Russia, The Catholic Church in
RUSSIA, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
The largest country in the world, the Russian Federation is located in eastern Europe, and straddles the Ural mountains west into northern Asia. It is bordered on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Sea, on the south by China, Mongolia, Kazakstan, North Korea, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Black Sea, and on the west by Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Norway. The Kurli islands are also part of the region. Composed of 21 republics, the region has a diverse landscape, ranging from southern steppes to arctic tundra in the frozen northeast. Natural resources include petroleum and natural gas deposits, coal and other minerals, although the forbidding landscape and great distance prevented exploitation of many of these. Agricultural production, also limited by the lack of proper climate, included grain, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, fruits, vegetables and livestock and dairy farming. Much of Sibera is covered in permafrost. Several boundary disputes were ongoing into 2001.
The leader of a massive empire stretching over much of eastern Europe and northern Asia by 1900, Russia's defeat in World War I led to the fall of the czar and the rise of a communist government under Vladimir Lenin. In 1922 the USSR was formed, its constituent republics ruled over by a series of repressive regimes through the mid-1980s, after which a more open atmosphere fostered by Mikhail Gorbachev led to the demise of the communist union. In its decreased sphere of influence, the newly formed Russian Federation struggled to create a stable government, a viable market economy and a secure socio-cultural environment to replace the controlled communist system, while continuing to battle ethnic division into the 21st century.
Religious affiliation in Russia was traditionally linked with ethnic origin. All three branches of the East Slavic people—Great Russians, Ukrainians and Byelorussians—belonged mostly to the Russian Orthodox Church, although various other Orthodox denominations and the schismatic Old Believers retained a strong following. The Russian Orthodox Church also encompassed many Finno-Ugric groups such as the Komi, Mordvins, Mari and Udmurts or Turkic Chuvash, which were scattered throughout the northern and eastern parts of European Russia. After World War II the Soviet Union extended its boundaries to such areas as western Ukraine, comprising Galicia and the Transcarpathian oblast, that were inhabited by Catholics of the Eastern rite.
Eastern Slavs to 1917
Christianity of the Kievan Rus. The East Slavic tribes, which settled along the great waterway from the Baltic to the Black Sea, were welded into one political body by the Norsemen or Vikings. These adventurers, under the leadership of the semi-legendary Rurik, established themselves first in Novgorod; and then in the second half of the 9th century extended their control to Kiev on the lower Dnieper. They were called by the Finns Ruotsi, by the Slavs Rus, which became the name for the land they occupied, and for the people originating from the integration of foreign warriors with native settlers. The intervention of the Vikings or Varagians put the Slavs in contact with the byzantine empire and northern Europe, and prevented them from falling under the spell of Islamic culture, as happened to the Volga Bulgarians and to some groups of the Khazars.
The first mention of Christianity in Kievan Rus dates from 867, when Patriarch photius reported that the barbarian Rhos had received a bishop and a priest. A century later the Grand Princess Olga was baptized, probably during her visit to Constantinople in 957. Under her son Sviatoslav a pagan reaction followed, but her grandson St. vladimir (979–1015) made Christianity the state religion, ordering the baptism of his retinue and people in 989. Church Slavonic became the vehicle of Christian culture and the liturgical language, facilitating the assimilation of foreign warriors to the Slavs, and creating a certain aloofness from Byzantium, a result welcome to Vladimir. Credit for the spread of Christianity is due to the missionaries from Bulgaria, where the work of Saints cyril and Methodius bore late fruit, and from Bohemia, which also transmitted to the Russian neophytes the veneration of the Czech national saints, Wenceslaus, Ludmila and Adalbert of Prague. Latin Christianity was well received also in Rus, and several Western canonical customs entered Russian ecclesiastical tradition. Missionary and cultural work was continued by the monasteries, some of which had been founded by princes after the Byzantine pattern, others by zealous ascetics. The most prominent of the second group was the monastery of the Caves near Kiev. The monasteries continued to profoundly influence the religious mentality of the faithful, and the monastic ethos remained a characteristic of Byzantine-Slav Christianity (see monasticism).
The clergy first became acquainted with byzantine literature of a religious type in translated form; but the disintegration of the Rus, the Mongol yoke and subsequent isolation hindered their access to all the treasures of classical antiquity. Byzantium was also less zealous in teaching its daughter churches than was Rome in educating the West. This cultural lag was evident until modern
times among the Eastern Slavs, whereas classical formation was a constituent element of Western civilization. Byzantium was, however, very eager to control the Russian Church organization. The first known metropolitan of Kiev, Theopempt (1039), was a Greek, like most of his successors. All the metropolitans were confirmed and consecrated in Constantinople until mid-15th century (see constantinople, ecumenical patriarchate of).
Kievan civilization reached its peak in the time of Yaroslav the Wise (1019–54). Desiring to make Kiev an imperial city, he constructed a church dedicated to the Divine Wisdom, founded schools, gathered a group of translators and drew up a collection of laws, known as Russian law, in which old Slavonic customs were ennobled by Christian principles.
Kievan Christians were in union with the universal Church even after the break between Rome and Byzantium in 1054. In 1075 Prince Iziaslav, looking for help against his rivals, successfully approached Pope GregoryVII. But estrangement from the West was growing. The people of Rus did not take part in the Crusades or other common enterprises of Medieval Latin Europe. Marriages among ruling families of the West and of Russia (Rurikides) became rare. Greek prelates taught Russians to distrust Latins. It was mainly Greek influence that drove the Rus out of the Christian Western commonwealth. But the West also was responsible for this estrangement. Alexander, Prince of Novgorod and, after 1252, also Prince of Vladimir on the Kliazma River, had to repulse Swedish invaders at the Neva River (1240). In 1242 he defeated the teutonic knights, who had established themselves in 1202 at the mouth of the Dvina for missionary work, and had made inroads into Slavic principalities. Victory over the Latins was made possible by Alexander's loyalty to the Mongol khans (see mongols). By this time the turn toward the East and refusal to cooperate with the West was complete, though only the rejection of the Council of florence in 1441 constituted the explicit juridical act of separation (see eastern schism; eastern churches).
Kiev Metropolitanate to 1450. The metropolitan of Kiev was the sole unifying agent amid the numerous principalities extending from Galicia in the west, northeast to the Upper Volga and Oka Rivers. Kiev kept losing prestige after the reign of Vladimir Monomakh (1113–25), and was destroyed by the Mongols in 1240. New local centers of gravitation came into existence: Halicz, Novgorod, Vladimir, later Moscow and Lithuania.
Halicz preserved Kiev's best traditions. Prince Daniel (1240–64), hoping to free his territories from Mongol control, promised obedience to the Holy See, and was crowned King by the papal legate at Dorohychyn (c. 1254). But negotiations between Rome and Halicz brought no tangible results. Attempts in 1303 and 1370 by the rulers of Halicz to form an independent metropolitan area brought only temporary success.
Novgorod, the most important city after Kiev, defended its democratic freedom stubbornly until its occupation by Moscow in 1478. It was a commercial city with a large hinterland, open to Western trade and ideas. Its bishops (after 1165, archbishops) enjoyed great authority even in purely political matters.
Rise of Moscow. In northern Russia moscow was rising to power. Though it was only a small principality when it became the heritage of Daniel (1263–1303), youngest son of Alexander Nevsky, it grew stronger thanks to its geographical position, the consistent policy of its princes, the favor of the khans, and, significantly, the support of the Church. Metropolitan Maximus (1283–1305), without consulting the patriarch, left the devastated regions of the south and withdrew to the northeast. His successor Peter (1308–26) was from Volyn, but dwelt often in Moscow and died there. Theognost (1328–53), a Greek, lived in Moscow from the beginning of his office and excommunicated an enemy of that city, Alexander of Tver, and the city of Pskov that had given him hospitality. Alexis was even more zealous for the prestige of the upstart principality. He bestowed the Church's blessings and applied its sanctions to this purpose, and even identified Church policy with Moscow's power. Earlier, in 1274, Cyril II had summoned a synod of bishops to Vladimir on Kliazma in an attempt to consolidate the Church after the first 30 years of Tatar domination. Even then something new, independent of the rest of Christendom, was taking root: the merging of religious ideas with national traditions, producing a strictly ecclesiastical culture with an isolationist spirit that distrusted both the West and "Hellenistic wisdom." Byzantium nevertheless interfered effectively in the Church organization, mostly in favor of Moscow.
The 14th century was an era of ascetics for northern Russia, with a "new Thebaid" arising in its forests. Of all the monastic institutions that were centers of colonization and Christianization among the Finnish tribes, the most renowned was the Trinity monastery near Moscow founded by St. Sergius of Radonezh (d. 1392). The saint blessed Prince Dimitri before his battle with the Tatars at Kulikovo Pole (1380); where the reputedly invincible Mongols met defeat, although their domination persisted. The Mongol yoke was less burdensome for the clergy than for other classes, because the khans granted the Church privileges, especially freedom from taxes.
Lithuania. Although Moscow, home of the metropolitan of Kiev, became the spiritual heir of the ancient Rus, the Lithuanian princes in the 14th century inherited the political power of St. Vladimir. The marriage of the Lithuanian Jagailo with the Polish Queen Hedwig (1386) resulted in personal union with Poland, and the conversion of the Lithuanians to Latin Catholicism. This accentuated the estrangement of Lithuanian Slavs (almost ninetenths of the inhabitants of the principality) from the other East Slavic populace, and directed Lithuania's policy Westward. The repeated attempt of Lithuanian princes to set up an independent metropolitan area for their Slavic territories, gained only temporary success because of opposition from Moscow and Constantinople. In 1436 the Patriarch of Constantinople Joseph II appointed isidore of kiev, a Greek humanist favorable to the union, as metropolitan for the East Slavic metropolis. After the Council of Florence, Isidore found ready acceptance of union with Rome among the East Slavic population of Poland and Lithuania; but Basil II, the Great Prince of Moscow, rejected the union decreed at Florence and Isidore had to flee. In 1448 the Great Prince convoked a synod of Muscovite bishops. Ignoring the patriarch, he let the prelates elect as metropolitan the bishop of Riazan, Jonas, who was able to extend his jurisdiction to Lithuania by express consent of King Casimir (1451), and later even to Polish Halicz. In 1458 Pius II appointed Gregory, a friend of Isidore, metropolitan of the southern and western Russian territories that were controlled by the Polish King. The new metropolitan was accepted. Then in 1459 a synod of the Muscovite bishops declared Jonas and his successors legitimate metropolitans of Kiev and Russia, subject only to the approval of the Great Prince. Jonas was able to control also Tver and Novgorod. Thus was consummated the independence of the Muscovite Church from Byzantium,
the final break from Rome, and the division of the Slavic Church of Eastern Europe into two metropolitan areas, Kiev and Moscow. Theodosius (1461–65), successor of Jonas, was the first to call himself metropolitan of Moscow.
Kiev Province, 1450–1805. After the death in 1362 of Romanos, metropolitan of western Russia, the bishoprics in Little Russia and Galicia returned to the jurisdiction of the Kiev metropolitan. Kiev remained part of Lithuania until 1569. During this interval Halicz was created a metropolitan see, with Cholm, Turov, Przemyśl and Vladimir, former suffragans to Kiev, as its suffragans. Novgorod and Lithuania stayed under the Kiev metropolis. Kiev metropolitans remained often in union with Rome after Isidore's efforts. Thus Gregory remained loyal to Rome until death (1472), but he was recognized also by the patriarch of Constantinople. Some of his successors during the next four decades were eager to remain in communion with Rome, although officially they depended on the patriarch of Constantinople. After 1517 there followed a series of Kiev metropolitans who renounced the union of Florence.
The Ruthenians (modern Ukrainians or Belarussians) living in Poland and Lithuania underwent a religious crisis in the 16th century. Unable to withstand the
onslaught of the Protestant reformation, many Ruthenian nobles passed to calvinism. Dissident confraternities of gentry and burghers, particularly in lvov and vilna, set up schools. The Academy of Ostrog, established by the magnate Constantine Ostrozhski (d. 1608), provided higher education. The first complete Slavonic printed Bible was published in Ostrog (1581). But after 1555 the vigorous counter reformation, led by the je suits, strongly affected even dissident Ruthenians. The political union of Lublin (1569), welding the Polish and Lithuanian political units into one organism paved the way for a religious rapprochement. Ruthenian bishops hoped to regenerate their Church by renewing the union of Florence. Their representatives, the bishop of Vladimir, Hypatius Pociei, and the bishop of Lutsk, Cyril Terletski, went to Rome, where the whole ecclesiastical province of Kiev was received into the Catholic Church by Clement VIII (Dec. 23, 1595). The union was proclaimed at brest in 1596, but some of the clergy and laity opposed it.
Succeeding the first reconciled metropolitan, Michael Ragosa, was the able, energetic Hypatius Pociei (1600–13), born of the high nobility and steeped in Eastern tradition. His successor, Velamyn Rutski (1614–37), tried with slight success to establish Ruthenian schools. Ruthenian nobles attended Jesuit colleges and usually adopted the Latin rite, to the great detriment of the recently reconciled Church. Even the clergy had no seminaries of their own. The basilians (byzantine), reorganized by Rutski along Western lines, and a few of the diocesan clergy received their theological training in Olomouc, Prague, or Rome, far away from their people and their Eastern traditions. The situation of Ruthenian Catholicism deteriorated in 1620, when the patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophanes, under Cossack protection, reestablished the dissident Ruthenian hierarchy under a new metropolitan of Kiev, Job Boretski (1620–33), dependent on the patriarch of Constantinople. The attempts of the newly consecrated metropolitan to wrest bishoprics from legitimate Catholic prelates led to deplorable events. King Vladyslav's constitution of 1632 legally restored the dissident Church.
Catholic Ruthenians were harassed by their schismatic countrymen as traitors, yet received no help from Latin Catholics. Some Polish bishops behaved in an over-bearing manner toward their Eastern brethren. Ruthenian prelates were excluded from the ecclesiastical class of the kingdom and consequently never obtained seats in the senate. The union was in danger of being completely destroyed during the uprising of Bogdan Khmelnitsky and the prolonged Cossack and Swedish wars. Thanks to the Ruthenian bishops and the Basilian monks, it survived and prospered during the reigns of Koribut Wiśniowetski (1669–73) and John Sobieski (1674–96). The Peace of Andrusovo (1667) ceded the whole eastern bank of the Dnieper to the Russian czar. The loss of this radically anti-Catholic territory brought some relief to Ruthenian Catholicism, which experienced a renaissance c. 1700, when the last three dissident ordinaries joined the Catholic Church.
Despite its numerical strength, the Eastern Catholic Church was too weak to create an autonomous Catholic Byzantine-Slavonic culture. Latin elements infiltrated its ecclesiastical life. The legislation of the Synod of Zamość (1720) was inspired by the Council of trent, not by traditional Eastern canonical norms or by the bull of Clement VIII approving the Byzantine-Slavonic rite and customs. Dissident Ruthenians profited from contact with Catholic Counter Reformation thought. This was due mainly to the outstanding metropolitan of Kiev, Peter Mogila (1633–47), who remodeled the school of Kiev on the pattern of a Jesuit college and drew abundantly from Western tradition for his theological writings and liturgical editions. The Orthodox metropolitan of Kiev lost his independence in 1685 when the patriarch of Moscow, without recourse to Constantinople, appointed Gedeon Chetvertinski metropolitan of Kiev, but complete assimilation to the Muscovite Church was achieved only later. The Catholic metropolitan of Kiev resided usually in Novogrudek in Lithuania. After the division of Poland, the greater part of his ecclesiastical province was incorporated into Russia. With the death of Theodosius Rostotski (1805), the last Catholic metropolitan of Kiev disappeared.
Moscow, 1450–1700. The territory of Moscow as a metropolitanate and, after 1589, a patriarchate, was coextensive with the area controlled politically by Moscow's ruler. White Russia, Galicia and the city of Kiev belonged to Lithuania until 1569, and from then until 1680 to Poland. As colonization moved northward and eastward into Siberia, new dioceses suffragan to Moscow were created. When in 1685 the dissident metropolitan of Kiev lost his influence to the Moscow patriarch, the latter could claim all the territories inhabited by the Ruthenians.
The Third Rome. The Muscovite ruler was, in the eyes of his subjects, the savior of Orthodoxy, but the metropolitan attending the Council of Florence was considered its betrayer. Byzantium was said to have been punished in 1453 for its apostasy to Rome. Ivan III (1462–1505), by his marriage with Zoe (Sophia), niece of the last Byzantine emperor, inherited Byzantium's mission. He was successful in "reassembling the Russian lands," acquiring Tver in 1485 and crushing Novgorod in 1478. At the same time the last traces of Tatar sovereignty over Moscow disappeared. This development encouraged Metropolitan Zosima (1490–94) to proclaim Ivan III "the sovereign and autocrat of all Russia, new Tsar Constantine of the new city Constantinople-Moscow." To this reappraisal in the apocalyptic setting of the time, Philofei, monk of St. Eleazar monastery in Pskov, gave a classical formulation, when he declared that the first Rome became the prey of heresy; the second fell into the hands of the infidels; but the third Rome, Moscow, remains; and that after the present Muscovite era, there will descend the eternal kingdom of Christ. Thus the lofty theory of Moscow as the Third Rome was the creation of clerical intellectuals. It did not ennoble the rule of the princes, which proved as ruthless as that of the former Tatar khans, but it did inspire in the masses a naïve conceit and obscurantist hatred of the Latin West.
Heresy. A Judaizing heresy appeared in Novgorod c. 1470; it contained Judaic elements, but was basically a penetration of humanistic rationalism and Renaissance astrology into Russian backwardness. To counteract the claimed Biblical basis for the new doctrines, Gennadius, Archbishop of Novgorod (1485–1504), and the Croatian Dominican, Benjamin, translated with the help of the Vulgate those parts of the Bible not yet available in Slavonic. Joseph, Abbot of Volokolamsk (d. 1515), called for stern measures against the heretics. Other monks, such as Nil Sorski (d. 1508), preferred persuasion to coercion. At the synod in 1504 the secular arm aligned with the Josephites to uproot the heresy.
Josephites. To attain the much-needed monastic reform, Nil Sorski and the Trans-Volga hermits urged the contemplative life in small semi-eremitical communities, free from involvement in ownership of villages and other worldly concerns. The Josephites believed the remedy lay in a strictly disciplined cenobitic life, with solemn liturgical services, strict obedience, and the retention of landed properties. They wished the monasteries to fulfill their social and ecclesiastical function insofar as was possible. The synod of 1503 supported the Josephites. Their ascendancy was complete by 1522, when the metropolitan see was given to one of them, Daniel. He in turn readily granted a divorce to Basil III, whose first wife was sterile. The Josephites had learned from the Byzantines to support the autocratic monarchy, and to cherish harmonious Church-State relations, merging both powers into one City of God. The end product of their efforts, however, was not a balanced "symphony," but an overriding State and a powerless Church.
Growing Importance. Metropolitan Macarius (1542–63), in the first part of the reign of Ivan IV, the Terrible (1533–84), consolidated the new ideology by his energetic reforms. He crowned the young Ivan and proclaimed him czar (1547). By collecting and revising annalistic and legendary records, he tried to assign to the God-chosen empire a unique place in salvation history. The synods of 1547 and 1549 canonized more than 40 saints. In 1551 a reform council published a collection of norms for ecclesiastical life in 100 chapters (Stoglav). The capture of the Tatar Kazan (1552) and the conquest of the Khanate of Astrakhan (1556) opened for the Church a new field of missionary activity, begun by the newly appointed archbishop of Kazan, Guri. A trend discernible for 150 years attained its goal in 1589, when the Russian government forced the visiting patriarch of Constantinople, Jeremiah II, to elevate Metropolitan Job of Moscow to the patriarchal dignity. The reorganized Muscovite Church now included four metropolitan sees: Novgorod, Kazan, Rostov and Krutitsy in the suburb of Moscow, but these were mere honorary titles, with no jurisdiction over the other sees.
Times of Troubles. The extinction of the Muscovite line of Rurikides and Ivan IV's cruelties prepared for the upheaval known as the "Times of Troubles" (1604–13), which started with the appearance on the Polish Muscovite border of a pretender who claimed to be Demetrius, son of Ivan IV, miraculously saved from death, and ended with the election of Michael Romanov as czar. Throughout these stormy years the Church showed itself to be the guardian of law and order. The only results of this unsuccessful attempt by Catholic Poland to gain control of all Eastern Europe were an awakening of the Russian national consciousness and an upsurge of anti-Catholicism. The restoration of order was due largely to Patriarch filaret
(1619–33), father of the czar, who had been forced by Boris Godunov to become a monk. As patriarch he shared with his son the title of "Grand Sovereign," thereby introducing a kind of dyarchy.
Raskolniks. Filaret resumed the work of editing prayer books, a work started by Maxim the Greek (d.1556) and completed by Patriarch nikon (1652–67). The reform of the liturgical customs and texts was patterned on contemporary Greek usage. The ritual-minded Muscovites saw in it a threat to the centuries-old preeminence of the Third Rome. Opposition, headed by the archpriest avvakum (d. 1682), was condemned by the Great Council of Russian bishops (1666–67), but brought about the schism of raskolniks (Old Believers).
Church-State Relations. The same Great Council, attended by two Greek patriarchs, solved an eight-year dispute between Czar Alexis I (1645–76) and Nikon by yielding to the czar and deposing the patriarch. This meant a declining role for the Church and amounted to setting up a new relationship between priesthood and kingship. The departure from traditional harmony was due to the subservience of the Greek patriarchs, and also to a new concept of the sovereign state, which entered Muscovy from the West. This secularizing and anticlerical spirit was evident in 1649, when the Code of Czar Alexis (Ulozhenie ) erected a central office for administering Church property. The decree on Church property was temporarily suspended, but was renewed by Peter the Great in 1701.
From the 1640s onward, Ukrainian scholars, educated at Mogila Academy in Kiev, exerted the preponderant influence on Russian intellectual life. Among the pioneers were Epiphanius Slavinetski (d. 1675), representative of Greek-Slavonic culture; Simeon of Polotsk (d.1680), familiar with Catholic theological thought; and his disciple Silvester Medvedev (d. 1691).
Synodal Period (1700–1917). peter i, the great (1682–1725) transformed the Muscovite state into the modern Russian Empire. In the process he secularized Russian culture and removed the Church from a leading position in the nation's life by subordinating it to the civil power. After Patriarch Adrian's death in 1700, Peter named as patriarchal vicar stefan, Bishop of Riazan (d.1722), a man educated in Kiev and conversant with Western Catholic thought. Church reorganization was arranged by Feofan prokopovich (d. 1736), who upheld a Lutheran concept of State-Church relations. The patriarchate was replaced in 1721 by the holy synod, a college of bishops and priests appointed by the government. It was subject to the czar, and direct control of it was entrusted to the chief procurator, a lay official. The aristocratic and governmental classes, much influenced by the French enlightenment, despised the Church. This secularization process continued under catherine ii (1762–96), who confiscated Church estates. The czarina regarded herself privately as "head of the Russian Church," a title that her son Paul I (1796–1801) officially adopted.
alexander i (1801–25) envisioned a syncretistic and universal Christianity, which he claimed to rule, but he did not release the Church from its captivity. The emperors from nicholas i (1825–55) to Nicholas II (1894–1917) strove to restore the Church-State harmony envisioned by the Josephites, but forgot that ecclesiastical freedom from state tyranny was a necessary preliminary. The destiny of Russian Christianity was no longer in the hands of the bishops, but in those of the chief procurators, the most influential of whom was pobe donostsev, who dominated Church-State affairs for 25 years after 1880. The tolerance edict of 1905 was, even for the Orthodox Church, a relief that aroused spirited interest in Church reform and in the reestablishment of the patriarchal dignity. It granted to all believers freedom of cult, but not practical religious rights.
Inner Life. A gap separated the laity from the clerical caste, made up of the cantors, deacons and priests, which together with its families numbered c. 500,000. Bishops were celibates recruited exclusively from the monks, and were considered primarily civil servants. They were transferred from one diocese to another at the chief procurator's whim, and often remained strangers to their flocks. The Westernized intelligentsia had no respect for the priesthood. To the upper class a priestly vocation was akin to degradation. The misery of the rural clergy was partly relieved in 1893 by the introduction of state stipends, although many did not receive them at all. The procurator's report in 1913 estimated membership in the Russian Orthodox Church at 98,534,000, but this total included many sectarians and Old Believers. There were also three metropolitans, 26 archbishops and 40 diocesan bishops. For other groups of clergy the 1914 statistics are incomplete, but those for 1908 listed 48,879 priests and 14,779 deacons. When Peter I died in 1725, Russia numbered perhaps 14 million people. Two centuries later, due to annexations and natural growth, the population was 12 times larger; the czarist empire was a multiracial and multiconfessional state, half of whose inhabitants belonged to the dominant Church. Pastoral work was greatly handicapped by the persistence of the Raskolniks. In the second half of the 18th century, a pseudoreligious revival spread among the masses, promoting the rise and spread of eccentric sects, such as the Khlysty, Skoptsy, doukhobors and Molokans. Estimates mention some 15 million Old Believers and sectarians before World War I.
The absorption of the Orthodox Church into the state machinery made her struggle with nihilism, materialism and Marxism very difficult. The Church was identified with absolute, oppressive autocracy. It did not denounce social injustices. Even the former custom of having the metropolitan intercede with the emperor (pechalovanie ) had ceased to exist. In the policy of the pragmatic Peter the Great, monasteries had no place, and he had reduced their number and transformed their buildings into homes for veterans. Yet during that same period a renaissance of monasticism began from within, started by Paisi Velichkovski (d. 1794). With the removal of restrictive measures in the 19th century, monasteries once again increased in number. In 1914 there were 550 monasteries with 21,330 monks, and 475 convents with 73,300 nuns.
Ecclesiastical Education and Scholarship. The synodal period witnessed the development of an ecclesiastical school system. In the 18th century the Church conquered its fear that education would nurture heresy; in the 19th century it tried to balance the old ways, rich in folklore and liturgy, with an intellectual grasp of Christian faith. Seminaries, established in Peter the Great's time, offered the equivalent of a high school course, with emphasis on religion. At first they adopted the curricula of Jesuit colleges, but from the mid-18th century they borrowed heavily from Protestant educational systems. Latin remained the medium for teaching in seminaries until the early 19th century.
Only in the 1840s did an indigenous Russian theology come into existence, with both a traditional approach, exemplified by Filaret Drozdov (d. 1867) and Macarius bulgakov (d. 1882), and an independent approach influenced by slavophilism. In 1914 the ecclesiastical academies at Moscow, Kiev, St. Petersburg and Kazan enrolled 995 students; and in addition 57 seminaries enrolled 22,734 seminarians. Students in these and other ecclesiastical schools were the children of the clergy, but only a minority of the graduates joined the ecclesiastical ranks. Although this school system had its merits, it estranged the clergy from an intelligentsia whose education was quite different from their own (see russian theology).
Mission Activity. Russia's expansion to central and eastern Asia intensified the Orthodox Church's activity. Missions among Muslims inside and outside Russia were organized in close cooperation with the government. Most successful was the Japanese mission, detached from political goals, organized by Nicholas Kasatkin (d. 1912, as archbishop). In preaching and liturgy, Russian missionaries adopted the vernacular, copying the famous 14th-century missionary to the Zyrians (today the Komi), St. Stephan of Perm.
Roman Catholic Church. Despite the aftermath of the Council of Florence, Rome kept trying to resume contacts with Muscovy to attain religious reunion, and to forge a political alliance against the Turks. It exchanged diplomatic representatives, and sent Antonio possevino, SJ, as papal intermediary between Ivan IV and King Stephan bÁthory of Poland in 1582. But the hopes placed in these efforts proved illusory, as did those placed in Demetrius I (Pseudo-Demetrius, d. 1606), who became a Catholic of the Latin rite.
Moscow long opposed the erection of a Catholic Church for aliens. It was the Austrian embassy that gained government permission to open a Catholic Chapel in Moscow in 1683. Peter the Great's 1702 manifesto inviting foreigners into the empire decreed freedom of religion for "all Christian sects," but forbade proselytism. With the dismemberment of Poland (1772, 1793, 1795) large bodies of Latin and Eastern Catholics became subjects of the Russian Empire, whereas Catholic Ruthenians of Galicia came under Austrian rule. Emperor Francis I of Austria obtained from the Holy See the erection of the ecclesiastical province of Halicz with its seat in Lvov (1807).
The Russian government also tolerated Catholics, but only Latins, and those in ethnic groups that traditionally belonged to Catholic nations. Eastern Catholics were considered schismatic Orthodox and consequently not tolerated. The annulment of their union with Rome occurred during the reign of Nicholas I, whose motto "Orthodoxy, Russianism, absolutism" opposed the existence of Catholic Belarussians and Ukrainians. The plan to conscript Eastern Catholics into the Orthodox Church was prepared by Joseph Semashko, a priest who, like most of his colleagues of both rites, was educated in the seminary at Vilna, where he imbibed the principles of gallican ism. Several legislative measures, and the death of the metropolitan-delegate Josaphat Bulhak (1817–38), a man devoted to the Holy See but too weak to offer resistance, brought about the final blow. In 1839 the Union of Brest was declared nonexistent, and the Eastern Catholics were subjected to the Holy Synod of Moscow. Opposition met harsh suppression, and was the more easily subdued because many Ruthenian nobles had passed in earlier centuries to the Latin rite, and had aligned themselves with Poland, leaving the common people without leaders. In 1825 Eastern Catholics in Russia had one metropolitan, five bishops, 1,985 diocesan priests, 47 Basilian monasteries with 507 religious, and 1,427,000 faithful (see east ern churches).
After an unsuccessful rebellion in 1863, the kingdom of Poland became the Russian By-Visla Province; and the diocese of Chelm, together with the Eastern Catholics, suffered the same fate as had the Catholics of White Russia. The role formerly played by Semashko was reenacted by Marcel Popiel, appointed by Russia as administrator of the Chelm Diocese, who proclaimed its submission to the Orthodox Church in 1875, although the people remained secretly loyal to the Catholic Church. The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that between the issuance of the tolerance edict on April 17, 1905, and Jan. 1, 1910, 232,686 members of the State Church became Catholics. Most of these were former Catholic Ukrainians and Belarussians who had to adopt the Latin rite to remain Catholics.
Roman Rite. Roman Catholics in 19th-century Russia were all foreigners, and included Lithuanians, Latvians, Germans and French, but the majority were Poles; thus, Catholics were often identified with Poles. Catholics were strongest in the western provinces, but there was a Catholic diaspora throughout the empire, and every large city had a Catholic church. The government proceeded very arbitrarily in Church affairs, rarely consulted Rome and steadily refused to accept a permanent representative of the Holy See. Even the agreement of 1847 did not alter conditions. There were two metropolitan areas. One existed for the former Kingdom of Poland, with an archbishopric in Warsaw and six bishoprics. Catholics in Russia proper were subject to the metropolitan of Mogilev, residing in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), with bishoprics in Lutsk-Zhitomir, Samogitia (Kovno), Tiraspol (residence in Saratov) and Vilna. Catholic affairs were administered through the Roman Catholic Ecclesiastical College, a counterpart of the Holy Synod, erected in 1801 but never approved by the Holy See. The Catholic Ecclesiastical Academy of St. Petersburg was the higher theological institute, and had about 60 students, all priests or clerics in major orders. There were then some 4,600 priests serving 4,234 churches and 1,978 chapels, and around 15 million Catholics in the empire, almost six million of whom lived in the ecclesiastical province of Mogilev.
Converts. Despite strict prohibition, many Russians became Catholics during the 19th century. Some of these preferred to reside outside their native country, notably Anne Swetchine, Vladimir S. Pecherin (d. 1885), who became a Redemptorist, Gregory P. Shuvalov (d. 1859), who joined the Barnabites and Demetrius gallitzin (d.1840), active as a parish priest in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Some Russian converts joined the Jesuits outside Russia. Catherine II did not allow the promulgation in her empire of the bull of Pope clement xiv that suppressed the Jesuits (1773). Because of her esteem for their schools, she permitted the order to carry on its activities, thereby saving it from extinction, but all candidates who joined the Society of Jesus during this period were non-Russians. In the 19th century converts who became Jesuits included the writer Ivan gagarin (d. 1882), the Bollandist Ivan Martynov (d. 1894) and the historian Paul Pierling (d.1922).
Bibliography: a. m. ammann, Storia della Chiesa russa (Turin 1948), Get. tr. Abriss der ostslawischen Kirchengeschichte (Vienna 1950). e. e. golubinski, Istoriia russko tserkvi, 2 v. (Moscow 1901–11). f. dvornik, The Slavs: Their Early History and Civilization (Boston 1956); The Slavs in European History and Civilization (New Brunswick, NJ 1962). i. smolitsch, Geschichte der russischen Kirche 1700–1917, v.1 (Leiden 1964). g. v. florovski, Puti russkago bogosloviia (Paris 1937). p. pierling, La Russie et le Saint-Siège, 5 v. (Paris 1896–1912). a. boudou, Le Saint-Siège et la Russie (1814–1883), 2 v. (Paris 1922–25). a. v. kartashev, Ocherki po istorii russko tserkvi, 2 v. (Paris 1959). o. halecki, From Florence to Brest (1439–1596) (Rome 1958). e. amburger, Geschichte des Protestantismus in Russland (Stuttgart 1961). t. ware, The Orthodox Church (Baltimore, MD 1963). k. s. latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, 7 v. (New York 1937–45). k. s. latourette, Christianity in a Revolutionary Age: A History of Christianity in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, 5 v. (New York 1958–62). n. arseniew, La Piété russe (Neuchâtel 1963). d. shapiro, A Select Bibliography of Works in English on Russian History, 1801–1917 (Oxford 1962). g. vernadsky and m. karpovich, A History of Russia, 4 v. (New Haven, CT 1943–59; rev. ed. pa. 1 v. 1961).
The Catholic Church since 1917
Sparked by massive oppression, poverty, and participation in a brutal world war, the Russian Revolution, which occurred in October of 1917, saw the government of Czar Nicholas II overthrown and the Bolskevik regime of Vladimir Lenin established in its place. The Revolution and the civil war that followed between 1918 and 1921, propelled many of the regions under the Russian empire to claim independence. This movement was quickly suppressed by the new communist government, and in 1922 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was established, comprised of 15 soviet republics: Russia, Ukraine, Belarussia, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaidzhan, Kazakhstan, Kirghiztan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikstan, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Moldavia. Despite communist efforts to destroy all religion within the ever-expanding Soviet sphere, Christian communities within these republics proved stronger and more resilient than was anticipated. Even though many churches were forced underground, Church attendance and religious observance by the 1960s compared favorably to Western Europe and in some instances, notably Poland, was unparalleled elsewhere on the Continent. While churches lost their pre-revolutionary or prewar wealth and institutional strength, they retained and developed their structure as Churches or denominations. Theological academies remained open and religious journals were published. The approach of the Soviet government to religion varied throughout the east European socialist community, their encounter with varied histories and cultures led to great diversity in religious patterns. Thus, in the German Democratic Republic, established in 1949, theological faculties remained, as in prewar times, a regular component in a number of state universities. Similarly in Czechoslovakia, which became a satellite of the USSR after World War II, and Hungary, which saw a liberalized communism after the mid-1950s, the state subsidized clerical support. However, feudally institutionalized Churches, particularly in Russia where they petrified over decades of operation underground, appeared anachronistic in the increasing light of the modern world. By the time of the fall of the Soviet Union in August of 1991, the churches in Russia were like tattered survivors of a famine, preservers of a Slavic culture and tradition that seemed out of step with a now-secularized society.
The Phasing-in of Communism. The introduction of communism was a process consisting of several phases. In the first phase, which lasted from the Revolution into the early 1920s, the state attempted to disrupt the established order, which meant undermining the Russian Orthodox Church, a powerful institution that was the foundation of Slavic culture in the vast region. To do this Bolsheviks encouraged the formation of sects, the growth of Protestant groups and the harassment, imprisonment and even murder of Orthodox priests. Orthodox churches were confiscated, monasteries looted and destroyed. By 1923, as Protestantism and smaller breakaway churches, such as Autocephalous Orthodox churches in Ukraine and Belarussia, gained a following, the state rescinded its support, and began to undermine their operations as well.
The next phase of communism promoted non-Slavic culture, a culture of the proletariat that extolled liberal values and promoted the restructuring of society through women in the workplace and a liberalized divorce law. The enemy became capitalism, and a strong propaganda campaign extended into the arts, literature and elsewhere. A schismatic Renovationist Church was established to fill the need for spiritual fulfillment, but this church, loyal to the state, was also gradually eliminated as oppression of the true religious and secularization of the culture increased. New secular holidays were established to replace holy days such as Easter and Christmas, and in 1929 a new religious law outlawed all religious propaganda, replacing it with a program of anti-religious advocacy. This period, known as "The Terror," saw a full assault on the church, as almost 100,000 religious of both Orthodox and Catholic faith were killed, and Muslim worship was almost totally eradicated. Hundreds of churches were demolished, priests were imprisoned and millions of Orthodox lost their lives within Russia.
World War II was pivotal in the formation of the next phase in the relationship between the churches and the State under communism. By the eve of that holocaust, organized religion had been all but eliminated. To be sure, the Orthodox Church, as the dominant Christian body in Old Russia, had already moved, by the late 1920s, through resistance to neutrality then to active support of the Revolution. That shift in policy by the Moscow leadership brought uncertain consequences, effected as it was by a locum tenens and the appointment by the State of the former Renovationist patriarch, Metropolitan Sergii Stragorodsky, as temporary leader of the Moscow patriarchate. After a brief imprisonment in 1927, Sergii made a declaration of loyalty to the Soviet State on behalf of all Orthodox. In June of 1941, with the Soviet government stunned by the sudden German invasion, Metropolitan Sergii moved quickly and publicly to rally the Russian people to the defense of the motherland. When some clerics wavered, notably in the western Ukraine, and welcomed the Germans as liberators, Sergii consolidated his patriotic commitment by rebuking such action in the strongest possible terms. Whether or not the metropolitan had so calculated, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin (1924–53), beleaguered by the invasion, sensed the importance of religious sentiment and support in the war effort and renegotiated a new understanding with the Orthodox hierarchy. The Holy Synod was permitted to meet and elect a Moscow patriarch, that office having been vacant since the death of Patriarch Tikhon in 1925. In exchange for patriotic support, worship was restored and many Orthodox churches reopened. The limitations of the original Leninist decrees, which limited religious expression to intramural cultic activity, were accepted by the Church.
The new modus vivendi between Church and State established as a response to World War II continued following the defeat of Germany, as the Soviet realm increased into eastern Europe. The enormous challenges confronting Soviet diplomacy in dealing with multiple ethnic and national groups were aided by its ability to provide a cohesive religious element as the phasing-in process occurred in Yugoslavia, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, China and elsewhere. In all regions but China, the Churches could render important service, both in exerting influence and in improving the Soviet image abroad. Though the immediate postwar flux passed within a few years, the shift to a global scale in Khrushchev's "peaceful coexistence" campaign provided new challenges.
Despite its new attitude toward the Orthodox Church, the Soviet State continued its oppression of Catholics, particularly those of Eastern Churches that had returned from Constantinople to Rome by way of various unions during the 16th and 17th centuries. By 1960 estimates held that of Soviet Catholics—which lived predominately in outlying regions such as Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine—over 12,500 priests and monks were killed, while another 32,000 were forced from the region. At least 50 bishops lost their lives in protest against Soviet tyranny, many due to their outspokenness over the treatment of Jews in Soviet nations that fell to German occupation between 1941 and 1944, while over two and a half million faithful also perished.
An Expanding Orthodoxy. In 1954, with the death of Stalin, the USSR came under the control of Nikita Khrushchev, whose first action was to lessen the government's harsh treatment of the Orthodox Church. Now with the support of the Soviet state, the Moscow Patriarchate moved actively among the "family" of Orthodox Churches existing in the increased Soviet sphere, taking control of many. These efforts brought Moscow increasingly into the modern era, and forced it to address modern concerns. A theological conversation begun in Prague in the late 1950s and oriented both to the past failures of the churches and the coming dangers of the nuclear age, quickly expanded in the 1960s into a global effort of the Soviet and other socialist-country Churches—the Christian Peace Conference. In a related move, the Russian Orthodox Church joined the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1961 and sent observers to Vatican Council II. Both these conferences provided opportunities for the establishment of contacts with the Churches of the Third World, whose ecclesiastical ties otherwise were chiefly Western.
While the Orthodox church expanded its international profile in the 1960s, domestically it suffered increasing restrictions under Khruschev's increasing authoritarianism. At the same time that the Orthodox Patriarchate took up membership in the WCC the Synod, under the direction of the state Council for Russian Orthodox Church Affairs (CROCA), adopted a change in parish structure that weakened pastoral leadership and open parish management to interference by local political authorities. This change brought to a head, in various "underground" Churches, an issue that had long smoldered. Lenin's decrees and the Soviet Constitution declared a strict separation of Church and State and of the Church from education. At the same time, however, all religious property, including the objects needed for cult, were turned over to local civil authorities. These same authorities then entrusted these to duly registered religious groups (read Orthodox) for use. Thus both registration and administrative requirements involved the civil authorities in the life of the religious communities so directly that critics could view the arrangement as violating the law on the separation of Church and State.
The 50th anniversary of the formation of the Soviet Union saw marked changes in state toleration of the church. The mid-1970s witnessed a new wave of religious oppression, as the restoration of church properties ceased, atheism became a required subject in all Soviet schools and public censure was given to those openly participating in religious services such as weddings and baptisms. The implementation of the new regulations led to many irregularities at local levels in the removal of priests and the closing of churches. When parish members appealed to bishops and higher levels of the hierarchy, help was not forthcoming. The criticism mounted that Orthodox leaders had compromised or even betrayed the Churches. Indeed, much to the embarrassment of the hierarchies, and of the state, criticism reached both the World Council of Churches and the United Nations. Spokesmen of the Orthodox Church were accused of lying when confronted with the problem abroad. In the case of the Evangelical-Baptist AUCECB, initsiativniki, the dissidents, grew strong enough to set up a Council to replace the existing one. The result may have been a wholesome one, inasmuch as the AUCECB incorporated many of the reforms the dissidents demanded.
Religious dissent meanwhile became part of a wider current of dissent in the Soviet Union. Critics such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn regarded any improvements to society made during the 1960s and 1970s as merely tactical, and expressed the belief that harsh conditions might return. Others, including the Vatican, maintained that a process of historical change was under way, that in the longer perspective new possibilities were emerging. The Vatican developed a new Ostpolitik paralleling the bargaining relationship between the Russian Orthodox hierarchy and the Soviet party and government that climaxed in the 1977 reception of the First Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party by Pope Paul VI. The assumptions of the Vatican and others that a change was occurring in the Soviet sphere would be proved accurate during the late 1980s, as a new wave of nationalism and dissatisfaction with communism washed over much of Russia and eastern Europe.
The Latin Church under Communism. Communist hostility to religion manifested itself also against Catholics, whether Latin or Eastern. This opposition was especially pronounced against the Roman Catholic Church as the main obstacle to the spread of Communist ideas. Communists utilized the historically conditioned anti-Catholic feelings of Orthodox Russians in this warfare. After 1917 the Soviet government viewed the papacy as Russia's worst enemy. The attack on the Catholic Church was directed mainly against the hierarchy as the chief representative of the supranational spiritual power-blocking communism. The Catholic hierarchy, mostly Polish, endured persecution soon after 1917. Archbishop Edward von Ropp of Mogilev was long imprisoned and then banished. Several other bishops were driven from their posts. Archbishop cieplak, Ropp's successor, was sentenced to death (1923), but was allowed to go to prison, and then to leave the country, due to the intervention of other governments. But his vicar-general, Budkiewicz, was executed on Good Friday, 1923. Many priests were also brought to court for supposed conspiracy and disobedience. This procedure seriously injured the Church administration, and made reorganization necessary.
Michael d' herbigny, as chairman of a papal commission, came to Russia in 1926 with special powers to effect this, and set up nine administrative regions: Moscow, Mogilev-Minsk, Leningrad, Kharkov, Kazan-Samara-Simbirsk, Odessa, Saratov, the Caucasian region and Georgia, each headed by an apostolic administrator. Four of these were consecrated bishops. The new administrators were chosen from different nationalities. This reorganization would have strengthened the Catholic Church considerably, had it not been for continued governmental oppression, which led to the imprisonment of the apostolic administrators. Bishop Frison of Odessa, in the Ukraine, was later shot; the others were given lengthy prison terms, and then banished from the country. Hundreds of priests were jailed between 1929 and 1932, virtually destroying the Catholic Church organization.
During and after World War II, reestablishment of the Church was prohibited, despite the gradual weakening of persecution. Among those communities allowed to continue were Moscow's French church of St. Louis of France, in which a priest from the archdiocese of Riga delivered sermons in Russian through the 1950s, as well as a Catholic church in Leningrad, three in Lviv, Ukraine and one in Tiflis. Kisinev and Odessa had large Catholic communities that were sustained without a priest. The mass deportations ordered by the government during and after World War II caused unofficial underground Catholic communities to appear in remote parts of the USSR that were able to hold divine services secretly.
The Greek Church under Communism. While the treatment meted out to Roman Catholics under Soviet rule was oppressive, that extended to Eastern Catholics in countries such as Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarussia was often more prohibitive due to the dismal view held of these churches by the Moscow patriarchate. Seen as schismatic by Moscow, which refused to acknowledge the validity of the Union of Brest and other efforts toward communion with Rome, these churches faced legal hurdles that resulted in a total extinction and loss of property. Catholicism in Eastern garb met even less tolerance, and Russian converts to Catholicism usually joined the Latin Church. Russian philosopher solov'ev was the first to supply the spiritual foundations for the erection of formal communities of a Byzantine-Slavonic rite, but conversions of the Orthodox to this rite were legally forbidden until April 17, 1905. Only after the ukase concerning religious liberty, and the manifesto, both in 1905, and after prolonged struggle, was it possible to obtain permission to establish officially one such community in St. Petersburg (1912), a permission that was revoked four months later. When religious freedom was openly proclaimed in 1917, Russian Eastern or Greek Catholics could for the first time organize properly. They created an exarchy under Metropolitan Andrei sheptyts'kyi, which had only two parishes, one in Leningrad and one in Moscow. Sheptyts'kyi, with special powers from the pope, established this exarchate and named as exarch Leonid feo dorov, who established many friendly relations with Orthodox priests. When persecution became very violent in 1922, his contacts with the Orthodox increased, but they were not allowed to continue. Soon the government abolished the exarchate itself. In 1923 Feodorov was brought to court in connection with the proceedings against Cieplak, and imprisoned until shortly before his death in 1935. During the German occupation of World War II, Sheptyts'ki was outspoken in his outrage over the treatment of Jews by Nazi troops, which outspokenness resulted in his arrest. Other priests who were attached to the exarchate also were imprisoned and later banished. The religious women who established a Catholic monastery in Moscow, directed by Catherine Abrikosova, were all sent to German concentration camps. Many laymen from parishes in the exarchate were imprisoned. While the Greek Church was forced to go underground after the return of communist control and was not officially restored in Russia, it was sustained in regions such as western Ukraine, quickly surfaced after the fall of communism, and by the late 1990s had resumed its strength as the second-largest church in that country.
The Church after Communism. The fall of the USSR in August of 1991 was precipitated by several years of increasing nationalist tensions, particularly in those nations incorporated into the Soviet Union following World War II. President Mikhail Gorbachev, attempting to ward off nationalist tendencies via an increasingly tolerant atmosphere embodied by perestroika (restructuring) and glastnost (openness), met with Pope Jon Paul II in the late 1980s and guaranteed the legalization of Eastern-rite churches and the return of religious freedom in the Soviet sphere. Only a few years later, on Dec. 26, 1991, months after a coup brought to power Boris Yeltsin, the Supreme Soviet met and voted to dissolve the USSR. Russia saw its size diminish drastically, as its former empire fragmented into 15 separate republics, the largest of which was the Russian Federation. A new constitution was promulgated in December of 1993. Efforts to preserve the region's economic structure resulted in the Commonwealth of Independent States, which included ten of the 15 newly independent republics. Unfortunately, the transition from a planned communist economy to a free market was a difficult one, and rising unemployment, inflation, high-level corruption and a series of ethnic insurrections during the 1990s resulted in the 2000 election of Vladimir Putin and a move toward a more centralized, less liberal political and economic environment.
In December of 1990 the Soviet government passed a law making all religions equal before the law. In response, in 1991 the Vatican established a new hierarchy in Russia, and in 1997 unveiled a Russian-language translation of the Catechism. Nineteen ninety-five marked the creation of the government-sponsored ecumenical Council for Cooperation with Religious Associations, which had representatives from all major denominations. Efforts by the region's churches to reacquire properties confiscated under communism were initiated, although objections from the Orthodox church caused such efforts to proceed slowly. The Catholic Church, which had 300 church buildings prior to the 1917 revolution, found itself with only two churches remaining by 1991, and the December 1999 reopening ceremony of Moscow's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, returned by the state in 1995, was a particularly symbolic occasion.
Under the new democratic government, the Russian Orthodox Church was able to expand its schools, rebuild important churches destroyed during the earlier decades, and gain an increasing foothold in Russian politics. In 1995 the Moscow patriarchate established a department to increase its interface with Russian armed forces, and during the civil war in Chechnya provided strong support to border forces in the region. Its development as an embodiment of Russian nationalism was in line with the many independent Orthodox churches that broke from it in countries formerly under Soviet control, some of which were granted self-governing status even before independence as a way to forestall a complete break with Moscow. Active in the battle against the legalization of abortion that was waging in Russia by the mid-1990s, the Orthodox Church also was proactive in the movement to canonize czar Nicholas II and his family as martyrs of the faith. In fact, the church's pro-Russia attitude was viewed by some observers as almost fascist in its zeal. In an increasingly democratic society, the Russian Orthodox Church remained authoritarian, and romantic in its notions of a pan-Slavic state.
Into the 21st Century. Despite the liberal attitude toward most religions in Russia immediately following independence, restrictions began to be put in place as the 1990s wore on. Under a controversial and somewhat contradictory 1997 religious law drafted with assistance from the Russian Orthodox Church, the governing Duma required religions desiring to register with the state prove their existence within the country for 15 years in order to gain legal property rights, provide religious education, or otherwise operate a religious community. While this law did not pose problems for the Latins, it affected both the Eastern Catholic Church, which was refused legal status, as well as the many foreign religious congregations that had flooded Russia by the mid-1990s, attempting to either help rebuild the existing churches in Russia or establish new faiths. While ostensibly targeting dangerous sects, the new law resulted in problems for the Jesuits, which had their initial application denied in 1999. Visa applications for foreign religious were restricted in 1998 to a three-month stay in Russia, thwarting efforts by many churches to bring in much-needed priests. In 2000 President Putin increased government control of religion by establishing seven districts, each of which was to review the new law and resolve conflicts with regional regulations.
By 2000 there were 280 Catholic parishes in Russia, half still without their own church. Priests numbered over 230, one third of them diocesan, while over 290 sisters were also active in rebuilding Catholic schools and hospitals in the region. The Russian Orthodox Church retained thousands of parishes throughout Eastern Europe as well as in Japan and China, although its power was expected to diminish outside of Russia proper, as it was viewed as a symbol of both communist oppression and centuries of czarist overlordship in an increasingly ethnically diverse and secularized society. Within Russia proper, despite the fact that most Orthodox did not attend church regularly, the Moscow patriarchate continued to dominate Orthodoxy, forcing the Eastern Catholic community in Moscow led by Andrei Udovenko to remain underground, its recognition by the government derailed by the Catholic archbishop in order to avoid reprisals to other Catholic denominations. Charges by the Russian Orthodox Church that Catholics were attempting to undermine its following by proselytization in Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, were made by Moscow Patriarch Aleksii II in June of 2000, and similar concerns caused the cancellation of a planned meeting between Aleksii and Pope John Paul II in 1997. The Russian Orthodox Church also withdrew from the WCC in January of 1999, citing increasing liberalism as the cause. Evangelical efforts among the Siberian natives, which were minimal throughout much of Russia's history, increased following the fall of communism in 1991, prompting an expansion of the Catholic hierarchy in 1993.
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[j. chrysostomus blaschkewitz/