Putin Strives to Harness Energy of Russian Pilgrims for Political Profit

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The pilgrims tramped toward the storied monastery by the thousands — chanting prayers, singing and embracing the kind of nationalist fervor that President Vladimir V. Putin seeks to harness as his own.

The official reason for the trek to the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, the seat of the Russian Orthodox faith and the country’s original monastery, was to commemorate the 700th birthday of its founder and namesake.

But amid that tide of pilgrims — official estimates hovered around 30,000 — swirled diverse political and religious currents related to Mr. Putin’s effort to cast himself as the defender of traditional values, a campaign that has become more pronounced since Russia’s involvement with Ukraine.

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