Does Religion Matter Anymore?

Old gates in the Church of the Assumption of the Mother of God. Deviatiny. [Russian Empire]

The Russian Orthodox Church has been a major factor in Russian culture, economics, and politics since its origin in 988 AD. In 1589, Moscow was named the patriarch for the Russian Orthodox Church, but there would be no separation of church and state. This can be seen with Tsars being “appointed from God.” In 1721, Peter the Great modernized Russia and opened many doors to Europe. With that, he abolished the patriarch in Moscow and put in a Holy Synod, who could be controlled by the government, to work between the church and the state.

In 1900, after the reforms of the late 19th century, there was a movement for a “restoration of church autonomy and organizational reform.” This was a time of unrest throughout all of the Russian empire. The lack of a proper and substantial economic system make the peasantry and nobility look to alternative ways to increase their living. When Nicolas II took power, he started to make some changes. In 1905, there was an attempt to industrialize, which failed miserably with terrible living conditions and widespread famine. With the losses in the Russo-Japanese War, protesters took to the streets on January 22nd in the hope of fixing conditions but many were killed by guards. January 22nd was known as Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday was the spark that started the Russian Revolution. As the conditions worsened, many people started turning to new ways of thinking and change like Marxism. With the introduction to Marxism in the early 20th century, religion become a force that could oppose Lenin’s growing power over the people.

Religion become an enemy of the revolution. The golden gates (above) that have been taken off the hinges are a testament to the almost anti-religion movement that started before the revolution even began. They have been propped up against a building (at least off the ground) to be moved out of public view. The tarnish and wear that has started, shows the neglect that they have been under. The gates symbolized entering into the house of God, now they are an unwanted piece that has been push off to the side. This picture was also taken with a collection of sights along on the Mariinskii canal and river, which is in St. Petersburg. There are many picture of churches in the collection, but nothing that resembles the conflict and revolution in Russia than this picture.

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4 thoughts on “Does Religion Matter Anymore?

  1. I think religion mattered a whole lot during this chaotic time in Russian history. Religion and the later ideology of Lenin were not compatible, and therefore a weakened Russian Orthodox Church allowed for Marxist like revolutions to take place. While religion by no means is a guarantee for peace, it has been used as a pawn by strong countries for thousands of years. The fact that Russia moved into the 20th Century by distancing itself from religion is quite a unique occurrence.
    Russian Orthodoxy changed drastically during the turn of the 20th century. Peasants began to look to places other than religion in order to develop industrially and economically in the hopes of creating a middle class to model Europe and America. I think yes, religion still matters, because its historical influences still exist and can be seen today in modern day Russia.

  2. Some important issues here. We need to be careful about using evidence from the early 20th century to make an argument about the fate and nature of Orthodoxy under the Soviets. These gates are beautiful, richly adorned, and clearly well-used. And Prokudin-Gorskii clearly thought that they were worth photographing. What evidence do we have that these gates are somehow connected to a decline in support for the church?

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