very good in the age of the Enlightenment, when ecclesiastical elites played an important role.
The shock of encountering the three absolutisms which divided up the federation was enormous. Their governments organised a strict control over the whole of ecclesiastical life. They changed the borders of dioceses to fit the new frontiers, and tried to place the maximum restraint upon links with Rome. The nomination of docile bishops was a crucial factor in the politics of subjugation. Because of protests from Rome, dioceses sometimes lacked bishops in ordinary for decades. Loyalty towards the civil power, presented as coming from God, was everywhere imposed upon the clergy, with public prayers for the king-emperor and his family. The confiscation of the church's lands by the state and the system of state payment of priests were effective instruments of control, as was the suppression of convents considered to be too independent and linked to the native population. The state's intentions were very clear: the Catholic Church - like any other church - was obliged to enforce a new order and to persuade the population to accept their new regimes as being according to the will of God. Those who took part in resistance, above all in armed insurrections, were regularly denounced to the papacy as revolutionaries seeking to destroy the divine order of things. It is interesting to observe the similarities in the practice of the three absolutisms, despite the differences between Orthodox Russia, Protestant Prussia and Catholic Austria.
In Russia, the Orthodox Church was governed by the state and was prepared to further the state's imperial goals. The suppression of the powerful Uniate Catholic Church before the dismemberment of the Ukrainian and Belorussian lands ofthe federation was a primary objective in i772. Before i772, this church had the most numerous network of parishes in the federation - almost 10,000 compared to 5,000 Latin parishes. It was energetically attacked before 1795, then again, after a pause due to liberal Tsars, after 1825. The last Uniate network was suppressed around 1875. The statistics are revealing: before 1772 in the Ukrainian-Belorussian area of the federation there were a few hundred Orthodox parishes in a diocese numbering 250,000 faithful. By the early twentieth century, on the same territory, there were nine Orthodox bishoprics, more than 6,000 parishes, and more than 10 million faithful. This touches on the problem of central importance for the national history of the Belorussians and Ukrainians, the clear role of Russification linked to the Orthodox Church.
The situation of the Catholic Church was different in the Kingdom of Poland, with the Tsar as king, and in the territories of the federation directly
Was this article helpful?