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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Alexander Schmemann

6. Russian Orthodoxy (41 pages)













From Schmemann's A History of the Orthodox Church
Page 9

Tatar Conquest Beginning of Moscow Kingdom.

With the Tatar conquest of Russia (1237-40) the Kievan period in Russian history came to an end. This catastrophe affected not only the state; the Mongol yoke began a new stage in the development of the Church as well, a complex period not easily susceptible of any single generalization or characterization.

The Tatar invasion did not interrupt Church tradition or halt the theological or spiritual development that had already begun. But relations between the Church and state authority gradually changed. If in Kiev harmony between the Grand Prince and the Church authorities had usually prevailed, with the collapse of the central power and the multiplication of small principalities, it became easier to stifle the voice of the Church. In 1157 Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky drove Bishop Nestor out of Rostov, and Prince Sviatoslav of Chernigov expelled Bishop Antony the Greek in 1168. Monomakh’s brother, Rostislav, killed the monk Gregory for denouncing him, and Grand Prince Sviatopolk killed the abbot of the Crypt Monastery for the same reason. On the whole, however, the voice of the Church continued to be heard in disputes between the princes and had a good influence upon them. With the Tatar rule the center of governmental authority shifted far to the north, to the region of Suzdal (northeast of Moscow, which was then the estate of the prince of Suzdal), and the center of the metropolitan naturally followed.

The thirteenth century marked the flourishing of the northeastern cities of Vladimir and Suzdal, but as regards government this was a transitional period. In the fourteenth century the “gathering of the Russian land” around Moscow began, and a decisive factor in the process was the alliance of the Church — specifically its hierarchical center — with Moscow. A new shift of the metropolitan see naturally followed, although the metropolitan long retained the title “of Kiev” which he had kept throughout the Suzdal period. The head of the Church could no longer lead an almost nomadic life, as had the first metropolitans of the Tatar regime, Cyril and Maxim. The resettlement of Metropolitan Peter and his successors in Moscow resulted from a natural desire to maintain the unity of the country and to unite the ecclesiastical center with elements in the state that, even under Turkish rule, were striving for the consolidation and unity of Russia. But in uniting its fate with a single policy, which it supported in every way, the Church itself imperceptibly fell under the sway of the state; and it ceased to be the conscience of the state, gradually becoming a prop and almost an instrument of Muscovite imperialism.


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