The Effect of the Russian Orthodox Religion on the

CultThe Effect of the Russian Orthodox Religion on the Cult
Orthodox Christianity has had an immense effect on the culture of Russia.

The adoption of the Orthodox faith from Constantinople by Prince Vladimir in 988
introduced cultural influences that profoundly affected the Russian
consciousness. As the people embraced Orthodoxy it developed a uniquely Russian
flavor and rooted deep in the fertile Russian soul. Orthodoxy had a major
impact on politics, art, and nearly every other aspect of Russia’s culture.

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Orthodoxy helped forge Russia’s world view and defined her place in the world.

The church affected the thought patterns and motivations of a whole culture and
changed the way Russians thought about themselves and the ways that they lived
their lives.

The church acted as a unifying factor for the Russian nation. Church
holidays and fasts enriched and brought meaning to the cycle of seasons and
sowing in the subsistence society. Russians possessed a deep religious faith
and from it they derived a sense of purpose in the universe and the promise of
salvation. The church nourished and preserved the culture of Russia during
centuries of internal strife and foreign intervention. Orthodox people feel a
strong sense of community and brotherhood towards one another through a shared
bond of faith. As a result of this emphasis on community, the rights of the
group tend to take precedence over the rights of the individual in Russian
culture. The Orthodox and Catholic faiths had an adversarial relationship for
years. As this rift deepened and grew increasingly antagonistic, the rift
between the East and the West also grew. The difference in religion between
Russia and Europe can largely explain the vast differences that developed in
their cultures.

The Tsar of All Russia derived his power and right to rule from his
status as God’s chosen representative on earth. As it is God alone who bestowed
power on the tsar, it was in the best interest of the monarchy to protect and
promote the church. This conception of the tsar possessing a divine right to
rule contributed to the political passivity of the Russian people. In the
Byzantium tradition the concept of symphonia defined the relationship between
the church and the state and acted as a balance on the unlimited power of the
tsar. As the head of the church and the head of the state, the metropolitan and
the tsar were equals and the metropolitan had the right to censure the tsar.

The dispute between the Possessors and the Non-Possessors challenged the idea of
symphonia, or harmony and cooperation between the pillars of society. The
Possessors and the Non-Possessors held vastly different ideas about the role the
church should play in society and politics. When the philosophy of the
Possessors triumphed, the church gained the right to wealth and serfs at the
expense of political influence. The tsar became superior to the metropolitan,
and the regime could now interfere in secular matters of the church. The
release of the tsar from any source of accountability left the tsar with
absolute, unlimited power. The abuses of Ivan the Terrible typify the danger of
absolute rule left unchecked. The Russian people actually believed that God had
sent Ivan to rule Russia as a punishment for her sins. The split between the
two factions caused the losers, the Non-Possessors, to be reviled as heretics.

This had a negative effect because the church came to be represented by a
faction instead of through a consensus. This led to only one set of ideas being
developed in the church and the culture and as a result it lost some of its
vitality. The Possessors made ritual sacrosanct. Every gesture, word, and
movement was significant and to deviate from the service in any way would be
heresy. This emphasis in the exterior form of religion over inner exultation
paved the way for another conflict that was to seriously undermine the power of
the church.

The third Rome theory was formulated by the monk Philotheus in the
fifteenth century. He asserted that Russia was the heir and protector of the
only true faith. Rome and Constantinople had both fallen and Moscow was the
third and final seat of Orthodoxy. This theory legitimized the Russian
Orthodoxy’s power and affirmed that she was no longer dependent on
Constantinople. A church schism occurred in the seventeenth century due to
changes in ritual implemented by the Patriarch Nikon. His attempts to rectify
inconsistencies in the rituals of the Greeks and the Russians were merely to
establish greater solidarity and continuity between the two faiths. Russia was
trying to help the Greeks who were living under Turkish rule since 1439. Russia
had a sense of manifest destiny and she felt that she had been chosen to defend
the Eastern Orthodox peoples. The belief that ritual must be sacrosanct caused
the alteration of ritual to be considered heretical. Those who refused to
change their rhythms of worship were called Old Believers and they were executed
and silenced by the authorities. The Old Believers insisted on following the
old forms because they feared committing heresy. The way they saw the situation
was that Rome had fallen because of heresy. Moscow was the last seat of
Orthodoxy and if Russia fell from the grace of God, it would mean the end of the
world. The basic issue in the schism was the relationship between the Russian
and Orthodox churches.Some felt that since Russia had adopted Orthodoxy from
Byzantium she should remain a junior partner’. Others felt that it was
Russia’s destiny to be a leader and to free her Eastern brethren.

The Orthodox relegion has been essential to the people to bring them a
sense of hope and destiny and a glimpse of heaven on earth. The choice of
Orthodoxy was as influential as the Mongul Yoke on the formation of the Russian
character. Orthodoxy brought the people a lot of joy, created a sense of
community, intensified the countries isolation, created beautiful art, started
wars, complicated politics, and best of all, reminded the people to love each


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