historian Eerik Niiles Kross writes that the Church
conflict will be solved only when the Church of Moscow
will be changed from an instrument of politics into
a real Church.
days ago the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) announced on
a conference of the OSCE that it declines the proposal
of the Government of Estonia to register the part
of the Orthodox Church under Moscow in Estonia. The
proposed statute, they said, does not take into account
the "centuries long traditions" of the Church
and the "truthfulness of its history". Also,
they say that with the registration with this statute
there will be no recognition of the continuity of
Russian Orthodox Church in Estonia.
The problem is that it is impossible to confirm that,
because this Church has not acted in Estonia continually.
In that case, the Estonian Republic would have to
admit that the Russian embassy in Tallinn is the same
as the Provincial Administration (Gubernskoye Nachal'stvo)
of the time of the Czar and has existed continually
BOLSHEVIKS SUBDUED THE CHURCH
head of the Russian Church from Peter the 1st until
the Bolshevik coup had been the Emperor. When murdering
Nicholas the 2nd, the Bolsheviks not only killed a
monarch. They also murdered the head of the Church,
the Church made famous in a thousand years by icon
painters, architects, chronicle writers like Dostoyevsky
and Tolstoy and others. The official policy of the
Bolsheviks was to demolish the Church structure and
militant atheism. The clergy was declared an enemy
of the people and metropolitans, bishops and priests
were arrested just because of their occupation. So,
when there were 50,000 priests and 167 bishops before
the revolution, there were just a hundred or so priests
and 7 bishops left in 1939. Many Russian believers
were sure that the Communist power was from the Satan
and one of the Bolshevik leaders must be the Antichrist.
This was the time and background in which Bulgakov
wrote his "Master and Margarita".
But Stalin, the genius of how to control the masses,
had already reach a decision that instead of totally
destroying the Church, it is more useful to turn it
into an instrument of his own power. After the death
of Patriarch Tikhon (who, according to some, was poisoned),
in 1925, Stalin did not allow to choose a new Patriarch
and to convoke a Church Assembly. Metropolitan Sergius
became the temporary head of the Church. Also, empty
places in the Synod were not filled and the activity
of the Synod stopped for years. So the organization
of the Church was disintegrated.
The Church life came into standstill, the religious
life went underground and more and more new sects
arose. In 1926, the factual primate Sergius was arrested.
When he was unexpectedly released half a year afterwards,
he made a declaration called by the historians the
"spiritual and moral catastrophe" of the
Russian Church. Metropolitan Sergius declared that
the Church must cooperate with the new regime. In
order to retain some kind of existence for the Church,
the hierarchy agreed to become an active ally to the
In Russia and elsewhere there are clergymen, who find
that starting from the declaration of Sergius, the
Church lost its moral right to guide the Russian people
spiritually. Essentially, it was the Central Committee
of the Party that put the hierarchy in its place.
Russian Orthodox churches abroad declined to recognize
the MP, and the schism continues until today.
When the Russians were close to defeat in 1943, Stalin
gave his concsent for the convocation of Church Assembly,
electing a new Patriarch and open some priest's seminaries.
During the time of the war, Stalin needed the help
of the Church to inspirate the Russians. From that
point, the Church started to follow the orders of
the Kremlin, and this situation lasts until now. The
dissidents inside the Church were delivered to the
authorities, confession secrets, containing something
political, were reported to the KGB, the Church supported
the foreign policy of the USSR and world communist
movement under the cover of struggle for peace. Higher
clergy got the same privileges as the rest of nomenclature.
The Estonian Orthodox, too, were victims of the Bolshevik
Church policy. The Reds murdered bishop Platon in
Tartu on January 14, 1919. Alter the Independence
War, the contacts with the scarcely alive Church of
Russia were disrupted. An independent Orthodox Church
was created in Estonia, and Alexander Paulus was chosen
as its bishop. In 1923, Patriarch Meletius 4 of Constantinople
consecrated Alexander as Metropolitan. The EAOK came
under the canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate
of Constantinople, remaining in fact independent.
The peace of Tartu saved the life of many Orthodox
clergymen for twenty years more.
Moscow has now tried to clairn that the EAOK went
voluntarily under the subjection of Moscow after Estonia
was occupied. This claim is as good as the claim that
Estonia entered the Soviet Union voluntarily. Already
in 1940, Moscow considered it necessary to liquidate
autonomous EAOK. March 1941, the People's Commissary
of Security Merkulov wrote to Stalin : "The MP
must appoint Archbishop Dimitri Nikolayevich Voznessensky
(Sergius, an agent of the NGPU) as the head of the
dioceses of the Baltics, justifying it by respective
appeals written by local clergy."
After Estonia got back its independence, the Orthodox
Church of Estonia decided to restore its activity
here. However, a curious situation came into being
in the Church. An analogy could be a group of people
in Narva creating an alternative Provincial Administration
(like during the czarist time), claiming that this
is the government that has lead Estonia all the time.
The Russian priests appointed by Moscow started to
follow the orders from Moscow and declined to accept
the independence of the Orthodox Church of Estonia.
Thc problem is that the MP has gone through a limited
rebirth and penance, canonized Patriarch Tikhon and
acknowledged the great losses during the communist
period, but has not given up its role as an instrument
of home and foreign policy of the official Moscow.
The question of the Orthodox Church in Estonia is
not a matter of church property and some tens of thousands
of unfortunate souls for the MP. It is a matter of
historical territoy and spheres of influence. As the
official Moscow wants to keep and enlarge its sphere
of interests with political means, so the Church tries
to help Kremlin in this. Moscow tries to prevent the
independence of the Orthodox Chumh of Estonia not
because of some half-ruined church buildings, but
to shift the borders of civilizations. That is why
Moscow is talking now about historical truth and the
centuries-long activity of its Church structure in
from "Eesti Päevaleht" October 1st,
(Translated by our means)