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Russian-Orthodox Church

From Wikipedia:

russort4The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC; Russian: Русская Православная Церковь, tr. Russkaya Pravoslavnaya Tserkov), alternatively legally known as the Moscow Patriarchate (Russian: Московский Патриархат, Moskovskiy Patriarkhat), also known in English as the Orthodox Christian Church of Russia, is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches, in full communion with other Eastern Orthodox patriarchates. The Primate of the ROC is the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’. The ROC currently claims its exclusive jurisdiction over the Orthodox Christians, irrespective of their ethnic background, who reside in the former member republics of the USSR, excluding Georgia and Armenia, although this claim is disputed in such countries as Estonia and Moldova and consequently parallel canonical Orthodox jurisdictions exist in those: Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church and Metropolis of Bessarabia, respectively. It also exercises ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the autonomous Church of Japan and the Orthodox Christians resident in the People’s Republic of China. The ROC branches in Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Moldova and Ukraine since the 1990s enjoy various degrees of self-government, albeit short of the status of formal ecclesiastical autonomy. In Ukraine, ROC (represented by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church) has tensions with schismatic groups supported by the current government, while it enjoys the position of numerically dominant religious organisation.


russort11The Kievan period
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. According to one of the legends, Andrew reached the future location of Kiev and foretold the foundation of a great Christian city. The spot where he reportedly erected a cross is now marked by St. Andrew’s Cathedral. By the end of the first millennium AD, eastern Slavic lands started to come under the cultural influence of the Eastern Roman Empire. In 863–69, the Byzantine Greek monks Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, both from Greek Macedonia, translated parts of the Bible into Old Church Slavonic language for the first time, paving the way for the Christianization of the Slavs and Slavicized peoples of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Southern Russia. There is evidence that the first Christian bishop was sent to Novgorod from Constantinople either by Patriarch Photius or Patriarch Ignatios, circa 866–67 AD. By the mid-10th century, there was already a Christian community among Kievan nobility, under the leadership of Byzantine Greek priests, although paganism remained the dominant religion. Princess Olga of Kiev was the first ruler of Kievan Rus to convert to Christianity, either in 945 or 957. Her grandson, Vladimir the Great, made Kievan Rus’ a Christian state. As a result of the Christianization of Kievan Rus’ in 988, Prince Vladimir I of Kiev officially adopted Byzantine Greek Rite Christianity — the religion of the Eastern Roman Empire — as the state religion of Kievan Rus’. This date is often considered the official birthday of the Russian Orthodox Church. Thus, in 1988, the Church celebrated its millennial anniversary. It therefore traces its apostolic succession through the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Kievan church was a junior metropolitanate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Ecumenical patriarch appointed the metropolitan, who usually was a Greek, who governed the Church of Rus’. The Metropolitan’s residence was originally located in Kiev itself, the capital of the medieval Russian state.

russ5Transfer of the see to Moscow. De facto independence of the Moscow Church
As Kiev was losing its political, cultural, and economical significance due to the Mongol invasion, Metropolitan Maximus moved to Vladimir in 1299; his successor, Metropolitan Peter moved the residence to Moscow in 1325.
Following the tribulations of the Mongol invasion, the Russian Church was pivotal in the survival and life of the Russian state. Despite the politically motivated murders of Mikhail of Chernigov and Mikhail of Tver, the Mongols were generally tolerant and even granted tax exemption to the Church. Such holy figures as Sergius of Radonezh and Metropolitan Alexis helped the country to withstand years of Tatar oppression, and to expand both economically and spiritually. The Trinity monastery founded by Sergius of Radonezh became the setting for the flourishing of spiritual art, exemplified by the work of Andrey Rublev, among others. The followers of Sergius founded four hundred monasteries, thus greatly extending the geographical extent of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. In 1439, at the Council of Florence, some Orthodox hierarchs from Byzantium as well as Metropolitan Isidore, who represented the Russian Church, signed a union with the Roman Church, whereby the Eastern Church would recognise the primacy of the Pope. However, the Moscow Prince Vasili II rejected the act of the Council of Florence brought to Moscow by Isidore in March 1441. Isidore was in the same year removed from his position as an apostate and expelled from Moscow. The Russian metropolitanate remained effectively vacant for the next few years due largely to the dominance of Uniates in Constantinople then. In December 1448, Jonas, a Russian bishop, was installed by the Council of Russian bishops in Moscow as Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia (with permanent residence in Moscow) without the consent from Constantinople. This occurred five years prior to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and, unintentionally, signified the beginning of an effectively independent church structure in the Moscow (North-Eastern Russian) part of the Russian Church. Subsequently, there developed a theory in Moscow that saw Moscow as the Third Rome, the legitimate successor to Constantinople, and the Primate of the Moscow Church as head of all the Russian Church. Meanwhile, the newly established in 1458 Russian Orthodox (initially Uniate) metropolitanate in Kiev (then in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and subsequently in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth) continued under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical See until 1686, when it was transferred to the jurisdiction of Moscow. The reign of Ivan III and his successor was plagued by a number of heresies and controversies. One party, led by Nil Sorsky and Vassian Kosoy, called for the secularisation of monastic properties. They were opposed by the influential Joseph of Volotsk, who defended ecclesiastical ownership of land and property. The sovereign’s position fluctuated, but eventually he threw his support to Joseph. New sects sprang up, some of which showed a tendency to revert to Mosaic law: for instance, the archpriest Aleksei converted to Judaism after meeting a certain Zechariah the Jew. In the 1540s, Metropolitan Macarius codified Russian hagiography and convened a number of church synods, which culminated in the Hundred Chapter Council of 1551. This Council unified church ceremonies and duties throughout the Moscow Church. At the demand of the church hierarchy, the government lost its jurisdiction over ecclesiastics. Reinforced by these reforms, the Moscow Church felt powerful enough to occasionally challenge the policies of the tsar. Metropolitan Philip, in particular, decried the abuses of Ivan the Terrible, who eventually engineered his deposition and murder.

Autocephaly and schism

russort9During the reign of Tsar Fyodor I his brother-in-law Boris Godunov contacted the Ecumenical Patriarch, who “was much embarrassed for want of funds,” with a view to establishing a patriarchal see in Moscow. As a result of Godunov’s efforts, Metropolitan Job of Moscow became in 1589 the first Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus’, making the Russian Church autocephalous. The four other patriarchs have recognized the Moscow Patriarchate as one of the five honourable Patriarchates. During the next half a century, when the tsardom was weak, the patriarchs (notably Hermogenes and Philaret) would help run the state along with (and sometimes instead of) the tsars. At the urging of the Zealots of Piety, in 1652 Patriarch Nikon resolved to centralize power that had been distributed locally, while conforming Russian Orthodox rites and rituals to those of the Greek Orthodox Church, as interpreted by pundits from the Kiev Ecclesiastical Academy. For instance he insisted that Russian Christians cross themselves with three fingers, rather than the then-traditional two. This aroused antipathy among a substantial section of believers, who saw the changed rites as heresy, although the extent to which these changes can be regarded as minor or major ritual significance remains open to debate. After the implementation of these innovations at the church council of 1666–1667, the Church anathematized and suppressed those who acted contrary to them with the support of Muscovite state power. These traditionalists became known as “Old Believers” or “Old Ritualists”. Although Nikon’s far-flung ambitions of steering the country to a theocratic form of government precipitated his defrocking and exile, Tsar Aleksey deemed it reasonable to uphold many of his innovations. During the Schism of the Russian Church, the Old Ritualists were separated from the main body of the Orthodox Church. Archpriest Avvakum Petrov and many other opponents of the church reforms were burned at the stake, either forcibly or voluntarily. Another prominent figure within the Old Ritualists’ movement, Boyarynya Morozova, was starved to death in 1675. Others escaped from the government persecutions to Siberia and other inhospitable lands, where they would live in semi-seclusion until modern times.

Peter the First

With the ascension of Emperor Peter the Great to the throne of Russia (1682–1725), with his radical modernization of Russian government, army, dress and manners, Russia became a formidable political power.
In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the Russian Orthodox Church experienced a vast geographic expansion. In the following two centuries, missionary efforts stretched out across Siberia into Alaska, then into California, which would become part of the United States. Eminent people on that missionary effort included St. Innocent of Irkutsk and St. Herman of Alaska. In emulation of Stephen of Perm, they learned local languages and translated gospels and hymns. Sometimes those translations required the invention of new systems of transcription. In the aftermath of the Treaty of Pereyaslav, the Ottomans (supposedly acting on behalf of the Russian regent Sophia Alekseyevna) pressured the Patriarch of Constantinople into transferring the Metropoly of Kiev from the jurisdiction of Constantinople to that of Moscow. The controversial transfer brought millions of faithful and half a dozen dioceses under the pastoral and administrative care of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’, leading to the significant Ukrainian domination of the Russian Orthodox Church, which continued well into the 18th century, with Theophanes Prokopovich, Epiphanius Slavinetsky, Stephen Yavorsky and Demetrius of Rostov being among the most notable representatives of this trend. In 1700, after Patriarch Adrian’s death, Peter the Great prevented a successor from being named, and in 1721, following the advice of Feofan Prokopovich, Archbishop of Pskov, the Holy and Supreme Synod was established under Archbishop Stephen Yavorsky to govern the church instead of a single primate. This was the situation until shortly after the Russian Revolution of 1917, at which time the Local Council (more than half of its members being lay persons) adopted the decision to restore the Patriarchy. On November 5 (according to the Julian calendar) a new patriarch, Tikhon, was named through casting lots. The late 18th century saw the rise of starchestvo under Paisiy Velichkovsky and his disciples at the Optina Monastery. This marked a beginning of a significant spiritual revival in the Russian Church after a lengthy period of modernization, personified by such figures as Demetrius of Rostov and Platon of Moscow. Aleksey Khomyakov, Ivan Kireevsky and other lay theologians with Slavophile leanings elaborated some key concepts of the renovated Orthodox doctrine, including that of sobornost. The resurgence of Eastern Orthodoxy was reflected in Russian literature, an example is the figure of Starets Zosima in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov.

Fin-de-siècle religious renaissance

During the final decades of the imperial order in Russia many educated Russians sought to return to the church and tried to bring their faith back to life. No less evident were non-conformist paths of spiritual searching known as “God-Seeking”. Writers, artists and intellectuals in large numbers were drawn to private prayer, mysticism, spiritualism, theosophy and Eastern religions. A fascination with primitive feeling, with the unconscious and the mythic was apparent, along with visions of coming catastrophes and redemption. In 1909, a volume of essays appeared under the title Vekhi (“Milestones” or “Landmarks”), authored by a group of leading left-wing intellectuals, including Sergei Bulgakov, Peter Struve and former Marxists. They bluntly repudiated the materialism and atheism that had dominated the thought of the intelligentsia for generations as leading inevitably to failure and moral disaster. The essays created a sensation. It is possible to see a similarly renewed vigor and variety in religious life and spirituality among the lower classes, especially after the upheavals of 1905. Among the peasantry there was widespread interest in spiritual-ethical literature and non-conformist moral-spiritual movements, an upsurge in pilgrimage and other devotions to sacred spaces and objects (especially icons), persistent beliefs in the presence and power of the supernatural (apparitions, possession, walking-dead, demons, spirits, miracles and magic), the renewed vitality of local “ecclesial communities” actively shaping their own ritual and spiritual lives, sometimes in the absence of clergy, and defining their own sacred places and forms of piety. Also apparent was the proliferation of what the Orthodox establishment branded as “sectarianism”, including both non-Orthodox Christian denominations, notably Baptists, and various forms of popular Orthodoxy and mysticism


russ12In 1914 there were 55,173 Russian Orthodox churches and 29,593 chapels, 112,629 priests and deacons, 550 monasteries and 475 convents with a total of 95,259 monks and nuns in Russia.The year 1917 was a major turning point in Russian history, and also the Russian Orthodox Church. The Russian empire was dissolved and the Tsarist government – which had granted the Church numerous privileges – was overthrown. After a few months of political turmoil, the Bolsheviks took power in October 1917 and declared a separation of church and state. 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 from “religious and anti-religious propaganda”. This led to a marked decline in the power and influence of the Church. The Church was also caught in the crossfire of the Russian Civil War that began later the same year, and many leaders of the Church supported what would ultimately turn out to be the losing side (the White movement). The Russian Orthodox Church supported the White Army in the Russian Civil War (see White movement) after the October Revolution. This may have further strengthened the Bolshevik antipathy against the church. Actually as early as 1905, Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik party, berated religion in Novaya Zhizn in 1905 “… Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze, in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man…” Even before the end of the civil war and the establishment of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church came under pressure from the secular Communist government. The Soviet government stood on a platform of antireligion, viewing the church as a “counter-revolutionary” organization and an independent voice with a great influence in society. While the Soviet Union officially claimed religious tolerance, in practice the government discouraged organized religion and did much to remove religious influence from Soviet society.

russort8Lenin era
After the October Revolution of November 7, 1917, the officially proclaimed objective of the Soviet Union was to unite all of the people of the world in a Communist state free of “capitalist exploitation” (see Communist International). With such a view of the world any ethnic heritage closely tied to traditional religion and its clergy was targeted by Soviet authorities. The Soviet Union was the first state to have elimination of religion as an ideological objective. Toward that end, the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in schools. Actions toward particular religions, however, were determined by State interests, and most organized religions were never outlawed. It is alleged that Orthodox priests and believers were variously tortured and sent to prison camps, labour camps or mental hospitals. Many Orthodox (along with people of other faiths) were also subjected to psychological punishment or torture and mind control experimentation in order to force them give up their religious convictions. Thousands of churches and monasteries were taken over by the government and either destroyed or converted to secular use. It was impossible to build new churches. Practising Orthodox Christians were restricted from prominent careers and membership in communist organizations (the party, the Komsomol). Anti-religious propaganda was openly sponsored and encouraged by the government, which the Church was not given an opportunity to publicly respond to. The government youth organization, the Komsomol, encouraged its members to vandalize Orthodox churches and harass worshippers. Seminaries were closed down, and the church was restricted from using the press. The history of Orthodoxy (and other religions) under Communism was not limited to this story of repression and secularization. Bolshevik policies toward religious belief and practice tended to vacillate over time between, on the one hand, a utopian determination to substitute secular rationalism for what they considered to be an unmodern, “superstitious” worldview and, on the other, pragmatic acceptance of the tenaciousness of religious faith and institutions. In any case, religious beliefs and practices did persist, not only in the domestic and private spheres but also in the scattered public spaces allowed by a state that recognized its failure to eradicate religion and the political dangers of an unrelenting culture war. In August 1917, following the collapse of the tsarist government, a council of the Russian Orthodox church reestablished the patriarchate and elected the metropolitan Tikhon, the former Metropolitan of All America and Canada, as patriarch. But the new Soviet government soon declared the separation of church and state and also nationalized all church-held lands. These administrative measures were followed by brutal state-sanctioned persecutions that included the wholesale destruction of churches, as well as the arrest and execution of many clerics. 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 (also see the Josephites and the Russian True Orthodox Church), restored a Holy Synod to power, and brought division among clergy and faithful.
In the first five years after the Bolshevik revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were executed

russort113Nach dem Moskauer Konzil vom Jahre 2000, auf dem auch die Heiligsprechung von Neumärtyrern, die zum offiziellen Moskauer Patriarchat in Opposition standen, stattfand sowie in der „Sozialdoktrin“ die Positionen der „Loyalitätserklärung“ (1927) faktisch desavouiert worden waren, unternahmen beide Seiten erneut Schritte zur Annäherung. Zunächst durch zwei historische Konferenzen (2001 in Szentendre/Ungarn, und 2002 in Moskau). 2004 kam es zur Einsetzung von Dialog-Kommissionen, deren Arbeit von den Konzilien beider Teile der Russischen Kirche angenommen wurden, so dass im „Akt der kanonischen Gemeinschaft“ die durch die Sowjetzeit bedingte Trennung am 17. Mai 2007 in der Moskauer Christ-Erlöser-Kathedrale, in Gegenwart des New Yorker Metropoliten Laurus (Lawr, Laurus Schkurla) und des Patriarchen Alexius II. und im Beisein von Russlands Präsident Wladimir Putin, offiziell für beendet erklärt wurde.


russort7Das Landeskonzil von 1991 wählte Alexius II. zum Patriarchen der russischen orthodoxen Kirche. Nach dessen Tod am 5. Dezember 2008 wurde Metropolit Kyrill von Smolensk und Kaliningrad am 6. Dezember 2008 als übergangsweiser Statthalter („locum tenens“) des Patriarchenamtes für eine Amtszeit von maximal sechs Monaten gewählt. Am 27. Januar 2009 wurde Kyrill von Smolensk und Kaliningrad zum neuen Patriarchen der russischen orthodoxen Kirche gewählt. Seit dem Niedergang der Sowjetunion erlebt die Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirche eine Renaissance. Heute hat sie wieder etwa 100 Millionen Mitglieder und hat mit dem Wiederaufbau und Neubau mehrerer großer Kathedralen begonnen. Hierzu gehört beispielsweise die Kaliningrader Christ-Erlöser-Kathedrale. Eines der bekanntesten russisch-orthodoxen Klöster ist das seit 1993 als Weltkulturerbe ausgezeichnete Dreifaltigkeitskloster von Sergijew Possad. Zur Russisch-Orthodoxen Kirche gehören als abhängige Teilkirchen die Weißrussisch-Orthodoxe Kirche, Moldauisch-Orthodoxe Kirche, die autonome Ukrainisch-Orthodoxe Kirche und die ebenfalls autonome orthodoxe Kirche in Japan. Die orthodoxe Kirche in Amerika wurde 1970 in die volle Unabhängigkeit entlassen.


russort133Seit 2006 ist der Religionsunterricht in russischen Schulen wieder eingeführt. Die Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirche plädiert auch für eine Stärkung des russischen Staates und eine Entwicklung von nationalen geistigen Werten. Die bedeutendsten Bildungseinrichtungen der Russisch-Orthodoxen Kirche sind die Moskauer Geistliche Akademie, die Geistliche Akademie Sankt Petersburg sowie die 1990 gegründete Orthodoxe Universität „Hl. Johannes der Theologe“ in Moskau. Daneben existieren das Orthodoxe Seminar St. Tichon, die Orthodoxe Universität Wolgograd, die Höhere Theologische Schule St. Philaret und die Theologische Fakultät Minsk.

Rückgabe von Kircheneigentum

Im November 2010 verabschiedet die russische Duma ein Gesetz zur Rückgabe von 1917 enteignetem Kircheneigentum. Dieses Gesetz sorgte insbesondere in der Oblast Kaliningrad, die 1917 nicht zu Russland gehörte und wo die Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirche keinen Besitz hatte, für Diskussionen, da dort ehemals von evangelisch-lutherischen oder römisch-katholischen Gemeinden genutzte Besitztümer an die orthodoxe Kirche fielen. Dies wurde damit begründet, dass die genannten Glaubensrichtungen im Gegensatz zur orthodoxen Kirche heute nicht mehr in großem Maße in dieser Region präsent seien.

Außerhalb Russlands

russort3Das kulturelle Leben Wiens war einst auch von russischen Einflüssen geprägt: Es befindet sich hier die größte russisch-orthodoxe Kirche Mitteleuropas. Die deutsche Eparchie der Kirche befindet sich heute in Berlin, in dessen Umgebung auch die meisten Gläubigen zu finden sind. Der Berliner Diözesesteht Erzbischof Feofan (Galinski) vor. Die Berliner Diözese wurde 1992 aus den vormals drei in Deutschland bestehenden Diözesen des Moskauer Patriarchats gegründet. Die Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirche des Moskauer Patriarchats ist in Deutschland als Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts anerkannt. In Österreich ist sie eine „staatlich anerkannte Religionsgemeinschaft“.


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  • Erzpriester Michail Pomazanskij “Orthodoxe Dogmatische Theologie” ISBN 3-926165-96-0, 360 Seiten, zu beziehen vom Kloster des Hl. Hiob von Pocaev in 81247 München, Hofbauernstr. 26, E-Mail:
  • “Die Russisch Orthodoxe Kirche im Ausland unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der deutschen Diözese”

190 Seiten sowie

  • “Verantwortung in der Diaspora. Die Russische Orthodoxe Kirche im Ausland”

369 Seiten, beide v. Kloster des Hl. Hiob von Pocaev in 81247 München

Text aus: Wikipedia, Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirche