The Church in the Slavic Kingdoms 988 - 1917 AD

The Cathedral of Saint Basil, in Moscow's Red Square.  The unique architecture is meant to invoke a red bonfire.  Photo credit:  Pixabay, Creative Commons Zero.  The Cathedral was built by Ivan the Terrible, who reigned as Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 - 1547 AD, and then as Tsar of All the Russias from 1547 to his death in 1584.  The title Tsar came the Russian word used for the Christian Byzantine Emperor (Caesar), for the Tatar Khan, for the kings of the Old Testament, and for Christ himself as divine tsar.  He thus claimed continuity from the Kievan Rus in Ukraine which had become Christianized under Vladimir in 988 AD, and also sovereignty over non-Slavic and non-Christian peoples as well, such as the Tatars. 

Ivan's initial reform of law and administration was remarkable in many ways, as for a time, he was advised by the Orthodox Metropolitan Makari of Moscow, and the priest Silvestr.  But that influence waned.  Ivan warred constantly, massacred Novgorod, and insisted on the divine right of rulers to wield unlimited power under God.  This prompted Basil the Blessed, a "holy fool," to give raw meat to Ivan during a fast, saying, "Why abstain from eating meat when you murder men?"

After the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Moscow came to be viewed as a "New Constantinople" or "Third Rome."  Not coincidentally, that nomenclature had also been used by the Second Bulgarian Empire for Tarnovo, capital of Bulgaria, from 1185 AD in their ethno-nationalist uprising against the Byzantine Empire.  Notable is the historical alignment between nationalist movements and Christianity in Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

The Russian Tsar fell in the Russian Revolution of 1917 AD to the Bolsheviks and the atheist Soviet regime.  The Saint Basil Cathedral became a museum.  However, it, like the Church of Saint Demetrius in Tarnovo, Bulgaria, remains a potent symbol of a church-empire relation that is still present in the consciousness of people, and is therefore still concerning. 


the church in the slavic kingdoms 988 - 1917 AD

The selection of perspectives on church history in this section has been guided by three factors: (1) to demonstrate that Christianity has not been a “white man’s religion”; (2) the study of empire as a recurring motif in Scripture by recent biblical studies scholars; and (3) explorations of biblical Christian ethics on issues of power and polity, to understand how Christians were faithful to Christ or not.  Christian relational ethics continues a Christian theological anthropology that began with reflection on the human nature of Jesus, and the human experience of biblical Israel.

Books and Articles on the Church in the Slavic Kingdoms 988 - 1917 AD: The Church Shaping Empires

Wikipedia, Phyletism (Wikipedia article) about the Eastern Orthodox Synod of 1872 which condemned as a heresy the idea that an autocephalous church should be based on an ethnicity, nationality, or language.  This Synod condemned the idea that the church is associated with the identity or destiny of a single nation or a single race.

Jane Swan and Scott M. Kensworthy, Chosen for His People: A Biography of Patriarch Tikhon (Amazon book, 1964)

James H. Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretative History of Russian Culture (Amazon book, 1966)

William C. Fletcher, Russian Orthodox Church Underground, 1917-70 (Amazon book, 1971)

Francis Dvornik, Origins of Intelligence Services: The Ancient Near East, Persia, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the Arab Muslim Empires, the Mongol Empire, China, Muscovy (Amazon book, 1974)

John Meyendorff, Byzantium and the Rise of Russia: A Study of Byzantino-Russian Relations in the Fourteenth Century (Amazon book, 1981) from an outstanding Orthodox historian and theologian, focusing on the 14th century when Russia started as a province of the Mongol Empire, and became part of the Byzantine world

Charles Halperin, Russia and the Golden Horde: The Mongol Impact on Medieval Russian History (Amazon book, 1985)

John V.A. Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans : A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Empire (Amazon book, 1987)

John V.A. Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century (Amazon book, 1991)

Dimitri Obolenski, Byzantium and the Slavs (Amazon book, 1994) the interactions between the Greek Byzantine Empire, the Slavic kingdoms, and ultimately Russia

Dimitry Pospielovsky, The Orthodox Church in the History of Russia (Amazon book, Jun 1998) 

Nicolae Iorga, Byzantium After Byzantium (Amazon book, Jun 2000)

Jerry McCollough and Faith McCollough, Cyril & Methodius: Illuminators of the Slavs (Amazon book, Jun 2001) The Orthodox missionaries Cyril and Methodius ministered among the Slavs and developed the written Glagolithic script, which then became Old Church Slavonic, paving the way for a rich literary culture.

Anthony-Emil N. Tachiaos, Cyril and Methodius of Thessalonica: The Acculturation of the Slavs (Amazon book, 2001)

Paul M. Barford, The Early Slavs : Culture and Society in Early Medieval Eastern Europe (Amazon book, Oct 2001) the formation of Eastern Europe, its Orthodox and Catholic influences, and self-conceptions

John V.A. Fine, The Bosnian Church: Its Place in State and Society from the Thirteenth to the Fifteenth Century (Amazon book, Oct 2007)

David Holden, Distributism: A Primer for Orthodox Christians (In Communion, Nov 24, 2010)

Rich Heffern, More About the Holy Fool (National Catholic Reporter, Feb 10, 2011) a development that seems, in Russia, at least, connected to the critique of corruption, not least in the state and among the clergy

Ovidiu Hurduzeu, Distributism in Eastern Europe (The Distributist Review, Dec 5, 2011)

Emmanuel Clapsis, Peace, Economic Injustice, and the Orthodox Church (Greek Orthodox Diocese in America, May 18, 2011)

Father Ernesto, Did the Church Fathers Address the Issue of Slavery?(OrthoCuban, Jan 21, 2012)

(Amazon book, Jul 31, 2012)

David Bentley Hart, Is, Ought, and Nature's Laws (First Things, Mar 2013; a rejection of 'natural law' without revelation)

The Orthodox Church and State, Church, State, and Violence in Medieval Russia (The Orthodox Church and State blog, Mar 28, 2013)

David Bentley Hart, No Enduring City: The Gospel Both Created and Destroyed Christendom (First Things, Aug 2013) fundamental incompatibility between church and state

A. Brining, Orthodox Christianity and Human Rights (Amazon book, Sep 2013)

Katehon, The Economy in the Context of Globalization (Katehon, May 23, 2016)

Katehon, Russian Orthodox Church Against Liberal Globalization, Usury, Dollar Hegemony, and Neocolonialism (Katehon, May 26, 2016)

Artur Rosman, Why Speak of Theocracy in Poland When Confessional States Make Up the Secular West? (Patheos, Jun 10, 2016)

John Strickland, The Making of Holy Russia: The Orthodox Church and Russian Nationalism Before the Revolution (Amazon book, Feb 2017)

John P. Burgess, Holy Rus': The Rebirth of Orthodoxy in the New Russia (Amazon book, 2017)

Nicholas E. Denysenko, The Orthodox Church in Ukraine: A Century of Separation (Amazon book, Nov 23, 2018) a case study examination involving the challenge of plural national identities; important given Paul Goble, Jane Stalin Starved Populations to Death to Russify Ukraine, North Caucasus and Kazakhstan, Statistics Show (Euromaidan Press, Nov 27, 2016)

Books and Articles on the Church in the Slavic Kingdoms 988 - 1917 AD: Empires Shaping the Church

David Bentley Hart, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and Christ (First Things, Sep 14, 2009) mentions Dostoyevsky's belief in Russian blood and soil, an Eastern Christian crusade to retake Constantinople, and anti-Semitism as a semi-pagan belief

Ryan Hunter, Profound Examples of Holiness: The Royal Martyrs In Their Own Words and Through the Words of Those Who Knew Them (Orthodox in the District blog, Jul 18, 2013)

Admin, Ecumenical Patriarch Criticizes Nationalist Tendencies Within Eastern Orthodoxy (Pravmir, Apr 30, 2014)

Rod Dreher, Church to Orthodox Fascists: Repent! (The American Conservative, May 5, 2014)

Sergei Chapnin, A Church of Empire: Why the Russian Church Chose to Bless Empire (First Things, Nov 2015)

Ryan P. Hunter, Analyzing the Transformation of Church-State Relations in Russia from 1987 to 2008 (blog, Dec 1, 2015)

Katherine Kelaidis, Why is the Church Silent About LGBT+ Violence in Russia? (Public Orthodoxy, Jan 9, 2017) should also be asked in the U.S. and other Christian-influenced nation-states

Stephen Turley, The Reawakening of Christian Civilization in Eastern Europe (The Imaginative Conservative, Jan 23, 2017) although I am concerned that it is not thorough ethically and politically

Yoram Hazony, The Virtue of Nationalism (Amazon book, Sep 4, 2018) praises the heretical appropriation of the Old Testament national freedom motif by the English, Dutch, and Americans, without acknowledging how those empires violated biblical ethics from Mosaic Israel (which included welcoming of foreigners, fairly egalitarian distribution of land, restorative justice, and empowerment of women) from Jesus' mission (anti-territorialism, expansion of communal identity, principled multi-culturalism) and ethics of repentance (restitution in both Moses and Jesus) which would normally be applied to colonialist injustice.  See review by Friedrich Hansen, Reflections on the Renaissance of Nationalism(Geopolitica, Sep 4, 2018) from a Russian-Eurasian geopolitical posture, which many Eastern Europeans support, and regular support for Hazony from The American Conservative.

Tom Porter, The Christian Right Is Looking to Putin's Russia to Save Christianity From the Godless West (Newsweek, Sep 15, 2018)

Will Collins, The Myth of a Christian Revival in Eastern Europe (The American Conservative, Jan 7, 2019)

the church in europe: the church shaping empires, empires shaping the church

church and empire: reflections on faithfulness and compromise: topics