It is common knowledge that the advent of Bolshevism in 1917 was devastating for devout believers in the former tsarist empire. Less well known is the fact that the October Revolution interrupted a reform movement that could have taken the Russian Orthodox Church in a new direction, and that it subsequently caused splintering from which the Church still has not recovered.
Under the tsars, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) served as an important pillar of the autocratic system. Just how subservient church was to state remains a matter of debate. Some historians, such as Gregory Freeze and Scott Kenworthy, have pushed back against the perception of the ROC being a “handmaiden of the state.” But it is safe to say the Church’s sphere of independent activity was limited, frustrating many lay believers and clergy alike. And the institutional Church’s association with the tsarist state was certainly a liability when the revolutionary year of 1917 arrived.
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Christopher Stroop earned a Ph.D. in Russian History and Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities from Stanford University in 2012 and is currently a visiting instructor in the Honors College at the University of South Florida and a senior research associate with the Postsecular Conflicts project at the University of Innsbruck. In addition to academic publishing, Stroop blogs at ChrisStroop.com and regularly writes for wider audiences on issues related to Russia, foreign affairs, and religion and politics.