The Russian Orthodox Church is a multi-ethnic Local Autocephalous Church maintaining communion in prayer and canon law with other Local Orthodox Churches.
The Russian Orthodox Church jurisdiction extends to people of Orthodox confession living in the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Latvia, Lithuania, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Estonia, as well as those Orthodox people who are her voluntary members living in other countries.
The Russian Orthodox Church is more than one thousand years old. According to tradition, St. Andrew the First Called, while preaching the Gospel, stopped at the Kievan hills to bless the future city of Kiev.
The fact that Russia had among her neighbours a powerful Christian state, the Byzantine Empire, very much contributed to the spread of Christianity in it. The south of Russia was blessed with the work of Sts Cyril and Methodius Equal to the Apostles, the Illuminators of the Slavs.
From the baptism of Russia to 17th century
In 954 Princess Olga of Kiev was baptized. All this paved the way for the greatest events in the history of the Russian people, namely, the baptism of Prince Vladimir and the Baptism of Russia in 988.
In the pre-Tartar period of its history The Russian Church was one of the metropolitanates of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The metropolitan at the head of the Church was appointed by the Patriarchate of Constantinople from among the Greeks, but in 1051 Russian-born Metropolitan Illarion, one of the most educated men of his time, was installed to the primatial see. Liberating itself from the invaders, the Russian state gathered strength and so did the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1448, not long before the Byzantine Empire collapsed, the Russian Church became independent from the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Metropolitan Jonas, installed by the Council of Russian bishops in 1448, was given the title of Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia. The growing might of the Russian state contributed also to the growing authority of the Autocephalous Russian Church.
In 1589 Metropolitan Job of Moscow became the first Russian patriarch. Eastern patriarchs recognized the Russian patriarch as the fifth in honor.
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The liturgical reforms of Patriarch Nikon
In the period after the invaders were driven away from Russia, the Russian Church was engaged in one of the most important of its internal tasks, namely, introducing corrections into its service books and rites. A great contribution to this was made by Patriarch Nikon, a bright personality and outstanding church reformer.
Some clergymen and lay people did not understand and did not accept the liturgical reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon and refused to obey the church authority. This was how the Old Believers’ schism emerged.
Radical reforms of Peter I
The beginning of the 18th century in Russia was marked by radical reforms carried out by Peter I. The reforms did not leave the Russian Church untouched as after the death of Patriarch Adrian in 1700 Peter I delayed the election of the new Primate of the Church and established in 1721 a collective supreme administration in the Church known as the Holy and Governing Synod. The Synod remained the supreme church body in the Russian Church for almost two centuries.
After the October revolution
For Bolsheviks who came to power in 1917 the Russian Orthodox Church was an ideological enemy a priori, as being an institutional part of tsarist Russia it resolutely defended the old regime also after the October revolution. This is why so many bishops, thousands of clergymen, monks and nuns as well as lay people were subjected to repression up to execution and murder striking in its brutality.