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Russian Church Essay

2449 words - 10 pages

The Russian Orthodox Church's history and development, which established it as an arm of the Tsarist state and an instrument of the perpetuation of Russia's unequal class system and anti-reform policies, made it a necessary object of destruction for the security of the Bolshevik revolution.
The myth of the Holy Russian land was the founding idea of the Muscovite tsardom as it was developed by the Romanovs from the start of the seventeenth century. After the civil war and Polish intervention during the Time of Troubles (1598-1613), Mikhail Romanov, as the legend went, was elected by the entire Russian population, therefore reuniting the Holy Russian land behind the Romanov dynasty and saving ...view middle of the document...

Through about 41,000 parish schools, the clergy were expected to teach peasant children to show loyalty, deference, and obedience to the Tsar and officials, as wells as their elders and betters (Figes 62-63). The Church s influence remained dominant and sometimes even took precedence over secular authorities in certain moral and social issues such as adultery, incest, bestiality and blasphemy. Convictions resulted in exclusively religious, even medieval punishments such as penance and incarceration in a monastery. Though the church was left some power, the subordination of the Church to the state resulted in the questioning of the holiness of Russia and the Church by ecclesiastical leaders (Seton-Watson 411). From this concern came the call for reform from many of the more liberal clergy during the last decades of the old regime. After 1917 there were many Christians, like Brusilov, who argued that the revolution was caused by the decline of the Church s influence, but this is only a simplistic view. It is accurate to say, however, that social revolution was closely connected with, and somewhat dependent on, the secularization of society (Figes 64).
Urbanization was the root cause, in that the growth of cities was faster than the church building in them. Millions of workers who had relocated to the cities were forced to live in a state of Godlessness. The Church also failed to address the new problems of city life and was too conservative to allow for religiously inspired social reform, despite attempts by a few radical clergy, such as Father Gapon with his workers march to the Winter Palace in January 1905. Urbanization was a pressing force toward secularization, with young workers leaving their villages for cities and finding there socialist groups who influenced their thinking (Figes 65). What about the countryside, which boasted the holiness of Russia and was supposedly the stronghold of the Church? The religiosity if the Russian peasants was one of the greatest myths. They displayed a great deal of external devotion, continually crossing themselves, regularly attending church, always observing the Lenten fast, never working on religious holidays, and sometimes even going on pilgrimages to holy sites, but their actual religion was far from that of the clergy (Cherniavsky 114). The peasants, in actuality, very often had not been completely converted from Pagan beliefs and developed a vernacular religion mixing Christian dogmas and Pagan cults and magic (Figes 66). In addition, peasants saw parish priests not so much as spiritual guides or advisors, but as a class of tradesmen with wholesale and retail dealings in sacraments. (Shanin 66). Priests were often greedy, asked fees for services and haggled with poverty stricken peasants, harming the prestige of the Church. The low educational level of many of the priests, their tendencies toward drunkenness, their well-known connections to the police and their subservience to the gentry all added...

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