Sunday, August 19, 2012

Russian Orthodoxy: A Brief History

With Pussy Riot making Russian Orthodoxy topical, now is as good a time as any to post my essay chronicling some of the key moments in Orthodox history, from its birth up until right before the attempt at its life. That is roughly a millenium of history; needless to say, I have at times run roughshod over it, and doubtless there are more than a few "facts" relayed that are no such things. This was my first piece of historical work, and I was sort of making it up as I went along. (Making up how to do it; not making up the history. Well, maybe a little of that to.)

The conclusion is probably unwarranted given what I wrote before it, but from all the reading I did that didn't make the cut or that was shoehorned into a footnote I knew there was more to Orthodoxy than it being a handmaiden for the state (or the state being a handmaiden for it). My regret is that I didn't have the space, or perhaps the creativity and courage, to tell the more Christlike side of the Orthodox story. History is usually not written with that side in mind, so it would have taken more effort to find sources that describe the beauty and truth that the Orthodox faith and its saints infused into the lives of Russians. I didn't mention the holy fools, the sobornost, the iconostasis, Rublev, and a host of other people, events and things that make Russian Orthodox history far from monolithic. Perhaps some day I will.

Yet given the current controversy, what I wrote seems at least in some way explanatory and close to the truth of one side of Russian Orthodoxy. You can have a read here:

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