Religion in Russia
Religion plays a prominent role in the public and spiritual life
of today's Russia.
The majority of believers belong to the Orthodox Christian denomination.
Russia adopted Christianity under Prince Vladimir of Kiev in 988,
in a ceremony patterned on Byzantine rites. Russia's baptism laid
the foundations for the rise of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1448, the Council of the Russian higher clergy elevated Bishop
Iona of Ryazan to the cathedra of the Metropolitan of Moscow and
All Russia, independently of Constantinople, making the Russian
Orthodox Church autocephalous.
A patriarchal throne in Moscow was instituted
in 1589, with the first Russian patriarch, Tova, enthroned on January
Nikon, the Patriarch of Moscow and Russia (1652-1658), stands out
among the hierarchs of the patriarchal period for his vigorous attempts
to modify church rites and amend the church service books in line
with the service practised in Greek churches. His reforms led to
a religious split and emergence of the so-called Old Belief.
The patriarchate survived in Russia until the early 18th century.
In 1718, Peter the Great introduced collective control in the Russian
Church. This innovation worked until 1721 only, when the Ecclesiastical
College was transformed into a ruling Holy Synod, instituted as
an administrative body of church power of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1917, the Local Council of the Russian
Orthodox Church adopted a resolution that restored patriarchal rule.
After the 1917 upheavals, the Russian Orthodox Church has traversed
a hard and tragic road. The early years of the Soviet regime were
particularly trying for it. The Land Decree of October 26, 1917,
deprived the Church of the bulk of its lands. The worst hit were
the monasteries. In its another decree, made public on January 26,
1918, the Council of People's Commissars (the government) separated
the church from the state and school. As a result, all church organizations
lost the powers of legal entity and the right to own property. To
have the decree put into effect, a special liquidation committee
was set up to evict the monks from their monasteries, many of which
were destroyed, not without acts of vandalism, in which church utensils
and bells were melted down and shrines containing relics were broken
In the late 1980s, with attempts launched to restructure the country's
economic and political system, major changes were made in the relationship
between the state and the Church in the hope of revival. The millennium
of Christianity in Russia in 1988 was celebrated on a grand scale.
In that year, 1,610 new religious communities, most of them of the
Orthodox belief, were registered in the country.
In 1990, a series of laws were passed
on the freedom of religion, under which many of the existing restrictions
were removed from religious communities, allowing them to step up
Religion in Russia Today
With nearly 5,000 religious associations the Russian Orthodox Church
accounts for over a half of the total number registered in Russia.
Next in numbers come Moslem associations, about 3,000, Baptists,
450, Seventh Day Adventists, 120, Evangelicals, 120, Old Believers,
over 200, Roman Catholics, 200, Krishnaites, 68, Buddhists, 80,
Judaists, 50, and Unified Evangelical Lutherans, 39.
Many churches and monasteries have been returned to the Church,
including the St. Daniel Monastery, the current seat of the Moscow
Patriarchate, the spiritual and administrative center of the Russian
Some statisticians estimate the percentage
of believers at 40 per cent of the entire Russian Federation. Close
to 9,000 communities belonging to over forty confessions had been
officially registered in the country.
The majority of religious Russians are Christians. The country
has over 5,000 Russian Orthodox churches. Many are built anew or
under repair on parish and local budgets money.
Among the several more ambitious projects is the Cathedral of Our
Lady of Kazan, erected in Red Square to commemorate the liberation
of Moscow by Minin and Pozharsky's militia, pulled down in 1936,
and recently rebuilt from scratch. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour,
demolished in 1931, is restored. Patriarch Aiexis II described its
rebirth as "a sublime act of piety and penitence."
Russia had 150 Roman Catholic parishes,
two theological seminaries and an academy before the revolution
of 1917. All were suppressed in the Soviet years, and the believers
-- ethnic Lithuanians, Poles and Gennans -- were banished and seattered
about Siberia and Central Asia. 83 communities have reappeared by
now, and Apostolic Administrations linked to the Vatican have been
established in Moscow for European Russia, and in Novosibirsk for
Siberia. There are four bishops and 165 priests working among the
approximately 1,300,000 Catholics in the country. The theological
seminary, Mary Oueen of the Apostles, opened in Moscow in 1993 and
was transferred to St. Petersburg in 1995.
The two million Protestants have 1,150 communities.