abolished the patriarchate in 1721 and replaced it by a lay administration under an over-procurator.
Had this sobor been able to run its course, doubtless reforms would have followed in rapid succession. As it was, the success of the October Revolution cut off the work of the sobor in its early stages. The church lost its voice almost before it had found it. Lenin demonstrated his hostility to the church at once, passing a law on 4 December confiscating all church property and following this on 23 January 1918 by the Decree on the Separation of the Church from the State and the School from the Church.
At a stroke the church lost its heritage and its wellbeing, despite the theoretical guarantee contained in the 1918 Constitution, which gave the right to 'religious and anti-religious propaganda . . . for all citizens'.3 The destruction which followed was systematic and universal. Stalin's Law on Religious Associations of April 1929 did little other than legalise the resulting status quo. Stalin's constitution removed the right to religious propaganda, but believers had never enjoyed this in practice. The all-embracing demand that 'religious associations' (parishes) should be registered placed their control in the hands of the state that, far from registering parishes, closed them down systematically. The church had no administration, no dioceses, no schools, no training for the ministry, no monasteries, no publications. In the countryside - except in secret - the church virtually ceased to exist. All this happened in a country that proclaimed the separation of church and state.
In the major cities scattered churches remained open, but the clergy who served in them could remain only by servile subjugation to the state. Beginning with Patriarch Tikhon, the authorities began to force compliance to the new regime by imprisonment, torture and - in many cases - execution.4 Tikhon was forced to withdraw his anathema against the Bolsheviks. His statement of loyalty to the regime appeared in the government newspaper, Izvestiia, in June 1923. He died less than two years later in obscure circumstances, almost certainly a victim of Stalin's henchmen. No further patriarch could be elected until World War II. His acting successor, Metropolitan Sergii Stragorodskii, published a declaration which became the official policy of the Russian Orthodox Church throughout the rest of the communist period. The statement proclaimed: 'We want to be Orthodox and at the same time to recognise the
3 For a full discussion of this little-understood point, see Michael Bourdeaux, Religious ferment in Russia: Protestant opposition to Soviet religious policy (London: Macmillan, 1968), 108-10.
4 For an account ofthese years, seeNikitaStruve, Christians incontemporaryRussia (London: Harvill Press, 1967), 34-58.
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