Church reform of Peter I
The Church reform of Peter I introduced what some believe was a period of Caesaropapism
Caesaropapism is the idea of combining the power of secular government with, or making it superior to, the spiritual authority of the Church; especially concerning the connection of the Church with government. The term caesaropapism was coined by Max Weber, who defined it as follows: “a secular,...

 in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

, when the church apparatus effectively became a department of state.


Previously, the Russian Tsars
Tsardom of Russia
The Tsardom of Russia was the name of the centralized Russian state from Ivan IV's assumption of the title of Tsar in 1547 till Peter the Great's foundation of the Russian Empire in 1721.From 1550 to 1700, Russia grew 35,000 km2 a year...

 had exerted some influence on church operations; however, until Peter's reforms the church had been relatively free in its internal governance. Following the model of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

, the Tsar was considered to be the "Defender of Orthodoxy". In this capacity he had the right of veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

 over the election of new bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s, and upon the consecration
Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word "consecration" literally means "to associate with the sacred". Persons, places, or things can be consecrated, and the term is used in various ways by different groups...

 of new bishops he would often be the one to present the crozier to them. The Tsar would also be involved in major ecclesiastical decisions. In 1551, Tsar Ivan IV summoned the Synod of a Hundred Chapters (Стоглавый Собор), which confirmed the inviolability of church properties and the exclusive jurisdiction of ecclesiastical court
Ecclesiastical court
An ecclesiastical court is any of certain courts having jurisdiction mainly in spiritual or religious matters. In the Middle Ages in many areas of Europe these courts had much wider powers than before the development of nation states...

s over clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

, and the norms of church life were regulated. The Great Synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

 of Moscow in 1666-1667 was also presided over by the Tsar.

Peter the Great ended up losing the support of the Russian clergy over his reformed. Local hierarchs became very suspicious of Peter's friendship with foreigners, the shaving of his beard, and his alleged Protestant propensities. The Tsar did not abandon Orthodoxy as the main ideological core of the state, but attempted to start a process of westernization of the clergy, relying on those with a Western theological education, although Peter at the same time remained faithful to the canons of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Peter unintentionally caused "Ukrainization" of the Russian Church, inviting Ukrainian and Belorussian clergy (mostly graduates of the Kiev-Mohyla Academy) from the buffer regions of the Empire into Russia. As a result of this, by the middle of the 18th century the majority of the Russian Orthodox Church was headed by people from Ukraine (Little Russia
Little Russia
Little Russia , sometimes Little or Lesser Rus’ , is a historical political and geographical term in the Russian language referring to most of the territory of modern-day Ukraine before the 20th century. It is similar to the Polish term Małopolska of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth...

 or Galicia). Between 1700 and 1762, out of the 127 hierarchs who headed cathedrals in Russia 70 were from Ukraine and only 47 from Russia (the rest originating from other regions).


Peter I
Peter I of Russia
Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov Dates indicated by the letters "O.S." are Old Style. All other dates in this article are New Style. ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his half-brother, Ivan V...

, known as "Peter the Great" (ruled 1682–1725), ushered in an era in which the church government was fundamentally transformed: instead of being governed by a patriarch
Originally a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is called patriarchy. This is a Greek word, a compound of πατριά , "lineage, descent", esp...

 or metropolitan
Metropolitan bishop
In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis; that is, the chief city of a historical Roman province, ecclesiastical province, or regional capital.Before the establishment of...

, the government of the church came under the control of a committee known as the Most Holy Governing Synod
Most Holy Synod
The Most Holy Governing Synod was the highest governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church between 1721 and 1918, when the Patriarchate was restored. The jurisdiction of the Most Holy Synod extended over every kind of ecclesiastical question and over some that are partly secular.The Synod was...

, which was composed both of bishops and lay bureaucrats appointed by the Emperor.

Tsar Peter inflicted numerous reforms on his country that were designed to create and pay for a new government and a military and naval system that would enable Russia to trade with, compete with, and, as necessary defend Russia's European interests by force of arms. The ruthlessness with which he implemented his governmental and tax collection reforms, and the forced buildup of his new capital city, St. Petersburg, augured poorly for the independence of the church.

When Patriarch Adrian
Patriarch Adrian
Patriarch Adrian was the last pre-revolutionary Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.Adrian caught the eye of Patriarch Joachim, when he was still an archmandrite at Chudov Monastery. In 1686, Joachim appointed him metropolitan of Kazan and Sviyazhsk. On August 24, 1690, Adrian was chosen to replace...

 (in office 1690–1700) died in October of 1700, Peter prevented the election of a new patriarch, and instead appointed Stephen Yavorsky
Stephen Yavorsky
Stefan Yavorsky was an archbishop and statesman in the Russian Empire, of Ukrainian descent, one of the ablest coadjutors of Peter the Great and the first president of the Most Holy Synod....

 as patriarchal "exarch
In the Byzantine Empire, an exarch was governor with extended authority of a province at some remove from the capital Constantinople. The prevailing situation frequently involved him in military operations....

", locum tenens, or, literally, the custodian of the patriarchal throne (місцеблюститель патріаршого престолу). Yavorskii was a young professor from the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy of a breakaway region of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

 also known as Cossack Hetmanate
Cossack Hetmanate
The Hetmanate or Zaporizhian Host was the Ruthenian Cossack state in the Central Ukraine between 1649 and 1782.The Hetmanate was founded by first Ukrainian hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky during the Khmelnytsky Uprising . In 1654 it pledged its allegiance to Muscovy during the Council of Pereyaslav,...

, who had trained at a Jesuit academy in Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, and who argued in favor of a strong patriarchate and the independence of the church. He headed the church together with a bishop council, however his powers were very limited, as for example all church property was under administration of Monastical prikaz (see prikaz
Prikaz was an administrative or judicial office in Muscovy and Russia of 15th-18th centuries. The term is usually translated as "ministry", "office" or "department". In modern Russian "prikaz" means administrative or military order...

) which was out of the church jurisdiction. As a result monasteries became the main nests of opposition and in order to fight them the government prohibited monks to keep in their cells pen and paper. Yavorsky who might have thinking of becoming a patriarch himself was not fully supportive of Peters ideas to "bureaucritise" by introducing a system of collegiate. Yavorsky publicly declared his opposition to introduce civil procurators-fiscal
Procurator Fiscal
A procurator fiscal is a public prosecutor in Scotland. They investigate all sudden and suspicious deaths in Scotland , conduct Fatal Accident Inquiries and handle criminal complaints against the police A procurator fiscal (pl. procurators fiscal) is a public prosecutor in Scotland. They...

 (as in Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

) in church courts. After Yavorsky became close with supporters of Alexei Petrovich, Tsarevich of Russia who was in opposition to his father Peter the Great dismissed Yavorsky.
Gradually, Peter came to favor another professor from the Kiev's Academy, Theofan Prokopovich, whose 1719 Spiritual Regulation supported the concept of a Russian national church
National church
National church is a concept of a Christian church associated with a specific ethnic group or nation state. The idea was notably discussed during the 19th century, during the emergence of modern nationalism....

 under the authority of the Tsar as the "supreme bishop", and argued that an ecclesiastical council would be more appropriate to govern the church than a single patriarch. It seemed dubious to Prokopovich to have a dual power in the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 and was supportive of the idea of a single and an ultimate autocrat. Among the Russian clergy, however, Prokopovich was perceived as a Lutheranist and a Calvinist as person who studied protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 and who did not mature in the culture of the Eastern Orthodoxy. Against him energetically protested the rector of the Moscow Academy Theophilakt Lopatinsky when Prokopovich was appointed the Metropolitan
Metropolitan may refer to:* A metropolis* A metropolitan area* A metropole, "mother country", or central part of a colonizing state* Metropolitan bishop or archbishop, leader of an ecclesiastical "mother see"...

 of Pskov.

In 1721, Peter established the Ecclesiastical College to govern the church ("college", or kollegia, a word borrowed from the Swedish governmental system, was the term Peter used for his government ministries, each one headed by a committee instead of a single minister). The Ecclesiastical College was soon renamed the Holy Governing Synod, and was administered by a lay director, or Ober-Procurator
Procurator (Russia)
Procurator , was an office initially created by Peter the Great, the first Emperor of the Russian Empire, in an effort to bring the Russian Orthodox Church more directly under his control.The Russian word prokuror also has the meaning of prosecutor....

. The Synod changed in composition over time, but basically it remained a committee of churchmen headed by a lay appointee of the Emperor.


Monasteries lost territory and were more closely regulated, resulting in a reduction in the number of monks and nuns in Russia from roughly 25,000 in 1734 to around 14,000 in 1738.

The Church — particularly monasteries — lost landed wealth gradually during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but under Empress Catherine II ("Catherine the Great", ruled 1762–1796) monastic lands were effectively nationalised, with some one million peasants on monastery land becoming state serfs practically overnight. A new ecclesiastic educational system was begun under Peter the Great and expanded to the point that by the end of the century there was a seminary
A seminary, theological college, or divinity school is an institution of secondary or post-secondary education for educating students in theology, generally to prepare them for ordination as clergy or for other ministry...

 in each eparchy
Eparchy is an anglicized Greek word , authentically Latinized as eparchia and loosely translating as 'rule over something,' like province, prefecture, or territory, to have the jurisdiction over, it has specific meanings both in politics, history and in the hierarchy of the Eastern Christian...

A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

). However, the curriculum for the clergy heavily emphasised Latin language and subjects, closer to the curriculum of Jesuit academies in Poland, focusing lightly on the Greek language and the Eastern Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

, and lighter still on the Russian and Slavonic church languages. This resulted in more monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

s and priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

s bing formally educated than before, but receiving poor training in preparation for a ministry to a Russian-speaking population steeped in the traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy. Catherine even made sure that the salaries of all ranks of the clergy were paid by the state instead of the Church, resulting in the clergy effectively becoming employees of the state.

The Russian patriarchate was not restored until 1917, when the All-Russian Council (Sobor
A sobor is a council of bishops together with other clerical and lay delegates representing the church as a whole in matters of importance...

) elected St. Tikhon
Tikhon of Moscow
Saint Tikhon of Moscow , born Vasily Ivanovich Bellavin , was the 11th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia of the Russian Orthodox Church during the early years of the Soviet Union, 1917 through 1925.-Early life:...

 as Patriarch of Moscow. Although several commissions of the Synod had planned for a church council since 1905, Tsar Nicholas II believed a council would be destabilizing. After the February Revolution
February Revolution
The February Revolution of 1917 was the first of two revolutions in Russia in 1917. Centered around the then capital Petrograd in March . Its immediate result was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire...

 and the abdication
Abdication occurs when a monarch, such as a king or emperor, renounces his office.-Terminology:The word abdication comes derives from the Latin abdicatio. meaning to disown or renounce...

 of the Tsar on 15 March, the Synodal higher church authority under the provisional government
Russian Provisional Government
The Russian Provisional Government was the short-lived administrative body which sought to govern Russia immediately following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II . On September 14, the State Duma of the Russian Empire was officially dissolved by the newly created Directorate, and the country was...

 convened the council, which opened on 15 August (28 August NS), the Dormition of the Virgin. The assembly continued meeting despite the onset of the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

, electing Patriarch St. Tikhon on 5 November 1917. Many other issues were deliberated and decided at the council, including decentralizing the church administration, allowing women to participate in church governance, and determining that priests and laity would have a voice in church councils alongside bishops. The Petrine Synodal higher church authority and the Ober-Procurator
Procurator (Russia)
Procurator , was an office initially created by Peter the Great, the first Emperor of the Russian Empire, in an effort to bring the Russian Orthodox Church more directly under his control.The Russian word prokuror also has the meaning of prosecutor....

 were abolished forever.

See also

  • Reforms of Peter I of Russia
  • Government reform of Peter I
    Government reform of Peter I
    Government reform of Peter I refers to modifications made to the state apparatus of Russia during the rule of Peter I.Peter ascended to the throne in 1682; he ruled jointly with his half-brother Ivan V. After Ivan's death in 1696, Peter implemented a series of sweeping reforms aimed at modernizing...

  • History of the Russian Orthodox Church
    History of the Russian Orthodox Church
    -Foundation by St. Andrew:The Russian Orthodox Church is traditionally said to have been founded by the Apostle Andrew, who is thought to have visited Scythia and Greek colonies along the northern coast of the Black Sea. According to one of the legends, St. Andrew reached the future location of...

  • Russian history, 1682–1796
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