to oversee the revival and flowering of the Church, exuding moral authority and inspiring devotion among his followers.

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