The Soviet State: A Study of Bolshevik Rule

By Bertram W. Maxwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
THE CHURCH AND THE STATE

"Orthodoxy and Autocracy are the Siamese Twins; one without the other could not survive." Thus spoke a professor of ecclesiastical law back in 1906, and this statement aptly characterizes the history of the Russian Orthodox church. Any discussion of the pre-Revolutionary church must make clear that her teachings and polity remained medieval. Persecution, torture, and exile were the lot of the non-conformists and heretics of Russia. While in Western Europe, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought religious tolerance, the Russian church experienced no change until 1905, and even then the Orthodox church was the state church having the first and dominant place in the body politic. The tsar was the head of the church and the highest defender and guardian of the doctrines of the dominant faith. Russian subjects who did not belong to the Orthodox church had very little chance to advance themselves; in fact, they were excluded from many professions and occupations. In order to appreciate the church situation in Soviet Russia, one should bear in mind that there are excellent reasons for the hatred which the Bolsheviks and revolutionists in general nurture for the Orthodox church, a hatred, which in their ignorance of any other church, is carried over to all religious sects. To them, God as interpreted by the Orthodox church is merely an expression of oppression. Without doubt the "darkness" of the Russian peasant can be directly traced to a superstituous clergy, domineering and intellectually blind, to whose advantage it was to keep the people in ignorance. The higher clergy had very close contact with the autocracy, since its opulent existence was dependent upon the continued welfare of absolutism, and it worked hand in glove with the worst autocracy in the history of the modern world. When the Bolsheviks came into power, one of the important

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