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In countries such as Armenia, Serbia and Ukraine, many people regard the national patriarchs as the main religious authorities. But even in these three nations, roughly one-in-six or more Orthodox Christians say the patriarch of Moscow is the highest authority in Orthodoxy — despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Christians in these countries do not self-identify as ethnic Russians or with the Russian Orthodox Church.

In addition to having the largest Orthodox Christian population in the world more than million , Russia plays central cultural and geopolitical roles in the region. In all but one Orthodox-majority country surveyed, most adults agree with the notion that Russia has an obligation to protect Orthodox Christians outside its borders.

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The lone exception is Ukraine, which lost effective control over Crimea to Russia in and is still engaged in a conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country. For a more detailed explanation of ethnic and religious divides in Ukraine, see the sidebar later in this chapter. The survey also asked respondents whether Russia has an obligation to protect ethnic Russians living outside its borders. Several former Soviet republics have ethnic Russian minority populations. And in all three of these countries, clear majorities of ethnic Russians agree that Russia has a responsibility to protect them.

The survey results highlight an east-west divide within Ukraine. Eastern Ukrainians, meanwhile, are more likely to favor a strong Russia on the world stage. The survey also finds significant religious differences between residents of the two parts of the country. For example, people living in western Ukraine are more likely than those in the east to attend church on a weekly basis, to say religion is very important in their lives and to believe in God.

In addition, nearly all Catholics in Ukraine live in the western part of the country, and western Ukraine has a somewhat higher concentration of Orthodox Christians who identify with the Kiev patriarchate than does eastern Ukraine. Even accounting for these religious differences, statistical analysis of the survey results suggests that where Ukrainians live east or west is a strong determinant of their attitudes toward Russia and the West — stronger than their religious affiliation, ethnicity, age, gender or level of education.

Because of the security situation in eastern Ukraine, both the poll and the current poll exclude the contested regions of Luhansk, Donetsk and Crimea. This sentiment is shared by considerably fewer people in Catholic and religiously mixed countries in the region. People in Orthodox-majority countries tend to look more favorably toward Russian economic influence in the region. Larger shares of the public in Orthodox countries than elsewhere say Russian companies are having a good influence over the way things are going in their country.

And across roughly half the Orthodox countries surveyed, smaller shares say American companies have a good influence within their borders than say the same about Russian companies. Only in two Orthodox countries Ukraine and Romania do more adults give positive assessments of American companies than of Russian ones.

Ukraine also is the only country surveyed where ethnic Russians are about equally likely to say American companies and Russian companies are having a good influence in their country. In Estonia and Latvia, ethnic Russians are far more likely to rate favorably the influence of Russian than American companies. In part, the desire for a strong Russia may owe to a perceived values gap with the West.

In Moldova and Armenia, for example, majorities say the dissolution of the Soviet Union in was bad for their country. This question was asked only in countries that were once a part of the Soviet Union. In nearly every country, adults over the age of 5o i. Ethnicity makes a difference as well: Ethnic Russians in Ukraine, Latvia and Estonia are more likely than people of other ethnicities in these countries to say the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a bad thing.

Neither man is viewed positively across the region as a whole. But in several former Soviet republics, including Russia and his native Georgia, more people view Stalin favorably than view Gorbachev favorably. Meanwhile, Gorbachev receives more favorable ratings than Stalin does in the Baltic countries, as well as in Poland, Hungary, Croatia and the Czech Republic.

Elsewhere, Pew Research Center has documented the wide range of public reactions to political and economic change between and Just as in that study, the new survey finds many people across the region harbor doubts about democracy. In many countries across Central and Eastern Europe, substantial shares of the public — including roughly one-third or more of adults in Bulgaria, Belarus, Russia and Moldova — take the position that under some circumstances, a nondemocratic government is preferable.

People in Orthodox-majority countries are more inclined than those elsewhere in the region to say their governments should support the spread of religious values and beliefs in the country and that governments should provide funding for their dominant, national churches.

Support for government efforts to spread religious values is considerably lower in most Catholic countries — in Poland, Croatia and Hungary, majorities instead take the position that religion should be kept separate from government policies. In addition, even though relatively few people in Orthodox-majority countries in the region say they personally attend church on a weekly basis, many more say their national Orthodox Church should receive government funding.

Across several Orthodox- and Catholic-majority countries, people who do not identify with the predominant religion whether Orthodoxy or Catholicism are less likely than others to support the government spread of religious values as well as public funding for the church. But, in some cases, people in religious minority groups are nearly as likely as those in the majority to say the government should financially support the dominant church.

The survey also probed views on religious and ethnic diversity. Answers vary significantly across the region, with large majorities in countries that were part of the former Yugoslavia Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia , which went through ethnic and religious wars in the s, saying that a multicultural society is preferable. Muslims tend to be more likely than Orthodox Christians and Catholics in the region to favor a multicultural society. In addition to measuring broad attitudes toward diversity and pluralism, the survey also explored opinions about a number of specific religious and ethnic groups in the region.

For example, how do the two largest religious groups in the region — Orthodox Christians and Catholics — view each other? To begin with, many members of both Christian traditions say that Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy have a lot in common.


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But the Orthodox-Catholic schism is nearly 1, years old it is conventionally dated to , following a period of growing estrangement between the Eastern patriarchates and the Latin Church of Rome. And some modern Orthodox leaders have condemned the idea of reuniting with the Roman Catholic Church, expressing fears that liberal Western values would supplant traditional Orthodox ones. In countries that have significant Catholic and Orthodox populations, Catholics are, on balance, more likely to favor communion between the two churches.

In some cases, the estrangement between the two Christian traditions runs deeper. The survey asked Orthodox Christians and Catholics whether they would be willing to accept each other as fellow citizens of their country, as neighbors or as family members.

In most countries, the vast majority of both groups say they would accept each other as citizens and as neighbors. But the survey reveals at least some hesitation on the part of both Orthodox Christians and Catholics to accept the other as family members, with Catholics somewhat more accepting of Orthodox Christians than vice versa.

The survey also posed similar questions about three other religious or ethnic groups. Respondents were asked whether they would be willing to accept Jews, Muslims and Roma as citizens of their country, neighbors and family. Roma also known as Romani or Gypsies, a term some consider pejorative face the lowest overall levels of acceptance. There is little or no difference between Catholics and Orthodox Christians when it comes to views of Roma. On balance, acceptance of Jews is higher than of Muslims.

But there are some differences in the attitudes of the major Christian groups toward these minorities. Overall, Catholics appear more willing than Orthodox Christians to accept Jews as family members. On the other hand, Orthodox Christians are generally more inclined than Catholics across the region to accept Muslims as fellow citizens and neighbors. This may reflect, at least in part, the sizable Muslim populations in some countries that also have large Orthodox populations. Orthodox-majority Russia has approximately 14 million Muslims, the largest Muslim population in the region in total number , and Bosnia has substantial populations of both Muslims and Orthodox Christians, but fewer Catholics.

People in Georgia and Armenia consistently show low levels of acceptance of all three groups as family members compared with other countries in the region. Roughly a quarter in Georgia and Armenia say they would be willing to accept Jews as family members. Pew Research Center previously polled Muslims in the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as well as in the Balkan countries of Albania, Bosnia and Kosovo, as part of a survey of Muslims in 40 countries around the world.

Bosnia and Kazakhstan also were included in the survey. The survey found relatively low levels of religious belief and practice among Muslims in the former Soviet bloc countries compared with Muslims elsewhere around the world. No more than half of Muslims surveyed in Russia, the Balkans and in Central Asia say religion is very important in their lives, compared with the vast majorities of Muslims living in the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa.

Following the same pattern, fewer Muslims in most countries of the former Soviet bloc than elsewhere say they practice core tenets of their faith, such as fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, or giving zakat a portion of their accumulated wealth to the needy. This article traces the course of twenty centuries of Christian history in this region, which is bounded on the south by the tip of the Greek Peninsula, ringed roughly by the Adriatic, Aegean, Black, and Caspian Seas; on the north by the Baltic Sea and the Finnish Peninsula; on the east by the Ural Mountains; and on the west by the eastern slopes of the Alps and the river Elbe.

The history of the Christian Church in eastern Europe and northern Eurasia can be understood through the interplay over the centuries of four major factors: Greek-Byzantine, Latin-Roman, and Frankish-German influences, and the migrations of peoples who eventually settled in eastern Europe and northern Eurasia, primarily the Slavs. These factors represent distinctive religious, cultural, and ethnic traditions that molded the development of the Christian Church over the centuries in this region.

There are others, of course, including the Muslim Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries and the Soviet Union in the twentieth century. Nevertheless, the story of how Christianity developed in this area can be told by describing the motives, mind-sets, interests, and policies together with the successes and failures of these four major forces.

Historically, the first actor at work in the molding of Christianity in eastern Europe and northern Eurasia was the Greek-Byzantine tradition. Highlighted by the apostle Paul's mission to the Gentiles and his crossing over into Europe, the Christian church abandoned the exclusivism of its Jewish roots to become a world religion. To be sure, he was not alone in this effort. Many anonymous evangelists and laypersons, including traveling businesspeople, contributed to the spread of the Christian faith from its origins in Palestine to as far as Rome and Spain.

Although the Christian faith moved outward in all directions — toward Africa, Asia, and the Indian subcontinent — the church's major growth came as it entered the Greco-Roman world of the Mediterranean basin. As it sought to preach the message of salvation in Jesus Christ, it used not only the lingua franca of its day, the spoken and written Greek of the first century, but also Greek concepts, problematics, and philosophical traditions to communicate, understand, and interpret the faith.

What came out of this process, Orthodox Christianity, certainly could not be identified with any specific Greek philosophical system; it was uniquely Christian, but it formulated its faith and practice with the tools of the Greek heritage.

Strongly concerned with clear doctrinal formulation of the teachings regarding the Holy Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ, the Greek tradition emphasized the transcendent dimension of faith, the reverence and awe of worship, the conciliar understanding of church life, and the ascetic spirituality of monasticism.

This early tradition of Christianity, formulated in the writings of the Church Fathers primarily within the eastern part of the Roman Empire known as Byzantium, was embodied and essentially preserved in what much later came to be called the Eastern or Greek Orthodox Church , with all its various local expressions.

However, while accepting and defending as Christian orthodoxy the formulations of doctrine described above, Christianity in the western part of the Roman Empire quickly gave to the Christian message and life nuances and emphases that characterized its Latin heritage. Less theologically speculative, the sober Latin tradition focused on the practical and on the sense of order and pattern required in an increasingly unstable cultural, political, and social milieu produced by the inroads of numerous barbarian tribes beginning in the fourth century.

While the Greek tradition concerned itself with the subtleties of church doctrine, frequently generating new heresies, Latin Christianity became a stronghold of fundamental Christian orthodoxy while concurrently remolding this orthodoxy according to its own genius. In practice, that meant an understanding of the Christian faith largely colored by legal concepts.

For example, while the Greek East generally tended to understand sin in relational terms sin as the breaking of the appropriate relationship between the Creator and the creature , the Latin West emphasized its legal dimensions sin as guilt. This difference, and the exigencies of the breakdown of cultural unity and civil authority in the West between the fourth and eighth centuries, favored the development of a monarchical understanding of the church, leading to the rise of the Roman papacy as the single, supreme ecclesiastical and frequently secular authority in the West.

The combination of an early reputation for careful orthodoxy in doctrine, with the centralization of authority in the Roman see, became the source of what eventually would come to be called the Roman Catholic Church. The third group of actors in the drama of Christianity in eastern Europe and northern Eurasia were the Frankish and Germanic kingdoms, which while Roman Catholic in faith were primarily concerned with their military, economic, and political expansion in the area of eastern Europe.

It is not that these concerns were unique to the Frankish and Germanic kingdoms, but that these interests affected the development of Christianity in significantly different ways from that of the see of Rome or of Byzantine Orthodoxy. The reason for this is that Roman Catholicism in the western European region sought actively to differentiate Western Christianity from Eastern Christianity, especially through espousal and promulgation of the filioque clause in the creed, which asserts that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

In ce Clovis III — ce became king of all Franks, beginning a process of consolidation of political power in the West. With Charles Martel 's c. A formal political split between the eastern and western parts of the Roman empire, exemplifying the cultural division of Eastern and Western Christianity, occurred with the crowning of Charlemagne — ce by Pope Leo III r. From that point on, Frankish and Germanic forces perceived the Byzantine Empire and its Greek church as rival powers opposed to their interests.

With the inclusion of filioque in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, at the insistence of the Franks not originally by the Roman see the stage was set for a long, drawn-out process of schism between the Western eventually Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern eventually Eastern or Orthodox Church. Filioque literally means "and the Son," referring to the claim made mainly in the West that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Son as well as from the Father; the doctrine was rejected by Eastern Churches. Much of the conflict between East and West played itself out in eastern Europe and northern Eurasia.

From the point of view of the history of the church from the ninth through the sixteenth centuries, Frankish and subsequently Germanic interests in the region translated into efforts to make Roman Catholicism dominant at the expense of Eastern Orthodoxy. In contradistinction, during this and subsequent periods, Eastern Orthodoxy became one of the major forces in the struggle of the peoples in the region to retain their cultural, spiritual, and political identity and autonomy. In the sixteenth century the Germanic influence in eastern Europe was expanded with the rise of the Reformation.

From that time on, church history was strongly influenced by Protestant interests in the area. The final actors in the story of Christianity in eastern Europe and northern Eurasia are the various peoples who historically had lived in the region or who came from elsewhere to settle there. Southeastern European peoples, primarily in Macedonia, Achaia, Crete, the Aegean Islands, and Byzantium, were able to trace the continuity of their ecclesiastical and cultural roots to early Christianity and beyond.

In contrast, central and northern Europe was an area repeatedly overrun by peoples from the Asian steppes. As a result, the continuity of Christian history was repeatedly broken and reestablished, formed and reformed, in eastern Europe. Primarily, though not exclusively, it was Slavic peoples who began the invasion of Europe by attacks on Asia Minor and the Balkans around the year ce.

Appeased in part by a Byzantine policy that combined military strength, payment of tribute, and settlement, the waves of invaders moved westward in the third to fifth centuries beyond the effective boundaries of the Byzantine Empire. In eastern Europe the newcomers were displaced by new conquerors, and the groups often mingled. Eventually, a measure of identity with particular geographic areas was achieved by the settlers.

The history of the Christian Church in eastern Europe and northern Eurasia can largely be told in terms of the competition of Greek-Byzantine, Latin-Roman, and Frankish-Germanic efforts to gain the loyalty of these largely Slavic peoples. Or, conversely, the history of the church in this area can be understood as the response of the Slavic and other peoples of the region to what the first three had to offer. Christianity entered eastern Europe through the missionary work of the apostle Paul as well as the influence of countless Christians who shared the good news of the redemption of humankind by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

They planted the Christian seed primarily in cities. Illustrative is Paul's dramatic entry into Europe as a result of a dream in which a Macedonian begged him to "Come over to Macedonia and help us," as described in Acts The northern boundary of the Roman Empire in the last decades of the second century extended to the Danube in Illyricum and beyond in the province of Dacia present-day Romania. On either coast of the Adriatic Sea and the Black Sea there were small enclaves of Christians, but the vast numbers of Thracians, Moesians, Illyrians, and Dacians in the region had not been Christianized.

Nevertheless, conditions existed favorable to their eventual conversion. For example, the northern branch of the Thracians, the Geto-Dacians considered the ancestors of the Romanian people , although polytheists, believed in a supreme god whom they called Zalmoxis, the god of heaven and light. The Geto-Dacians were known to ancient Greek historians, such as Herodotos c. It is not at all unlikely that during this early period a scattering of Christians existed among the Geto-Dacians as a result of Christian influence in the armies of Trajan 53 — ce; ruled 98 — ce , who had subdued them.

A legend recorded by Eusebius of Caesarea c. The Passion of Saint Andrew , included in the Constantinopolitan Sunaxarion lives of saints for liturgical use , claims that Andrew preached in Pontus, Thrace, and Scythia. Although there is a ninth-century legend that Andrew ordained a certain Apion as bishop of Odessus present-day Varna, Bulgaria , the first historical record of a bishop of the region was made by the historian Socrates c.

A bishop from the area named Terentius participated in the ecumenical council at Constantinople in ce. A Bishop Timothy was recorded in attendance at the ecumenical council held in Ephesus ce. After Constantine d. But the appearance of the barbarians caused the boundaries of the Roman Empire to contract, and whatever earlier Christian presence existed in the area was severely weakened or destroyed. Among the earliest of the barbarian tribes to appear were the Goths. During the period from to ce the Goths came out of southern Russia to attack the Roman provinces.

A succession of Roman emperors fought against them, including Claudius — ce , Aurelian c. Christianity in its Arian form seems to have been introduced to the Goths through prisoner exchanges in Cappadocia around the year ce, but it was at least a century before Christians were of any great number among them.

By the mid-fourth century there seemed to be an adequate Christian population among the Goths to require a bishop. Thus in ce Ulfilas c. Ulfilas's work was primarily in Plevna in modern-day Bulgaria , and he translated the Scriptures and services into the Gothic tongue.

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Central and Eastern Europeans are more religious than Western Europeans, survey says

It should be noted here that the orientation of these early efforts at Christianization was from the East. Yet over the next few centuries the constant incursions and displacement of tribes in a westward direction meant that little permanency of the Christian presence could be expected.

Is Eastern Europe Part of Western Civilization?

It was not until the ninth century that Christianity began to gain a permanent foothold in the area. By this time not only had the foundations of Christian doctrinal understanding been formalized through seven ecumenical councils, but the four factors described above had also been clearly defined. As they met on the eastern European stage, they determined the organized forms that Christianity would take there and, in turn, much of its ethnic and political identity as well.

The barbarians, although intent on expansion and the acquisition of land, were also attracted by the quality of the Greco-Roman culture of the Empire, which they respected. The chief ingredient of this attraction was Christianity. In many cases these peoples were seized with a strong desire to embrace the faith because of what they had seen and heard in terms of the quality of life of Christians, the development of a Christian civilization base on Hellenic Paideia , and the power and influence of the Church in society as well as through the missionary efforts of the church.

Among these in the ninth and tenth centuries were the peoples of Bulgaria to the south, Moravia to the north, and Russia to the east. The spirit of competitive choice among the recipients of the faith, as well as conflict among the transmitters of the faith, became evident during this period. In the East the dominant power was the Byzantine Empire, whose fortunes had improved sufficiently in this period to permit consideration of missionary efforts; that is, the spreading of the Greek or Eastern form of Orthodox Christianity. In the West the Frankish Empire was divided in ce at the Treaty of Verdun into three parts, the most eastern of which was to become Germany.

Louis I — ce the German became the founder of the German Carolingian dynasty, which lasted until ce. This dynasty pursued vigorous missionary efforts in eastern Europe and northern Eurasia. The first area in which the two missionary efforts came into conflict was Bulgaria. Both German and Byzantine missionaries saw the Bulgarian Slavs as ripe targets for missionizing.

The Bulgars, however, in their choice between Western and Eastern forms of Christianity, were motivated by their own ethnic, cultural, and political perspectives, with independence as a prime concern. In the year ce the drama began to unfold. Although at first attracted to the German missionaries, Khan Boris d. Later, feeling that his church was not independent enough, he turned from Constantinople to the West, admitting German missionaries whose policies even more strongly curtailed the independence of the Bulgarian church.

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These policies included the imposition of Latin in worship, subjugation of the hierarchy to the pope, celibacy of the clergy, and the filioque doctrine, even though it was not current in Rome at the time. By ce Khan Boris had reacted to these restrictions by expelling the German missionaries and inviting back those from Constantinople. Since then Eastern Orthodoxy has been the dominant religion in the Bulgarian nation. During this same period a somewhat similar drama played itself out to the north, but with opposite results. The major difference here was that Rome and Constantinople supported the same missionary policy in contrast to the rival efforts of the Germans.

Around ce Prince Rostislav — c. Constantine, known later as Cyril, c. Before going to the mission field, they created a Slavonic alphabet, into which they translated the Bible and the service books. Their mission policy thus included worship in the language of the people, the preaching of the Eastern form of Christianity without the filioque , and the rapid indigenization of the clergy with its consequent spirit of local autonomy in church government.

When they came into inevitable conflict with the German missionaries, Cyril and Methodius appealed to the pope and obtained his approval for their methods in Moravia. The Germans not only ignored this approval but even jailed Methodius for over a year. Following Methodius's death, the Germans expelled the Byzantine missionaries and imposed Western Christianity in the region. During this same period Patriarch Photios also sent missionaries to Russia, and a short-lived mission survived there until ce.

As in the past, Christianity nevertheless continued to infiltrate the populace through ordinary contacts from Byzantium in the south, Bulgaria in the west, and Scandinavia in the north. Thus, when Prince Vladimir c. As Vladimir had married the sister of the Byzantine emperor, Christianity was adopted in its Byzantine form. Originally centered in Kiev, Christianity gradually spread north and east, developing deep and strong roots among the people, and social concern, liturgical piety, and monasticism united with the culture and language of the Russian peoples.

Nevertheless, Western influences were also present in Russian Christianity, influences that found resonance many centuries later. The eleventh century and early twelfth century were marked by the definitive Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Churches. Newsletter , sign up to receive all our News by email. Biblical Preaching Peter Mead. Activities to explore our senses and what Jesus teaches us about them. Vatican Files Clay Kannard.

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