The following article describes in detail and scrupulously analyzes the historical events connected with the arrangement of Church life in Kiev, Moscow, and Western Rus’ over the span of the last millennium. Over that period of time, the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church has been attacked a number of times from various sides, but it has nevertheless continued to exist significantly longer than those broken periods. In Byzantine times it was namely the Church of Constantinople that advocated for this unity against the rising political conflicts between one or another Russian princedom. Only the Byzantium elite itself was able to tear the metropolia of all the Russias from Constantinople, when it first tried to use Russian Orthodoxy as a bargaining chip in its desperate attempt to get the West to come to the aid of perishing Constantinople, and then allowed the Uniate metropolitan to usurp the title of the primate of “All Rus’”; but the objective course of history has given a comprehensive answer to this question, fixed in a whole series of ecclesiastical-canonical documents cited by the author, which leave no grounds for any lawful reinterpretation whatsoever.
1. The fact of the history of the unity of the Churches of “All the Russias”.
I.1. Byzantine period
From the very beginning of its existence, the ecclesiastical organization of the various lands of historical Rus’ are: the South (Kiev, Chernigov, Russian Peryaslavl1), Southwest (Vladimir-Volynian, Galich, and others), West (Polotsk, Turov, Smolensk), East (Ryazan, Murom), Northwest (Novgorod, Pskov), and Northeast (Rostov, Suzdal, and later Vladimir-on-Klyazma,2 was united and headed by the metropolitan in Kiev, who originally bore the title, τῆς Ῥωσίας, “The Russias”, without the addition of any other named cities.3 Incidentally, in the mid-eleventh century there was an attempt to either grant the Peryaslavl and Chernigov bishops the title of metropolitan without any actual powers, or to actually divide the Russian Church into three metropolias; but this attempt did not last long and had no noticeable consequences.4
The first real threat to the unity of the Russian Church was the edict of Klim (Clement) Smolyatich in 1147. The political situation in Rus’ by the mid-twelfth century was onerous. After the death of Prince Vladimir Monomakh, the Russian lands entered a period of infighting, and by the middle of the century broke apart into about fifteen princedoms, in part being in complicated, at times extremely hostile interrelations, which led to a series of bloody internecine wars. In 1147, the Kievan prince Izlyaslav Mistislavich organized in Kiev the appointment of Metropolitan Klim Smolyatich without consulting with the Constantinople patriarch.5 This step was supported by the bishops of Chernigov, Belgorod, Yuriev,6 Peryaslavl, and Vladimir of Volhynia, but rejected by the bishops of Smolensk, Polotsk, Rostov, and Novgorod. The nonparticipation of the Constantinople Patriarchate in the establishment of Klim in fact meant Kiev’s declaration of ecclesiastical independence if not de jure then de facto, which, just the same, did not draw all of Rus’ into that independence, but for mainly only its southern dioceses.
The reaction of the Constantinople Patriarchate to the Klim’s stance was demonstratively harsh. Arriving in Rus’ in 1156 from Constantinople, Metropolitan Constantine I7 deposed all the clergy appointed by Klim, placed Izyaslav who had established him under an ecclesiastical curse, and even re-consecrated the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev.8
During the period of confrontations in Rus’ caused by the appointment of Klim, one of his main opponents, the bishop of Novgorod St. Niphont, probably received the title of archbishop from the Constantinople Patriarchate. Some researchers have seen in this an agreement by the Patriarchate to church independence of the northern part of the Russian Church from southern part that had gone out from under control—which is fundamentally untrue.9
The Constantinople politics in the years around this event completely confirmed the City’s reluctance to divide the Russian Church along lines dictated by a passing political situation. Thus, Patriarch Luke Chrysoverges responded with a refusal to the request sent him in 1160 by Grand Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky, the son of Yuri Dolgoruki, to grant Northeast Rus’ a separate metropolia, and he sent his refusal along with a threat to cease divine services in the churches.10 Moreover, in Patriarch Luke’s answer an innovation in the form of the word “всея”—“all” was added to the title for Kievan metrolitans, “of Rus’”11—which was supposed to add additional emphasis to the indivisibility of the Russian Church.12 From that time on the title, “All the Russias (τῆς πάσης Ῥωσίας) also begins to show up on the seals of the Russian metropolitans.13
In 1169, Metropolitan Constantine II, sent to Rus’ by Patriarch Luke Chrysoverges in 1167, placed an end to the project of creating a separate metropolia for Northeast Rus’, demonstratively condemning one Theodore, who St. Andrei Bogoliubsky had planned to place at the head of this metropolia. Constantine II did not even stop with a ecclesiastical punishment of Theodore—humiliatingly renamed “Theodorets [a funny sounding diminutive.—Trans.], but also ordered that serious physical damage be inflicted on him14, which was something unparalleled in Russian Church history up till then.
Thus, precisely the Constantinople Patriarchate not only made the main contribution into the devopment of the idea of an indivisible Russian Church in the twelfth century, but also decisively defended it against all state-political contradictions that were tearing apart the Northeast, South, and other parts of Rus’ during that era, using to this end all different measures, even extremely harsh ones.
In the light of what has be said here, it is extremely important to note that the factual transfer from the mid thirteenth century of the Russian metropolitans’ permanent residence from Kiev to Northeastern Rus’—first to Vladimir, and then to Moscow—which had as its main cause the destruction of southern Rus’ by the Mongol Tatars—not only met no protest from Constantinople, but even received a blessing from the Patriarch and the Council of Bishops (see below). This proves that the Constantinople Patriarchate continued to view the metropolitan τῆς [πάσης] Ῥωσίας as the head of the undivided Church of all the Russian lands, and not as the metropolitan of specifically Kiev.
Thus, Metropolitan Kirill III,15 who acted in this capacity no later than from 1243, but who was confirmed only in 1246–1247 by the Constantinople Patriarch who was living in Nicea due to the occupation of Constantinople by the Crusaders, moved in 1240 to the “Suzdal lands”.16 Only closer to the end of his life did Metropolitan Kirill spend any noticeable amount of time in Kiev itself (1276–1280), but then he again departed to the Vladimir-Suzdal lands, where in 1281 he died in the town of Peryaslavl-Zalesky. Metropolitan Kirill’s remains where taken first to Vladimir and then to Kiev, where they were buried.
St. Maxim, Metropolitan Kirill’s successor, arrived in Rus’ from Byzantium in 1283 and ruled the Church for a long time, mainly from Kiev; however in 1299–1300 he officially transferred his residence along with its entire apparatus to Vladimir,17 where he died and was buried in 1305.
During the time of his visitation in the southwestern lands of Rus’ in around 1301, St. Maxim, among other things, acquainted himself with abbot Peter of Ratsk Monastery.18 Over the course of about two years after this portentous meeting between Prince Yuri Danilovich of Galicia-Volhynis, Emperor Andronicus II Paleologus, and the holy Patriarch Athanasius I, as it would later be seen, would obtain for Prince Yuri approval to create an independent Galicia metropolia within the borders of his domain.19 The acting bishop of Galich was raised to the rank of metropolitan.20 In 1307 he died, and Yuri Lvovich decided to place at the head of the Galicia Metropolia Abbot Peter of Ratsk Monastery, but against his wishes Peter, a native of Southwestern Rus’, was appointed in Constantinople not to Galich but to Kiev as the head of the unified metropolia of All Rus’ and the successor to St. Maxim. Thus, the short-lived independence of the Galicia Metropolia was annulled by the same emperor and patriarch who had at first agreed to grant it and who had now apparently recognized the error of their previous decision.21 Nevertheless this example of Constantinople’s departure from its own policy of preserving the indivisibility of the Russian Metropolia, which was small in geographic scale and duration, would later play the role of a historical precedent.
After his appointment in Constantinople and arrival in Rus’ in 1308, St. Peter remained for two years in Kiev. But already in 1309 he followed the example of his predecessors and moved his permanent residence to Vladimir. In 1325, St. Peter was transferred to Moscow,22 where he died on December 20, 1326.23 During the time of his rule over the one Russian Church, the Lithuanian (Λίτβων/Λιτβάδων) metropolia of the Constantinople Patriarchate (somewhere between 1315 and 1317) appeared, which at first was probably created as an ecclesiastical organization for Lithuanians converting to Orthodoxy; soon after 1329 it ceased to exist.24
The next metropolitan τῆς Ῥωσίας, the Greek St. Theognostos, arrived in Rus’ in 1328 and after a brief time in Kiev and Vladimir, settled in Moscow. Thus, the Constantinople Patriarchate, in the person of its primate himself, consciously sanctioned the relocation of the central governance of the unified Russian metropolias to Moscow, while keeping its title, “of Kiev”.
In the era of Holy Hierarch Theognostos there was a renewed attempt by the Galicians to have their own metropolia that would be independent of the rest of Rus’. In around 1331, Patriarch Isaiah of Constantinople granted Bishop Theodore of Galich, who had been consecrated by St. Theognostos in 1328,25 the title of metropolitan26—this follows from the commemoration of the “Metropolitan of Galicia” among the participants of the Council in 1331.27 However, soon Patriarch Isaiah repealed his decision.28 This can be seen from the fact that the next patriarch, John XIV Kalekas, between 1342 and 1346 again raised the rank of the same Galich hierarch to metropolitan and published a conciliar grammota determining the submission to him of all the dioceses that had been in submission to him thirty years earlier.29 Patriarch John Kalekas, who went down in history as the persecutor of St. Gregory of Palamas, did this deed at the request of the enthroned prince of Volhynia Liubart-Dimitry, son of the Lithuanian prince Hedimin, without consulting Emperor John V Palaeologos due to the latter’s not yet having come of age. But in 1346, John VI Cantecuzen came to power having been proclaimed the co-ruler of John V, who was an admirer and supporter of St. Gregory Palamas and his teachings. In 1347, Patriarch John Kaleka was deposed, and his acts accordingly revoked. In part, in August 1347, an imperial chrysobull (golden bulla) was issued that revoked the creation of a separate metropolia for the “country of Little Russia, called Volhynia”, after which in September of the same year followed an act of the bishops’ council headed by Patriarch Isidore I. The chrysobull and Coucil Act was accompanied by several gramotas (official letters) of the Emperor and Patriarch to the princes and metropolitans (for more detail see below). According to these documents, absolutely all dioceses of the different Russian lands, independent of the state they belonged to, were in submission to the Metropolitan of All Rus’, Theognostos.
The next attempt to take a part of the Russian Church out from under the authority of the lawful metropolitan, closely connected with the intrigues of various secular rulers of the time, occurred in 1352, when a certain Theodorit was consecrated by the Patriarch of Tarnovo (Bulgaria) with the title of Metropolitan of Rus’, and soon took up residence in Kiev. This act was categorically condemned by the Church of Constantinople.30 Just the same, Theodorit continued making attempts for the next few years to create an independent metropolia with its center in Kiev, ignoring the fact of his deposition by the patriarch of Constantinople. By that time, St. Theognostos had reposed in 1353 and was interred in the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin next to St. Peter, and Bishop Alexy of Vladimir, who had been elevated to his cathedra by St. Theognostos not long before the latter’s death, set off for Constantinople.
St. Alexy was born in Moscow to a boyar family from Chernigov that had left their native land due to its destruction by the Tatars, and was chosen by St. Theognostos as his successor—to which the letters written to Constantinople by St. Theognostos requesting this testify (this choice was completely supported by the grand princes, the bishopric, boyars, and the people), as well as the very fact that St. Alexy was granted the title “of Vladimir”, which from the time of St. Maxim was given only to the metropolitans of All Rus’.31 In 1354, Patriarch of Constantinople St. Philotheos, together with his entire council, having reviewed the request of St. Theognostos, the grand princes, and everyone else, approved it by confirming St. Alexy in the rank of Metropolitan—Κυέβου καὶ πάσης τῆς Ῥωσίας, about which on June 30, 1354 a Council act was written.32 This act was supplemented by the patriarchal letters to bishop Moses of Novgorod from July 2 and July 7, which contains a ban on accepting Theodorit as metropolitan (or even as a clergymen at all) and an exhortation to obey the lawful metropolitan Alexy, to turn to him for judgments instead of taking them directly to the patriarch.33 On those same days a conciliar gramota of the Constantinople Patriarchate and the bishops with him was composed, according to which the main residence of the Metropolitan—Κυέβου καὶ πάσης τῆς Ῥωσίας—was transferred to Vladimir, “irrevocably and unto eternal ages inalienably” (ἀναφαιρέτως καὶ ἀναποσπάστως εἰς αἰῶνα τὸν ἄπαντα).34 In fact, there was talk of moving the cathedra to Moscow, because by that time the metropolitans of Rus’ had been living in Moscow for about thirty years already; Vladimir is mentioned in the gramota only because it was still the official center of the Grand Princedom.
This was the end to the story of Theodorit’s self-proclaimed, “Kiev autocephaly”, and the transfer of the center of the Metropolia πάσης τῆς Ῥωσίας to Northeastern Rus’ was ratified by the council. However, already in the same year the unity of the metropolia was dealt a new blow due to the renewal of the Lithuanian metropolia at the request of the Lithuanian Grand Prince Algirdas. The decision of the Constantinople Patriarchate to renew this metropolia and consecrate a Metropolitan of Lithuania was potentially conflict-making, inasmuch as under the conditions of a changing political reality—namely the considerable expansion of the territory of the Lithuanian Grand Princedom—the new metropolitan could try to extend his jurisdiction to dioceses that never had any relationship to the Lithuanian metropolia and historically belonged to the metropolia of All Rus’. In these conditions, however, the ecclesiastical authorities of Constantinople did not take any measures to delineate the powers of the two metropolias and did not reassign any diocese of the Russian metropolia to the Lithuanian one (unlike what was earlier done in the case of the Galician metropolia). As a result, the metropolitan consecrated by St. Philotheos, Roman, almost immediately began to claim the rule over not only over the dioceses of Lithuania, but of the entire Russian Church—which of course led to a whole series of conflicts. It is not entirely clear how to explain this decision by Constantinople’s to appoint Roman—only by the inconsistency of either the constrained material circumstances in the Patriarchate (at which the Russian chroniclers hint directly), or by, more probably, its inadequate reaction to the change in political reality that was happening before everyone’s very eyes. Because of the territorial expansion of the Lithuanian Grand Princedom, several formerly Western Russian princedoms had become part of its territory, and practically the entire territory of the Russian South were sure to enter as well—including Kiev, as well as many central Russian princedoms. Therefore it is no surprise that the restoration of a metropolia, once created for the newly enlightened Lithuanians (see above) turned out to be impossible without doing damage to the Russian metropolia.
Be that as it may, the desire itself of Metropolitan Roman to make claims on the entire territory of Rus’ is testimony that the perception of the metopolia πάσης τῆς Ῥωσίας as unified and indivisible was still in force. With the death of Roman in 1362 the conflict began to calm down, and even later St. Philotheos himself reconsidered his decision to appoint Roman, to which testifies the patriarchal resolution abolishing the Lithuanian Metropolia, and the missive of St. Philotheos to St. Alexy and princes of various Russian regions from 1370 about the need to accept only the metropolitan Κυέβου καὶ πάσης τῆς Ῥωσίας—that is, St. Alexy—as the head of the Russian Church.35
The next year, the demands of the Polish king Kasimir III to grant Galich and other territories that were part of Poland at the time their own metropolitan were reviewed in Constantinople. Kasimir cited the precedent of the existence of a Galicia metropolia created by St. Athanasios I (although St. Athanasios himself had abolished it: see above), and argued his request by the fact that St. Alexy does not give the Orthodox dioceses in his (Kasimir’s) realm the necessary pastoral attention (although in reality it was the Polish rulers themselves who created obstacles for the appropriate pastoral activity). Furthermore, Kasimir’s request contained a direct threat to convert his Orthodox population to Roman Catholicism in the event that he is not given his own metropolitan.36
The Patriarch gave in to the threat and satisfied the demands of the Polish king,37 now separating the Galician, Kholm, Turov, Peremyshl, and Vladimir-Volhynia dioceses from the Russian Church for the third time, and proclaiming one of the bishops of these dioceses, Anthony, Metropolitan of Galicia. This was brought to pass in May, 1371 in the form of a council act,38 with a corresponding missive sent to St. Alexy39 (of Moscow).
The final years of St. Alexy’s rule of the Russian Church were darkened by complex intrigues against him, an active part in which played a highly educated Bulgarian named Cyprian, consecrated in December 1375 in Constantinople to the rank of Metropolitan of Kiev and Lithuania (the title “of Kiev” at the same time being applied to holy hierarch Alexy, Metropolitan of All Rus’), and sent in 1376 to Rus’ with the right to review the accusations against St. Alexy that had been put forth by his enemies, and to become the head of the entire Russian Church should it be necessary. The proposed trial in fact never took place, and Metropolitan Cyprian remained in Kiev until St. Alexy’s death in February, 1378. The following decades, in the words of Metropolitan Macarius (Bulgakov), “could be called the most troubled times in the history of our metropolia.”40 The end of this time of troubles could be considered to be the unification under St. Cyprian of the Russian dioceses—at first without counting those included in the Galician metropolia,41 and later including them.42 This unification was signified by the arrival of St. Cyprian in 1390 in Kiev and then in Moscow, from whence he continued to rule the Russian Church right up till his death in 1406.
St. Cyprian’s successor, the Greek St. Photius, was consecrated in Constantinople in 1408 with the right to rule the whole Russian Church, with the exclusion of the Galicia metropolia (in which by that time only two of the five dioceses remained). In 1410 St. Photius reached Moscow, viewing it as his main place of residence. This displeased the grand prince of Lithuania Vitovt, who even before St. Photius’s consecration tried to gain a separate Metropolia for Lithuania. In 1414, Vitovt sent a complaint to Constantinople against St. Photius and demanded that St. Cyprian’s nephew, Gregory Tsamblak, be appointed metropolitan of Lithuania. When he received a refusal, Vitovt organized a council of bishops located on the territories subject to him, and in 1416 they consecrated Gregory as metropolitan. The Constantinople Patriarchate reacted sternly to this self-proclaimed autocephaly, deposing and anathematizing Gregory, to which the letter of Patriarch Joseph II to St. Photius43 and the letters sent simultaneously to Emperor Manuil II Palaeologos, St. Photius, and Grand Prince Vasily I Dimitrievich44 testify. After Gregory’s death in the winter of 1419–1420, St. Photius managed to make peace with Vitovt. The conclusion of it was the complete unification of the entire Russian Church, including Galicia,45 under St. Photius. To his death in 1431, the unity of the metropolia of All the Russias was not broken by anything else.
Constantinople by that time, unlike the gradually strengthening Moscow, was on the threshold of catastrophe. Already by the end of the 14th century the Ottomans had conquered almost the entire territory of former Byzantium, and by 1430, other than Constantinople itself, only a part of the Peloponnesus and a few land on the shores of the Black Sea remained in the hands of the Greeks. In 1453 Constantinople fell, at which ended the Byzantine era. This was preceded by almost three decades of attempts to stave off the inevitable, in the course of which the Byzantine elite assented to concluding a union with the Roman Catholic Church, leading fundamental upheavals, including in the metropolia of All the Russias, which we will discuss below.
The Byzantine period: conclusions.
During the course of the whole Byzantine era the official position of the Constantinople Patriarchate is inevitably summed up as: The unity of ecclesiastical organization with the metropolitan “of Rus’” at the head (and from the mid-twelfth century, “of All Rus’”) is a definite good and should not be stricken down by the changing political circumstances. This approach was repeatedly affirmed at the highest level—by patriarchs, councils, and emperors. Moreover, the Constantinople Church did not doubt that the primate of the Russian Metropolia was not attached exclusively to Kiev, but is the primate of all the Russian lands, which is why in the twelfth century Constantinople included the words “of All” in the metropolitan’s title, and confirmed at the council the decision to move the permanent residence of the metropolitan, as a matter of pastoral prudence, to Northeast Rus’ “irreversibly and for eternal ages inalienably.”
Each attempt by Kiev of self-willed separation from other Russian lands and from Constantinople (Klim Smolyatich, Theodorit, and Gregory Tsamblak46) inevitably recieved an extremely tough answer from Constantinople: Those who dared to do so were defrocked and anathematized.
The situation with the Lithuanian metropolia was a little more complicated. It was first created not for Rus’, but for the rulers at the time over the Lithuanian state; and its metropolitans themselves perceived it as an alternative Russian metropolia, inasmuch as the expanding Grand Duchy of Lithuania was encompassing formerly Russian lands. Several times the Constantinople Patriarchate satisfied the request of the Lithuanian (not Muscovite) princes and appointed their candidates as metropolitan. In fact, for Constantinople the appointment of candidates at the wish of the Lithuanian (but not the Muscovite) princes did not at all mean that they agreed to the breaking of the unity of the Russian Church. To the contrary, these metropolitans—Roman, St. Cyprian, and possibly Gerasimos (see below) tried each time to extend their authority also to the northeastern princedoms, which speaks for a continued understanding of the Rus’ metropolia as one, undivided ecclesiastical organism. Thus, in the case of the of the Lithuanian metropolia, Constantinople was trying to maneuver between the centers of two very large state formations on the former territory of pre-Mongolian Rus’, but in no way wished to deny the very idea of the unity of the Russian Church.
Only in relation to the Galicia metropolia did Constantinople agree to a true separation of one part of the diocese from the one Church of All Rus’—even three times (one of these times can be explained by the bare-faced blackmail coming from the Polish authorities). Nevertheless, in each of these cases the majority of the dioceses of the Galicia metropolia were able to separate themselves from the rest of the Russian Church only for a short period of time, and by the end of the Byzantine era, this entire metropolia de facto returned wholly to the united metropolia of All Rus’.
I.2. Events of the 1430s–1460s
47 This union essentially existed only on paper and was formally revoked by Michael’s son, Andronicus II. The next attempt to use the problem of the division of Churches in order to try and save Constantinople was made by the great-grandson of Andronicus II, Emperor John V Palaeologos, who in August 1369 arrived in Rome, and in October of the same year, first read the Latin creed before witnesses, then later publicly bowed down three times to the ground before the pope and kissed his shoe, then his knee, and then his neck, after which he took part in the papal mass.48 Incidentally, the Orthodox clergy was in no way present during that process.49
Many times after occupying the throne in 1391did the son of John V, Manuil II, seek support in the West. In 1422, three years before his death, he sent an ambassador to Rome with an offer to enter into discussions on a new union. His son, John VIII, who ruled from 1425 to 1448, sent two more ambassadors in 1426 and 1430, but it was only with the new pope Eugene IV in 1431 that an agreement came from Rome to begin the negotiations.
The circumstances came together in such a way that for the West by that time, besides the conclusion of an all-encompassing union with the Christian East as it were, a local union with the Orthodox inhabitants of the Polish kingdom and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania became the subject of great interest. Negotiations for this had already begun in 1396 with the participation of a series of Catholic rulers and hierarchs, provoked in part by the complicated political situation in the relations between the two above-mentioned states and the Teutonic Order.50 One of the episodes of this process was the participation in the Catholic Church’s Council of Constance (1414–1418) by the illegitimate Kiev Metropolitan Gregory Tsamblak, who had been deposed by Constaninople—but then, by all appearances, recognized retroactively—who had been sent there undoubtedly by Grand Prince Vitovt, but who was now acting at the council on behalf of the emperor and patriarch.51 As a result, the role of the metropolitan of All the Russias in concluding a future union became one of the key roles not only by force of the size of this metropolia, which now exceeded that of all other metropolias of the Constantinople Patriarchate, but also by force of the intra-Catholic motivations.
It is not known whether they were conscious of this in Moscow—a city where the residence of the metropolitans of All Russia had already been located for centuries. After the death of St. Photius, the Russian Church was de facto headed by Bishop Jonah of Ryazan and Murom, chosen by the grand prince and the council of bishops and given the title, “named His Holiness the Metropolitan of Russia”. The events of the internecine struggles going on in Moscow did not allow St. Jonah to leave for Constantinople in time for the official appointment. These struggles began after the death in 1430 of Vitovt, who was the young Prince Vasily II’s grandfather on his mother’s side, and were exacerbated after the death of St. Photius.52 As a result, in 1433 the former grand prince of Lithuania Svidrigailo, dethroned in 1432 but stubbornly fighting for power, managed to get Constantinople’s consent to appoint his own candidate as metropolitan of All Rus’—Bishop Gerasimos of Smolensk. Bishop Gerasimos was born in Moscow, established himself in Volhynia, and participated in the appointment of Gregory Tsamblak. Having obtained Constantinople’s recognition of his candidate for the metropolia of All Rus’, Svidrigailo immediately tried to draw Metopolitan Gerasimos into negotiations on the Unia,53 about which Moscow, perhaps, did not even have a clue. Metopolitan Gerasimos never did visit Moscow; just after his appointment he was unable to get there due to the ongoing feuds between princes, and already by 1435 he had been burned alive by Svidrigailo who suspected him of participating in a political struggle on the side of the active grand prince of Lithuania Sigismund. Having received word of Gerasimos’s death, Bishop Jonah set off for Constantinople to be raised to the rank of metropolitan. But when he arrived at the city he learned that Patriarch Joseph had already sent his own candidate to Rus’—the educated Greek, Isidore. St. Jonah was forced to return to Rus’ without the rank of metropolitan, but with the patriarch’s promise that he would receive it should anything happen to Isidore.
Isidore was an even less accidental figure than Gerasimos in the context of the Byzantine elite’s Unia plans. In 1434 he took part in the Council of Basel of the Catholic Church, where as an official representative of the Byzantine emperor he was presented to the chairman of the council, Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini, and conducted negotiations concerning the conditions of the Byzantine delegation in the upcoming unification council.54 The emperor managed to wrest the right for Isidore to represent the patriarch of Antioch at the upcoming council. Having appointed Isidore to the cathedra of All Rus’, Constantinople strengthened its negotiating position, and guaranteed—or so it mistakenly seemed—that the Russian lands be drawn into the Unia, and that the Polish-Lithuanian politics in that region be taken under its own control.
Isidore spent a brief time in Kiev and then arrived in Moscow in May, 1437. Moscow received the unwanted metropolitan nevertheless “with honor”, but by August of the same year he set off for Ferrara to participate in the council for unification of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. After completing the Unia on December 18, 1439, Isidore was elevated by Pope Eugene IV of Rome to the rank of a cardinal of the Roman Church with the title of Santi-Marcellino-e-Pietro and given the duty of legate for the province of Lithuania, Livonia,55 and All Rus’. In this new capacity he returned to Moscow in 1441 along with his entire retinue.56 There he served a Liturgy commemorating the pope, and made public the document of the conclusion of the Unia. Grand Prince Vasily II, shocked by Isidore’s transformation, refused to receive his blessing. Three days later Cardinal Isidore was arrested and imprisoned in the Chudov Monastery [located in the Kremlin], then condemned by the council of Russian bishops. He then fled Moscow.57
Soon after this, Grand Prince Vasily II sent a letter to the emperor with the request to be granted the possibility to chose and appoint a Russian metropolitan in Moscow. This letter was sent but did not reach Constantinople; it was recalled by the grand prince since while on their way the ambassadors received the information that not only Isidore had fallen into the Unia but also the emperor and the patriarch58 (there was no reliable information about this in Moscow at the moment the letter was sent), which rendered the request entirely senseless. The simultaneous fall into the Unia of Emperor John III Palaeologos, Patriarch Mitrophan II,59 and Metropolitan Isidore of All Rus’ created an unprecedented ecclesiastical-legal vacuum in the Russian Church.
In 1449 it became known in Moscow that a new emperor had been enthroned in Constantinople, Constantine XI Palaeologos, who was the blood brother of John VIII Palaeologos. Unlike John VIII, who was a supporter of the Unia, Constantine XI did not take such an unambiguous position. He did not insist on carrying out the decisions accepted at the Ferraro-Florentine Council and in general tried to put out the fire of indignation that the Unia had evoked in the general masses of the population. Having heard of it, the Moscow grand prince Vasily II ordered a new letter written, this time addressed to Constantine XI, with the request to recognize the appointment of Metropolitan Jonah as an accomplished fact and with an inquiry as to whether a legitimate Orthodox patriarch had appeared in Constantinople. It is not known whether or not this letter was sent.60 Of much greater significance were the negotiations begun in that same year of 1449 concerning the recognition of St. Jonah as Metropolitan of All Rus’ not only in Moscow, but also in Lithuania. By 1451 these negotiations were crowned with success, and the Polish-Lithuanian King Kasimir IV gave St. Jonah a gramota for the rule of all the Lithuanian dioceses.61 In this way, the unity of the Russian Church, protected by state guarantees from several countries, continued unbroken.
In 1453 Constantinople fell to the army of Sultan Mehmet II; Emperor Constantine XI perished; the Uniate patriarch Gregory III had been basically kicked out of the city back in 1450. In autumn of 1453, Sultan Mehmet II confirmed the appointment of Gennadius Scholarius, who had become one of the opponents of the Unia after the Ferraro-Florentine Council. In 1454, a representative of Patriarch Gennadius named Demetrios arrived in Rus’. He visited Pskov and Novgorod among other cities, and for all appearances handed over to Moscow a certain patriarchal epistle in answer to which St. Jonah sent to the patriarch his own letter. He also sent to the Russian dioceses a circular letter allowing Demetrios to carry out a collection of money at the request of Patriarch Gennadius.62 In this way, the appointment of St. Jonah was recognized by Constantinople, at least de facto, and ecclesiastical ties were renewed.
But soon the former metropolitan of All Rus’ began meddling, and the cardinal and papal legate Isidore, who had convinced the Roman pope Callistus III to try and tear the Western part of the Russian Church way from it. No later than 1458, the pope made the decision to “give” the entire Orthodox diocese within the borders of Polish-Lithuanian King Kasimir IV’s realm to the rule of the Uniate metropolitan ordained in Rome, keeping Isidore’s formal title as papal legate for all the other dioceses of the Russian Church. As a candidate for Uniate metropolitan “of Kiev, Lithuania, and all Rus’, Isidore offered his close assistant, Gregory the Bulgarian, who had back in 1439 visited Moscow as an archdeacon for Isidore, and now had the rank of abbot. Now with the new pope, Pius II, the future Uniate metropolitan Gregory was ordained on October 15, 1458 by the Latin titular patriarch of Constantinople Gregory III (the very same one who had been exiled from the city in 1450), but before his departure to Lithuania Pope Pius II decided to extend the claims of the Roman Church also to Muscovite Rus’. At the instructions of the pope, Isidore formally declined the parts of the metropolia “preserved” for him in favor of Gregory the Bulgarian, and in January 1459, Gregory set off to Kasimir IV accompanied by a representative of the pope, who carried the papal missive to the king. It contained a curse against St. Jonah and demanded that the king refuse to recognize the authority of St. Jonah over the Orthodox dioceses and territories of Lithuania and Poland in favor of Gregory, and then obtain the same from the Russian government—on the very territory of the Muscovite Grand Duchy.63
The king obediently carried out the demands of Pope Pius II. Despite his own promise made in 1451, he forced the Orthodox bishops of Lithuania and Poland64 into submitting to the Catholic hierarch sent from Rome, Gregory “of All Rus’,”65and sent a letter also to Vasily II in which he suggested removing Jonah due to his advanced age and accepting Gregory in Moscow as metropolitan.66 In Moscow, the fact of this extremely crude meddling by the Roman Catholic Church in the affairs of the Russian Church were, of course, received with extreme indignation.67 In 1459, the council of bishops of Northeastern Rus’ passed the resolution of loyalty to St. Jonah and of categorically refusing to recognize the “apostate from the Orthodox Christian faith, the disciple of Isidore, Gregory… a fighter against God’s Church, who came from Rome… excommunicated from the holy catholic (universal) Church, who calls himself the Metropolitan of Kiev.”68
Against the expectations of the creators of the Unia, the Orthodox population of Lithuania reacted to this forced submission to the papal legate very painfully, which in the end forced Gregory the Bulgarian to seek recognition in Constantinople. In 1465 he sent his own ambassador to Patriarch Simeon of Constantinople, but the patriarch did not receive him. However the next patriarch, St. Dionysios I, in 1467 agreed to receive Gregory the Bulgarian into ecclesiastical communion, recognized his status as metropolitan of All Rus’, and on February 14 of the same year sent his gramota to Moscow.69 In this gramota the patriarch confirmed that the Constantinople Patriarchate supposedly did not recognized St. Jonah as the lawful primate of the Church of all Rus’ (without any explanation of the de facto recognition of St. Jonah by Patriarch Gennadius Scholarius) and he does not recognize his successors, and he demanded that they give over the rule of the Church of All Rus’ specifically to Gregory.70
On the one hand, Patriarch Dionysios’s action had a positive side: An entire Church organization in the person of its first hierarch and the bishops subject to him left Latinism and converted to Orthodoxy.71 But on the other hand, this act retroactively legitimized the papal meddling in the affairs of the Russian Church. The demand of submission to the Roman stooge, the “disciple of Isidore” Gregory, was declared unacceptable in Moscow.72 So Patriarch Dionysios’s letter not only did not help to restore the control of the Constantinople Patriarchate over the historical Russian metropolia, but to the contrary, the Patriarchate, with its own hands pushed it away from for a long time.73 Thus on the territory of the metropolia of All Rus’ two independent hierarchies formed—one of them, with the metropolitan of Vladimir, Moscow and All the Russias at the head, had been raised to the metropolia πάσης τῆς Ῥωσίας as part of the Constantinople Church of the Byzantine era; the other, with the Metropolitan of Kiev, Galica, and (!) All the Russias at it head, originally as a Uniate papal project, but which was then accepted by Constantinople into ecclesiastical communion.
At all this it is important to note that the gramota from Patriarch Dionysios that was rejected by the Russian government contained the very same Byzantine idea of preserving the unity of the Russian church regardless of passing political situations: “That you would have one Church and one metropolitan, that you would also cleave to him in unity, that there would be one Church, and in it one shepherd… It is also pleasing only that he be a metropolitan true and right for the whole Russian land, true to the old customs and rules of Russia. It is not fitting that the old customs and rules be broken.” From the text of the gramota from St. Dionysios it is clear that the Constantinople Church did not presuppose that with the recognition of Gregory the Bulgarian into ecclesiastical communion the former Russian metropolia would be divided into the Kiev and Moscow parts—to the contrary, it continued to insist on preserving the “old customs and rules” regarding the unity and indivisibility of the metropolia of All the Russias. The submission of the Russian Church to Gregory the Bulgarian in the gramota is argued by the supposed illegitimacy of metropolitans in Moscow: “these our Great catholic and Holy Church does not recognize, and does not honor, and does not call them metropolitans”, but from this inevitably come the conclusion that with a recognition of the status of the Moscow metropolitan (or patriarch), it is he who should have been accepted by Constantinople as “one… metropolitan, truly right for the whole Russian land.”
Therefore, in the following sixteenth century the undisputed recognition of the legitimacy of the metropolitans of Moscow and All Rus’ on the part of the Constantinople Patriarchate implicitly also presupposes the recognition of their authority over the Church of all the Russian lands, and not only over the dioceses located on territories politically controlled by the Russian government.
Events of the 1430s–1460s: conclusions.
As a result of the simultaneous apostasy into the Unia by the Byzantine emperor, the Constantinople patriarch, and the Metropolitan Isidore of All Rus’, who became a Catholic cardinal, an unprecedented ecclesiastical-canonical vacuum formed in the Russian Church. After long years of waiting, St. Jonah was placed at the head of the united Russian Church, even before the arrival in Rus’ of Isidore, with the title of “nominated metropolitan” and who had received a promise from Patriarch Joseph II—that last primate of the Constantinople Church before it fell into the Unia—that precisely Jonah would head the Russian Church should anything happen to Isidore. St. Jonah’s authority extended over the whole Russian Church, including its southern and southwest regions, then subject to the rule of the Polish-Lithuanian king—a rule that was confirmed among other things by an imperial gramota.
However, when at the advice of Cardinal Isidore the papal throne decided to announce its claims to the entire Russian Church and the Uniate metropolitan Gregory was sent to Poland, the latter, with the support of the government, managed to subject a number of Orthodox bishops to his authority. The thus newly appeared Uniate hierarchy “of All Rus’” later went out of communion with Rome but had been just the same rejected by the Constantinople Church in the person of Patriarch Simeon; later, it was accepted into communion by Patriarch Dionysios I.
The acceptance of this hierarchy as part of the Constantinople Patriarchate did not presuppose the division of the metropolia of All the Russias into parts; to the contrary, by receiving Gregory, the patriarch demanded from all dioceses without exclusion that they submit themselves to him and not to the Moscow metopolitans, who were now pronounced illegitimate. It follows that in declaring the Moscow metropolitans illegitimate, Constantinople should have presupposed also the restoration of the unity of the Russian Church under rule of Moscow. The first—recognition—took place gradually during the course of the sixteenth century and (see below) was finally formulated in documents from 1589–1593 on the establishment in Rus’ of patriarchy. The consequent attainment of the second—restoration of the unity of the Russian Church—also took about another hundred years.
1.3. The restoration of the unity of the Russian Church during the course of the seventeenth century.
As a result of the apostasy at the end of the sixteenth century of the metropolitan of Kiev, Galica, and All the Russias, Michael Rogozy and the majority of the bishops in his metropolia who were part of the Unia pronounced at the Council of Brest in 1596, the formation of a Russian Uniate Church, and then the carrying out by the Polish government of various measures to force the Orthodox population of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth into the either the Unia or the Latin rite, the situation of the Orthodox hierarchy in the former southern, southwestern, and western Russian lands became extremely complex. By the beginning of the seventeenth century the Orthodox Kievan metropolia did not have its own metropolitan, and its entire hierarchy consisted of two bishops—Gideon (Balaban) of Lvov and Michael (Kopystensky) of Peremyshl, who were in an illegal position. After Gideon’s death (1607) his successor, Jeremiah (Tissarovsky) had to go to Moldavia to be consecrated because bishop Michael could not do it alone. And as if that were not enough, in order to be recognized by the Polish government Jeremiah even had to take an oath of accepting the Unia—most likely he pretended to take it, since later he would show himself to be a struggler against uniatism. After Michael’s death in 1610 (or 1612), Bishop Jeremiah remained as the only bishop of the former metropolia.
In 1620, the hierarchy of this metropolia was practically created anew by Patriarch Theophan III of Jerusalem, who came to Kiev from Moscow. He informed Patriarch Philaret of the decline in church life in Kiev74 and under secretive circumstances he consecrated three hierarchs: Job (Boretsky) as Metropolitan of Kiev, Galicia, and All the Russias, Meletius (Smotrinsky) as Archbishop of Polotsk, and Isaiah (Kopinsky) as bishop of Peremyshl. There were also consecrations for four more empty cathedras. These consecrations constituted the founding of the hierarchy of the Kiev metropolia. However in Moscow no one rushed to recognize them, because regardless of Moscow’s good relationship with the Eastern patriarchs in general—which came together after the establishment of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1589—and especially to Theophan who had visited Moscow for the second time and played an important part in the appointment of the Moscow patriarch Philaret, the Moscow Patriarch’s relationship to the Western Russian metropolia (which titled itself as “of Kiev”, etc.) was intolerant—because of the latter’s claims on “All Rus’), as it’s title showed, and also because of the Uniate sympathies of many of its hierarchs.75 Therefore, when the newly appointed Metropolitan Job (Boretsky) sent letters in 1621 to Tsar Michael Feodorovich and Patriarch Philaret (Nikitich), he did not receive any answer, even though he not only wisely omitted the words “and of All Rus’” but also called Patriarch Philaret “my master and pastor”.
Later their relationship in fact came together—from 1622–1623 unofficially,76 and after 1624 on the official level. In fact, Metropolitan Job addressed his letters to the patriarch of Moscow “to His All Holiness and Beatitude, Master and Father, Father of fathers, Master father lord Philaret Nikitich, by God’s mercy Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus’, my master and pastor”, “Master of All Russia”, and calling himself his “good and obedient servant and faithful intercessor in prayer”.77 In 1622, Bishop Isaiah (Kopinsky), the future metropolitan of Kiev and Galich (from 1631–1632), addressed his letter “to His All Holiness and All Beatitude lord Philaret, by God’s mercy His Eminence the Patriarch of Great and Little Russias and to the last great ocean.78 In this manner, the hierarchs consecrated by Theophan III already fully recognized that they are united with the Church of the Russian nation, and recognized the supremacy of the Moscow Patriarch.
However for Moscow the establishment of relations did not yet mean an implicit recognition of the status of the Kiev and Galich metropolitans, especially since that title was not guaranteed for them even on the territory of the Polish-Lithuania Commonwealth. Only in 1632, desiring to make sure there would be loyalty on the part of the Orthodox population on the eve of a new war with Russia, did the Polish government officially recognize the rights of the Orthodox to have their own hierarchy—in submission to Constantinople (there could be no talk of Moscow). Part of the property of the former Orthodox cathedrae was returned, but in exchange the bishops who had been secretly consecrated by Patriarch Theophan had to be exchanged for new ones. On the Orthodox side, a key role in the negotiations was played by Archimandrite Peter (Mogila) thanks to his diplomatic talents and aristocratic ties. He would head the Kiev and Galich metropolia in 1633, remaining its primate until the end of his days in Kiev on January 1647.
The next year, in 1648, the Bogdan Khmelnitsky uprising took place in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which set very complex historical processes in motion.79 For the question of the status of the Kiev and Galich metropolia the main event of these complex processes became the rebirth of the Orthodox diocese in Chernigov (taken away by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from Russia during the Time of Troubles) in 1649 and its subsequent transfer along with the Kiev diocese to the Moscow government from 1654. At that moment, the metropolitan of Kiev and Galich was Silvester (Kosov). In April of 1657 he died; in January 1658, Bishop Dionysius (Balaban-Tukalsky)80 of Lutsk was chosen as the next metropolitan. In February of the same year, Bishop Dionysius brought Hetman Ivan Vygovsky to the Russian Tsar to make his oath of allegiance. The Russian officials who participated in the ceremony offered Dionysius to ask Patriarch Nikon of Moscow for confirmation of his rank of metropolitan, but the chosen metropolitan declined, later receiving this confirmation from Patriarch Parthenius IV of Constantinople. Having left Kiev due to the military actions begun by Ivan Vygovsky, Dionysius transferred the right of rule over parishes of the Kiev diocese to the Chernigov hierarch Lazar (Baranovich), and practically to his very death in 1663 he had no real authority over Kiev and the Left Bank. In 1658, Vygovksy with Dionysius’s participation signed the Gadychsky treaty with the Poles, which evoked dissatisfaction among the Cossacks. The Cossack Rada chose Bogdan Khmelnitsky’s son Yuri as hetman, and the latter in October 1659 signed a new agreement with representatives of the Russian Tsardom. This was the Peryaslavl articles, which included a resolution of submission by the Kiev metropolitan to the Moscow Patriarch on conditions of autonomy: “The Metropolitan of Kiev, as well as other clergy of Little Russia, to be under the blessing of His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Great and Little and White Russias, and His Holiness the Patriarch will not trespass on the clerical rights.81
In accordance with this condition and the long absence from Kiev of Metropolitan Dionysius, in 1661 the locum tenens of the Moscow Patriarchal throne, Pitirim, consecrated Methodius (Philimonovich) to the vacant Mstislavsky82 cathedra of the Kiev Metropolia, with the rights of locum tenens of the whole metropolia. When he learned of this, Metropolitan Dionysius consecrated Joseph (Neliubovich-Tukalksky)83 to the same cathedra. In his turn, Patriarch Nikon, who did not recognize the status of Pitirim, in 1662 pronounced an anathema against him and against Methodius who was consecrated by him. This act was not accepted by anyone in Russia or in Little Russia, but in the same year the Constantinople Patriarchate, at that moment in complete alliance with Nikon, also pronounced an anathema against Methodius. Nevertheless, the latter took advantage of the support for Hetman Ivan Briukhevetsky and continued to rule the Kiev diocese, although news of the canonical measures taken against him became known to many clergy and laity and brought them great confusion.
At that time, in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth after the death of Dionysios, Joseph (Neliubovich-Tukalsky) and Bishop Anthony (Vinnitsky)84 of Peremyshl were simultaneously chosen for the Kiev cathedra, and both of them received the privileges of the Kiev cathedra from the Polish king. As a result the Kiev cathedra now had two primates, who were located far from Kiev, and at the same time two locum tenens, who remained in the Left Bank (Lazar [Baranovich] and Methodius [Philimonovich]), and not one of them had been confirmed by Constantinople. Anthony’s factual authority extended over Volhynia, Peramyshl, and Kholm dioceses, while Joseph (excluding the period of 1663–1665), when the Polish government arrested him) over the territory under the rule of P. Doroshenko. In 1668, thanks to the emerging closeness between Doroshenko with the Ottoman Empire, Joseph was able to receive recognition from the Constantinople patriarch for Methodius III.85 In the same year, Anthony gave Patriarch Joasaph II of Moscow a message about his readiness to go under his omophorion (this offer was not accepted), and Methodius was deposed from his cathedra.86 Having settled matters with Methodius, Joseph never did set off for Kiev, because the Kiev clergy did not wish to recognize him since they had not participated in his election. As a result the rule over the parishes of the Kiev diocese again ended up in the hands of Lazar (Baranovich). After Joseph’s death (1675), Anthony in 1676 announced at the Polish Sejm his rights to the Kiev cathedra. However the Polish king Yan Sobesky decided to transfer these rights to Bishop Joseph (Shumlyansky)87 of Lvov, who by that time had secretly accepted the Unia. Incidentally, in 1678 Anthony nevertheless managed to get his rights back from the Polish government but by 1679 he had died.
By the time of Anthony’s death, the religious politics of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had become unbearable for the Orthodox inhabitants of that nation. They were being forced into the Unia, their church and monastery property was being confiscated from them under various pretexts, and the activities of the Orthodox clergy were being curtailed in every way. Already in 1676, by decision of the coronation Sejm of the Polish-Lithuanian nation, any contact with the Constantinople Patriarchate not specifically permitted by government was forbidden under threat of execution and confiscation of property—which rendered the participation of Constantinople in the election of a Kiev metropolitan impossible. There were two reasons for this: the desire of the Polish authorities to not leave the Orthodox any alternative other than joining the Unia, and the conflict between the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire (they viewed the Constantinople Patriarch as an agent of Ottoman influence). The Kiev cathedra was formally vacant from 1679, and by that time the Mstislav and Polotsk dioceses were also vacant. The city of Kiev itself had not seen its metropolitans since 1658. Bishop Joseph (Shumlyansky) of Lvov and the named bishop of Peremyshl Innokenty (Vinnitsky) had been secretly sworn into the Unia and did everything to spread it among the Orthodox. The only Orthodox bishop left in the entire territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was Bishop Gideon (Sviatopolk-Chetvertinsky) of Lutsk, but even he had to flee in 1684 to Left Bank Ukraine. This whole situation required some intervention—for the sake of defending the religious freedom of the Orthodox inhabitants of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as well as for the sake of normal church life in Kiev and on the Left Bank, which had conclusively become a part of the Russian tsardom.
Russia was in no hurry to intervene, but that does not mean that it expected the fate of the Western Russian metropolia to be decided by Constantinople. To the contrary, the position of the Russian government was no different from its position two centuries before with regard to the unity of the Russian metropolia, which is clearly expressed in a letter of Patriarch Joachim of Moscow to Hetman Ivan Samoilovich dated September 1685: “From the beginning when the holy, pious faith took root in Russia, the Russian metropolia was united, and everywhere the Russians were in submission and obedience to the all-Russian throne [meaning the Church hierarchical throne].”88 Moreover, now this unity was based not only on historical facts, but also on the decision of the council of Eastern patriarchs (that is, on documents concerning the establishment in Moscow of the patriarchy): “When by the council held in the reigning city of Moscow of the most holy Eastern Church patriarchs and many hierarchs, in the presence of pious Orthodox tsars at the patriarchal throne, all willed as a council that all Russian hierarchical thrones, in the northern country, submit themselves to the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia and northern countries,”89 as well as at the interpretation of the decision of the Peryaslavl Rada of 1654 as an act of reunification of two different parts of a once united people. In a missive to Patriarch Yakovos of Constantinople dated November of the same year, Patriarch Joachim added to the cited arguments (on the historical unity of the Russian metropolia and on the recognition by the Eastern patriarchs of the jurisdiction of Moscow over all Russian dioceses of the northern countries) also that in olden times it was specifically the Moscow metropolitans who had the title, “of Kiev and All Russia.”90
Moscow’s slowness in the matter of filling the vacant Kiev cathedra, regardless of the fact that Kiev and the entire Left Bank belonged to Russia, fixed by agreement already in 1667, should by no means be explained by its uncertainty over the rights of the Moscow Patriarch over the Ukrainian dioceses. By 1685, church life in the Left Bank of the Ukraine already de facto depended upon Moscow. The Locum Tenens of the Kiev cathedra, Methodius, was sent from Kiev to Moscow back in 1661. Another locum tenens, Bishop Lazar (Baranovich) of Chernigov, held an unambiguous pro-Moscow position (and was raised to the rank of archbishop at the Moscow council of 1666–1667); in 1684 in Moscow yet another key church figure of that era was given the rank of archimandrite of the Kiev-Caves Lavra—Varlaam (Yasinsky); and so on. The Russian government was looking for a solution to an entirely different problem: how to ensure the rights and religious freedom of the Orthodox inhabitants of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Kiev metropolitan, appointed in Moscow, would most probably not be recognized by the Polish authorities. Direct ecclesiastical relations with Constantinople in the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth was forbidden. In the course of long negotiations with the participation of various sides91 a plan proposed by Hetman I. Samoilovich was approved: The clergy of the Kiev metropolia were to choose a Kiev metropolitan with the participation of the Cossackry; consecrate him Metropolitan of Kiev in Moscow; then address Constantinople for recognition.
General conclusion on the historical unity of the Russian Church.
The Orthodox dioceses of the different Russian lands originally belonged to the one Metropolia of Rus’s (from the eleventh century, “of All Rus”). The vast majority of attempts to create an independent metropolia for one or another part of the Russian lands —whether de jure or de facto is not important—failed93 and, as a rule, were subjected to harsh condemnation first of all from the Constantinople Church (the cases of Klim Smolyatich, Theodorets, Theodorit, and Gregory Tsamblak). The Constantinople Palamite councils of the fourteenth century officially recognized Northeastern Rus’ as the only legitimate center of the former Kiev metropolia.
The project of independence from Moscow of the Kiev metropolia was born in the bowels of the Roman Catholic Church. The Uniate Metropolitan Gregory the Bulgarian, ordained in Rome, was received into the bosom of the Constantinople Church by economia, and Constantinople not only did not expect that receiving Gregory would lead to division of the Russian into parts, but insisted on preserving its unity, which had deep historical roots. The subsequent recognition by Constantinople of the legitimacy of the Moscow metropolitans inevitably meant that they would restore control over the whole Russian Church, which did gradually happen. Out of the more than 1000-year history of the Russian Church, the period of its actual division into two large independent parts—the Kievan, with its formal center in Constantinople—and the Muscovite, continued for just a little over two centuries.
II. Council and patriarchal documents testifying to the unity of the Russian Church, and an overview of the decisions contained in them.
II.1. Documents of the Byzantine era
To the more general view of the unity and indivisibility of the Russian Church testifies the title of the Russian metropolitans and later patriarchs, in which the word Rus’ with the definer “All” is added, emphasizing the broad powers of the primate of the Russian Church and the diversity of lands that make up the Russian metropolia. In this refined form, this title is first witnessed to in the missive of the Constantinople patriarch Luke Chrysoverges to Grand Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky,94 and later in the seals of the Russian metropolitans of the mid-eleventh century,95 and then in the gramota of Patriarch Germanos II of Constantinople to the metropolitan of All Rus’ Kirill I dated 1228;96 and so on. It is possible to be convinced of the justness of this specific interpretation of this title, for example, from the missive of the same Patriarch Germanos II to the cardinals of the Roman Church in 1232, where the flock of the Russian metropolia is described as ἡ ἀμέτρητος Ῥωσικὴ πανσπερμία—“the innumerable multitude of peoples of Rus’.97
In 1347, Emperor John VI Cantecuzen and the Constantinople patriarch published a whole package of documents dedicated to the question of the unity and indivisibility of the Russian Church. In the center of this package was: 1) the imperial chysobull, published in August 1347,98 which exactly corresponds with what was published at the council of bishops of the Church of Constantinople, headed by Patriarch Isidore I: 2) the Acts of the Council; and with citations on these two foundational documents the emperor sent his gramota: 3) to the metropolitan of Kiev (whose permanent residence was in Moscow) and All Rus’, St. Theognostos; 4) to Grand Prince Simeon Ioannovich Gordy of Moscow; 5) Prince Liubart-Dimitry Gedimovich of Vladimir-Volhynia; and the patriarch sent: 6) a gramota to Metropolitan Theodore of Galich.99 The essence of these documents boils down to the fact that the decision on the division of several dioceses of Southwestern Rus’ from the rest of the Russian Church was accepted100 “by the former patriarch of Constantinople according to an evil design” (διὰ τὴν κακογνωμίαν τοῦ χρηματίσαντος πατριάρχου Κωνσταντινουπόλεως101), was uncanonical (ἔξω τῶν θείων καὶ ἱερῶν κανόνων,102 or παρὰ κανόνας103), and therefore the emperor and the council of bishops revoke it and prescribe that the Russian Church return to its unity under the authority of one primate, “according to the customs that have been made lawful in that country—All Rus’” (τῶν ἐκ παλαιοῦ νενομισμένων ἐθίμων εἰς τὴν τοιαύτην χώραν τῆς πάσης Ῥωσίας).104 Besides the fact that this definition is already important in and of itself, the argumentation supporting the council’s act of 1347: Τὸ γάρ ἔθνος τῶν Ῥώσων—χρόνος ἤδη μακρὸς εἰς τετρακοσίους ἐγγὺς ἐξήκων—ἕνα μητροπολίτην γνωρίζον, “For the people of Rus’ over the course of almost four hundred years have known only one metropolitan.”105 Thus, specifically the fact of historical unity of the Russian Church was for the fathers of the council of 1347 a key argument in deciding the question of abolishing the independent Galich metropolia. The next important document is the gramota of the council of bishops of the Constantinople Church headed by Patriarch Philotheos, published in January 1354. It ratifies the transfer of the residence of the Kievan metropolitans to Vladimir (but factually to Moscow, which had already since 1326 become the main place of residence of the Kievan metropolitans), preserving their authority over the entire Russian Church: οὔκ ἐστιν ἑτέρα καταμονὴ καὶ ἀνάπαυσις καὶ κατάντημα τῇ ἁγιωτάτῃ μητροπόλει Ῥωσίας διὰ τὰς προειρημένας αἰτίας εἰ μὴ τὸ Βλαντίμοιρον (“there is no other place of residence, refuge, and protection for the holy metropolia of Rus’, due to the above stated reasons,106 other than Vladimir”), and therefore, ἐν Ἁγίῳ παρακελεύεται Πνεύματι διὰ τοῦ παρόντος συνοδικου γράμματος εἶναι καὶ εὑρίσκεσθαι τόν τε ἱερώτατον μητροπολίτην Ῥωσίας καὶ τοὺς μετ᾽ αὐτὸν πάντας ἐν τῷ Βλαντιμοίρῳ καὶ ἔχειν τοῦτο ὡς οἰκεῖον κάθισμα ἀναφαιρέτως καὶ ἀναποσπάστως εἰς αἰῶνα τὸν ἅπαντα, καὶ ἔνι μὲν καὶ τὸ Κύεβον ὡς οἰκεῖος θρόνος καὶ πρῶτον κάθισμα τοῦ ἀρχιερέως, ἐὰν περισώζηται, μετ᾽ ἐκεῖνο καὶ σὺν ἐκείνῳ δεύτερον κάθισμα καὶ καταμονὴ καὶ ἀνάπαυσις ἡ ἁγιωτάτη ἐπισκοπὴ Βλαντιμοίρου (“in the Holy Spirit it is willed, by means of the present council gramota, that the holy metropolia of Rus’, and all who are part of it, be located and found in Vladimir, and have it as it own cathedra, irrevocably and for all the ages inalienably, and let it continue to have, firstly, Kiev—if it should continue to exist—as its own hierarchical throne and first hierarchical cathedra, and after it and together with it—the holy Vladimir bishopric, as its second cathedra and place of residence, and refuge”).107
One more document of the Byzantine era is the patriarchal gramota of Patriarch Joseph II of Constantinople of 1416, on the council’s deposing of Gregory Tsamblak, sent to Metropolitan Photius of Rus’:108 “Today the divine and holy Council has assembled, the holy hierarchs, all-honorable metropolitans of Heraclius and Ánkyra, and many others, and by the judgment of these together, Tsamblak, Gregory, is to be deposed, by divine and sacred law, and after his removal, defrocked and cursed.”109 Besides others, Patriarch Joachim refers to this document in his instructions to the ambassadors who were sent for negotiations on the recognition of the establishment of the metropolia in Moscow.110
II.2. Documents of the mid-fifteenth century: the attempt to contend the rights of the Moscow primate and subsequent confirmation of his rights to all the Russian dioceses.
Of principal significance are the contents of the patriarchal gramota of Patriarch Dionysios I of Constantinople addressed to the princes and people of Rus—“The leaf of Dionysios, Patriarch of Constantinople, written to Moscow” in 1467.111 The Patriarch insists here, citing the ancient custom, upon the indivisibility of the Russian Church: “Would that you should have one Church and one metropolitan, and in this vein that you cleave to him in unity, that there be one Church, and in it one pastor, that in this the Lord God be praised, Who destroys all sins and divisions, and that the devil be cast out… In this regard it is pleasing that there be one metropolitan truly righteous over the whole Russian land according to the ancient Russian custom and rule. It is not right that the old custom and old rule be broken.” Furthermore in the gramota it is confirmed that the Constantinople Church did not recognize St. Jonah’s rank of metropolitan112 and that of his successors, from which it proceeds that the head of the united Russian Church should be considered to be the one now accepted by Constantinople, Gregory the Bulgarian: “But they should stop doing what they did in Moscow, and the Holy Supreme Great catholic Church commands it, for this is against the canons and against the law of God; those metropolitans named [appointed/consecrated] in Moscow, beginning with Jonah and to this day, our Great catholic and Holy Church does not recognize, and does not honor, and does not call them metropolitans. And likewise all should accept, and should honor, and be in obedience to him—the rightly appointed and true metropolitan, who is called the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’, lord Gregory, the beloved brother and co-servant in the Holy Spirit of our humbleness.” This latter part of the gramota of Patriarch Dionysios was not accepted in Moscow, where they continued to consider the successors of St. Jonah to be the true metropolitans of All Rus’, but it is important to emphasize that, first of all, it is clear from the gramota that the Constantinople Church did not pronounce a decision to divide the Russian Church into the “Moscow” and “Kiev” parts; secondly, with the acceptance of the legitimacy of the Moscow metropolitans, Constantinople would have to either pronounce just such a decision (which was not done at all), or to the contrary to deprive the metropolitans of Kiev and Galich of legitimacy (which the course of history itself did in Constantinople’s place).
The formal legitimatization of the Moscow primates by Constantinople can be considered the already cited “all holy Metropolitan of Moscow and All the Russias” Varlaam (his name is not cited) in the gramota of Patriarch Theolyptos I of Constantinople in 1516; what is particularly important, in this same gramota the same metropolitan is also called “the most holy Metropolitan of Kiev and All the Russias”.113 Thus, also in the sixteenth century the Constantinople Patriarchate fully recognized that the Moscow metropolitan is also the Kiev metropolitan at the same time.
An indiputables legitimatization is the mention of the name of the Moscow metropolitan, St. Macarius in the council gramota concerning the recognition of Ivan Vasilievich “the Terrible” title of Tsar, published in 1561 by Patriarch Joasaph II of Constantinople on behalf of the council of bishops,114 just as in the patriarchal missive of the same patriarch, where metropolitan Macarius, in the status of “Patriarchal Exarch”, is granted the right to perform Ivan IV’s (the Terrible) coronation as Tsar on behalf of the Patriarch himself.115
The final act of recognition of this legitimacy should be considered the document on the establishment of patriarchy in Rus’: The posted gramota of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich [son of Ivan the Terrible], Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople and the Church Council of 1589; the Council gramota of the same patriarch and council of bishops of the Constantinople Church of 1590, and most importantly, the Council Act of the Great Constantinople Council of all the ancient Orthodox Churches of the East in 1593. It is precisely the third of these documents that is the key one, both by the circumstances of its publication,116 as well as by its level of authoritativeness, inasmuch as it is the decision of a council of all the Eastern patriarchs,117 and not only the Constantinople Church. In the Council Acts of 1593 were pronounced the following definitions: … τὸν θρόνον τῆς εὐσεβεστάτης καὶ ὀρθοδόξου πόλεως Μοσκόβου εἶναί τε καὶ λέγεσθαι πατριαρχεῖον, διὰ τὸ βασιλείας ἀξιωθῆναι παρὰ Θεοῦ τὴν χώραν ταύτην, πᾶσάν τε Ῥωσίαν καὶ τὰ ὑπερβόρεια μέρη ὑποτάττεσθαι τῷ πατριαρχικῷ θρόνῳ Μοσκόβου καὶ πάσης Ῥωσίας καὶ τῶν ὑπερβορείων μερῶν… (…the throne of the most pious and Orthodox city of Moscow shall be called patriarchal, for that country has been made worthy by God of royal [of the tsar] power, and all Rus’ and the Northern countries shall submit to the patriarchal throne of Moscow and all Rus’ and all Northern Countries…”)118 This definition not only does not presuppose the division of the Church of All Russia into any parts at all, but furthermore subjects all the Russian dioceses to the Moscow cathedra. Being the council decision of all the Eastern patriarchs, this definition is patently higher than any decision of one Local Church—including that of the Constantinople—and takes unconditional priority over them.
Of no minor importance is also the argument by which the fathers of the council of 1593 based the prudence of granting the patriarchal title to the Moscow primate: “The country has been made worthy by God of royal [of the tsar] power.” Below in the Council Acts of 1593 it is prescribed to all the Local Churches to commemorate the name of the Moscow tsar at the divine services: in the dyptichs, at the proskomedia, and most importantly, at the reading of the two psalm during Matins, where once only the name of the Byzantine emperor was commemorated. Recognizing the royal dignity of the Moscow rulers, the fathers of the council of 1593 thus recognized the authority of the Russian tsars to influence the administrative and territorial establishment of the Church, in accordance with Orthodox canon law: “If any city is or shall be renewed by the Emperor, the ecclesiastical order shall follow the political and public example.” (Canon 38 of the Council of Trullo; compare the 17th canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council).
Thus, the Council Act of 1593 not only did not presuppose the possibility of the further coexistence of two metropolias “of All Rus’”, but also granted the Russian tsar and the Moscow patriarch all the necessary instruments for overcoming the division existing at that moment with the Western Russian metropolia. The Moscow primates understood the contents of the Council Acts precisely in this way, which can be seen from their own words (see the above citation from the missive of Patriarch Joachim), and from the facts of the appointment of the Kiev locum tenens in 1661, the elevation of Bishop Lazar (Baranovich) of Chernigov to the rank of archbishop at the Moscow Council of 1666–1667, the confirmation of Varlaam (Yasnitsky) as archimandrite of the Kiev-Caves Lavra in 1684, and finally, the appointment of the Kiev metropolitan in 1685—all without asking for permission from Constantinople.
An important symbolic precedent was Patriarch Nikon’s acceptance of the newly acquired official title, “Holy Archbishop of Moscow, Patriarch of All Great and Little Russia”.119 This form of title on the one hand reflected the title of the Constantinople patriarch (“Holy Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch”), and on the other hand, was a direct tracing of the title of the Moscow tsar (Sovereign Tsar and Grand Prince, Sovereign of All Great and Little and White Russia). Patriarch Paisios I of Constantinople approved of this titling, thus recognizing by this approval the rights of the Moscow patriarch to the Little Russian dioceses. In the famous Council gramota of 1654, which became the cornerstone that led to the [Old Believer] schism in the Russian Church after the church book reforms of Patriarch Nikon, Patriarch Paisios together with the hosts of hierarchs calls Nikon the “Patriarch of Muscovy, Great and Little Russia”, etc. ((Τῷ μακαριωτάτῳ καὶ εὐσεβεστάτῳ πατριάρχῃ Μοσχοβίας, Μεγάλης τε καὶ Μικρᾶς Ῥωσίας, καὶ πολλῶν ἐπαρχιῶν τῶν κατὰ γῆν καὶ θάλατταν παντὸς βοῤῥείου μέρους κυρίῳ ΝΙΚΟΝΙ ἀδελφῷ καὶ συλλειτουργῷ ἡμῶν…).120
II.3. Documents of 1686.
From what has been said it follows that for the establishment of the Kiev metropolia in Moscow, there was really no need for approval as such from Constantinople. Nevertheless, in 1682, at the initiative of the Russian government, a negotiation process was begun on the question of presenting this approval in written form. As we have already noted above, the main aim of this process consisted not in receiving control over the ecclesiastical life of Kiev and the Left Bank, which was already in the hands of the Moscow Patriarchate, but in the creation of an irrefutable jurisdictional base for future pressure on the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in matters of observing the rights and religious freedoms of its Orthodox population. In 1684, in Constantinople, the Greek Zacharias Sophiros, invested with powers by Polish decree, conducted preliminary negotiations with Constantinople Patriarch Jakovos on the issue of appointing a Kievan metropolitan in Moscow. The Patriarch replied with a refusal, citing the necessity to receive approval for such a decision from the Grand Viziar of the Ottoman Empire. This refusal did not have any influence on preparations for appointing a metropolitan to the vacant Kievan cathedra in Moscow. In the same year of 1684, the Left Bank Hetman attempted to persuade the Russian government to appoint the bishop they had chosen, Gideon (Sviatopolk-Chetvertinsky) who had fled the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth due to persecution, as the metropolitan. However in Moscow they were convinced of the need to chose a metropolitan not according to the hetman’s ideas, but by ecclesiastical council of the same metropolia. In fulfillment of this, on June 29, 1685, an assembly commenced in Kiev of the clergy of the Kiev metropolia with the participation of prominent representatives of the Cossackry (first of all, Ivan Mazepa); neither Lazar of Chernigov, nor Gideon (and there were no other Orthodox hierarchs left in the metropolia) participated in the assembly. At the session of July 8, Gideon was chosen metropolitan of Kiev. Simultaneously the clergy of Kiev, headed by Archimandrite Varlaam (Yasnitsky) of the Kiev-Caves Monastery, expressed to the Hetman their concern over the imminent appointment of Gideon in Moscow without the consent of the Constantinople Patriarchate. A list was composed of demands relating to the preservation of “the rights and freedoms of the Little Russian land”, the main part of which consisted of the desire not to conduct the Orthodox services in the Ukrainian lands according to the Moscow practice. On July 20, Hetman I. S. Samoilovich and Bishop Gideon sent a missive to Moscow with a description of the proceedings, requests that ambassadors be sent to Constantinople, and the preservation of their “freedoms”. In September 1685, the Moscow government considered the requests of the Kiev clergy and consented to five of the six. The hetman agreed to a compromise, removing the point of contention for Moscow, which opened the path to consecrating Gideon in Moscow. This indeed took place on November 8 in the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.
After Gideon’s consecration, Hetman Ivan Lisitsa and church clerk Nikita Alexeyev were sent as ambassadors to Constantinople with gramotas from Patriarch Joachim, Tsars John V and Peter I, and the Hetman with a request to confirm the transfer of the Kiev metropolia to the jurisdiction of Moscow. In complete agreement with the explanations of Patriach Yakovos of Constantinople, the negotiators first received approval from the grand vizier, and then from Patriarch Dionysios IV. In May-June of 1686, the Constantinople Patriarchate published four official documents approving the transfer of the Kiev metropolia to the jurisdiction of the Moscow patriarchs: 1) a patriarchal gramota addressed to the Moscow tsars, 2) a patriarchal gramota addressed to Hetman I. Samoilovich, 3) a patriarchal and council gramota addressed to Patriarch Joachim of Moscow, and 4) a patriarchal and council gramota on the new order of electing the metropolitan of Kiev.121 A series of missives were also written that had no legal significance,122 on which for this reason we make no commentary.
The contents of all four of these cited documents, if you omit the differences in terms of address to the addressees and what has no relation to matters of rhetoric, boils down to the fact that the patriarch and hierarchs of the Constantinople Church recognized the objective necessity of re-submitting the Kiev cathedra to the Moscow patriarch, that they render to the Moscow patriarch the power to consecrate the Kiev metropolitan chosen according to the custom of his metropolia, and judge him—that is, have full jurisdiction over him—moreover, forever (in accordance with the rights conveyed to the Moscow patriarch “as before, so also to all succeeding (ὅ τε ἤδη καὶ οἱ μετὰ τοῦτον)”; and from the Kiev metropolitan is demanded that he henceforth relate to the Moscow patriarch as his “primate”, that is, canonical head, and turn namely to him for his appointment certificate, and not to Constantinople.
Generally speaking, in light of the definition by the Great Council of Constantinople of 1593, the canonical status of all of these documents is doubtful, in that this council had already confirmed the rights of the Moscow patriarch in relation to all the Russian dioceses, and its authority is higher than that of the Constantinople Church taken separately. And in fact the Constantinople Church itself in in Council Acts of 1654 had already recognized the right of the Moscow patriarch not only over Great Russia, but also over Little Russia.
Nevertheless, lately in literature there is a noticeable tendency to give the documents of 1686 an almost definitive significance.123 In part, it is being said that the expression contained in these documents, ἔχῃ ἄδειαν… χειροτονεῖν, in relation to the right of the Moscow patriarch to consecrate the Kiev Metropolitan supposedly does not mean “has the power to consecrate”, but means “has the permission/is authorized (sur autorisation) to consecrate”, and that the Kiev metropolitan’s obligation to accept the Moscow patriarch ὡς γέροντος καὶ προεστῶτος, “as elder and primate”, supposedly actually means, “acceptance in the capacity of spiritual father” and no more.124 Such conclusions are no more than an attempt to give out the desired as the actual truth. Thus, in accordance with the dictionary of E. Kriaras, the most authoritative dictionary of the Greek language of the Byzantine and post-Byzantine periods—that is, the main ones—the meanings of the word ἄδεια are as follows: 1) ελευθερία να κάνει κανείς, 2) απόλυτη ελευθερία, that is, “the freedom to do something”, “complete freedom (of actions)”,125 and by no means the supposed representation by someone as the above-mentioned “authorization”. As for the term, προεστός (προεστώς), according to that same dictionary, it means “head, [chief, superior]” in the same broad meaning of the word;126 and most importantly, examples of the use of this word as a synonym for the term “patriarch” can be cited.127
No limits to the power of the Moscow patriarch to consecrate the Kiev metropolitan or the prerogative of the Kiev metropolitan to relate to the Moscow patriarch “simply as to a spiritual father”128 are actually contained in the documents of 1686. The Kiev metropolitan is completely and irrefutably subject to the canonical authority of the Moscow patriarchate. Neither is there in these documents a confirmation that the Kiev metropolitan supposedly reserves the status of an “exarch of the Constantinople patriarch” in relation to Little Russia. The term “exarch” in relation to the Kiev metropolia can be found in two secondary documents of June 1686—the patriarchal epistles to the clergy and faithful of the Kiev metropolia, and along with them to the Hetman.129 The addressees of these epistles are exhorted not to depart from their obedience to Metropolitan Gideon, who has been named “Metropolitan of Kiev… and Exarch of All Russia”. The expression “Exarch of All Russia” can be understood in two ways—either as the Constantinople patriarch’s pretenses on all of Rus’, which would go against the decision of the Great Council of Constantinople of 1593 and would violate a whole series of sacred canons, or as a synonym for the transfer of the metropolitan of Kiev to being under the authority of the Patriarch of All Rus’—in an analogy to the fact that in the previous era that same metropolitan could be called the “Exarch of the Constantinople Patriarch”. Obviously, the second interpretation is the only acceptable one: the Metropolitan of Kiev is recognized as the exarch of [the Patriarch] of All Rus’.
The only counter-condition being promoted in the documents of 1686—to which in fact these documents themselves testify130—is the request that the Kiev metropolitan commemorate the name of the Constantinople patriarch at the divine services before the name of the Moscow Patriarch. From the legal point of view, this request is no more than simple good wishes. There are no sanctions stipulated for its non-observance, and most importantly, neither the Moscow Patriarch, nor the Kiev metropolitan accepted any obligations to fulfill this request. No conclusion can be drawn from this request that the Kiev metropolia supposedly kept is canonical submission to Constantinople—this request speaks exclusively about the metropolitan; the motivation for the request (which is shown forthrightly) does not contain even a hint at the preservation of the jurisdiction of Constantinople over Kiev,131 and the commemoration of the Constantinople patriarch by all the other bishops (never mind the priests) of the metropolia is not stipulated.
Nevertheless, rather paradoxically, this request was automatically satisfied. The fact of the matter is that even during the time of Patriarch Nikon, out of respect for the Eastern patriarchs the commemoration of them was included in the standard publications of the Russian service books. In part, in the Moscow publication of the Service Book of 1655, there first appeared the commemoration at the proskomedia not only of the Moscow patriarch, but also of the four Eastern patriarchs, and by name at that.132 In turn, in the Book of the Order of Hierarchical Services of 1677 and its reprints the Eastern patriarchs are commemorated at the exclamations of the anaphora. Even in the rite of the hierarchical Liturgy there appeared a commemoration of the Eastern patriarchs at the Great Entrance and what is called the Great Laudation—a series of exclamations before the singing of the Liturgical Trisagion. All of this supplemented the commemoration of the patriarchs at the proskomedia, which continued to be served according to the Service Book. By comparison, in the old Hierarchical Book of Order of the Kiev Metropolia133, there was no Great Laudation at all, just as there was no commemoration of patriarchs at the Great Entrance; there was only the commemoration of the “ecumenical patriarchs” (without names) at the proskomedia and the remembrance of the ecumenical patriarch contained in the exclamation at the prayer of the Eucharist. As a consequence, in the hierarchical—and even in the ordinary priestly—rite of the Liturgy after the unification of the Kiev Metropolia with the Moscow Patriarchate, the volume of commemorations of Eastern patriarchs noticeably grew in comparison with the earlier period. In this way, the desire of the Patriarch Dionysios IV of Constantinople to underscore the unity of the Churches to “all the ends of the universe”, as he himself wrote, was completely satisfied by the very fact of the Kiev metropolia’s change to Moscow’s publications of the Divine Service books.134
Finally, it is extremely important to emphasize that neither at the end of the seventeenth century, nor in the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries was the fact of a final and irrevocable unification of the Kiev metropolia with the Church of All Rus’ placed under any doubt by anyone.135 Even Patriarch Dositheus of Jerusalem, who before the publication of the documents of May-June 1686 expressed his criticism of the idea of such a unification, after the resolution was accepted by Constantinople gave not the slightest cause to doubt the Kiev Metropolia’s total canonical submission to Moscow. To the contrary, in a whole series of letters he called upon Moscow to make use of its ecclesiastical and canonical authority to remove the elements of Catholic influence in Little Russian theology and Liturgical practices (that is, essentially to abolish those very “rights and freedoms”, which the Kiev clergy had stipulated the possibility of preserving in 1685!).136
A remarkable testimony to the unconditional acceptance of what happened on the part of the higher figures of the Constantinople Patriarchate is the request of the former Patriarch of Constantinople Seraphim II, who was forced to flee the Ottoman Empire due to his anti-Turkish position during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774, that he be allowed to serve in the churches of the Kiev (!) diocese. In June 1776, the patriarch sent the following request to the Holy Governing Synod [of the Russian Orthodox Church]:137
By force of the Supreme and Holy governing Synod’s will, I arrived last February at the Maksakov Monastery of the Savior of the Kiev diocese, but since I do not have the written permission of the Holy Synod, I do not dare to serve the divine services. For this cause, according to the ecclesiastical established order, I most humbly ask your permission to serve and that an order be sent to the Metropolitan of Kiev from the Holy Synod. I have signed this report. † Πατριάρχης πρώην Κωνσταντινουπόλεως Σεραφίμ.
As can be seen from this request, which was reviewed and approved by the Synod,138the former Patriarch of Constantinople was asking for permission to serve—and not just anywhere, but in the very diocese of the Kiev metropolitan!—from the supreme ecclesiastical authority of the Russian Church, and not from Constantinople; and he knows nothing of any supposed “preserved” obligations of the Kiev metropolitans with regard to the primate of Constantinople.
Conclusions on the canonical grounds for the unity of the Russian Church:
The very fact in and of itself of the historical unity of the Russian Orthodox Church possesses more than sufficient canonical force (the Council Acts and imperial chrysobull) of 1347, and the patriarchal gramota of 1467). The center of the united Russian Church was transferred in a canonical manner to the Vladimir-Suzdal lands, that is, to Moscow, preserving the Moscow hierarch as that of Kiev, it being his own ancient cathedra (Council Act of 1354; patriarchal gramota of 1516).
The Great Council of Constantinople of 1593 confirmed the right of the Moscow patriarch to all the historical Russian dioceses, not limiting them to the territories under the current political control of Moscow. In 1686, it remained only for the Constantinople Patriarchate to with dignity decline to contest the rights of the Moscow Patriarch with regard to the Kiev cathedra. The only stipulation, made in 1686, regarding the commemoration of the Constantinople Patriarch before the others, was not binding for the Russian Church, inasmuch as there are not and never were any documents whatsoever that confirmed the agreement of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Kiev Metropolia itself for that matter with this stipulation. Secondly, it could have been interpreted either as the proclamation of the Constantinople Church’s universal authority (something that would suspiciously sound like papal dogma and would therefore be theologically unacceptable), or as the good desire to emphasize the unity of the Ecumenical Church through the aid of Liturgical commemoration (which the Russian Church had begun to do even earlier than 1686, under Patriarch Nikon).
III. General conclusions.
The unity of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has existed for more that a thousand years, has been under attack a number of times from various sides, but despite all this, this unity has continued to exist much longer than the periods of its violation.
In the Byzantine time, precisely the Constantinople Church defended this unity, despite the political conflicts that have arisen between one or another Russian princedom. On their own part, the clergy and faithful of the metropolia of All Rus’ have always responded to the Constantinople Church with love, respect, recognition, and significant material support.
Only the Byzantine elite itself could have torn the metropolia of All Rus’ from Constantinople when it first of all tried to use Russian Orthodoxy as a bargaining chip in a desperate attempt to force the West to come to the aid of perishing Constantinople, and then when it allowed the Uniate metropolitan to usurp the title of the primate of “All Rus’”.
The restoration of complete ecclesiastical communion between Moscow and Constantinople could not question who actually has the right to the title of the first hierarch of “All Rus’”, but the objective course of history has given this question an exhaustive answer, confirmed in a whole series of ecclesiastical-canonical documents, for which there are no lawful grounds for reinterpretation.
The author is a doctoral candidate in theology, docent of the Moscow Theological Academy, The St. Cyril and Methodius General Ecclesiastical masters and doctoral programs, a member of the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission, the Synodal Church Services Commission, and the Inter-Council Presence of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Source: The Church and the Times, No. 3 (84) 2018, pp. 29-95.