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The Russian Orthodox Church




The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has a thousand-year history of strong political as well as spiritual influence over the inhabitants of the Russian state. After enduring the Soviet era as a state-controlled religious facade, the church quickly regained both membership and political influence in the early 1990s.

The term “Orthodox” translates from the Greek to mean “correctly believing” and was adopted by the Church in order to distinguish itself from what was becoming a larger and larger body of non-orthodox Christian denominations. The Russian Orthodox Church is a body of Christians who constitute an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow, in communion with the other Eastern Orthodox Churches.

The Russian Orthodox Church is autonomous, or self-governing. The highest church official is the patriarch. Matters relating to faith are decided by ecumenical councils in which all member churches of Eastern Orthodoxy participate.

The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world and second only to the Roman Catholic Church among Christian churches, numbering over 135 million members world wide and growing numerically since late 1980s. Up to 65% of ethnic Russians and a significant number of Belarusians and Ukrainians identify themselves as "Orthodox".

Orthodox belief holds that the Orthodox Church is Christianity's true, holy, and apostolic church, tracing its origin directly to the institution established by Jesus Christ. Orthodox beliefs are based on the Bible and its traditions.

Orthodox teachings include the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the inseparable but distinguishable union of the two natures of Jesus Christ--one divine, the other human. Among saints, Mary has a special place as the Mother of God. Icons, sacred images often illuminated by candles, adorn the churches as well as the homes of most Orthodox faithful.

The Russian Orthodox Church traces its origins to the time of Kievan Rus'. In 988 Prince Vladimir made the Byzantine variant of Christianity the state religion of Russia. The Russian church was subordinate to the patriarch of Constantinople, seat of the Byzantine Empire. The original seat of the metropolitan, as the head of the church was known, was Kiev. As power moved from Kiev to Moscow in the fourteenth century, the seat moved as well, establishing the tradition that the metropolitan of Moscow is the head of the church.

In 1448, the Russian Church became independent from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. After the Constantinopol`s fall the Russian Orthodox Church saw Moscow as the Third Rome, legitimate successor to Constantinople, and the Primate of Moscow as head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The conflict named ‘raskol’ erupted in the 1650s when reformist clergy attempted to modify liturgical texts and ritual practices. At issue was the model for such changes: Reformers advocated Greek models, but opponents deemed the Orthodoxy of the Third Rome inviolable and any change tantamount to apostasy. The result was a split between the official church, supported by the state, and an underground of disaffected clergy, self-described as "Old Believers."

The eighteenth century brought still more profound change. Driven by the needs of war and inspired by Western models, Peter the Great restricted the church's role in secular affairs, and in 1721 replaced the patriarchate with a more tractable Synod, staffed by secular officials, to administer and control the church. As a result, the church's moral authority declined in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The Soviet era brought the church to a disaster. New ideology abolished the religion. By 1921 the church as an institution had virtually disappeared; it existed only as individual parish churches registered by committees of laity. The most of churches were closed; vast numbers of believer-activists, not just clergy, were arrested, church valuables were confiscated. Although the exigencies of World War II forced some concessions (including election of a new patriarch in 1943 and an increase in churches, although mainly in Ukraine), the postwar regime gradually returned to its antireligious policies.

During the mid-1980s the church experienced recovery. The breakup of the USSR in 1991 changed this situation. Since 1991 the church has greatly expanded the number of parishes, monasteries and seminaries.

Although the church faced stiff competition from other faiths (especially the proselytizing sects), it rebuilt its institutional structure and carved out a salient role in Russian post-communist life and culture.

 

2. Give English equivalents to the following words and expressions:

Духовное и политическое влияние; святая Троица; законный наследник; духовенство; раскол; глубокие изменения; вдохновлять; ограничить роль церкви в светских делах; упразднять/запрещать; распад СССР; расширять количество приходов; сталкиваться с жестокой конкуренцией.

 

3. Fill in the gaps:

ascended apostles blasphemy brotherhood Christian uprising

condemned creatures crucified dead deliverer Resurrection

disciples doctrines Easter followers heaven religion

humility leaders preaching prophets God


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