21 June 2011

Church in Russia

Moscow is sometimes referred to as 40x40, in reference to the 1,600 or so churches located in the city.  While Russia's official religion -  Russian Orthodox Christianity - plays a prominent role in Moscow and St. Petersburg, its influence in the city is minuscule compare to its reach and influence outside of major cities.  Russia mirrors the US, in that the larger cities play a more secular role while smaller, more provincial cities reflect deeper religious beliefs and faiths of the people.

Per Wikipedia, the Golden Ring, or a group of smaller cities to the north and east of Moscow, are a group of ancient towns that "played a significant role in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church."  Sergiyev Posad, the closest of the Golden Ring cities to Moscow, is only 75 km (45 miles) away.  Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is "the most important Russian monastery and the spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church."  This beautiful city has a palpable sense of holiness, especially around the main church complex, and its role in Russian history and modern-day politics cannot be understated.

Trinity of Lavra of St. Sergius, As It Was Then, Pretty Much As It Is Now

The Russian Orthodox Church, officially recognized by the state, played (except during the Soviet era) and plays a central role in governing Russians.  Its role is to preserve the memory of the most important and significant events in Russian history, legitimize governments (of tzars or presidents - if you can tell the difference), and provide a cultural foundation upon which most Russians build their lives and create their identities.  In this sense, its role is the same as roles of Anglican Church in England (mostly before WW II), Church of Sweden in Sweden, or the Catholic Church in Poland.

I have written previously that Russia "continues to define itself in opposition to the West, damn be the consequences."   Having a better sense of the Russian Orthodox Church, I may have a better insight into this "non-Western" Russian phenomenon.  In this context, the Cold War of the Twentieth Century was a continuation in the arc of history that began with set of events that culminated in the Eleventh Century with the East-West Schism of 1054, when the Eastern Orthodox Church, based in Constantinople, and the Catholic Church, based in Rome, formally and mutually excommunicated each other.

More on this later.

1 comment:

  1. Difference between Tzar and President? Easy! Tzar was the Player. President is a puppet.