The Russian Orthodox Church

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
The Christian community that became the Russian Orthodox Church is traditionally said to have been founded by the Apostle Andrew, who is thought to have visited Scythia and Greek colonies along the northern coast of the Black Sea.
According to one of the legends, Andrew reached the future location of Kiev and foretold the foundation of a great Christian city.
The spot where he reportedly erected a cross is now marked by St. Andrew's Cathedral (see right).
By the end of the first millennium AD, eastern Slavic lands started to come under the cultural influence of the Eastern Roman Empire. In 863-869, Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius translated parts of the Bible into Old Church Slavonic language for the first time, paving the way for the Christianization of the Slavs.
There is evidence that the first Christian bishop was sent to Novgorod from Constantinople either by Patriarch Photius or Patriarch Ignatios, circa 866-867 AD.
By the mid-10th century, there was already a Christian community among Kievan nobility, under the leadership of Greek and Byzantine priests, although paganism remained the dominant religion.
Princess Olga of Kiev was the first ruler of Kievan Rus to convert to Christianity, either in 945 or 957.

Her grandson, Vladimir the Great (see left), made Kievan Rus' a Christian state.
As a result of the Christianization of Kievan Rus' in 988, Prince Vladimir I of Kiev officially adopted Byzantine Rite Christianity — the religion of the Eastern Roman Empire — as the state religion of Kievan Rus'.
This date is often considered the official birthday of the Russian Orthodox Church. 
hus, in 1988, the Church celebrated its millennial anniversary.
It therefore traces its apostolic succession through the Patriarch of Constantinople.

The Kievan church was originally a Metropolitanate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Byzantine patriarch appointed the metropolitan who governed the Church of Rus'.
The Metropolitan's residence was originally located in Kiev.
As Kiev was losing its political, cultural, and economical significance due to the Mongol invasion, Metropolitan Maximus moved to Vladimir in 1299; his successor, Metropolitan Peter moved the residence to Moscow in 1325.


Following the tribulations of the Mongol invasion, the Russian Church was pivotal in the survival and life of the Russian state.
Despite the politically motivated murders of Mikhail of Chernigov and Mikhail of Tver, the Mongols were generally tolerant and even granted tax exemption to the Church.
Such holy figures as Sergius of Radonezh and Metropolitan Alexis helped the country to withstand years of Tatar oppression, and to expand both economically and spiritually.
The monastic reform of St. Sergius, which culminated in the foundation of the monastery known as Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra near Moscow, was one of the defining events of medieval Russian history.
The monastery became the setting for the unprecedented flourishing of transcendent, spiritual art, exemplified by the work of Andrey Rublev, among others.
The followers of Sergius founded four hundred monasteries, thus greatly extending the geographical extent of his influence and authority.
The spiritual resurgence of the late 14th century, associated with the names of St. Sergius, the missionary Stephen of Perm and the writer Epiphanius the Wise, contributed to the consolidation of the Russian nation.
Having received the blessing of St. Sergius (see above) to make a stand against the Tatars, "the Suzdalians, Vladimirians, Rostovians, Pskovians went to the Kulikovo Field as representatives of their principalities but returned after the victory as Russians, although living in different towns", a dictum which has been endorsed by modern church functionaries.
At the Council of Florence (1439), a group of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church leaders agreed upon terms of reunification of the two branches of Christianity.
The Russian Prince Basil II of Moscow, however, rejected the concessions to the Catholic Church and forbade the proclamation of the acts of the Council in Russia in 1452, after a short-lived East-West reunion.
Metropolitan Isidore was in the same year expelled from his position as an apostate.
In 1448, the Russian Church became independent from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Metropolitan Jonas, installed by the Council of Russian bishops in 1448, was given the title of Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia.
This was just five years before the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
From this point onward the Russian Orthodox Church saw Moscow as the Third Rome, legitimate successor to Constantinople, and the Primate of Moscow as head of the Russian Orthodox Church.


The reign of Ivan III and his successor (see right) was plagued by numerous heresies and controversies.

Ivan IV Vasilyevich - (August 25, 1530 – March 18, 1584) was the Grand Duke of Muscovy from 1533 C.E. to 1547 C.E. and was the first ruler of Russia to assume the title of tsar.
His long reign saw the conquest of Tartary and Siberia and subsequent transformation of Russia into a multiethnic and multi-confessional state, yet his life among his family and close advisors degenerated into a pathetic and disgusting biography.
This tsar retains his place in the Russian tradition simply as Ivan Grozny, which translates into English as Ivan the Fearsome.

One party, led by Nil Sorsky and Vassian Kosoy, called for secularisation of monastic properties.

They were oppugned by the influential Joseph of Volotsk, (see left)who defended ecclesiastical ownership of land and property.
The sovereign's position fluctuated, but eventually he threw his support to Joseph.
New sects sprang up, some of which showed a tendency to revert to Mosaic law: for instance, the archpriest Aleksei converted to Judaism after meeting a certain Zechariah the Jew.
Monastic life flourished in Russia, focusing on prayer and spiritual growth.
The disciples of St. Sergius left the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra to found hundreds of monasteries across Russia.
Some of the most famous monasteries were located in the Russian North, even as far north as Pechenga, in order to demonstrate how faith could flourish in the most inhospitable lands.
The richest landowners of medieval Russia included Joseph Volokolamsk Monastery, Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery and the Solovetsky Monastery.
In the 18th century, the three greatest monasteries were recognized as lavras, while those subordinated directly to the Synod were labelled stauropegic.
In the 1540s, Metropolitan Macarius codified Russian hagiography and convened a number of church synods, which culminated in the Hundred Chapter Synod of 1551.
This assembly unified Church ceremonies and duties in the whole territory of Russia.
At the demand of the Church hierarchy the government canceled the tsar's jurisdiction over ecclesiastics.
Reinforced by these reforms, the Church felt strong enough to challenge the policies of the tsar.
Philip of Moscow, in particular, decried many abuses of Ivan the Terrible, who eventually engineered his defrocking and murder.


During the reign of tsar Theodor I his brother-in-law Boris Godunov contacted the Ecumenical Patriarch, who "was much embarrassed for want of funds," with a view to establishing a patriarchal see in Moscow.
As a result of Godunov's efforts, Metropolitan Job of Moscow became in 1589 the first Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus', making the Russian Church autocephalous.
The four other patriarchs have recognized the Moscow Patriarchate as one of the five honourable Patriarchates.
During the next half a century, when the tsardom was weak, the patriarchs (notably Hermogenes and Philaret) would help run the state along with (and sometimes instead of) the tsars.
At the urging of the Zealots of Piety, Patriarch Nikon (see right) resolved in 1652 to centralize power that had been distributed locally, while conforming Russian Orthodox rites and rituals to those of the Greek Orthodox Church, as interpreted by pundits from the Kiev Ecclesiastical Academy.
For instance he insisted that Russian Christians cross themselves with three fingers, rather than the then-traditional two.
This aroused antipathy among a substantial section of the believers who saw the changed rites as heresy, although the extent to which these changes can be regarded as minor or major ritual significance remains open to debate.
After the implementation of these innovations at the church council of 1666–1667, the Church anathematized and suppressed those who acted contrary to them with the support of Muscovite state power.
These traditionalists became known as "Old Believers" or "Old Ritualists".
Although Nikon's far-flung ambitions of steering the country to a theocratic form of government precipitated his defrocking and exile, Tsar Aleksey deemed it prudent to uphold many of his innovations.
During the Schism of the Russian Church, the Old Ritualists were separated from the main body of the Orthodox Church.
Archpriest Avvakum Petrov and many other opponents of the church reforms were burned at the stake, either forcibly or voluntarily.
Another prominent figure within the Old Ritualists' movement, Boyarynya Morozova, was starved to death in 1675.
Others escaped from the government persecutions to Siberia and other inhospitable land where they would live in semi-seclusion until the modern times.


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
With the ascension of Emperor Peter the Great to the throne of Russia (1682–1725), with his radical modernization of Russian government, army, dress, and manners, Russia became a formidable political power.

Пётр Алексе́еви
Peter the Great
Пётр Алексе́евич - Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich (Russian:, Пётр I, Pyotr I, or Пётр Вели́кий, Pyotr Velikiy) (9 June [O.S. 30 May] 1672 – 8 February [O.S. 28 January] 1725) ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from 7 May [O.S. 27 April] 1682 until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his half-brother. In numerous successful wars he expanded the Tsardom into a huge empire that became a major European power. He led a cultural revolution that replaced the traditionalist and medieval social and political system with a modern, scientific, Europe-oriented, and rationalist system.

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the Russian Orthodox Church experienced a vast geographic expansion.
In the following two centuries, missionary efforts stretched out across Siberia into Alaska, then into California which would become part of the United States.
Eminent people on that missionary effort included St. Innocent of Irkutsk and St. Herman of Alaska.

Stephen of Perm
In emulation of Stephen of Perm, they learned local languages and translated the gospels and the hymns.

Treaty of Pereyaslav
Sometimes those translations required the invention of new systems of transcription.
In the aftermath of the Treaty of Pereyaslav, the Ottomans (supposedly acting on behalf of the Russian regent Sophia Alekseyevna) pressured the Patriarch of Constantinople into transferring the Metropoly of Kiev from the jurisdiction of Constantinople to that of Moscow.

The Treaty of Pereyaslav (Pereiaslav) was concluded in 1654 in the Ukrainian city of Pereyaslav, at a meeting between the Cossacks of the Zaporizhian Host and Tsar Alexey I of the Tsardom of Russia, during the Khmelnytsky rebellion. Known as the Pereyaslav Council (Pereyaslavs'ka Rada in Ukrainian), the treaty declared protection of the Cossack state by the tsar. Participants in the preparation of the treaty at Pereyaslav included the Cossack Hetman, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, numerous Cossacks, and a large visiting contingent from Russia and their translators.
The treaty led to the establishment of the Cossack Hetmanate in left-bank Ukraine, under the Russian Empire, and to the outbreak of the Russo-Polish War (1654-1667).

The controversial transfer brought millions of faithful and half a dozen dioceses under the pastoral and administrative care of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus', leading to the significant Ukrainian domination of the Russian Orthodox Church, which continued well into the 18th century, with Theophanes Prokopovich, Epiphanius Slavinetsky, Stephen Yavorsky and Demetrius of Rostov being among the most notable representatives of this trend.

Patriarch Adrian
In 1700, after Patriarch Adrian's death, Peter the Great prevented a successor from being named, and in 1721, following the advice of Feofan Prokopovich, Archbishop of Pskov, the Holy and Supreme Synod was established under Archbishop Stephen Yavorsky to govern the church instead of a single primate.
This was the situation until shortly after the Russian Revolution of 1917, at which time the Local Council (more than half of its members being lay persons) adopted the decision to restore the Patriarchy.
On November 5 (according to the Julian calendar) a new patriarch, Tikhon, was named through casting lots.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The late 18th century saw the rise of starchestvo under Paisiy Velichkovsky and his disciples at the Optina Monastery.
This marked a beginning of a significant spiritual revival in the Russian Church after a lengthy period of modernization, personified by such figures as Demetrius of Rostov and Platon of Moscow.
Aleksey Khomyakov, Ivan Kireevsky, and other lay theologians with Slavophile leanings elaborated some key concepts of the renovated Orthodox doctrine, including that of 'Sobornost'.

Собо́рность Sobornost  ("Spiritual community of many jointly living people") is a term coined by the early Slavophiles, Ivan Kireevsky and Aleksey Khomyakov, to underline the need for cooperation between people at the expense of individualism on the basis that the opposing groups focus on what is common between them. Khomyakov believed the West was progressively losing its unity. According to Khomyakov this stemmed from the west embracing Aristotle and his defining individualism; whereas Kireevsky believed that Hegel and Aristotle represented the same ideal of unity. Khomyakov and Kireevsky originally used the term sobor to designate cooperation within the Russian obshchina, united by a set of common convictions and Orthodox Christian values, as opposed to the cult of individualism in the West.

The resurgence of Eastern Orthodoxy was reflected in Russian literature such as the figure of Starets Zosima in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's  'Brothers Karamazov'.

Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский - Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (11 November 1821 – 9 February 1881), sometimes transliterated Dostoevsky, was a Russian novelist, short story writer and essayist. Dostoyevsky's literary works explore human psychology in the context of the troubled political, social and spiritual atmosphere of 19th-century Russia. Although he began writing in the mid-1840s, his most memorable works—including 'Crime and Punishment', 'The Idiot' and 'The Brothers Karamazov'—are from his later years. His output consists of eleven novels, three novellas, seventeen short novels and three essays. Many literary critics rate him as one of the greatest and most prominent psychologists in world literature.

Алексе́й Никола́евич
Alexei Nikolaevich
Tsarevich of Russia
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin 
стáрец - starets is an elder of a Russian Orthodox monastery who functions as venerated adviser and teacher. Elders or spiritual fathers are charismatic spiritual leaders whose wisdom stems from God as obtained from ascetic experience. It is believed that through ascetic struggle, prayer and Hesychasm (seclusion or withdrawal), the Holy Spirit bestows special gifts onto the elder including the ability to heal, prophesy, and most importantly, give effective spiritual guidance and direction. Elders are looked upon as being an inspiration to believers and an example of saintly virtue, steadfast faith, and spiritual peace.
Many people, including the Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna  and Tsar Nicholas II believed that Rasputin was a starets - probably because of his apparent ability to alleviate the symptoms of the Tsarevich's hemophilia.

Алексе́й Никола́евич - Alexei Nikolaevich (12 August 1904 – 17 July 1918) of the House of Romanov, was the Tsesarevich, and heir apparent to the throne of the Russian Empire. He was the youngest child and the only son of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. He was born with haemophilia; his mother's reliance on the starets Grigori Rasputin (see above) to treat the disease helped bring about the end of the Romanov dynasty. After the February Revolution of 1917, he and his family were sent into internal exile in Tobolsk, Siberia. He was murdered alongside his parents, four sisters, and three retainers during the Russian Civil War by order of the Bolshevik Government, though rumors that he had survived persisted until the 2007 discovery of his and his sister Maria's remains. The family was formally interred on 17 July 1998—the eightieth anniversary of the murder—and were Canonized as 'Passion Bearers' by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000.


During the final decades of the imperial order in Russia many educated Russians sought to return to the Church and revitalize their faith.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
No less evident were non-conformist paths of spiritual searching known as "God-Seeking".
Writers, artists, and intellectuals in large numbers were drawn to private prayer, mysticism, spiritualism, theosophy (see left), and Eastern religions.
A fascination with elemental feeling, with the unconscious and the mythic proliferated, along with visions of coming catastrophe and redemption.
The visible forms of 'God-Seeking' were extensive.
A series of 'Religious-Philosophical Meetings' were held in St. Petersburg in 1901–1903, bringing together prominent intellectuals and clergy to explore together ways to reconcile the Church with the growth of un-dogmatic desire among the educated for spiritual meaning in life. Especially after 1905, various religious societies arose, though much of this religious upheaval was informal: circles and salons, séances, and private prayer.
Father John of Kronstadt
Some clergy also sought to revitalize Orthodox faith, most famously the charismatic Father John of Kronstadt, who, until his death in 1908 (though his followers remained active long after), emphasized Christian living and sought to restore fervency and the presence of the miraculous in liturgical celebration.
In 1909, a sensation-creating volume of essays appeared under the title Vekhi ("Landmarks" or "Signposts"), authored by a group of leading left-wing intellectuals, including Sergei Bulgakov, Peter Struve, and former Marxists, who bluntly repudiated the materialism and atheism that had dominated the thought of the intelligentsia for generations as leading inevitably to failure and moral disaster.

 Bulgakov and Florensky
Серге́й Никола́евич Булга́ков - Sergei Nikolaevich Bulgakov (28 June [O.S. 16 June] 1871 – July 12, 1944) was a Russian Orthodox Christian theologian, philosopher and economist. Until 1922 he worked in Russia; afterwards in Paris.
In 1907 he was elected as an independent Christian Socialist to the Second Duma. He published the important original monographs 'Philosophy of Economy' («Философия хозяйства» 1912) and 'Unfading Light' («Свет Невечерний» 1917), in which he first offered his own teaching based on the combination of sophiology of Vladimir Solovyov and Pavel Florensky, the later works of Schelling, and his own intuition-based ideas about the Orthodox Christian faith.
Bulgakov’s teaching on sophiology is highly controversial. The attempt to understand it properly is hindered by the highly political controversy surrounding it in the 1930s.
Sophiology (from Greek Σοφία "sophia", wisdom) is a philosophical concept regarding wisdom, as well as a theological concept regarding the wisdom of God. Sophiology has roots in Hellenistic tradition and Platonism.

 Па́вел Алекса́ндрович Флоре́нский - Pavel Alexandrovich Florensky (January 21 [O.S. January 9] 1882 – December 1937) was a Russian Orthodox theologian, priest, philosopher, mathematician, physicist, electrical engineer, inventor and Neomartyr.
He was executed by the NKVD in 1943.

One sees a similarly renewed vigor and variety in religious life and spirituality among the lower classes, especially after the upheavals of 1905.
Among the peasantry we see widespread interest in spiritual-ethical literature and non-conformist moral-spiritual movements; an upsurge in pilgrimage and other devotions to sacred spaces and objects (especially icons); persistent beliefs in the presence and power of the supernatural (apparitions, possession, walking-dead, demons, spirits, miracles, and magic); the renewed vitality of local "ecclesial communities" actively shaping their own ritual and spiritual lives, sometimes in the absence of clergy, and defining their own sacred places and forms of piety; and the proliferation of what the Orthodox establishment branded as 'sectarianism', including both non-Orthodox Christian denominations, notably Baptists, and various forms of deviant popular Orthodoxy and mysticism.

'Religious Procession in Kursk'
Ilya Repin

In 1914 in Russia, there were 55,173 Russian Orthodox churches and 29,593 chapels, 112,629 priests and deacons, 550 monasteries and 475 convents with a total of 95,259 monks and nuns.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

The year 1917 was a major turning point for the history of Russia, and also the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Russian empire was dissolved and the Tsarist government - which had granted the Church numerous privileges - was overthrown.

After a few months of political turmoil, the Bolsheviks took power in October 1917 and declared a separation of church and state.
Thus the Russian Orthodox Church found itself without official state backing for the first time in its history.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
After the October Revolution of November 7, 1917, the officially proclaimed objective of the Soviet Union was to unite all of the people of the world in a communist state free of "capitalist exploitation".
With such a view of the world any ethnic heritage closely tied to traditional religion and its clergy was targeted by Soviet authorities.
The Soviet Union was the first state to have elimination of religion as an ideological objective.
Toward that end, the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in schools.

Soviet Labour Camp - Gulag
Actions toward particular religions, however, were determined by State interests, and most organized religions were never outlawed. Orthodox priests and believers were variously tortured, sent to prison camps, labour camps (Gulag) or mental hospitals, and executed.
Many Orthodox (along with people of other faiths) were also subjected to psychological punishment or torture and mind control experimentation in order to force them give up their religious convictions.
Thousands of churches and monasteries were taken over by the government and either destroyed or converted to secular use.
It was impossible to build new churches.
Practising Orthodox Christians were restricted from prominent careers and membership in communist organizations (the party, the Komsomol).
Anti-religious propaganda was openly sponsored and encouraged by the government, which the Church was not given an opportunity to publicly respond to.
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
The government youth organization, the Komsomol, encouraged its members to vandalize Orthodox Churches and harass worshippers.
Seminaries were closed down, and the church was restricted from using the press.
The history of Orthodoxy Christianity under the Soviet Government was not limited to this story of repression and secularization.
Bolshevik policies toward religious belief and practice tended to vacillate over time between, on the one hand, a Utopian determination to substitute secular rationalism for what they considered to be an un-modern, "superstitious" worldview and, on the other, pragmatic acceptance of the tenaciousness of religious faith and institutions. In any case, religious beliefs and practices did persist, not only in the domestic and private spheres but also in the scattered public spaces allowed by a state that recognized its failure to eradicate religion and the political dangers of an unrelenting culture war.

The League of Militant Godless - Siberia - 1929
State atheism in the Soviet Union (gosateizm) attempted to stop the spread of religious beliefs as well as remove "prerevolutionary remnants". Official policies and practices not only varied with time, but also in their application from one nationality and one religion to another. Nationality and religion were always closely linked, and the attitude toward religion varied from a total ban on some religions to official support of others.
Союз воинствующих безбожников Soyuz voinstvuyushchikh bezbozhnikov (The League of Militant Atheists [Godless]) was an atheistic and antireligious organization of workers and intelligentsia that developed in Soviet Russia under the influence of the ideological and cultural views and policies of the Soviet Government in 1925–1947. It consisted of Party members, members of the Komsomol youth movement, workers and military veterans.
The League embraced workers, peasants, students, and intelligentsia. It had its first affiliates at factories, plants, collective farms (kolkhoz), and educational institutions. By the beginning of 1941, it had about 3.5 million members of 100 nationalities. It had about 96,000 offices across the country. Guided by Bolshevik principles of anti-religious propaganda and party's orders with regards to religion, the League aimed at exterminating religion in all its manifestations, and forming an anti-religious scientific mindset among the workers. It propagated atheism and scientific achievements, prepared propagandists and atheistic campaigners, published anti-religious literature and periodicals, and organized exhibitions. The League's slogan was "Struggle against religion is a struggle for socialism",

Saint Tikhon of Moscow
However, in November 1917, following the collapse of the Tsarist government, a council of the Russian Orthodox church re-established the patriarchate and elected the Metropolitan Tikhon, the former Metropolitan of All America and Canada, as patriarch.

Тихон - Saint Tikhon of Moscow (31 January [O.S. 19 January] 1865 – 7 April [O.S. 25 March] 1925), born Vasily Ivanovich Bellavin (Russian: Василий Иванович Беллавин), was the 11th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia of the Russian Orthodox Church during the early years of the Soviet Union, 1917 through 1925.

But the new Soviet government soon declared the separation of church and state and also nationalized all church-held lands.
These administrative measures were followed by brutal state-sanctioned persecutions that included the wholesale destruction of churches, as well as the arrest and execution of many clerics.
The Russian Orthodox church was further weakened in 1922, when the Renovated Church, a reform movement supported by the Soviet government, seceded from Patriarch Tikhon's church, restored a Holy Synod to power, and brought division among clergy and faithful.
In the first five years after the Bolshevik revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were executed.

Stalin Era

Church Demolition - 1931
Joseph Stalin
The main target of the anti-religious campaign in the 1920s and 1930s was the Russian Orthodox Church, which had the largest congregation.
Nearly all of its clergy, and many of its believers, were shot or sent to labor camps.
Theological schools were closed, and church publications were prohibited.
The sixth sector of the OGPU, (Obyedinyonnoye gosudarstvennoye politicheskoye upravleniye) led by Yevgeny Tuchkov, began aggressively arresting and executing bishops, priests, and devout worshippers, such as Metropolitan Veniamin in Petrograd in 1922 for refusing to accede to the demand to hand in church valuables (including sacred relics).

Вениамин Петроградский
Saint Benjamin of Petrograd
Вениамин Петроградский - Saint Benjamin of Petrograd (Russian: Veniamin Petrogradsky, 29 April [O.S. 17 April] 1873 – 31 July [O.S. 13 August] 1922) born Vasily Pavlovich Kazansky (Russian: Василий Павлович Казанский) was a hieromartyr,(in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, a hieromartyr is a martyr who dies for his beliefs) who was a bishop or priest a bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church and eventually Metropolitan of Petrograd and Gdov from 1917 to 1922. He was martyred, executed by firing squad by Soviet authorities. In April 1992 Benjamin was glorified (canonized) by the Russian Orthodox Church together with several other martyrs, including Archimandrite Sergius (Shein), Iury Novitsky, and John Kovsharov, who were murdered with him.

Евгений Александрович Тучков - Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Tuchkov  (1892–1957) was the head of the anti-religious arm of the Soviet OGPU.
Tuchkov was born in 1892 in the village of Teliakovo near Suzdal. He finished four years of primary education after which he worked as a baker and also in a leather shop. He then served in the Russian Imperial Army as a secretary.
In 1917 Tuchkov joined the Bolsheviks and in 1918, the Cheka. From 1922 to 1929 Tuchkov headed the sixth secret department of the OGPU which targeted the Russian Orthodox Church during the 1920s.
During this period, Tuchkov orchestrated a campaign of persecution against the church which included the mass arrests and executions of clergy. He personally led the questioning of Patriarch Tikhon. He had also begun supporting the liberal and modernist 'Living Church' movement, seeking to make it a replacement for traditional Russian Orthodoxy.
In 1928, Tuchkov enrolled in Moscow State University but dropped out a year later. In 1939, Tuchkov was fired from the NKVD, whereupon he began working as a lecturer for the society "Knowledge". He died in early 1957

In the time between 1927 and 1940, the number of Orthodox Churches in the Russian Republic fell from 29,584 to less than 500.
Between 1917 and 1935, 130,000 Orthodox priests were arrested.
Of these, 95,000 were put to death.
Many thousands of victims of persecution became recognized in a special canon of saints known as the "new martyrs and confessors of Russia".
At no time before the mid to late 1930s did the Bolsheviks control the situation.
They maintained that the clergy organized united resistance against the Soviet state.
During the mid-1920s, Soviet officials in Nizhny Novgorod and other locations encountered religious groups successfully circulating anti-Soviet political materials.
According to party officials, legal organizations served as fronts for oppositional activities.
In January 1918 Patriarch Tikhon proclaimed anathema to the Bolsheviks (without explicitly naming them), which further antagonized relations.

Anathema was originally used as a term for exile from the church, but evolved to mean "set apart, banished, denounced". The word comes from Koine Greek ἀνάθεμα, meaning "something dedicated, especially dedicated to evil", from ἀνατίθημι (anatithēmi), meaning "offer as a votive gift", from ἀνά (ana), meaning "on", and τίθημι (tithēmi), meaning "I put". It originally meant something lifted up as an offering to the gods; it later evolved to mean:
to be formally set apart;
banished, exiled, excommunicated;
denounced, sometimes accursed

When Patriarch Tikhon died in 1925, Soviet authorities forbade patriarchal elections to be held.
Патриарх Сергий
Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodsky
Patriarchal locum tenens (acting Patriarch) Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodsky, (1887–1944), going against the opinion of a major part of the church's parishes, in 1927 issued a declaration accepting the Soviet authority over the church as legitimate, pledging the church's cooperation with the government and condemning political dissent within the church.

Патриарх Сергий - Patriarch Sergius (born Ivan Nikolayevich Stragorodsky, Иван Николаевич Страгородский; January 23 [O.S. January 11] 1867 – May 15, 1944) was the 12th Patriarch of Moscow and all the Rus', from September 8, 1943 until his death. He was also the de facto head of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1925-1943, firstly as deputy Patriarchal locum tenens (1925-1937) subsequently as Patriarchal locum tenens (1937-1943).

By this declaration Sergius granted himself authority that he, being a deputy of imprisoned Metropolitan Peter and acting against his will, had no right to assume according to the XXXIV Apostolic canon, which led to a split with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia abroad and the Russian True Orthodox Church (Russian Catacomb Church) within the Soviet Union, as they allegedly remained faithful to the Canons of the Apostles, declaring the part of the church led by Metropolitan Sergius schism, sometimes coined Sergianism.
Due to this canonical disagreement it is disputed which church has been the legitimate successor to the Russian Orthodox Church that had existed before 1925.
With aid from the Methodist Church, two Russian Orthodox seminaries were reopened.
Moreover, in the 1929 elections, the Orthodox Church attempted to formulate itself as a full-scale opposition group to the Communist Party, and attempted to run candidates of its own against the Communist candidates.
Article 124 of the 1936 Soviet Constitution officially allowed for freedom of religion within the Soviet Union, and along with initial statements of it being a multi-candidate election, the Church again attempted to run its own religious candidates in the 1937 elections, however the support of multi-candidate elections was retracted several months before the elections were held and in neither 1929 nor 1937 were any candidates of the Orthodox Church elected.
After Germany's attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Joseph Stalin revived the Russian Orthodox Church to intensify patriotic support for the war effort.
On September 4, 1943, Metropolitans Sergius, Alexy and Nikolay had a meeting with Stalin and received a permission to convene a council on September 8, 1943, which elected Sergius Patriarch of Moscow and all the Rus'.
This is considered by some as violation of the XXX Apostolic Canon, as no church hierarch could be consecrated by secular authorities - ie the Soviet Government.
A new patriarch was elected, theological schools were opened, and thousands of churches began to function.
The Moscow Theological Academy Seminary, which had been closed since 1918, was re-opened.
Between 1945 and 1959 the official organization of the church was greatly expanded, although individual members of the clergy were occasionally arrested and exiled.
The number of open churches reached 25,000.
By 1957 about 22,000 Russian Orthodox churches had become active, but in 1959 Nikita Khrushchev initiated his own campaign against the Russian Orthodox Church and forced the closure of about 12,000 churches.
By 1985 fewer than 7,000 churches remained active.
Members of the church hierarchy were jailed or forced out, their places taken by docile clergy, many of whom had ties with the KGB.
This decline was evident from the dramatic decay of many of the abandoned churches and monasteries that were previously common in even the smallest villages from the pre-revolutionary period.

Russian Church Architecture

Many Russian Orthodox Church buildings differ in design from many modern-type churches. Firstly, their interiors are enriched with many sacramental objects including holy icons, which are hung on the walls.
In addition, murals often cover most of the interior.

Θεοτόκος - Theotokos
Some of these images represent Mary, the mother of Christ - the Theotokos - (who is particularly revered in the Russian Orthodox Church), saints, and scenes from their lives. 

Θεοτόκος - Theotokos  - transliterated (Greek) Theotókos,  is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern and Russian Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include "God-bearer", "Birth-Giver of God" and "the one who gives birth to God." Less literal translations include "Mother of God."

(Transformation) Church 
Russian Orthodox Church architecture tends to be very "vertical" - much higher than it is wide - to draw the believer's attention up towards God rather than towards the things of the world.

Moscow Cathedral
Gold is the color which resembles the Heavenly Kingdom.
It is also used to add a sense of indefinite depth to icons, which would otherwise be perceived as flat.
Painted icons are intentionally composed in a two-dimensional, non-perspective fashion to allow equal viewing regardless of the placement, position, and/or angle of the observing person, as well as to emphasize that the depiction is primarily of a spiritual truth rather than of visible reality (which emphasis is also achieved through other iconographic techniques and traditions).

Most Russian Orthodox churches have an iconostasis, which separates the nave from the holy altar, which signifies the Heavenly Kingdom.
Covered with icons, the iconostasis is intended to stop physical sight, and allow the worshipers to achieve spiritual sight.
The iconostasis may reach all the way up into the dome (or domes).

Christ Pantokrator
Church of the Holy Mother of God
On the ceiling of many churches (inside the main dome) is the iconography of Christ as Pantokrator ("Ruler of All").
Such images emphasize Christ's humanity and divinity, signifying that Christ is a man and yet is also God without beginning or end.
There are no pews.
Most churches are lit with candles rather than electric light.
Virtually all churches have multiple votive candle stands in front of the icons.
It is customary for worshipers to purchase candles in church stores, light them, and place them on the stands.
This ritual signifies a person's prayer to God, the Holy Mother, or to the saints or angels asking for help on the difficult path to salvation and to freedom from sin.
Sometimes the bottoms of crosses found in Russian Orthodox churches will be adorned with a crescent.
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
The common misconception attributes these to the fact that in 1552, Tsar Ivan the Terrible conquered the city of Kazan which had been under the rule of Muslim Tatars, and in remembrance of this, he decreed that from henceforth the Islamic crescent be placed at the bottom of the crosses to signify the victory of the cross (Christianity) over the crescent (Islam).
In fact, crescents on crosses were widespread during the pre-Mongolian period of Russian history and have no relation to the Islamic symbol.
The crescent symbol actually is meant to resemble an anchor, which symbolizes the hope for salvation.
Today, the Orthodox Christian organisation Holy Rus protects churches, priests, and other sacred symbols from desecration and sacrilege.