Less than three decades ago, it would have been unthinkable for a Russian premier to have exchanged public expressions of solidarity and goodwill with the head of the country's Orthodox Church.
For years under communism the institution had been suppressed, its priests harassed by the authorities, its churches closed or given over to communal secular pursuits, its devotees scorned for their 'superstitious' adherence to doctrines that the state and the party regarded with deep suspicion.
Indeed, the Soviet Union was the first nation to have elimination of religion as an ideological objective and tens of thousands - if not hundreds of thousands - of people paid very dearly for their beliefs as a consequence.
But things have changed. Nowadays the nation's political leaders and top clerics seem to be building an extraordinarily close relationship.