Russian Aleksey, original name Aleksey Mikhailovich Ridiger, Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia from 1990. Born Feb. 23, 1929, Tallinn, Estonia
Ridiger graduated from the Leningrad Theological Academy in 1953 and was consecrated an archbishop in 1964. From 1968 to 1986 he was metropolitan of Tallinn and Estonia; in July 1986 he became metropolitan of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) and Novgorod.
He was a permanent member of the Holy Synod and administrator of affairs for the Moscow patriarchate before succeeding Patriarch Pimen on June 7, 1990. Alexis II was the first patriarch in Soviet history to be chosen without government pressure; candidates were nominated from the floor, and the election was conducted by secret ballot.
He quickly became an outspoken advocate of the rights of the church, asking the Soviet government to allow the option of religious education in the state schools and urging it to pass a "freedom of conscience" law legalising religious worship.
He was among the dignitaries present for the investiture of Boris Yeltsin as president of the Russian republic in July 1991, and during the abortive coup in August 1991 (see August Coup), at Yeltsin's request, he denounced the detention of Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and anathematised all those involved.
Alexis issued statements condemning anti-Semitism and refusing to identify the church with Russian nationalism.