History of the Russian Orthodox Church
- The Russian Orthodox Church traces its origins to the time of Kievan Rus', the first forerunner of the modern Russian state. In A.D. 988 Prince Vladimir made the Byzantine variant of Christianity the state religion of Russia. The Russian church was subordinate to the patriarch of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul ), seat of the Byzantine Empire.
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The government seized all church lands. Thus the Russian Orthodox Church found itself without official state backing for the first time in its history. One of the first decrees of the new Communist government (issued in January 1918) declared freedom of "religious and anti-religious propaganda".
The Russian Orthodox Church was further weakened in 1922, when the Renovated Church, a reform movement supported by the Soviet government, seceded from Patriarch Tikhon’s church, restored a Holy Synod to power, and brought division among clergy and faithful. After Tikhon’s death (1925) the government forbade patriarchal elections to be held.
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The Christian community that developed into what is now known as the Russian Orthodox Church is traditionally said to have been founded by the Apostle Andrew, who is thought to have visited Scythia and Greek colonies along the northern coast of the Black Sea.
- Early History of The Orthodox Church
- Prince Vladimir Chooses Among The Great Religions
- Prince Vladimir Converts to Orthodox Christianity
- Orthodox Christianity Develops in Russia
- Orthodox Church in Tsarist Russia
- Great Schism and The Old Believers
- Growth of The Old Believers
- Persecution of The Old Believers
- Orthodox Church in The Soviet Era
- Soviet-Era Orthodox Church Revival
The Russian Orthodox Church traces its origins to the time of Kievan Rus', the first forerunner of the modern Russian state. In A.D. 988 Prince Vladimir made the Byzantine variant of Christianity the state religion of Russia. The Russian church was subordinate to the patriarch of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), seat of the Byzantine Empire. The original seat of the metropolitan, as the head of the church was known, was Kiev. As power moved from Kiev to Moscow in the fourteenth century, the seat moved as well, establishing the tradition that the metropolitan of Moscow is the head of the church. In the Middle Ages, the church placed strong emphasis on asceticism, which evolved into a widespread monastic tradition. Large numbers of monasteries were founded in obscure locations across all of the medieval state of Muscovy. Such small settlements expanded into larger population centers, making the monastic movement one of the bases of social and economic as well as spiritual life.[...
Prince Vladimir I (ruled 980-1015) is regarded as the father of Russia. His greatest achievement was the Christianization of Kievan Rus', a process that began in 988. He built the first great edifice of Kievan Rus', the Desyatinnaya Church in Kiev. Vladimir's conversion to the Byzantine (Orthodox) Christian faith in 988 is generally regarded as the moment when Russia was founded. The 1,000th anniversary of the event, 1988, was celebrated with great fanfare on the Soviet Union. Vladimir converted to Orthodox Christianity in 988 largely for the political and economic advantages it offered. [Source: Merle Severy, National Geographic, December 1983] The Rus were initially pagans. Byzantines referred to Rus as "ax-bearing barbarians." Prince Vladimir reportedly gave great thought to choosing which religion was right for his people. He welcomed envoys from the great religions of the time—Judaism, Catholicism, Islam and Orthodox Christianity— and listened to their arguments. A devoted woma...
Prince Vladimir was baptized and converted to Orthodox Christianity. He was later canonized for converting Kievian Rus to Christianity. The choice of Orthodoxy created a distance between Russia and largely Catholic Europe but linked it the Byzantium Empire, based in Constantinople (Istanbul). Vladimir's grandmother Princess Olga, the first Rus royal to be baptized, took the plunge on a visit to Constantinople in 957. Describing her Nestor wrote, "Olga was the precursor of the Christian land, even as the dayspring precedes the sun and as the dawn precedes the day. For she shone like the moon by night, and he was radiant among the infidels like a pearl in the mire." Prince Vladimir gave the people of Russia and the Ukraine two choices: either they could be baptized too or loose their heads. He led his subjects en masse into the Dnieper in 988. They followed a route now occupied by Kreshchatic (Christening Street), Kiev's main thoroughfare. The baptized throw out their pagan idols and...
Vladimir married the sister of one of the Byzantine co-emperors and initiated a program to transplant the culture, art, alphabet, and architecture of Constantinople to Kiev, which he described as "a city glistening with the light of holy icons, fragrant with incense, ringing with praise and holy, heavenly songs." The Kiev empire provided be a fertile ground for Orthodox Christianity to take root. Unlike the Slavic kingdoms in The Balkans, it was far beyond the reached of the old Roman empire. "Christianity in the old Russian empire was the frontier faith of a colonizing people," wrote Russian historian James Billington in Smithsonian magazine. "The rugged new converts sought to beatify their churches and worship services rather than to discuss the fine points of dogma. So they developed a 'theology in pictures' in pictures rather in words—filling their churches with frescoes, icons and candle, embellishing them in the northern climate with new, snow-shedding onion domes and tent roo...
Under Peter the Great the Orthodox church came under direct control of the government as part of Westernization campaign. Until 1917 the church “was deprived of self-government and subjected to oppressive bureaucratic supervision.” In the early eighteenth century, Peter the Great modernized, expanded, and consolidated Muscovy into what then became known as the Russian Empire. In the process of redefining his power as tsar, Peter curtailed the minimal secular influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which was functioning principally as a pillar of the tsarist regime. In 1721 Peter the Great went so far as to abolish the patriarchate and establish a governmental organ called the Holy Synod, staffed by secular officials, to administer and control the church. As a result, the church's moral authority declined in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *] In the second half of the nineteenth century, the monastic tradition produced a number of ch...
In the 1650s, the Russian Orthodox Church experienced its own Great Schism. In 1653, the autocratic Patriarch Nikon tried to bring Russian Orthodox church rituals, liturgy and texts in line with those of the 'Pure' Greek Orthodox church. He ordered rituals changed and Biblical text retranslated to correspond with the Greek versions. The direction of priestly processions was changed. The number of bread loaves used in liturgies was reduced. Followers were required to say a different number of Hallelujahs at services and cross themselves with three fingers (representing the Trinity) instead of two (the traditional Russian way). Although many of these changes seem superficial, the reforms outraged traditionalists, who believed they attacked essence of Russian Orthodoxy, and undermined the principal of Russian cultural and religious superiority that earlier religious leaders and tsars had carefully cultivated. The dispute over the reforms led to a schism between Nikon's New Believers an...
By 1700, there were Old Believer colonies in Cossack areas in the Kuban River near the Caucasus, in Kerzhenets forest near the Polish border and in the Vetka in Poland itself. Beginning around this time, large numbers of Old Believers fled to Siberia and became particularly numerous in the Tobolsk area and the Buriat republic. Under Catherine II (1762-1786) a number of new colonies sprung up, including some in Moscow. The Old Believers gained support from settlers on the edges of the Muscovite state in the frontier areas. Many Cossacks who had escaped the rigid stratification of the Muscovite state became Old Believers. Northern Russian peasants who resented efforts by Moscow to manipulate them also became Old Believers. The movement was not unified and a number of different sects and denominations emerged. The most radical was a group called the Priestless, who equated the reforms with the emergence of the Anti-Christ, rejected many of the church religious sacraments and demanded t...
Old Believer were condemned to anathemas by an international Orthodox church council that met in Moscow in 1667 and subjected to waves of persecution. They have been imprisoned, exiled, and killed. They endured unspeakable tortures. Thousands were burned at the stake or burned themselves to death in mass suicide rather than make the sign of the cross with three fingers. Persecution was greatest under Czarta Sophia (1682-168), Empress Anna (1301740), Empress Elizabeth (1741-1762) and Nicholas I (1825-1855). Old Believers resorted to armed struggle in the Vulvavin Mutiny in 1707-8 and mass suicides in the Pugachev Uprising in 1773-75. Entire communities of Old Believers fled into the remote Ural Mountains and Siberia to avoid being forced to accept the "reforms” introduced by Patriarch Nikon. Other sought refuge among the semiautonomous Cossack bands on the steppe. The Old Believers have been able to practice their religion with out being persecuted from 1771 to 1827 and 1905 to 1918...
Karl Marx, the political philosopher whose ideas were nominally followed by the Bolsheviks, called religion "the opiate of the people." Although many of Russia's revolutionary factions did not take Marx literally, the Bolshevik faction, led by Vladimir I. Lenin, was deeply suspicious of the church as an institution and as a purveyor of spiritual values. Therefore, atheism became mandatory for members of the ruling Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik). To eliminate as soon as possible what was deemed the perverse influence of religion in society, the communists launched a propaganda campaign against all forms of religion. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *] There were 50,000 churches in Russia in 1917. After the fall of the czarist government that year the Russian Orthodox church convoked a council to restore independence. During the revolutionary chaos in 1917, the Orthodox church established a patriarch in Moscow, independent from the one on Constantinople (Istanbul). Shortly...
In 1939 the government significantly relaxed some restrictions on religious practice, a change that the Orthodox Church met with an attitude of cooperation. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the government reluctantly solicited church support as it called upon every traditional patriotic value that might resonate with the Soviet people. According to witnesses, active church support of the national war effort drew many otherwise alienated individuals to the Soviet cause. Beginning in 1942, to promote this alliance, the government ended its prohibition of official contact between clergy and foreign representatives. It also permitted the traditional celebration of Easter and temporarily ended the stigmatization of religiosity as an impediment to social advancement. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *] The Patriarchs were restored to power in 1943. The government concessions for the sake of national defense reinvigorated the Russian Orthodox Church. Thousands of churc...
According to its own tradition, the Russian Orthodox Church was founded by the Apostle Andrew, who allegedly visited Scythia and the Greek colonies along the northern coast of the Black Sea. It is said that Andrew reached the future location of Kiev and foretold the foundation of a great Christian city.
The official history of the Russian Church dates back to 988 when upon the decision of Vladimir the Great, Rus’ adopted the Greek religion. This event is described in the Primary Chronicle. This is the earliest extant manuscript dated by the 12 th century.
According to the Eastern Orthodox tradition the history of the Eastern Orthodox Church is traced back to Jesus Christ and the Apostles. The Apostles appointed successors, known as bishops, and they in turn appointed other bishops in a process known as Apostolic succession.
Dec 06, 2017 · Iconography hailing from the Eastern Orthodox Church (the second largest Christian Church in the world and commonly referred to as the Russian and Greek Orthodox Church) is now revered by collectors.
Russian Orthodox Russian traders and explorers began to emigrate to Alaska from Siberia in the first half of the 18th century. Being of the Orthodox faith, Russians taught the natives, Christian doctrine and the truth of their Orthodox Church. They succeeded very well in their missionary work, though it was new to them.