At the beginning of February 2013 the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church met in Moscow. In their concluding statement the Bishops declared:
Orthodoxy is being reborn as the foundation of national self-consciousness, uniting allthe healthy forces in society- these forces which strive for the transformation of life on the basis of a sure foundation and the spiritual and moral values that have entered the flesh and blood of our peoples.
This book is a critical study of the interaction between the Russian Church and society in the late 19th and early 20th century. While other studies exist that draw attention to the voices in the Church typified as liberal in the years leading up to the Revolution, this work introduces a wide range of conservative opinion that equally strove for spiritual renewal and the spread of the Gospel. Grounded in original research conducted in the newly accessible libraries and archives of post-Soviet Russia, this study is intended to reveal the wider relevance of its topic to an ongoing discussion of the relationship between national or ethnic identities on the one hand, and the self-understanding of Orthodox Christianity as a universal and transformative faith on the other.
Whilst other studies exist that draw attention to the voices in the Church typified as "liberal" in the years leading up to the Revolution, this work introduces the reader to a wide range of "conservative" opinion that equally strove for the renewal of the Church and the spread of the Gospel. Ultimately neither these "conservative" voices presented here nor those of their better-known "liberal" protagonists, were able to prevent the calamity that befell Russia with the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.
The relatively narrow scope of this study should not conceal the wider relevance of its debates to the broader and continuing discussion of the relationship between national and ethnic identities and the self-understanding of Orthodoxy as a universal and transformative Faith.
Archpriest John Strickland is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, and Associate Professor of History at Saint Katherine College in Encinitas, CA.