The Russian Orthodox Church

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The Russian Orthodox Church is one of the world’s oldest Christian congregations, boasting a long and illustrious tradition in worship, prayer and icons.

The church has faced many difficulties throughout its history. These include numerous schisms and political rulers’ suppression of the Russian church.

Orthodox Christianity

The Russian Orthodox Church is a Christian denomination that adheres to the teachings of Scripture. This monotheistic faith emphasizes Christ’s divinity and emphasizes prayer as essential for spiritual growth.

Though not as widespread as other Christian denominations, the Orthodox Church does have a small presence in America. Recent research indicates there may be an increasing number of nativists within this church whose views could have an influence on American culture.

In the 17th century, there arose a split in the Russian Orthodox Church over patriarch Nikon’s reforms. Those who refused to accept these changes were anathematized and became known as Old Believers.

In 2007, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and Moscow Patriarchate united under an Act of Canonical Communion that ensured independence for ROCOR and its own hierarchy. Furthermore, this Act requires that when ROCOR elects its First Hierarch, he must be confirmed by the Patriarch of Moscow.

History of the Church

The Russian Orthodox Church is a worldwide Christian community with 261 eparchies (churches). Larger eparchies and exarchates are headed by a metropolitan archbishop; smaller eparchies or exarchates may have one or more bishops.

In the 17th century, Patriarch Nikon initiated extensive ecclesiastical reforms to guarantee Church primacy over state. His actions caused a split within the Church and an influential group of dissenters – known as Old Believers – to emerge.

In 1917, following the revolution that overthrew Tsarist Russia, a council of Christians elected Tikhon as their new patriarch. Unfortunately, shortly afterwards the Bolshevik government declared separation between church and state and nationalized all church-owned lands. This set off an unprecedented wave of administrative measures and state-sanctioned persecutions which ultimately destroyed many churches as well as thousands of priests, monks, and faithful alike.


Russian Orthodox iconography, drawn from Byzantine art and influenced by Greek and Egyptian traditions, is one of the world’s most beloved forms of religious art today. Though many icons were destroyed during Soviet rule, their artistic value has been rediscovered by both collectors and artists alike.

Icons are two-dimensional images depicting Biblical scenes, historical events and portraits of Christian saints. They may be painted, mosaicked, carved or engraved to capture their message.

They are typically painted on wood, though some are made of copper. In churches and monasteries, they may be displayed in the krasny ugol (red or “beautiful”) corner or even placed in front of a window for display.

Icons are seen as windows to Heaven and play an integral role in worship. Their devotion sets them apart from other artwork and makes them unique within Orthodox culture. The Russian Orthodox Church has a long-standing tradition of iconology, with veneration of these artifacts essential to Church life.


Worship in the Russian Orthodox Church is an integral part of faith life. It emphasizes both creation’s beauty and spiritual growth, encouraging participants to be active participants in prayer.

The sacraments of the Church are an integral part of Christian worship. Holy Communion is the primary way Orthodox Christians receive Christ’s body and blood, participating in a life of spiritual growth and community.

In the Divine Liturgy, many sacraments are celebrated. Notable among them are Eucharist, Confession and Holy Orders.

One of the hallmarks of Orthodox worship is singing during Services. Chanting helps express the words and meaning of prayers in a beautiful, melodic style that’s deeply meaningful for believers.

Worship in the Orthodox Church is often described as “chanting for a reason,” an integral component of service that keeps congregations engaged and dedicated to their faith.

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