In 2015, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church issued an unusual statement declaring that the arrival of refugees represented a “true invasion” in the region. One year later, during debates on Moldova’s presidential elections, the Orthodox Church endorsed the fake news that 30,000 Syrians were about to arrive in the country. Drawing on interviews in Chişinău and Sofia, the article argues that the European refugee crisis has led to an internationally-linked Orthodox conservatism characterized by five components: defending a mythical past; fostering close relations with state authorities; anti-Westernism; building conservative networks at local, national, and geopolitical levels; and presenting Orthodox churches as alternative governance structures. These components shape religion–state relations in predominantly Orthodox countries in the region and have had a direct impact on the ways in which religious and state bodies have responded to populism and geopolitics.

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