Assembly of Estonian Orthodox Clergy and the Faithful
April 6-7, 1917
orthodox Estonians, being part of the Estonian nation and the
citizen of a free Republic, have the same requirements for life
than the rest of the Estonian people and think that the life
of our congregations needs reforming. It is not our purpose
to protect clericalism or speak for the interests of certain
classes, because it would contradict with the teaching of Christ.
is how we feel: orthodoxy has supported the obtaining of education
by some of the poorest Estonian children, thus fostering the
spiritual growth in Estonia. It is now obvious that a perfectly
free Christian spirit, the same spirit that has its foundation
in the true brotherhood and unity of men, will soon govern the
Russian Orthodox Church. Therefore we hope that the orthodox
activities in Estonia, after getting loose from present fetlock
and basing on independent grounds, where all members of the
congregation have an equal right to vote with regard to church
matters, can remain useful for everybody, both for the members
of the congregation as well as for the entire Estonian nation
irrespective of their belief.
requirement for reforms is natural, it is neither the fancy
of some people, nor the fruit of intolerance or narrow-minded
desire for separation. There is a proverb saying, that each
bird has its own tune. Just the same way does each nation have
its own precious mother tongue, own peculiar and dear habits
and ways of life. The Estonian nation has also its own heart,
spirit, language and state of mind. The primary need of the
Estonian people is the widest autonomy possible together with
the big Russian nation, as an inseparable part of Russia. The
orthodox Estonians only want to underline the need of the Estonian
people as an inseparable part of the all-Russian Orthodox Church
to promote their spiritual life in a natural way, according
to their innermost necessities. This is an opportunity we have
missed to the present moment. Our reforms never have and never
will be focused against the dogma of the Orthodox Church or
its apostolic teachings that stand as a solid and unchanging
foundation of the church. The reforms we have in mind and what
life itself has been imposing for a long time already (particularly
since 1905), concern only some traditions and arrangements of
the church, inherent to the Russian people but completely alien
and incomprehensible for the Estonians. What we mean is that
the services should be conducted and the life of the congregations
organised on the basis of new principles insisted by time itself.
We accept the general reforms adopted by the Church of independent
Russia and believe that the Church of independent Russia will
not ignore our suggestions that have emerged from real life;
that we will not be forbidden the kind of autonomy that most
national orthodox churches already enjoy.
two days of lively discussion the following unanimous resolutions
were adopted: Divide the reforms suggested by us according to
their level of urgency into two categories: 1) instant reforms
that can and should be conducted immediately and 2) other reforms
that should be discussed at the all-Russian Church Assembly
I. Instant Reforms
With no delay renew the composition of the Riga Ecclesiastic
Consistory, currently operating with 1-2 active members only,
so that in addition to 2 Russian members also 2 Estonian and
2 Latvian members would be elected. Move the Consistory to Tartu,
where the Archbishop is residing. (The meeting nominated Archpriests
Tiisik and Raska as the recommended candidates of the Estonian
congregations to the composition of the Consistory)
2) Vacant positions of priests and precentors should be filled
by means of a competition called by the Council of respective
congregation. Successful applicants must have pertinent education
or a certificate evidencing their qualification, issued by the
The Council will nominate up to three candidates and full members
of the congregation, i.e. persons above the age of 21, will,
at the presence of a Chairman elected by the clergy, elect the
one by general, equal, instant and secret ballot, who will then
be presented by the Council to the ecclesiastic administration
Any disputes arising between the officials and congregations
shall be settled at a court of arbitration, which composition
is established by the next general meeting.
3) Acknowledge in principle, that the orthodox clergy (priests,
deacons and precentor) when not in office, must have the right
to enjoy all the rights of a free citizen. The church must not
be used in political interests; in civil life it would be absolutely
inappropriate to impose any political restrictions on the clergy.
4) Consider necessary to place before the Synod for discussion
the right of the clergy to wear civil clothing in civil life,
if they please to do so, like it has been permitted abroad,
and wear short hair and beard.
5) Entitle congregations to establish their councils in the
rights of a legal person, where all interested parties of a
congregation would be represented. Assign the next general meeting
to work out the draft proposal.
6) Give first priority to matters related to school and express
consent with the issue that all presently viable orthodox schools
with over 25 pupils should be included to the school network
of local governments and guaranteed legal sustenance, and that
parish schools and smaller county schools should become elementary
schools and larger county schools - progymnasiums. The clergy
should be able to retain their right to participate in the process
of education on the same grounds than presently: priests as
catechists and, if so wished by them, also as teachers; parish
clerks with the right to teach - as teachers.
7) Demand with no delay, that from the next academic year religious
instruction was taught to all Estonian children in senior elementary
schools and secondary schools in their mother tongue only. (Today
only the Lutherans enjoy this privilege).
8) The organisation of the publication of books with orthodox
subject matter should become the concern of the Association
of Congregations. Issues related to the publication of a newspaper
remained unsettled in the hope that freedom of speech permits
us to express our standpoints in local press, if need should
9) Take immediate steps with regard to the everyday life and
management of congregations to encourage the approach and assimilation
of orthodox congregations and the establishment of the Association
of Estonian Orthodox Congregations with equal representation
of the clergy and the faithful.
Note: This draft was worked out. (See: Appendix n° 1)
10) Declare the situation of the Estonians living in Pskov,
where the only Estonian priest was forced to leave because of
intolerance, unbearable and take immediate steps to save their
II. Other reforms
Alike the civil area, where Estonia is separated from Latvia,
organise the ecclesiastic administration the way that all Estonian
orthodox congregations and the Estonians living in Pskov would
get under the reign of the Estonian Diocese. Itinerant Priests,
licensed by local Bishops, would take care of orthodox settlers,
presently unattended. All counties should also have their own
Suffragan Priests, who substitute the Priests either ill or
missing from their congregations on any other reason.
The Bishop, elected not among monks but among local people,
should speak the local language.
2) A draft should be prepared by the Association of Congregations,
laying down the principles of managing congregations and electing
a new Church Administration in agreement with the reforms of
the Russian Church Administration, keeping in mind both the
spiritual as well as the material interests of congregations.
3) Send a delegation to the temporary guberniya commissar Poska
to greet him and inform him about the telegram.
After the collapse of the imperial regime, a quest for new
ways to arrange the Church life began in all the Russian Church.
In Estonia, to this was added a search for finding the best
forms suiting for the national character and a certain autonomy
of the Church in Estonia.