The Russian Religious Renaissance of the Twentieth Century

The Russian Religious Renaissance of the Twentieth Century

The Russian Religious Renaissance of the Twentieth Century

The Russian Religious Renaissance of the Twentieth Century

Excerpt

The Russians belong to those peoples whose national characteristics and sense of unity have been shaped by their membership of the same Church. Although their geographical isolation and the calamities of their history have contributed also to their conviction that they form a community equally distinct from their oriental and western neighbours, nevertheless the decisive factor remains the orthodoxy (Pravoslavie) of their religion.

The original remarkable cultural oneness of the nation was challenged, however, by the schism in the Russian Church in the seventeenth century which prepared the ground for the cultural revolution inaugurated by Peter the Great in the next century. The result was that the westernized upper classes became cut off from the rest of the population.

The tragic consequences of these two splits became fully apparent in the second part of the nineteenth century when a numerically small but politically aggressive group of westernized Russians, known as the intelligentsia, started an energetic campaign aimed at the further undermining of the religious unity of the Russian people. The weapons used were the preaching of socialism based on materialism and atheism.

In the midst of this campaign the outlook of some of the outstanding leaders of the intelligentsia was profoundly altered. They revised their previous negative attitude to Christianity and recognized the intrinsic significance of the Orthodox Church. These philosophers came to believe that the growth of Russian culture and the political and social stability of the nation required the healing of the wounds inflicted by the cruelty and abruptness of Peter's reforms.

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