Timeline of Church History (Communist Era (1917-1991))
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The History of the Church is a vital part of the Orthodox Christian faith. Orthodox Christians are defined significantly by their continuity with all those who have gone before, those who first received and preached the truth of Jesus Christ to the world, those who helped to formulate the expression and worship of our faith, and those who continue to move forward in the unchanging yet ever-dynamic Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church.
Communist era (1917-1991)
- 1917 Bolshevik Revolution throws Church of Russia into chaos, effectively stranding the fledgling Russian Orthodox mission in America; restoration of Moscow Patriarchate with Tikhon as patriarch; British forces capture Jerusalem from Ottoman Empire; Church of Georgia's autocephaly restored de facto by political chaos in Russia; Balfour Declaration proclaims British support for the "establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".
- 1917-40 Persecution of the Orthodox Church in Russia begins, with 130,000 priests arrested, 95,000 of whom were executed by firing squad.
- 1918 Tsar Nicholas II of Russia murdered together with his wife Alexandra and children; Metr. Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky) of Kiev and Gallich first bishop to be tortured and slain by Russian Communists; deaths of of Hieromartyr Andronik, Archbishop of Perm and Elizabeth the New Martyr.
- 1919-1922 Greco-Turkish War; a million refugees flee to Greece joining half a million Greeks who had fled earlier; Pontic Greek Genocide eliminates the Christian population of Trebizond.
- 1920 Death of Nektarios of Aegina; publication of Encyclical Letters by Constantinople on Christian unity and on the Ecumenical Movement.
- 1921 Constantinople renounces all claims to jurisdiction in any part of Africa, with Alexandrian primate thenceforth known as Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa; Greek Archdiocese of America formed ; Abp. Tikhon (Belavin) elected Patriarch of Moscow; Gorazd (Pavlik) consecrated as bishop for Western Rite Diocese of Moravia and Silesia; an all-Ukrainian Synod is called in Kyiv and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) (as yet unrecognized) is declared independent from the Moscow Patriarchate (MP).
- 1922 Church of Albania declares autocephaly from Constantinople; formation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia; British Mandate of Palestine begins; Vladimir Lenin proclaims establishment of the Soviet Union; Solovetsky Monastery converted by Lenin's decree to the "Solovki Special Purpose Camp", one of the earliest forced-labor camps of the Gulag where 75 bishops died, along with tens of thousands of laity ; Alcuin Club in England prints the Russian synod's report in favor of adapting Book of Common Prayer for Orthodox use; death of Ethnomartyr Metropolitan Chrysostomos (Kalafatis) of Smyrna; the predominatly Christian city of Smyrna is destroyed, ending 1900 years of Christian civilization.
- 1923 Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia granted autonomy by Church of Constantinople; Treaty of Lausanne affirmed the international status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with Turkey guaranteeing respect and the Patriarchate’s full protection; Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud defines the Id–Ego-Super-ego as the three theoretical constructs of the Psyche.
- 1924 Church of Constantinople recognizes autocephaly of Church of Poland; Bp. Daniel William Alexander convenes meeting in Kimberley, South Africa, which decides to secede from the African Church (a Protestant denomination) and affiliate with the (non-canonical) "African Orthodox Church" in New York under George Alexander McGuire; Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the USA splits into two separate jurisdictions, one for those from Galicia, and another for those from Carpatho-Ukraine, Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia.
- 1925 Church of Romania becomes a patriarchate; first Africans in sub-Saharan Africa baptized in Tanganyika by Fr. Nikodemos Sarikas; death of Tikhon of Moscow.
- 1926 Polish Catholic National Church received as a Western Rite diocese in Poland of Church of Russia under Bp. Alexis of Grodno; John Maximovitch tonsured by ROCOR Metr. Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev; the Benedictine monastery Chevetogne Abbey is founded in Belgium, dedicated to Christian unity, being a ‘double rite’ monastery having both Western (Latin rite) and Eastern (Byzantine rite) churches holding services every day.
- 1927 Daniel William Alexander travels from South Africa to America to be consecrated a bishop of African Orthodox Church; Orthodox Archbishopric of Johannesburg established; bishops of Russian church in America authorize formation of American Orthodox Catholic Church, including a Western Rite missionary outreach.
- 1928 Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius founded.
- 1929 Papal Bull Cum data fuerit regulates Uniate clergy in the US, mandating celibacy, resulting in the return of several parishes back to Orthodoxy in 1938; kingdom of Italy and Papacy ratify Lateran Treaty, recognizing sovereignty of Papacy within the new state of the Vatican City; "Russicum" (Russian College or 'College of St. Therese') founded in Vatican City by Pope Pius XI and run by the Jesuits; Russian Fraternity of Saint Irenee in France celebrates Western Rite.
- 1931 Reception of Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe into the Ecumenical Patriarchate, led by Metr. Eulogius (Georgievsky) of Paris; USSR bans sale or importation of Bibles; the Bonn Agreement established full communion between the Church of England and Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht.
- 1932 Daniel William Alexander travels to Uganda to meet Reuben Spartas, establishing African Orthodox Church there.
- 1933 Church of Greece bans Freemasonry.
- 1934 Daniel William Alexander travels to Kenya, establishing African Orthodox Church led by Arthur Gathuna; clergy opposing Nazi regime in Germany have homes raided by secret police; episcopal consecration of John Maximovitch.
- 1935 Critical edition of Septuagint published in Gottingen Germany by Alfred Rahlfs at the Septuaginta-Unternehmens (Institute); Old Calendar Church is formed when three bishops declared their separation from the official Church of Greece stating that the calendar change was a schismatic act.
- 1935-40 Italian forces occupy Ethiopia and begin intermittent persecutions of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
- 1936 Ukase of Moscow Patriarchate establishes Western Orthodox Church in France using Western Rite.
- 1936-37 Many Russian Orthodox Clerics die in Joseph Stalin's Great Purge.
- 1937 Church of Constantinople recognizes autocephaly of Church of Albania; Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology founded; arrest of Alexander Hotovitzky, missionary of America and hieromartyr of the Bolshevik yoke.
- 1938 St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (Crestwood, New York) and St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary (South Canaan, Pennsylvania) founded; death of Silouan the Athonite; American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese founded, when a group of 37 Carpatho-Russian Eastern Catholic parishes, under the leadership of Fr. Orestes Chornock, were received into the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung authors Psychology and Religion.
- 1939 Galicia is divided as Poland gets partitioned between the German Empire and Soviet Union approximately along the Curzon Line, so that Western Galicia goes to the German Empire, and Eastern Galicia is affiliated with Soviet Ukraine.
- 1941 Martyrdom of Gorazd (Pavlik) of Prague by Nazis; Nicholas (Ono) of Japan is the first Japanese national to be consecrated an Orthodox bishop.
- 1941-45 Croatian Ustasa terrorists kill 500,000 Orthodox Serbs, expel 250,000 and force 250,000 to convert to Catholicism.
- 1943 Church of Russia recognizes autocephaly of Church of Georgia; first constitution of the African Orthodox Church in East Africa signed by Reuben Spartas and Arthur Gathuna; Joseph Stalin meets with hierarchs of Russian Orthodox Church to establish a "patriotic union," granting concessions to the church, including the gathering of the holy synod and the election of Sergius I as patriarch of Moscow.
- 1943-44 Hundreds of Orthodox priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church eliminated, tortured and drowned by Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists - Ukrainian Rebel Army, aided by Uniate Metr. Josyf Slipyj who was a spiritual leader of Nazi military units that were later condemned by the Nuremberg tribunal, and who was imprisoned by Soviet authorities for aiding the UPA.
- 1944 Fr. Evgraph (Kovalevsky) completes restoration of Liturgy of St. Germaine de Paris.
- 1945 Church of Bulgaria's autocephaly generally recognized; library of early Christian texts discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt; Soviet Union annexes Czechoslovakia; Church of Russia claims jurisdiction over the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.
- 1945-58 In the post-war era the official organization of the Church of Russia was greatly expanded (although individual members of the clergy were occasionally arrested and exiled), with the number of open churches reaching ca. 25,000.
- 1945-90 Persecution of the Orthodox Church in Albania.
- 1946 Reuben Spartas of the African Orthodox Church visits Alexandria; Holy Synod of the Church of Alexandria officially recognizes and accepts the African Greek Orthodox Church in Kenya and Uganda; state-sponsored synod is held at Lviv, Ukraine in March, which officially dissolves the Union of Brest-Litovsk and integrates the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church into the Russian Orthodox Church, Soviet authorities arresting resisters or deporting them to Siberia.
- 1947 Dead Sea Scrolls discovered near Qumran in Egypt, pre-dating the Masoretic text by about a millenium, many fragments of which agree with the Septuagint version of the Bible over and against the Masoretic Text, proving that many of the variants in the Greek were also present in ancient Hebrew manuscripts; death of Alexei Kabalyiuk, who played a major role in reviving Orthodoxy in Transcarpathia in the early 20th century.
- 1948 Establishment of State of Israel and end of British Mandate of Palestine; Church of Russia re-grants autocephaly to the Church of Poland (after having revoked it in the aftermath of World War II); World Council of Churches is founded; Council of Moscow is held on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the independence of the Russian Church from Constantinople, with representatives of the local Orthodox Churches rejecting all participation in the World Council of Churches.
- 1949 Soviet authorities revoke the Union of Uzhhorod of 1646, creating the Orthodox Eparchy of Mukachiv-Uzhhorod, under the Patriarch of Moscow; Communist takeover of China leads to oppression of religious groups.
- 1950 Pope Pius XII proclaims the Bodily Assumption of the Virgin Mary as a dogma; Symeon (Du) is consecrated Bishop of Tianjin in July, becoming the first Chinese Orthodox bishop, transferred in September to be Bishop of Shanghai (1950-1965).
- 1951 Church of Russia grants autocephaly to the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia; 1500th anniversary celebration of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
- 1952 New Monastery of Panagia Soumela built in the village of Kastania, in Macedonia, Greece, housing the wonderworking icon of Panagia Soumela, becoming a center of religious pilgrimage; the Revised Amharic Bible (H.I.M. Haile Sellassie I Authorized Royal Amharic Bible) is produced under the patronage of Emperor Haile Selassie, being presented to him on April 19th, 1952, and first published in 1961.
- 1953 Metr. Antony (Bashir) accepts three Western Rite parishes into Syrian Metropolitanate in America.
- 1956 Church of China under Chinese administration is established under pressure from the Chinese authorities.
- 1957 Church of Russia grants autonomy to Church of China.
- 1958-64 In the USSR Nikita Khrushchev initiated his own campaign against the Russian Orthodox Church and forced the closure of about 12,000 churches.
- 1958 Patr. of Antioch adopts provisions of Russian synods of 1879 and 1907 for use by Western Rite in America ; Western Orthodox Church of France comes under Abp. John Maximovitch, who authorizes the use of the restored Gallican rite.
- 1959 Abp. Anastasios (Yannoulatos) of Albania establishes inter-Orthodox mission agency Porefthentes to revive the church's mission activities; autocephaly granted to the Church of Ethiopia by Coptic Pope Cyril VI (Atta) of Alexandria.
- 1961 Creation of Western Rite Vicariate in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America; death of Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky) of Simferopol; consecration of first Orthodox Church in Uganda; first Pan-Orthodox Conference in Rhodes; Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man to fly in outer space.
- 1962 Philosopher and historian of science Thomas Kuhn publishes The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a landmark study in the sociology of knowledge, popularizing the terms "paradigm" and "paradigm shift", seeking to debunk the conception of cumulative scientific development as a myth.
- 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council held in Rome, initiating major liturgical and theological reforms for the Roman Catholic Church, including restriction of ancient Tridentine Mass and introduction of the Novus Ordo.
- 1963 1900th anniversary of martyrdom of Apostle Mark; second Pan-Orthodox Conference in Rhodes; 1000th anniversary celebration of founding of Mount Athos.
- 1964 Meeting of Pope Paul VI of Rome and Patr. Athenagoras I (Spyrou) of Constantinople in Jerusalem; third Pan-Orthodox Conference in Rhodes; Synaxis of the Saints of Rostov established by resolution of His Holiness Patriarch Alexis I and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.
- 1965 Pope Paul VI of Rome and Patriarch Athenagoras I (Spyrou) of Constantinople mutually nullify the excommunications of 1054 ; Abp. John Maximovitch consecrates Jean-Nectaire (Kovalevsky) for Western Orthodox Church of France; the office of Latin Patriarch of Constantinople is officially abolished.
- 1966 The Cultural Revolution almost totally destroyed the young Chinese Orthodox Church.
- 1967 Church of Macedonia unilaterally declares its autocephaly, making it independent of the Church of Serbia (as yet unrecognized); Albania is declared an atheist state, closing all religious institutions and forbiding any religious practices.
- 1968 Visit to Patriarchate of Alexandria by Vatican representatives; fourth Pan-Orthodox Conference in Chambesy, Switzerland.
- 1968-71 Millions of Christians, Muslims, Jews and others witness apparitions of the Virgin Mary many times over a three year period over the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mary at Zeitun, Cairo, recognized as authentic by the Coptic Orthodox Church and other churches.
- 1969 Metr. Philaret (Voznesensky) of New York (ROCOR) issues the first of a series of "Sorrowful Epistles" (1969,1971,1975) to the primates of the local Orthodox Churches, condemning forays into ecumenism.
- 1970 Russian-American Metropolia reconciles with Church of Russia and is granted autocephaly, renamed as the Orthodox Church in America, returning control of Church of Japan to Moscow, which grants it autonomy; glorification of Herman of Alaska in separate services by the ROCOR and the OCA; Abp. Makarios III (Mouskos) of Cyprus baptizes 10,000 into the Orthodox Church in Kenya.
- 1971 Halki Seminary closed by Turkish authorities.
- 1972 Death of pioneer missionary Archim. Chrysostomos Papasarantopoulos, having laboured to spread the Orthodox faith in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Congo.
- 1973 Anglican-Orthodox dialogue began, when the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Discussions (A/OJDD) held its first meeting in Oxford.
- 1974 1600th anniversary of death of Athanasius the Great.
- 1975 Division in the Antiochian church in North America overcome by the uniting of the two Antiochian archdioceses into one by Metr. Philip (Saliba) of New York and Abp. Michael (Shaheen) of Toledo; Joint Commission of Orthodox and Old Catholic theologians is established.
- 1976 First Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Conference at Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambesy, Switzerland; the first phase of the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue was concluded by the publication of The Moscow Agreed Statement; the General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA) approves ordination of women to all three orders: bishop, priest, and deacon.
- 1977 The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha - Revised Standard Version (Expanded Edition) is published, endorsed by Abp. Athenagoras (Kokkinakis) of Thyateira and Great Britain; Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS, 4th ed.) is published, including footnotes with possible corrections to the Hebrew text based on the Samaritan Pentateuch, Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint, Vulgate, and Peshitta.
- 1979 Pope John Paul II visits Ecumenical Patriarchate; torture and martyrdom of Archim. Philoumenos (Hasapis), keeper of the Greek monastery of Jacob's Well in Samaria (Nablus, West Bank), by Zionist extremists who also desecrate the church; Joint Commission of Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches for Theological Dialogue established by Pope John Paul II and Patr. Demetrius I (Papadopoulos) of Constantinople.
- 1980 Orthodox-Roman Catholic Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue, 1st plenary, met in Patmos and Rhodes; Greek priest-monk Fr. Athanasios Anthides travelled to India to begin a systematic Orthodox Mission in the rural area of Arambah, in West Bengal; Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician Bob Marley (+1981) is baptized by Abp. Abuna Yesehaq of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Kingston, Jamaica, on November 4, 1980.
- 1981 Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission meets for the first time in Espoo, Finland.
- 1982 Orthodox-Roman Catholic Joint Commission publishes in Munich first official common document, "The Mystery of the Church and of the Eucharist in Light of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity"; second Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Conference in Chambesy, Switzerland; formal founding of Makarios III Patriarchal Seminary in Nairobi, Kenya.
- 1984 Orthodox-Roman Catholic Joint Commission, 3rd plenary, meets in Khania, Crete; the second phase of the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue was concluded with the publication of The Dublin Agreed Statement; neomartyr Bp. Paul (de Ballester-Convallier) of Nazianzus.
- 1985 Founding of Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) as Greek Archdiocesan Mission Center; Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission issues statement "Divine Revelation."
- 1986 Third Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Conference in Chambesy, Switzerland.
- 1987 Orthodox-Roman Catholic Joint Commission issues common document "Faith, Sacraments and the Unity of the Church"; visit by Patr. Demetrius I (Papadopoulos) of Constantinople to Vatican.
- 1987 Group of twenty parishes of the Evangelical Orthodox Church, originally formed by former Campus Crusade for Christ leaders Peter Gillquist and Jon Braun, are received into Antiochian Archdiocese in US, becoming the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission; Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission issues the statement "Scripture and Tradition."
- 1988 1000th anniversary of Orthodoxy in Russia; Orthodox-Roman Catholic Joint Commission publishes common document "The Sacrament of Order in the Sacramental Structure of the Church"; Indonesian Muslim convert to Orthodoxy Fr. Daniel Byantoro begins his mission in Indonesia, sparking the rebirth of Orthodoxy there; Mount Athos is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- 1989 Church of Constantinople recognizes autocephaly of the Church of Georgia; Elder Ephraim begins founding Athonite-style monasteries in North America; Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission issues statement "The Canon and the Inspiration of the Holy Scripture"; glorification in Russia of Tikhon of Moscow; Uniate Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church legalized, with Greek Catholics beginning seizure of property from Russian Orthodox Church, which they claimed as theirs prior to the synod of 1946; the third phase of the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue began, when the commission was re-constituted as The International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue (ICAOTD), under the chairmanship of Metr. John of Pergamon and Bp. Henry Hill (succeeded in 1990 by Bp. Mark Dyer); Orthodox-Oriental Orthodox Joint Commission adopts the first Agreed Statement on Christology, at a historic meeting at the Anba Bishoy Monastery, Egypt from June 20-24, 1989.
- 1990 Orthodox-Roman Catholic Joint Theological Commission meets in Freising, Germany; first Orthodox service in seventy years held in St. Basil's Cathedral; martyrdom of Fr. Alexander Men; Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) self-proclaims its independance from the UAOC (both groups unrecognized); death of Fr. Athanasios Anthides, first Greek Orthodox Missionary to India, suceeded a year later by priest-monk Fr. Ignatios Sennis, who came to Calcutta to continue the mission; Orthodox-Oriental Orthodox Joint Commission adopts the Second Agreed Statement.
- Some of these dates are necessarily a bit vague, as records for some periods are particularly difficult to piece together accurately.
- The division of Church History into separate eras as done here will always be to some extent arbitrary, though it was attempted to group periods according to major watershed events.
- This timeline is necessarily biased toward the history of the Orthodox Church, though a number of non-Orthodox or purely political events are mentioned for their importance in history related to Orthodoxy or for reference.
- Timeline of Orthodoxy in America
- Timeline of Orthodoxy in Australia
- Timeline of Orthodoxy in China
- Timeline of Orthodoxy in Greece
- Timeline of Orthodoxy in New Zealand
- Timeline of Orthodoxy in Japan
- Timeline of Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic relations
The following are published writings that provide an overview of Church history:
From an Orthodox perspective
- Schmemann, Alexander. The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy.
- Ware, Timothy. The Orthodox Church: New Edition. (ISBN 0140146563)
From a Heterodox perspective
- Cairns, Earle E. Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church. (ISBN 0310208122)
- Collins, Michael, ed.; Price, Matthew Arlen. Story of Christianity: A Celebration of 2000 Years of Faith. (ISBN 0789446057)
- Gonzalez, Justo L. A History of Christian Thought, Volume 3: From the Protestant Reformation to the Twentieth Century. (ISBN 0687171849)
- Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity, Volume 2: Reformation to the Present Day. (ISBN 0060633166)
- Hastings, Adrian, ed. A World History of Christianity. (ISBN 0802848753)
- Jones, Timothy P. Christian History Made Easy. (ISBN 1890947105)
- Noll, Mark A. Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity. (ISBN 080106211X)
- Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Volume 5: Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture (since 1700). (ISBN 0226653803)
- Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church. (ISBN 156563196X)
- Walton, Robert C. Chronological and Background Charts of Church History. (ISBN 0310362814)
- History of Orthodox Christianity (QuickTime movies)
- Timeline of Patriarchal History. Order of St. Andrew the Apostle. Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (Pop-up Video Presentation, in Sections)