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"Russia's Salvation" The Russian Orthodox Church Under The Soviet Union

2554 words - 10 pages

In the third century A.D. under the Roman Empire, a military commander for Rome stood up against the Emperor's persecutions of Christians and publicly condemned him. The man was ordered to be tortured then killed, and he valiantly accepted this punishment. This martyr's bravery and determination to stay the course led many, including the Empress, to the Christian faith. Just as the above-mentioned Saint George was liberated from his tortures and entered the kingdom of heaven, likewise, sixteen centuries later, the Russian Orthodox Church would defiantly hold against a persecuting government and would ultimately be liberated from the Soviet Union.Russia, since its birth from Byzantium, has a long-standing history of conflict between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. Perhaps the largest conflict that affected the Russian Orthodox Church was Peter I's abolishment of the Russian Patriarchate and the introduction of the "Holy" Synod in its place, in hopes of Westernizing Russia. With the abolishment of the patriarchate, Russia broke with all of her sister Orthodox Churches and all of church history. Peter had introduced a foreign - wholly heterodox - and non-canonical concept into the Russian Orthodox Church. Years later, after the Provisional Government was setup and Nicholas II had abdicated, the Church convened a council, reestablished the patriarchate, and elected Tikhon of Moscow as the new Patriarch. By the time the Bolsheviks took power of the government, the Russian Orthodox Church had rectified the one glaring problem facing it. Yet, the Church faced a new problem: a militant, atheistic regime that would create anti-religious policies. Fortunately for the Church, these policies would bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union as each failed policy was stacked on top of its predecessor.Soon after the Russian revolutions began in 1917, the government realized that it must persecute religious entities for two main reasons. First, few institutions have been as diametrically opposed as the Soviet government and the Russian Orthodox Church. The Soviets were decidedly atheistic and used their authority to subordinate and undermine the Church. Bishop Kallistos Ware, a well-known, Orthodox scholar and author of The Orthodox Church, noted a subtle but simultaneously drastic change in the attitude of the government from 1918 to 1929:"The constitution of 1918 allowed 'freedom of religious and anti-religious propaganda; (Article 13), but in the 'Law on Religious Associations' enacted in 1929 this was changed to 'freedom of religious belief and of anti-religious propaganda'. The distinction here is important: Christians were allowed - at any rate in theory - freedom of belief, but they were not allowed any freedom of propaganda."The Soviets aimed for the complete annihilation of the Church, a "corrupt" tool of the bourgeoisie. Leon Trotsky, a significant Soviet leader, made a clear opposition between the two clear when he said, "[Religion] in its...

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