The Early Romanovs, 1613-1689 Peter the Great, 1689-1725

Russia and Orthodox Christianity Abroad

In 1547, IVAN THE TERRIBLE assumed the ambitious title CZAR OF ALL THE RUSSIANS, which was ill-defined (were the Belorussians and Ukrainians living in Lithuania Russians ?). His policy of continued aggressive expansion, not only into lands inhabited by Russian Orthodox christians, could be interpreted in that way.
In 1589, the Metropolit of Moscow declared the Russian Orthodox church independent from Constantinople, and thus assumed the highest position within the Russian Orthodox Church. Poland-Lithuania did not recognized the Muscovitan Metropolit's jurisdiction over Lithuania's Orthodox Christians, but answered with an attempt to unify the Catholic and Orthodox churches in the CHURCH UNION OF BREST (1596), an attempt which only partially succeeded. The activity of Jesuits attempting to convert Orthodox christians to Catholicism only alienated Orthodox christians, and in 1648 resulted in the revolt of the ZAPOROZHE COSSACKS who acknowledged Czar Alexander as their sovereign.
In the PEACE OF ANDRUSSOVO (1667), Poland-Lithuania not only ceded Smolensk, Chernigov and Kiev to Russia, but acknowledged that the Metropolit of Moscow was the legitimate head of the Russian Orthodox church (including the Russian Orthodox communities living on Lithuanian soil). This statute gave Russia the right to interfere in Polish politics, whenever the affairs of the Orthodox christians were concerned, and Russia made frequent use of it.

The Unification of Russian Orthodox Christians under Russian rule was achieved in the POLISH PARTITIONS of 1772, 1793 and 1795. In the 19th century, Russia would apply this highly successful instrument of diplomacy by declaring a protectorate over the Orthodox christians (Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks, Armenians etc.) living in the Ottoman Empire.


This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on August 24th 2006

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