Reference address :

ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Alexander Schmemann

6. Russian Orthodoxy (41 pages)













From Schmemann's A History of the Orthodox Church
Page 2

Conversion in Kiev — St. Vladimir.

The official history of the Orthodox Church in Russia begins with St. Vladimir, ruler of Kiev, in the latter part of the tenth century. This does not mean that there had been no earlier Christianity in Russia. We need only recall the importance in the Russian Christian memory of St. Olga, his grandmother — “the dawning light that heralds the sun,” according to the chronicles. Christianity before the baptism of the Rus (the name of the Scandinavian tribe that occupied the Slavic territories around Kiev near the river Dnieper) was already so firmly established and the bonds with Byzantium and Byzantinized Bulgaria so strong, that St. Vladimir’s work can only be properly evaluated in the light of these factors. There is even a theory of the first baptism of the Rus under Patriarch Photius in the ninth century which has a fair number of adherents in Russian scholarship.

Essentially the work of St. Vladimir was not only a beginning but also the completion of a rather long process, the victory of a certain tendency in the state’s conception of itself. However attached to paganism the prince may have been personally, as the chronicle relates, his long hesitation in choosing a new religion, his missions to various countries, and his final choice of Greek Christianity is evidence that the baptism of Russia, like that of Bulgaria before her, was conceived as primarily a state matter and demonstrated Russia’s arrival at maturity and readiness to be included in the Christian tradition of the cultured world.

Like Bulgaria, Russia was obliged to choose between the old and the new Rome; we know much more now than we did earlier about her links with Rome both before and after Vladimir. The choice fell on Byzantine Orthodoxy. As with the Bulgars, Christianity in Russia was imposed from above by state authority. Finally, as in Bulgaria, this Byzantine Orthodoxy became established among the Russians in its Slavic aspect, that of Cyril and Methodius. All these factors were to define once for all the development of Russia and the Russian Church. We may leave aside questions recently raised by Russian historians as to whether Greek or Bulgarian influence was first and fundamental; whether the Russian Church in its first years came under the jurisdiction of Constantinople or Bulgaria; and to what extent the tragic fate of the first Bulgarian kingdom in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries was reflected in the early Christian development of Russia. No answer to these questions one way or another would change the basic fact in the history of Russian Orthodoxy: its organic link with Byzantinism, that is, in its Slavic form. In any case, starting with Yaroslav the Wise, the canonical dependence of the Russian Church upon Constantinople cannot be doubted. That this dependence quite early became burdensome in the mind of Church and state — possibly from the very beginning — we have evidence in the attempts to install Russian metropolitans (Hilarion under Yaroslav in 1051 and Ephraim under Iziaslav), and also in the disputes over the same question in connection with the installation of Clement Smoliatich in 1147.


First Page ||| Next Page
Schmemann, A History of the Orthodox Church: Table of Contents

Cf.  Books for getting closer to Orthodox Christianity ||| Orthodox Images of the Christ ||| Byzantium : The Alternative History of Europe ||| Greek Orthodoxy - From Apostolic Times to the Present Day ||| A History of the Byzantine Empire ||| Videos about Byzantium and Orthodoxy ||| Aspects of Byzantium in Modern Popular Music ||| 3 Posts on the Fall of Byzantium  ||| Greek Literature / The New Testament

On Line Resources for Constantinople * On the future of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

Greek Forum : Make a question / Start a Discussion 

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Learned Freeware

Reference address :