Timeline of Orthodoxy in Russia

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Problem of periodisation of Russian Church history

In the church-historical science there are some points of view on a problem of a periodization of Russian Church history. The most notable have been formulated by such famous historians of Russian Church as archbishop of Chernigov Philaret Gumilevsky, Moscow metropolitan Macarius Bulgakov, Evgeny Golubinsky and Igor Smolich.

So, archbishop Philaret (Gumilevsky) in the work «History of the Russian Church» (M, 1850-1851) has allocated five periods in the history of Russian Church:

  1. 988-237
  2. 1238-1409
  3. 1410-1588
  4. 1589-1720
  5. 1720-1825

Events of intrachurch history were borders mainly: division of the one metropolis on two parts (the author considers that a beginning of the division happened, when an attempt to separate West Russian dioceses has been undertaken by the pressure of Lithuanian prince Vitovt), an establishment of the Patriarchate in Moscow, Governing Synod in St.-Petersburg; however external factors of vital importance - mongol invasion of 1237 and further yoke over Russia were considered also.

Periodization bases have been developed in detail by metropolitan Macarius (Bulgakov). He has distinguished three big periods, and also the special period defined as "introduction in history of Russian Church" -"Christianity history in Russia to equal-to-apostles prince Vladimir". The basic periods were distinguished proceeding from canonical status of the Russian Church: 1) full dependence of the Russian Church on the Constantinople Patriarchate (988-1240); 2) gradual transition of the Russian Church from this dependence to independence (1240-1589); 3) the independence (autocephalous) period (with 1589).

Sub-periods in each of three periods were distinguished already on "internal" to signs, were defined by time of primacy of heads of the Church taking into account reignings and reigns, because the church life was defined not only by spiritual and moral authority of hierarchs heading Church, but also and by a policy of the state and its secular ruler. In the third period "Russian Church in period of its autocephaly" Metr. Macarius has had time to investigate only the initial stage, to the Council 1666-1667. The History of the Moscow Patriarchate is stated in parallel with history West-russian metropolis.

E. Golubinsky has distinguished three periods in Russian church history: Kievan, Moscow and Petersburg. The invasion of Mongols and the establishment of the Synod (1721) became borders between the periods. However, it is necessary to note that Golubinsky proved his allocation on the doubtful precondition of absence of true spiritual education in medieval Russia. In his opinion, the Kievan and Moscow periods represent actually a single whole characterised by absence of the valid education which we have not acquired with acceptance of Christianity and without which remained to Peter the Great ("Golubinsky". Vol. 1, part 1, page XXII). During this period in national religious consciousness "the external more or less prevailed more or less over internal, is conditional-formal ceremonialism - over true belief". However, if during the Kievan period this prevalence still kept measures, during the period Moscow it has gone into extremes». Golubinsky understood the Petersburg period as time of establishing in Russia the present education and more perfect understanding of Christianity.

All three models of the periodization have been subjected to criticism by Igor Smolich. Estimating Metr. Philaret's work, Smolich named as "very right" a principle of division on the basis of the historical phenomena which have occurred in Russian church life, however Metr. Philaret, according to Smolich, did not try "to connect outside influence on actually church development with church history", did not consider opposition of the Church and the state, constant pressure of the state upon Church; Philaret represented their relations, according to Smolich, in peacefully idyllic tones.

Estimating the periodization of Metr. Macarius Smolich disagreed with the main principle put in its basis, - a jurisdiction principle. According to his opinion, the end of the subordination of Moscow metropolis to Constantinople has not rendered influence on activity and the right of the church authority, on an internal life of the Church and people, and establishment of the Moscow Patriarchy "cannot be explained from dynamics of the previous period; it was most likely only a consequence of Boris Godunov's ambitious policy". Smolich also criticized the periodization of Golubinsky "by a topographical principle", especially without approving division "on metropolitans" (Golubinsky so built the work since the Moscow period). The "a methodological principle" Smolich has considered that «the unique firm basis for a periodization can be only such facts which really defined destiny of the development of Russian Church's organization and life", and it were its relation with the state. According to this principle two basic historical periods are allocated only: the first - till the end of XIII century and the second - till 1917; their border is transfer of a residence of the Russian metropolitan from Kiev in Vladimir and soon after that to Moscow. Here it is possible to see a likeness to "a topographical" periodization of Golubinsky. Hardly probable it is possible to consider question of Smolich as correctful, what was more important for Church - its relations with the Constantinople or own secular authority, and his unconditional choice in favour of the second.

Historically developed coexistence of these two complexes of relations does not allow to oppose, define them their "subordination", because they were inseparable one from another. The author should feel some amorphy of the periodization and also has entered internal division of the second period, however periods allocated by him and key dates practically do not differ from what were suggested by his predecessors: 1589 - establishment of the Patriarchate (though earlier Smolich subjected value of this date as key to doubt), the beginning of the Synod period (1700). Thus, difference of a periodization of Smolich from constructions of his predecessors consists not so much in allocation of new key events, how many in an estimation of the maintenance and value before the allocated periods.

Modern division of Russian church history is built basically on a periodization developed by Metr. Macarius. The first period is 988-1448: Russian Church under jurisdiction of Constantinople. The second period is 1448-1589: autocephalous Russian metropolis. The third period is 1589 - till XVIII century - Patriarchy. The fourth period is Synodical (beginning of XVIII-1917). The fifth period is 1917-1988: Russian Church during the atheistic state. The sixth period is since 1988 up to now. The events whose paramount value in the history of Church is indisputable are specified as borders of the periods. This is the Moscow Hierarchical Council of 1448, on which St. Jonah has been consecrated by the Council of Russian bishops without the Constantinople Patriarch; Moscow Council of 1589 with participation of Patriarch Jeremy II and representatives of the Greek clergy on which the Moscow Patriarchy has been established; establishing of the Synod (1721); Patriarchate restoration on Moscow Council of 1917-1918; public and state celebrating of the millenary of Baptism of Rus', begun a new epoch in a life of the Church (1988) and its revival. It is necessary to notice that offered dates are significant for history of Church not only on the earths Moscow state, but also for history West Russian Metropolis: 1459 is division of common metropolis on Kiev (West Russian) and Moscow, 1596 is date of the Union of Brest, 1686 is the reunion two parts of Russian Church.

Each of the named historical events is end of the long historical process occurring frequently on more extensive geographical space. Besides it is necessary to consider a little conditional character of any periodisation, being guided on exact dates. There are the transition periods lasting sometimes not one decade both combining one lines of preceding and next periods. For example, the beginning of Synodical period is dated sometimes not 1721 (establishment of the Synod), but 1700 (death of last Patriarch Adriana) and etc.

The Origin of Christianity in Rus'

Russian Church under jurisdiction of Constantinople (988-1488)

Period of the Kievan Metropolia till the mongol invasion to Rus'

Russian Church after the mongol conquest (since 1240)

  • 1245 Martyrdom of right-believing Prince Michael of Chernigov and his boyarin Theodore in Gold Orda
  • 1261 Sarai diocese (in Gold Orda) was established
  • 1263 † Right-believing Prince Alexander Nevsky
  • 1267 The first authentically known yarlyk (decree) of Mongol khans granted freedom for the faith and tax exemption to the Church.
  • 1342 Sergius of Radonezh with his brother Stephan founded Holy Trinity Lavra;
  • 1379-1396 Missionary activity of Equal-to-the-Apostles Stephan of Perm (1340-1396), Enlightener of Komi
  • 1378 † Metropolitan Alexis of Moscow
  • 1392 † St. Sergius of Radonezh, September 25;

South-west (Kievan-Lithuanian) Metropolis (1458—1686) under the Patriarch of Constantinople

  • 1596 Union of Brest, large persecutions on the Orthodoxy in Polish–Lithuanian_Commonwealth
  • 1646 †Peter Mogila, Metropolitan of Kiev
  • 1686 Kievan metropolis passed from jurisdiction of Constantinople under Moscow Patriarchate

Autocephalous Russian Metropolis

First Patriarchate Period

  • 1589 Ecumenical Patriarchate acknowledges autocephaly of Church of Russia and first Patriarch of Moscow, Metropolitan Job of Moscow is styled.
  • 1666 Moscow Big Council
  • 1685-87 The Slavic Greek Latin Academy is organized as the first higher education establishment in Moscow, under the guidance of two Greek brothers, Joannicus and Sophronius Likhud, on the premises of the Zaikonospassky Monastery with over 70 students.
  • 1700 Peter the Great published an Ukase (edict) on June 18th that made a resounding appeal for the propagation of the faith in Siberia and China; death of Patr. Adrian.
  • 1700-†1720 Patriarchal Locum Tenens metropolitan Stephen Yavorsky
  • 1702 In response to the Ukaz of 1700, Philothei (Leschinsky) of Kiev is chosen as Metropolitan of Tobolsk and All Siberia (1702-1711), long since a center of missionary operations, in order to "lead the natives in China and Siberia to the service of the true and living God"; he built 37 churches and personally accounted for the baptism of 40,000 Siberian tribesmen by 1721.
  • 1712 Tsar Peter the Great issued an ukaz ordering the printed Slavonic text of the Bible to be carefully compared with the Greek of the Septuagint and to be made in every respect conformable to it; the revision was completed in 1724 and was ordered to be printed, but the death of Peter (1725) prevented the execution of the order.

The Synodical Church (1720-1917)

Communist Era (1917-1991)

Post-Communist Era: Russian Orthodox Church Resurgent (1991-Present)


  1. Source: "A LIFELONG PASSION, NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA THEIR OWN STORY"., Andrei Maylunas and Sergi Mironenko., Doubleday, New York., February 1997., pp. 638-639).

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