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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 17-May-07
Russian Orthodox Church reunites 80 years after Bolshevik Revolution

Web Log - May, 2007

Russian Orthodox Church reunites 80 years after Bolshevik Revolution

In a historic ceremony in Moscow on Thursday, televised around the world, two elderly clerics signed an agreement and bent to kiss each other's cheeks. With that, a schism that split the Russian Orthodox Church in the early 1920s was ended, though not entirely healed.

Reuniting the Russian Orthodox Church <font size=-2>(Source:</font>
Reuniting the Russian Orthodox Church (Source:

The schism occurred after the bloody Bolshevik Revolution and subsequent civil wars and purges that killed tens of millions of Russians. It was caused by deliberate acts of the two victors, first Nicolai Lenin and later Josef Stalin, who plundered the Church's gold, destroyed its buildings, and murdered its clerics.

The wars caused a flood of Russian refugees to Europe and America.

The result was that the true Russian Orthodox Church was forced to operate outside of Russia, and a splinter group was formed, later known as the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia or the Russian Church Abroad.

For several years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been leading the negotiations that led to Thursday's agreement. Some people in the Russian Church Abroad, remembering Stalin's atrocities, have been opposed to the reunion, and the involvement by Putin has only made them more suspicious.

They might well be suspicious, in view of this 1922 letter from Lenin to the Politburo:

"We must pursue the removal of church property by any means necessary in order to secure for ourselves a fund of several hundred million gold rubles (do not forget the immense wealth of some monasteries and lauras). Without this fund any government work in general, any economic build-up in particular, and any upholding of soviet principles in Genoa especially is completely unthinkable. In order to get our hands on this fund of several hundred million gold rubles (and perhaps even several hundred billion), we must do whatever is necessary. But to do this successfully is possible only now. All considerations indicate that later on we will fail to do this, for no other time, besides that of desperate famine, will give us such a mood among the general mass of peasants that would ensure us the sympathy of this group, or, at least, would ensure us the neutralization of this group in the sense that victory in the struggle for the removal of church property unquestionably and completely will be on our side."

This letter reveals Lenin's principle motive as the acquisition of gold, but the destruction of the Church went much deeper than that, and represented a fundamental change to Russian society.

You may recall that in mid-April I posted an article about the coming election in Turkey, and I summarized the history of Turkey since the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks is (arguably) the most important worldwide event of the last millennium. It catapulted the Ottoman Empire into a series of successful wars that spread Islam across much of the world.

But the effect on Russia was also enormous, because the fall of Constantinople also meant the end of the Byzantine Empire, which had originally been the Eastern Roman Empire. In 1472, Russia's Ivan the Great declared that Moscow was the third Rome (with Rome and Constantinople being the first two), and was the head of the "true" or "Orthodox" Christian Church. Ivan immediately took the title of Tsar, and thus became the first Tsar of the new Tsarist Russia. ("Tsar," or "Czar," was derived from the name of the Roman Emperor Caesar, as is the German word "Kaiser.")

So the year 1453 was not the date of a war, it was the date of an event that profoundly affected the fate of two countries -- countries that were repeatedly at war since then.

After that time, religion and state were closely intertwined in both countries. Russia was a Russian Orthodox nation, and Turkey was a Muslim nation.

But what was begun in 1453 ended with World War I, for both countries. The Ottoman Empire collapsed, and Turkey became a secular state; the Bolshevik Revolution ended Tsarist Russia, and Russia became an atheist state. Both nations turned their backs on centuries of religion that had defined their respective cultures.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, such major changes often only last one generational saeculum (the period of time from one crisis war to the next, normally about 70-90 years, the length of a human lifetime). A crisis war forces a country to build new institutions and make drastic changes that aren't necessarily consistent with the long-range visceral desires of the people.

As we approach the next crisis war for both countries, the Clash of Civilizations world war, we see that these changes are unraveling, and that both countries are moving back, at least partially, to being their "old selves." Turkey is dealing with the possibility of an Islamist government, and Russia is reuniting its Church again.

In fact, one of the major factors leading to the current reconciliation occurred in 2000 when the Moscow Church canonized Tsar Nicholas II, Russia's last Tsar, and his family, as well as others in the faith.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, there's good news and there's bad news in the religious revival occurring in both Turkey and Russia.

The good news is the possibility of a cultural renaissance in both countries, as old values and customs are revived and taught to new generations.

The bad news is that this kind of religious revival doesn't happen in a vacuum. For Turks and Russians, one way that these two peoples expressed their hatred for one another is through their religion, and the rise of these religious feelings again probably means that their feelings of enmity are rising again as well. (17-May-07) Permanent Link
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