Russification refers to the attempt to bring non-Russian church life into conformity with a perceived standard established in the Russian Orthodox tradition. Its usual manifestation is in terms of language, particularly the liturgical use of Church Slavonic, but also in other liturgical customs, such as church music, vestments or typikon.
In some respects, Russification mirrors the Hellenization of the non-Greek minorities whose churches came more directly under the control of the Ecumenical Patriarchate during the Ottoman period (15th-20th centuries), and its philosophical undergirding is often associated with the often Messianic notion of Moscow as the Third Rome.
Russification was an official policy of the Russian Empire aimed at the integration of minorities into Russian culture. The political policy eventually became mirrored in church life as the central church administration in Moscow began to exercise control over formerly more autonomous churches whose traditions were not Russian, such as the Churches of Georgia and Estonia.
In the Russian diaspora, the Russification tendency also came into play as former Uniates of Carpatho-Russian origin (whose customs had come from Constantinople whose diocese they were before the Unia in the 16th century) were accepted into Russian Orthodoxy, particularly in the Russian Metropolia in North America. Unable at times to determine which customs had been acquired during their time in union with the Roman Catholic Church and which authentically pre-dated the Unia, churchmen often assumed that any differences with Russian practice were Latinizing influence and were abolished in favor of Russian customs.
The fear of Russification was one of the rationales behind the establishment of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese under Constantinople with the second wave of Uniate returns to Orthodoxy. Because Constantinople permitted the second wave to retain their unique customs, the new diocese was formed without reference to the existing Russian Metropolia. Russification also played a role in the establishment of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA.
- Russification at Wikipedia