From Spiritual to Material Russia's Bipolar Conception of Christianity




In recent days, it has been observed that the number of discussions on the phenomenon of nationalism and religion has increased all over the world, both in the national and international arena. This situation arises from the urge to reactivate the consciousness of being a nation in the memories of societies. The same is true for the Russian Federation. Looking at their historical traditions, autocracy, nationalism and Orthodoxy in the Russian land are inseparable parts of a whole.Christianity, which is one of the most prominent components of the Russian land, constitutes the subject of our research. Our study is based on the assumption that Russian governments and people do not always approach the concept of religion in the same way. In order to clarify this situation, the religious policies and their reflections on the society in the Russian lands were examined from the acceptance of Orthodoxy until the XXIst century. The wide time span created limitations in detailing the developments. On the other hand, it contributed to illuminating the events on the basis of a holistic view and cause-effect connection. While conducting the research, the principles of the holistic approach, historical, descriptive and comparative methods were used.As a result of a large-scale examination, it is striking that there were different approaches to religion in Russian geography at various times. The acceptance of Orthodoxy as the official reli-gion at the end of the Xth century completely changed the way of life of the Russians. Traces of this change could be seen in many fields such as culture, art, literature, craft and trade. Slavs living on different lands came together and the foundations of the Russian state were laid. The principality of Moscow, which formed the main core of the new state, was built on a religious unity, that is, founded and raised on the basis of Orthodoxy. The Russian Orthodox Church be-came one of the few institutions that survived during the Mongol invasion (1243-1480). Religion gained the identity of being the main element feeding the desire and feeling of being a nation at that time when the lack of central government was felt. Since the middle of the XVth century, the Russian Orthodox Church gained its freedom when it started to appoint its own clergy without asking the Byzantines. The exit from the Time of Troubles (1598-1613), in which there was an administrative gap and a crisis in the country, was again realized with the help of religion. The process of schism (raskol) that started in the 1650s was the first major blow to religion. These separatist views in the church also paved the way for secularization to be experienced in the future. With the abolition of the patriarchate and the establishment of the Holy Synod in 1721, the power of the church decreased and it turned into an institution dependent on the tsar. Altho-ugh a secular management approach was adopted, Orthodoxy continued to maintain its impor-tance for the Russian people. During Catherine II's period, the policy of religious tolerance was followed for the first time in Russia and the other religions and sects were approached modera-tely. The tsarist regime, which left secularism aside in the XIXth century, used religion to establish its own power. Religion, which directed the movements of thought in the country, was seen as indispensable by the Slavophiles against the Westerners. The advances in science, the politiciza-tion of the church, the worsening of economic conditions, and the spread of movements of tho-ught such as nihilism and Marxism led to the questioning of religious feelings in society. As a matter of fact, with the Bolsheviks taking over the government, the biggest blow was dealt to religion. It was determined that the Communist Party administration, which adopted the scientific atheism doctrine, applied oppressive religious policies even though they were flexible from time to time, and tried to remove the concept of religion not only from the public sphere but also from private life, but these efforts did not find a full response in the society. It's interesting that alt-hough the Communist Party leaders were mostly criticized for the fight against religion, it was seen that the previous administrations also used religion as a tool to implement their own policies with different methods. In fact, the aim was not a direct struggle against religion, but a struggle with religion. The common goal of all of them was to increase the power and dominance of the central authority.Thanks to the findings, answers were sought to the questions of why Christianity was brought up for discussion with the schism process, why politics turned into one of the main administrative areas and tools, whether religion was included in the gap between the public and the palace, and in summary, it was tried to illuminate the way for Russia to have a bipolar Christianity unders-tanding, from spiritual to material. After the schism process, two different understandings of Christianity settled in the Russian belief system: 'spiritual Orthodoxy', which had historical, tra-ditional foundations and Russian people followed, and 'material Orthodoxy', which was guided by the tsarist, imperial or communist regime rulers.