Church of Russia
|Patriarchate of Moscow|
|Founder(s)||Apostle Andrew, St. Vladimir of Kiev|
|Autocephaly/Autonomy recognized||1589 by Constantinople|
|Current primate||Patriarch Alexei II|
|Primary territory||Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, some former Soviet republics|
|Possessions abroad||United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, China|
|Liturgical language(s)||Church Slavonic|
|Musical tradition||Russian Chant|
|Official website||Church of Russia|
The Church of Russia is one of the autocephalous Orthodox churches, ranking fifth after Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. It exercises jurisdiction over Orthodox Christians in Russia and surrounding Slavic lands, as well as exarchates and patriarchal representation churches around the world. It also exercises jurisdiction over the autonomous Church of Japan and Orthodox Christians in China. The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia is currently His Holiness Alexei II.
The south of Russia was blessed with the work of Sts Cyril and Methodius Equal-to-the-Apostles, the Illuminators of the Slavs. In 954 Princess Olga of Kiev was baptized. This paved the way for what is called the greatest events in the history of the Russian, the baptism of Prince Vladimir and the Baptism of Russia in 988.
In the pre-Tartar period of its history The Russian Church was one of the metropolitanates of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The metropolitan at the head of the Church was appointed by the Patriarchate of Constantinople from among the Greeks.
In 1051 Russian-born Metropolitan Illarion, one of the most educated men of his time, was installed to the see. Also in 1051, St. Anthony of the Caves brought the traditions of Athonian monasticism to Russia.
The 12th century was a period of feudal divisions in Russia, but the Russian Church remained the only bond of the Russian people, resisting the feudal conflict among Russian princes.
In the 13th century, Tartar invasion failed to break the Russian Church. The Church managed to survive as a real force and was the comforter of the people in their plight. It made a great spiritual, material, and moral contribution to the restoration of the political unity of Russia as a guarantee of its future victory over the invaders.
Russian principalities began to unite around Moscow in the 14th century. The Russian Orthodox Church continued to play an important role in the revival of unified Russia. Outstanding Russian bishops acted as spiritual guides and assistants to the Princes of Moscow. St. Metropolitan Alexis (1354-1378) educated Prince Dimitry Donskoy. He, just as St. Metropolitan Jonas (1448-1471) later, by the power of his authority helped the Prince of Moscow to put an end to the feudal discords and preserve the unity of the state. St. Sergius of Radonezh, a great ascetic of the Russian Church, gave his blessing to Prince Dimitry Donskoy to fight the Kulikovo Battle which made the beginning of the liberation of Russia from the invaders.
Metropolitan Jonas (1448-1461) was the first to be elected without the sanction of Constantinople, thus establishing the Russian Church as a fully independent body. Liberating itself from the invaders, the Russian state gathered strength and so did the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1448, not long before the [Byzantine Empire] collapsed, the Russian Church became independent from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Metropolitan Jonas, installed by the Council of Russian bishops in 1448, was given the title of Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia.
The growing might of the Russian state contributed also to the growing authority of the Autocephalous Russian Church. In 1589 Metropolitan Job of Moscow became the first Russian patriarch. Eastern patriarchs recognized the Russian patriarch as the fifth in honor.
The beginning of the 17th century proved to be a hard time for Russia. The Poles and Swedes invaded Russia from the west. The patriarch, an ardent patriot of Russia who was to be tortured to death by the invaders, was the spiritual leaders of the mass levy led by Minin and Pozharsky. The heroic defense of St. Sergius' Monastery of the Trinity from the Swedes and Poles between 1608-1610 is of note to both the Russian state and the Russian Church.
When Nikon of Moscow was the primate, the Russian Church was engaged in introducing corrections into its service books and rites. A great contribution to this was made by Patriarch Nikon, a bright personality and outstanding church reformer. Some clergymen and lay people did not understand and did not accept the liturgical reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon and refused to obey the church authority. This was how the Old Believers' schism emerged.
The beginning of the 18th century in Russia was marked by sweeping reforms carried out by Peter I. The reforms did not leave the Russian Church untouched. After the death of Patriarch Adrian in 1700, Peter I delayed the election of the new Primate of the Church.He established, in 1721, a collective supreme administration known as the Holy and Governing Synod. The Synod remained the supreme church body in the Russian Church for almost two centuries.
In the Synodal period, the Church paid a special attention to the development of religious education and mission in the provinces. Old churches were restored and new churches were built.
The Holy Synod, consisted of the most influential Metropolitans, Archbishops and Bishops. Moscow itself was administered by a territorial Archbishop, combined with Vladimir (1721-1745), with Sevsk (1745-1764), with Kaluga (1764-1799), then Metropolitan, combined with Kaluga, (1799-1917).
Early in the 20th century the Russian Church began preparations for convening an All-Russian Council. But it was to be convened only after the 1917 Revolution. Among its major actions was the restoration of the patriarchal office in the Russian Church. The Council elected Metropolitan Tikhon of Moscow Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia (1917-1925). St. Tikhon of Moscow exerted every effort to calm the destructive passions kindled up by the revolution.
When in 1921-1922 the Soviet government demanded that church valuables be given in aid to the population starving because of the failure of crops in 1921, a conflict erupted between the Church and the new authorities who decided to use this situation to demolish the Church to the end. By the beginning of World War II the church structure was almost completely destroyed throughout the country. There were only a few bishops who remained free and who could perform their duties. Some bishops managed to survive in remote parts or under the disguise of priests. Only a few hundred churches were opened for services throughout the Soviet Union. Most of the clergy were either imprisoned in concentration camps, where many of them perished, or hid in catacombs, while thousands of priests changed occupation. World War II forced Stalin to mobilize all the national resources for defense, including the Russian Orthodox Church as the people's moral force. This process, which can be described as a "patriotic union", culminated in Stalin's receiving on September 4, 1943, Patriarchal Locum Tenens Metropolitan Sergiy Stragorodsky and Metropolitan Alexy Simansky and Nikolay Yarushevich.
- DECR Communication Service Communication service of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate
- Church of Russia official website in English
- Patriarchia.RU official portal of the Moscow Patriarchate (Russian only)
- Eastern Christian Churches: The Orthodox Church of Russia by Ronald Roberson, a Roman Catholic priest and scholar
|Autocephalous and Autonomous Churches of Orthodoxy|
| Four Ancient Patriarchates: Constantinople | Alexandria | Antioch | Jerusalem |
Russia | Serbia | Romania | Bulgaria | Georgia | Cyprus | Greece | Poland | Albania | Czech Lands and Slovakia | OCA*
|Sinai | Finland | Estonia* | Japan* | China* | Ukraine*|
|The * designates a church whose autocephaly or autonomy is not universally recognized.|