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The Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century

Edited By Christine Chaillot

It is common knowledge that the majority of the population of Eastern Europe belong to the Christian Orthodox tradition. But how many people have an adequate knowledge of the past or even of the present of these Orthodox churches? This book aims to present an introduction to this history written for a general audience, both Christian and non-Christian.
After the 1917 revolution in Russia, communism spread to most of the countries of Eastern Europe. By 1953, at the time of Stalin’s death, the division between Eastern and Western Europe seemed absolute. However, the advent of perestroika at the end of the 1980s brought about political changes that have enabled the Orthodox Church to develop once again in Eastern Europe.
The foundation of the European Union in 1993 has had a broader significance for Orthodox communities, who can now participate in the future development of Europe. Some Orthodox Churches already have their representatives at the European Union in Brussels. These include the patriarchates of Constantinople, Russia and Romania, along with the Church of Greece and the Church of Cyprus.
Today, Europe is becoming increasingly religiously diverse, even within Christianity itself. A growing number of Orthodox Christians have come to work and settle in Western Europe. An understanding of the history of the Orthodox communities in Eastern Europe in the twentieth century will contribute, in a spirit of informed dialogue, to the shaping of a new united Europe that is still in the process of expansion.
This book is translated from the French version (published 2009).


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Mikhail Vitalievich Shkarovsky - 15 The Russian Orthodox Church in the Twentieth Century 355


Mikhail Vitalievich Shkarovsky 15 The Russian Orthodox Church in the Twentieth Century The crisis of the synodal system of the Russian Church at the beginning of the twentieth century Towards the beginning of the twentieth century the Russian Orthodox Church found itself in a state of profound inner crisis that had gradually evolved over the course of the previous two centuries. The abolition of the patriarchate by Emperor Peter I at the beginning of the eighteenth century and the introduction of the synodal system with its subjugation of the church to the bureaucratic apparatus deprived the church of its inde- pendent voice in society and turned parish priests into, as it were, police of ficers who swore an oath to serve the authorities and inform them about the political sentiments of their f locks. This encouraged the bureaucratiza- tion of the clergy and weakened its authority. The falsity of the church’s situation is also evident in its being formally a state church, a fact which easily allowed its opponents to attribute to it some of the responsibility for the repressive policies of the monarchy and all the social injustices caused by the state apparatus. As a result of this crisis of the Russian Church, a noticeable cooling toward the values of the Orthodox faith and the significance of the church organization among other social institutions occurred in Russian society beginning with the end of the nineteenth century, especially among the intelligentsia. Anti-clerical sentiments began to spread among the wider masses...

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