From Estonia's Point Of View In 2001

About the Russian Church in Estonia-
(excerpt from newspaper "Eesti Päevaleht") 10/01/2001

The historian Eerik Niiles Kross writes that the Church conflict will be solved only when the Church of Moscow will be changed from an instrument of politics into a real Church.

Some days ago the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) announced on a conference of the OSCE that it declines the proposal of the Government of Estonia to register the part of the Orthodox Church under Moscow in Estonia. The proposed statute, they said, does not take into account the "centuries long traditions" of the Church and the "truthfulness of its history". Also, they say that with the registration with this statute there will be no recognition of the continuity of Russian Orthodox Church in Estonia.

The problem is that it is impossible to confirm that, because this Church has not acted in Estonia continually. In that case, the Estonian Republic would have to admit that the Russian embassy in Tallinn is the same as the Provincial Administration (Gubernskoye Nachal'stvo) of the time of the Czar and has existed continually in Estonia.


The head of the Russian Church from Peter the 1st until the Bolshevik coup had been the Emperor. When murdering Nicholas the 2nd, the Bolsheviks not only killed a monarch. They also murdered the head of the Church, the Church made famous in a thousand years by icon painters, architects, chronicle writers like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy and others. The official policy of the Bolsheviks was to demolish the Church structure and militant atheism. The clergy was declared an enemy of the people and metropolitans, bishops and priests were arrested just because of their occupation. So, when there were 50,000 priests and 167 bishops before the revolution, there were just a hundred or so priests and 7 bishops left in 1939. Many Russian believers were sure that the Communist power was from the Satan and one of the Bolshevik leaders must be the Antichrist. This was the time and background in which Bulgakov wrote his "Master and Margarita".

But Stalin, the genius of how to control the masses, had already reach a decision that instead of totally destroying the Church, it is more useful to turn it into an instrument of his own power. After the death of Patriarch Tikhon (who, according to some, was poisoned), in 1925, Stalin did not allow to choose a new Patriarch and to convoke a Church Assembly. Metropolitan Sergius became the temporary head of the Church. Also, empty places in the Synod were not filled and the activity of the Synod stopped for years. So the organization of the Church was disintegrated.

The Church life came into standstill, the religious life went underground and more and more new sects arose. In 1926, the factual primate Sergius was arrested. When he was unexpectedly released half a year afterwards, he made a declaration called by the historians the "spiritual and moral catastrophe" of the Russian Church. Metropolitan Sergius declared that the Church must cooperate with the new regime. In order to retain some kind of existence for the Church, the hierarchy agreed to become an active ally to the Soviet regime.

In Russia and elsewhere there are clergymen, who find that starting from the declaration of Sergius, the Church lost its moral right to guide the Russian people spiritually. Essentially, it was the Central Committee of the Party that put the hierarchy in its place. Russian Orthodox churches abroad declined to recognize the MP, and the schism continues until today.

When the Russians were close to defeat in 1943, Stalin gave his consent for the convocation of Church Assembly, electing a new Patriarch and open some priest's seminaries. During the time of the war, Stalin needed the help of the Church to inspirate the Russians. From that point, the Church started to follow the orders of the Kremlin, and this situation lasts until now. The dissidents inside the Church were delivered to the authorities, confession secrets, containing something political, were reported to the KGB, the Church supported the foreign policy of the USSR and world communist movement under the cover of struggle for peace. Higher clergy got the same privileges as the rest of nomenclature.

The Estonian Orthodox, too, were victims of the Bolshevik Church policy. The Reds murdered bishop Platon in Tartu on January 14, 1919. Alter the Independence War, the contacts with the scarcely alive Church of Russia were disrupted. An independent Orthodox Church was created in Estonia, and Alexander Paulus was chosen as its bishop. In 1923, Patriarch Meletius 4 of Constantinople consecrated Alexander as Metropolitan. The EAOK came under the canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, remaining in fact independent. The peace of Tartu saved the life of many Orthodox clergymen for twenty years more.

Moscow has now tried to clairn that the EAOK went voluntarily under the subjection of Moscow after Estonia was occupied. This claim is as good as the claim that Estonia entered the Soviet Union voluntarily. Already in 1940, Moscow considered it necessary to liquidate autonomous EAOK. March 1941, the People's Commissary of Security Merkulov wrote to Stalin : "The MP must appoint Archbishop Dimitri Nikolayevich Voznessensky (Sergius, an agent of the NGPU) as the head of the dioceses of the Baltics, justifying it by respective appeals written by local clergy."

After Estonia got back its independence, the Orthodox Church of Estonia decided to restore its activity here. However, a curious situation came into being in the Church. An analogy could be a group of people in Narva creating an alternative Provincial Administration (like during the czarist time), claiming that this is the government that has lead Estonia all the time. The Russian priests appointed by Moscow started to follow the orders from Moscow and declined to accept the independence of the Orthodox Church of Estonia.

The problem is that the MP has gone through a limited rebirth and penance, canonized Patriarch Tikhon and acknowledged the great losses during the communist period, but has not given up its role as an instrument of home and foreign policy of the official Moscow. (…)

The question of the Orthodox Church in Estonia is not a matter of church property and some tens of thousands of unfortunate souls for the MP. It is a matter of historical territory and spheres of influence. As the official Moscow wants to keep and enlarge its sphere of interests with political means, so the Church tries to help Kremlin in this. Moscow tries to prevent the independence of the Orthodox Church of Estonia not because of some half-ruined church buildings, but to shift the borders of civilizations. That is why Moscow is talking now about historical truth and the centuries-long activity of its Church structure in Estonia. (…)

excerpt from "Eesti Päevaleht" October 1st, 2001

(Translated by our means)


Contents English
History of EOC