CultThe Effect of the Russian Orthodox Religion on the CultOrthodox Christianity has had an immense effect on the culture of Russia. The adoption of the Orthodox faith from Constantinople by Prince Vladimir in 988introduced cultural influences that profoundly affected the Russianconsciousness. As the people embraced Orthodoxy it developed a uniquely Russianflavor and rooted deep in the fertile Russian soul.
Orthodoxy had a majorimpact on politics, art, and nearly every other aspect of Russia’s culture. 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 andchanged the way Russians thought about themselves and the ways that they livedtheir lives. The church acted as a unifying factor for the Russian nation. Churchholidays and fasts enriched and brought meaning to the cycle of seasons andsowing in the subsistence society.
Russians possessed a deep religious faithand from it they derived a sense of purpose in the universe and the promise ofsalvation. The church nourished and preserved the culture of Russia duringcenturies of internal strife and foreign intervention. Orthodox people feel astrong sense of community and brotherhood towards one another through a sharedbond of faith. As a result of this emphasis on community, the rights of thegroup tend to take precedence over the rights of the individual in Russianculture.
The Orthodox and Catholic faiths had an adversarial relationship foryears. As this rift deepened and grew increasingly antagonistic, the riftbetween the East and the West also grew. The difference in religion betweenRussia and Europe can largely explain the vast differences that developed intheir cultures. The Tsar of All Russia derived his power and right to rule from hisstatus as God’s chosen representative on earth.
As it is God alone who bestowedpower on the tsar, it was in the best interest of the monarchy to protect andpromote the church. This conception of the tsar possessing a divine right torule contributed to the political passivity of the Russian people. In theByzantium tradition the concept of symphonia defined the relationship betweenthe church and the state and acted as a balance on the unlimited power of thetsar. As the head of the church and the head of the state, the metropolitan andthe 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 ofsymphonia, or harmony and cooperation between the pillars of society.
ThePossessors and the Non-Possessors held vastly different ideas about the role thechurch should play in society and politics. When the philosophy of thePossessors triumphed, the church gained the right to wealth and serfs at theexpense of political influence. The tsar became superior to the metropolitan,and the regime could now interfere in secular matters of the church. Therelease of the tsar from any source of accountability left the tsar withabsolute, unlimited power. The abuses of Ivan the Terrible typify the danger ofabsolute rule left unchecked. The Russian people actually believed that God hadsent Ivan to rule Russia as a punishment for her sins.
The split between thetwo 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 afaction instead of through a consensus. This led to only one set of ideas beingdeveloped in the church and the culture and as a result it lost some of itsvitality. The Possessors made ritual sacrosanct. Every gesture, word, andmovement was significant and to deviate from the service in any way would beheresy.
This emphasis in the exterior form of religion over inner exultationpaved the way for another conflict that was to seriously undermine the power ofthe church. The third Rome theory was formulated by the monk Philotheus in thefifteenth century. He asserted that Russia was the heir and protector of theonly true faith. Rome and Constantinople had both fallen and Moscow was thethird and final seat of Orthodoxy.
This theory legitimized the RussianOrthodoxy’s power and affirmed that she was no longer dependent onConstantinople. A church schism occurred in the seventeenth century due tochanges in ritual implemented by the Patriarch Nikon. His attempts to rectifyinconsistencies in the rituals of the Greeks and the Russians were merely toestablish greater solidarity and continuity between the two faiths. Russia wastrying to help the Greeks who were living under Turkish rule since 1439. Russiahad a sense of manifest destiny and she felt that she had been chosen to defendthe Eastern Orthodox peoples.
The belief that ritual must be sacrosanct causedthe alteration of ritual to be considered heretical. Those who refused tochange their rhythms of worship were called Old Believers and they were executedand silenced by the authorities. The Old Believers insisted on following theold forms because they feared committing heresy. The way they saw the situationwas that Rome had fallen because of heresy. Moscow was the last seat ofOrthodoxy and if Russia fell from the grace of God, it would mean the end of theworld.
The basic issue in the schism was the relationship between the Russianand Orthodox churches. Some felt that since Russia had adopted Orthodoxy fromByzantium she should remain a junior partner’. Others felt that it wasRussia’s destiny to be a leader and to free her Eastern brethren. The Orthodox relegion has been essential to the people to bring them asense of hope and destiny and a glimpse of heaven on earth.
The choice ofOrthodoxy was as influential as the Mongul Yoke on the formation of the Russiancharacter. Orthodoxy brought the people a lot of joy, created a sense ofcommunity, intensified the countries isolation, created beautiful art, startedwars, complicated politics, and best of all, reminded the people to love eachother. Religion