The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC)

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Under Soviet rule, the Russian Orthodox Church suffered persecution and suppression. Many priests and monks were either executed or imprisoned.

If you want to understand the fundamentals of Orthodox faith, several books are available that can help. John McGuckin’s The Orthodox Church: Its Past and Role in the World Today, published by Catholic University of America Press, is one such resource.

Orthodox Church

The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is one of the world’s largest Christian denominations. Its spiritual power lies in its liturgical rite, prayerfulness, icons and monastic life.

It is an organization of 261 ecclesiastical jurisdictions (Russian: prikhod), all belonging to the same patriarchate: the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). Each eparchy and exarchate has its own bishop and governs itself independently.

These eparchies, sometimes referred to as self-governing Churches, can range in size from large to small.

Many Russian eparchies are divided into metropolitan districts (Russian: mitropolichii okrug), similar to Western dioceses.

During the 2022 war, many of these constituent entities faced a difficult choice: criticize Patriarch Kirill for his support of the conflict or remain loyal to ROC leadership and risk becoming Kremlin agents within their own countries. Ultimately, they chose the latter path.


The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is one of the world’s largest autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches with over 90 million members worldwide.

For nearly two centuries, the Church has had a missionary presence outside Russia. Its missionaries preached to pagan tribes of Asia, established dioceses in China and Japan, and even brought Christianity to Aleutian Islands and Alaska.

In the 19th century, as Russian emigration reached North America, the Church began to have a role here too. Metropolitan Tikhon, then Patriarch of Moscow, appointed Metropolitan Platon and Metropolitan Evlogy to lead their respective dioceses in both North America and Europe respectively.

In the 1930s, a group of Russian emigres in San Diego decided to establish an Orthodox parish. On December 14, 1940, St. Paul Episcopal Church hosted its inaugural Divine Liturgy with 30-40 people attending. Subsequently, it was dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra – patron saint of Russia – with its own parish church built nearby.


The Russian Orthodox Church provides a range of services. This includes worship, catechism, social work and religious education.

The Divine Liturgy is the most commonly attended service on Sunday morning, consisting of litanies, bible readings and communion with Christ’s Body and Blood.

Matins is another widely observed liturgy, lasting an hour-long. It precedes brief preparatory services and culminates in the Eucharist which occupies much of the service.

Church Slavonic services are traditionally conducted, though this has been debated numerous times. Some suggest it would be best for the Church to switch over to modern Russian.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, new political and social liberties enabled many churches to be restored and theologians elected. This resulted in a revival of Orthodoxy in Russia; however, ISSP survey data indicates that many Russians still do not attend religious services regularly.


Orthodox Christianity is an Eastern Christian movement founded on Greek and Roman traditions from antiquity. It’s one of the major Eastern Christian churches, with 194 dioceses in Russia alone.

The Russian Orthodox Church (RUC, Russkaia pravoslavnaia tserkov’) is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox denomination with jurisdiction over Orthodox Christians living in former Soviet republics of Russia, Belarus and Georgia. It also has close ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople; additionally it has separate dioceses in Japan and China which enjoy autonomy within their Church but remain bound together by canonical status and apostolic succession to the same Church body.

The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is governed by a Holy Synod made up of seven permanent members and five temporary representatives chosen from diocesan bishops. This body is chaired by Patriarch Nikolai of Moscow and All Russia, Primate of the ROC.

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