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RUSSIA AND CALVINISM:

HISTORY AND PERSPECTIVES

CONTENTS:

I. HISTORY OF THE REFORMED CHURCH IN RUSSIA
I.1. RUSSIAN THINKERS
I.2. RUSSIA: FIRST CALVINISTS ON ITS TERRITORY
I.3. UNKNOWN LITERATURE
I.4. CONCLUSION I

II. RUSSIA: MENTALITY AND SPIRITUAL SITUATION
II.1. PROBLEM OF MENTALITY
II.2. LITERATURE AND PHILOSOPHY: CONTRIBUTION TO IMPRACTICAL IDEOLOGY
II.3. CRISIS: REVOLUTIONARY THINKING
II.4. CONCLUSION II

III. TWO OBJECTIVES: COMMUNITY AND REFORMATION
III.1. NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE FACTORS: WORRIES AND HOPES
III.2. PLAN FOR FUTURE

IV. SUMMARY

Moscow
1996

INTRODUCTION
This lecture is about the possibilities (in principle) for Russia to perceive Calvinism as an essential part of its spiritual life and social practice.

I. HISTORY OF THE REFORMED CHURCH IN RUSSIA
This short historical review will help us to understand some fundamental problems which we should take into consideration. Also, it will explain the necessity of thoroughly developed strategy for future activity in Russia.

I.1. RUSSIAN THINKERS
Through the centuries Russia was considered as a country of Russian Orthodoxy and this view is almost correct. Nevertheless, we should not look over two main facts: 1) that Russian Orthodoxy is not the synonym for Biblical Christianity, and 2) within the Russian Orthodox Church there were many social, political and theological understreams, and their leaders expressed rather Reformed views and ideas. Of course, the main reason of the protests were numeruous abuses and misuses of the Russian Orthodox clergy, but besides of it we can see attempts to come closer to the Biblical Christianity which is the essense of Calvinism and Reformation. I will give you only two vivid examples based on the biographies of my compatriots from Tver-city (which is located 160 km from Moscow).

I.1.1. MONK AKINDIN
This historical person lived in the 14th century. He was a close associate of Tver prince Michail Yaroslavovich. He was sent to Constantinople to study Church Law and when he returned he wrote a book against misuses of Russian Orthodox clergy. We can say that his book “Writing” was the most prominent antiorthodox document of the 14th century. He declared openly that Russian Church was corrupted with simony and other sins. He reproached the Church which tried to explain numerous taxes by the fact that many local churches suffered from robbery. For this reason Akindin answered: if the Church would have followed the modesty of Christ, nobody would have robbed it. Akindin made the most radical conclusion for a person of the 14th century: if the clergy will not turn to the sound Christian life, it is better for laymen not to visit Russian Orthodox Church at all. Akindin was convinced of conducting free (without any payment) all rites in the Church.

I.1.2. DMITRY TVERITINOV
He arrived in Moscow at the age of 22, in 1692. Here he became well known through his disputes with Russian Orthodox priests and theologians. At those disputes he easily won opponents with the help of 500 Bible quotations which he learned by heart. Tveritinov defended human rights on religious freedom and rejected Church hierarchy. Also, he rejected worships with icons saying that icons bring polytheism. He was against authority of the patristic literature. His ideal was early Christianity. Thus we may conclude that he was a person with clearly formulated Protestant views.

I.2. RUSSIA: FIRST CALVINISTS ON ITS TERRITORY

I.2.1. MERCHANTS, NOT MISSIONARIES
The history shows that the first Calvinists in Russia were foreign merchants visiting the country for a rather long period. Of course, at that time there were no opportunities for professional missionaries because it was strictly forbidden to preach among aborigines and the slightest punishment for missionaries would be immediate expelling abroad. It is hard to determine precisely when the first Calvinist appeared on Russian territory. Till the certain period all foreigners were named Lutherans. But we can say that the first people with Calvinistic views were some British and Holland merchants, who arrived in the middle of the XVI century to the North of Russia, in Holmogor region. It is known the name of the founder of foreign merchants settlement there: it was Richard Chancellor. He came to Holmogor in 1553, 24th of August. Holland merchants came five years later. For the first time they gathered together for Sunday services. Later their representatives came to Moscow, and then to other cities. So we can say that the way of Calvinists in Russia began from the North.

In 1570 there appeared the official mentioning of the meeting between Russian Tsar Ioann (IV) the Terrible and Calvinist Pastor Rockita who arrived from Poland as a member of the delegation of king Sigizmund August.

To the end of the XVI century there existed Reformed communities in Moscow, Archangel, Vologda and other cities. In 1616, at time of Tsar Michail Fedorovich, in Moscow there appeared the first permanent building of the Reformed Church, which belonged to believers from Britain and Netherlands. Of course, such building could be possible only in the special quarters for foreigners. Unfortunately, all Moscow archives concerning this period of the Reformed Churches in Russia were burnt in the fire of 1812 year.

I.2.2. ATTITUDE OF TSAR GOVERNMENT
It is necessary to mention that Russian government from Tsar Ioann the Terrible till Peter the Great did not interfere in the matter of faith among foreigners and allowed them to confess their faith and gather for worship meetings. We can compare this period with Germany where Calvinists had certain problems with such meetings because of the opposition of the Lutheran authorities. In Russia Lutherans and Calvinists enjoyed equal rights. There were no restrictions for the issuing permissions for Sunday services or for obtaining Church buildings. There were so-called “Manifests” issued by the Government which gave foreigners certain guarantees for religious freedom. For example, Manifest of 1702 year.

The situation changed from the Russian Empress Anna Ioanovna (1730-1740), since that time Reformed communities had to submit their Confessions of Faith to the expertise of newly organized “Justice Kollegium” (Decree of 23d of February, 1734). In the XIX century the tendency of the government to interfere in the matter of Church began to be more intensive. It is necessary to mention the deplorable attempts to unite Lutherans and Calvinists in one community for the purpose of control.

I.2.3. THE NUMBER OF CALVINISTS IN RUSSIA (XIX century)
It is interesting to search the life and history of the Reformed Communities in Russia. Unfortunately, there are no reliable materials on this question. We have only some figures which can help us to see the scope of the Reformed Churches in Russia in the last century. We took for our demonstration 1864 year - the year of a peak for the Reformed Churches before the October Revolution of 1917. According to the several sources in 1864 there were 60,000 Reformers in Russia (another sources give us figure of 71,500). In Russia there were 38 Communities where worked 38 Pastors. Statistics shows that 1 Calvinist accounted for 1000 inhabitants of Russia, or 4% of total number of Protestants. In Moscow there were 1200 members of the Reformed Church.

I.2.4. CONTACTS BETWEEN RUSSIAN ORTHODOX AND REFORMED CHURCHES
It is important to mention that Russian Orthodox Church highly estimated the level of education in the foreign Reformed Universities (for ex., University in Leiden, Netherlands). Their candidates were sent there to study philosophy, history and foreign languages. One of such students - Veniamin (Vasily) Bagryansky (XVIII century) later became Rector of Russian Orthodox Theological Academy in Sankt-Peterburg (Alexander Nevsky Laura).

In the 70th of our century Russian Orthodox and Reformed Theologians had discussions in Hungary (Debrecen) and in Leningrad (now Sankt-Peterburg). Former Patriarch Pimen in his message concerning relations between two Churches wrote that it is very important to maintain the dialog for better understanding each other in Christ (Special edition dedicated to the 1000 anniversary of “Baptism of Russia”, Moscow,1989). Nevertheless, those contacts did not leave a noticeable mark in our society.

I.2.5. SOVIET PERIOD
After the October Revolution, 1917, when communists established their Soviet Regime and began persecutions of true Christians, Reformed Churches in the Central Russia totally disappeared, surviving only in Baltic Republics and West Ukraine as islands of Reformed faith.

I.3. UNKNOWN LITERATURE

I.3.1. LACK OF TRANSLATIONS
It is surprising that in Russian language there were practically no translations of John Calvin or serious books on Calvinism, neither before the Revolution of 1917, nor during the Soviet Regime. Nothing of the richest Calvinistic, Puritan heritage were printed. This p