Russia and Ethiopia, both multiethnic empires with traditionally orthodox Christian ruling elites, from the nineteenth century developed a special relationship that outlived changing geopolitical and ideological constellations. Russians were fascinated with what they saw as exotic brothers in the faith, and Ethiopians took advantage of Russian help and were inspired by various features of modern Russian statecraft. This article examines contacts and interactions between the elites of these two distant countries, and the changing relations between authoritarian states and Orthodox churches from the age of European imperialism to the end of the Cold War. It argues that religio-ethnic identities and institutionalized religion have grounded tenacious visions of global political order. Orthodoxy was the spiritual basis of an early anti-Western type of globalization, and was subsequently coopted by states with radically secular ideologies as an effective means of mass mobilization and control.