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The latter is unlikely to be found at land-based casinos, but virtual establishments running Gamesys software may offer it. If you have the option to wager on a tie, I suggest avoiding it. This is a sucker bet, with the house edge ranging from In a dissertation completed some years ago, I made an effort to analyze the communist authorities' strategies and the churches' counterstrategies in their struggle in both the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe. It was notable, however, that the evolution of communist strategy in the USSR came rather close to repeating itself in the "people's democracies" of Eastern Europe three decades after the battles between the Bolsheviks and Russian Orthodox believers.
In both areas there was an initial political struggle characterized by violence, arrests, and church closings. The pattern continued with communist efforts to divide the various religious communities and split the ranks of clerical adversaries — the Orthodox in Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia; the Roman Catholics in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Croatia; and the Lutherans in East Germany.
Church leaders in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were subsequently forced to make declarations of political submission, with varying degrees of exception in Poland, East Germany, and one or two other places.
Both in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe, the frontal assault on religious communities receded over time and became a long process of attrition. This was partly because in most cases church leaders ceased to rally political opposition to communist rule and also because the costs to the communist authorities in foreign policy, internal popular discontent, and ideological embarrassment outweighed any need to liquidate the "religious problem" through precipitate means.
The ideological embarrassment was related to the fact that Marx and Engels had taught that religion was a symptom of oppression, an "opium" to dull the workers' outrage and convert their revolutionary zeal into passivity, manifested in the dream of happiness in the next world rather than in this one.
Theoretically, religion should have withered away naturally in a socialist society where the workers ruled. The communists were always ready to take active measures to "help nature along," and the religious arena was no exception.
As a practical matter, the Soviet authorities developed three long-range strategies designed to sap the church's vitality: The church, like all human institutions, must renew itself with each new generation. The communists believed that the interruption of this process would ultimately eradicate religious practice and belief.
One might use the analogy of a disease that the authorities wished to wipe out. This is not the way the communists expressed themselves, and they never did develop a wholly satisfactory rationale for the persistence of religion in socialist society. Take a disease-producing organism that passes through various environments and stages in its life cycle.
If one can interrupt its regeneration at any point, the malady can be overcome. The communist authorities tried to interrupt the cycle of religious regeneration in analogous ways. In a series of laws and decrees issued between and , they forbade the organized teaching of religion to persons under the age of eighteen. The early Soviet experiments in collective institutional child-raising — away from parental and grandparental influence — were part of this effort.
The communists closed all the Orthodox seminaries and theological academies. The publication of new copies of scripture and liturgical books was terminated in the late S, with the result that the books and scriptures of every confession were ultimately reduced to "a few old, worn, torn relics. A church building does not quickly wear out, but the population moves, and a ban on new church construction could be the equivalent of closing churches.
The Soviets took pride in the fact that the great industrial city of Magnitogorsk was built from the ground up in the s without a single church. Demographic change worked against the church.
Urbanization negatively affected Orthodox practice, as workers migrated from the traditional Orthodox culture of the Soviet countryside to the "godless" cities. No less a figure than Metropolitan Kirill Gundyaev of Smolensk acknowledged this problem in This poses the question of theological growth — a difficult subject.
The Russian Orthodox Church asserts the immutability of doctrine, expressed in the duty of the church to preserve the faith. The Orthodox do, however, recognize the need to reinterpret church teaching for a new generation. Some even understand faith as an ever-expanding concept, like the expanding universe created around us.
Nevertheless, when beleaguered, churches tend to defend themselves by resisting experimentation. The time when a rampart is being stormed is not the time for reckless innovation.
It might be, however, that the short-term value of resisting debilitating change will exact a long-term price in terms of arrested development. For these reasons, the communists may have preferred an immobile church. Emelyan Yaroslavski, the founder of the League of the Militant Godless, asserted that a reformed, modernized religion might become more dangerous than the old one.
Soviet officials were wary of religion "in new, refined forms. The Marxists' second long-term strategy was to limit the churches to the performance of the rites within the walls of the sanctuary. Again, one might use the analogy of disease. The human body may combat an invading parasite or microbe by enclosing it in a cyst, thus isolating it and protecting the surrounding organism. Encased in this shell, the parasite may live for years, or die, or become calcified, while the body continues to live.
In the communists proscribed religious assemblies and processions. For example, there is an ancient tradition of going to the rivers on Epiphany to bless the waters. On this solemn occasion the faithful would build great ice crosses and tables on the frozen surface of the river, after which the bishop might cast a decorated cross into the hole in the ice, and intrepid youths would plunge into the frigid currents and rescue the cross as an act of piety and fortitude.
On April 8, , the authorities decreed the dissolution of lay organizations and banned church-run charitable activities, including relief of the needy. The authorities closed Orthodox medical institutions, orphanages, and homes for the mentally ill, disabled, and the old. The same decree mandated that clergy do their work only on the premises of the church society employing them, meaning that it was unlawful for a priest to serve two parishes or to celebrate the sacraments in nonchurch institutions except to aid the sick or dying.
It reaffirmed that churches lacked juridical rights. Central church organs were forbidden to establish bank accounts for the deposit of free-will offerings. The decree was largely a codification of earlier dispositions, and the rigor of its enforcement varied with the times, but it stood on the books for sixty years, consistently inhibiting church activities.
Priests and other religious persons were prohibited from wearing their habits in public places, a measure that removed a visual reminder of the church. The remaining bells were stilled by decree. These measures were also designed to foster a perception of the church as a place where rituals were mechanically performed, and nothing more.
The abolition of religious holidays in and the institution of Sunday morning "voluntary" secular activities, such as work brigades and sporting events, were part of an effort to separate religion from the world of daily life.
In the government introduced a rotating six-day workweek. This work schedule gave the people Sunday off only once in every six weeks. The new workweek fostered the isolation of the religious communities, which were depicted as consisting mostly of pensioners and the incapacitated. Orthodox priests adjusted their service times, but the impact was real — and resented. A third long-range strategy to weaken religion was the communists' propaganda for atheism. Beyond the secularization of schools and the prohibition of organized religious education of the young, the government amended the Russian constitution in to outlaw proselytizing.
The constitution of had given both atheists and believers the right to propagate their beliefs, but the amendment gave the right of propaganda to the atheists and allowed the believers only the opportunity to profess their beliefs and engage in worship. The Stalin constitution gave them only the right to worship. In the early years the thrust of atheist propaganda tended to be crude and political, although early Marxist leaders such as Anatoli Lunacharski and Lenin himself were intellectually impressive men.
Lunacharski and other antireligious leaders were not afraid to engage clerics in open debate in those optimistic, uninhibited, and experimental days of the communist movement. Nevertheless, militant godless propagandists were more often blunt and coarse. In their enthusiasm, Bolshevik governmental leaders ordered the opening of reliquaries on March 1, , and in August of ordered "the complete liquidation of the cult of corpses and mummies" by transferring these relics to state museums.
The atheists tried to expose the "incorruptible" remains of saints as mere rotting bones and wax figures. In one museum showcase they exhibited the relic of a saint side by side with a mummified rat.
In the early s the communists tried to prove that the Russian Orthodox Church was the instrument of a corrupt, reactionary, and treacherous clergy. They accused priests and bishops of usury, black marketeering, and seditious collaboration with the anti-Bolshevik White Guards in the civil war. On a personal level, priests were depicted as licentious, sadistic, and depraved.
A few clerics truly were immoral, of course, but not many raped small girls or sodomized altar boys as the propaganda would have had one believe. By the mids the propaganda began to change. With Tikhon's "confession" and Sergi's declaration of loyalty in , the church's open defiance of communist power essentially came to an end. For their part, communist leaders began to discourage mocking parades and carnivals as counterproductive.
Competition between priest-blessed and scientifically seeded grain plots became more characteristic of the atheists' efforts than actions to force open reliquaries. After complaints in the antireligious press that the believers made the unbelievers look foolish in debates, open confrontations of this kind mostly ceased. The wave of violence in and and the famine that ensued produced a reversion. The League of the Militant Godless pushed its membership up to 5.
The league's magazine, Bezbozhnik [The Godless], was supplemented by an array of atheist publications, traveling cinemas, antireligious "universities," godless shock brigades, godless collective farms, and proliferating antireligious museums. Mocking plays, songs, and carnivals reappeared. As the s progressed, godless propaganda evolved into the form it retained until the late s. Public attention was directed to the medical hazards said to be caused by religious practice, including the spreading of disease through drinking from a common spoon and cup in communion and by kissing icons.
Even so, there was a trend away from ridiculing believers. Some observers believe that the avoidance of provocative, flamboyant, antireligious acts caused the ideological campaign to sink into gray formlessness.
The antireligious museums came to emit a distinct air of boredom. The third great wave of church closings began in at the time of the great purges. The official crackdown was given additional impetus by the discovery, jolting to atheist leaders and propagandists, that religious belief was not dying away as Marxist doctrine predicted that it must. The census had a question on religion, and the results, which were leaked to informed circles and the West, showed that over half the people in the country — two-thirds of the population in the villages and a third of the urban population — still considered themselves believers.
Stalin had decreed in that the church was to be eradicated in five years, which would have been in , and yet the census had revealed a "deplorable" persistence of belief. The authorities' reaction was to intensify repression. The archives of the Soviet government's Council for Religious Affairs provide fragmentary data on the rising numbers of church closings in and , then a slackening of the intensity of the antireligious drive between and Like the earlier two waves of church closings, the campaign was very much a part of the general upheaval in society, which had ripped away all veneer of normalcy and restraint.
The terror, the executions, and the growth of the labor camps in Siberia and in European Russia i. It may be remembered that on December 1, , a shot in the back had killed the Leningrad Communist Party chief, Sergei M. The circumstances of the murder lent credence to the probability that it was Stalin himself who had inspired the deed. Nevertheless, while "investigating" the crime, Stalin had the secret police interrogate and torture an ever-widening circle of people.
Of the members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party elected at the congress, more than two-thirds had perished by In the great purge trials, the towering figures of Lenin's time were forced to confess treasonous crimes, and most were executed. The commander in chief of the army, every officer who commanded a military district or an army corps, almost every division commander, and close to half of the 75, Red Army officers were arrested or shot. An estimated 19 million Soviet citizens died in the terror.
An understanding of the suffering inflicted on the whole citizenry of the USSR truly does help make clear what the Russian Orthodox Church was also going through and why there were no longer mighty armies of peasants able to hold off the militant godless as they tried to close the churches. And close the churches they did — and arrest the priests and incarcerate the bishops and exile the believers to the GULAG Archipelago. By the late s, 80, Orthodox clerics, monks, and nuns reportedly had lost their lives at the hands of the Bolsheviks.
This figure represents about half the total number of clerics, monks, and nuns serving before the revolution. In the late s, there were only four active bishops in the USSR.
Aleksi's suffragan, Bishop Nikolai of Peterhof the future Metropolitan , used to keep by him at home a small bag with two changes of clothes, two sheets and a towel — in case he was arrested. I think Metropolitan Aleksi also had a similar bag at home. Every two or three months brought some kind of unpleasant surprise — the arrest of a group of priests. By there were only fifteen of them left in the whole of the Leningrad region, whereas in they had numbered more than a thousand.
In the spring of the metropolitan was turned out of his rooms. Metropolitan Aleksi took church services along with Archdeacon Verzilin, the only deacon left in Leningrad. After Verzilin's death in he celebrated without a deacon.
I remember once, as I was walking along Nevsky Prospect. I noticed the metropolitan clad in civilian garb. A threadbare light-weight overcoat, galoshes, an ordinary grey cap — all this, in conjunction with his aristocratic face and subtle elegance of gesture, gave him the appearance of a bankrupt landlord.
As I passed I made him a deep bow and the metropolitan acknowledged it with a slight nod. He was very resigned. The church was perilously close to demise, given the canonical need for an unbroken apostolic succession — bishops were essential for the continuation of both a line of hierarchs and of priests.
The police might have carried off the remaining openly functioning bishops in a single night. Why did Stalin not order the police to do so? Probably he had some concern for the likely international reaction and some desire to maintain the facade of freedom of worship, as declared in the "Stalin constitution" of In any case, those four bishops were spared.
What about church premises? There were about 50, churches before the Bolshevik revolution — or close to 80, functioning church establishments if one counted chapels, convent churches, institutional prayer houses, and so on. A well-known specialist on Ukrainian churches, Bohdan R. Bociurkiw, confirmed Degtyarev's range of numbers; he reported fewer than a dozen Orthodox parishes intact in the whole of Ukraine before World War II.
Nikita Struve, another expert on Russian Orthodox religion, described the situation in the diocese of Rostov-on-Don, just east of Ukraine: Its archbishop, Seraphim Silichev , had been exiled to the far north in , where he soon died. Shortly afterwards, his Vicar, Mgr. Nicholas Ammasisky, was sent to the steppes of Astrakhan to graze a flock of sheep.
In he was again arrested and this time shot, but miraculously recovered from his wounds. Meanwhile, the authorities continued to close the churches. In Rostov itself, even the former Cathedral of St. Nicholas was transformed into a zoo; the new Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky was razed to the ground; the huge Church of All Saints turned into a workshop, and the Greek Church became an antireligious museum.
Throughout the whole province, one single church, served by a very old priest, was still functioning in a village close to Taganrog. In the northern territories near Leningrad, an Orthodox mission team from Latvia followed the advancing Germans in and found only two functioning churches in that immense and populous territory.
In the whole of the Soviet Union in , there were only open churches. There were fifteen to twenty churches in the city of Moscow, five in Leningrad, and a few more in the hinterlands of the two capitals, for a total of in the Russian republic Degtyarev's figures.
This adds up to churches nationwide. The situation of the priests was little better. The Germans found three active priests in the two functioning churches in the diocese of Kiev compared to 1, priests before the revolution. To complete this description of the church's travail, I recount the story of Metropolitan Sergi's removal from Moscow after the German invasion in As Hitler's armies approached, Stalin decided to evacuate most of the leaders of the religious communities, no doubt fearing that they might defect, or that the Germans could turn the Soviet churchmen to their own political purposes if they were captured.
In fact, the decision to evacuate these men rather than kill them may have been sheer luck, as the Soviets in retreat had frequently executed people in such circumstances. Reportedly Sergi drew up a will on October 12, two days before he was sent east from Moscow.
On October 14 the authorities rounded up Metropolitan Sergi and the other leaders of religious communities and — as A. Krasnov of the Renovationist church described it — crowded them all into a railroad carriage. There were Renovationist church hierarchs with some family members, a bearded old gentleman with one eye who was the Old Believer archbishop of Moscow and All Russia, some modestly dressed leaders of the Baptist community, and then "into the compartment came a medium-tall, old man with a broad, thick, grey beard, gold pince-nez, and a facial tic.
He was dressed in a cassock and wore a monastic skullcap. About kilometers east of Moscow, during a trip that had already lasted days, Sergi became quite sick.
According to Krasnov, some medical people examined Sergi and had the railroad car redirected to Ulyanovsk rather than to the original destination of Orenburg, which was kilometers still farther to the east.
Somewhat later, a violent quarrel broke out between two of the sons of a Renovationist hierarch, and all the sick old metropolitan could do was to press himself still deeper into a corner of the compartment.
Finally the train reached Ulyanovsk, which Krasnov described as "for two years the Russian Vatican, the religious capital" of the country. It was a quiet, sleepy town, "with almost no factories, no tram lines, and automobiles one could count on one's fingers. According to Alexeev, "Sergi was met. Not even a group of believers met him. There was no place for him to live. When Sergi arrived, church activity had been virtually suspended.
Krasnov's description was similar: It became the first 'pitiful outpost' of the Moscow Patriarchate in the region. Sergi did not even have a place to stay. They had deteriorated to the point of being beyond any quick restoration to tolerable condition, particularly in wartime circumstances.
Finally [Kolchitski and the others] took over the former Roman Catholic parish church with an auxiliary premises where the parish priest had once lived. Soon the little church was opened under the imposing name of the Kazan Cathedral, and [Sergi]. It is said that Sergi had very little disposable income. The story is told that on one occasion Sergi wanted to give money to someone in need but could find none, so he gave his watch instead.
The light of the "candle in the wind" of the Russian Orthodox Church still shone forth to Soviet people and to the world, but for all too many Soviet citizens who were far from any church or priest it must have flickered in the distance, beckoning elusively from afar, with the ever-present danger that the flame might be extinguished by a single order from that former seminarian, Joseph Stalin.
Hitler's deal with Stalin allowed the Soviets to occupy eastern Poland, and 1, Orthodox parishes were incorporated into the Soviet Union as a result. There were between 2, and 2, parishes in these formerly Romanian lands.
These annexations brought the Russian Orthodox Church more than 6 million traditionally Orthodox people and 3,, churches with active priests, as well as many monasteries and nunneries, some bishops and seminaries, and other resources. The institutional strength of the church must have increased fifteen fold. The communists soon started closing churches and arresting priests and lay Christians in the newly acquired lands, but they also understood that the Russian Orthodox Church could be an instrument of assimilation and of Soviet control.
Metropolitan Sergi Voskresenski was sent to Riga, and Nikolai Yarushevich , Aleksi's former suffragan in Leningrad, was sent as exarch for western Ukraine and Byelorussia. In this sense the interests of the beleaguered church and the Soviet authorities had elements in common.
The result was that the draconian Soviet attack on all religious manifestations, which was still going on in the "old" Soviet territories, was only partially extended to these newly acquired western lands, and religious institutions in those areas largely survived. In August of the Soviet embassy in London released exact figures on the number of functioning churches in the Soviet Union on the eve of Hitler's June attack.
Apparently the Soviets did this to counter criticism of Soviet religious suppression voiced by their newly acquired British allies, but the press release backfired because Westerners were impressed with the paucity of the numbers rather than their magnitude.
Little did they know how low pre-September figures would have been. The figures for the Orthodox and Renovationists mostly the Living Church were 4, churches and 37 convents monasteries and nunneries. Therefore, the 4, churches could effectively be regarded as Orthodox, and over 90 percent of them were in the lands annexed in When Hitler launched his invasion, German forces advanced with great speed along a thousand-mile front stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
As already described, Orthodox priests came in their wake and opened churches, to the joy and gratitude of believers. Initially the German soldiers were welcomed by many in the populace with the traditional bread and salt of hospitality, and Stalin apparently began to fear that Orthodox Christianity might become a weapon of the invaders against a reeling, staggering Soviet defense.
Metropolitan Sergi had been quick to rally believers to the defense of the motherland, however, and the Nazi Germans' arrogance and brutality soon began to alienate the peoples in the Wehrmacht's path. Long-occupied lands experienced a much greater religious revival during World War II than those briefly occupied or close to the front lines. For example, the advancing Germans found one church in each of the cities of Kiev and Kharkov.
In Kiev, occupied three years and generally far behind the lines, believers opened twenty-five churches during the course of the occupation. In Kharkov, always close to the battle lines and much fought over, believers opened only two churches.
Life for the surviving Orthodox people in areas under continuing Soviet rule remained extremely hard, particularly in the blockaded city of Leningrad. During the siege, the priest and deacon at the Transfiguration Church lived in the church's cellar. At the Cathedral of St.
Nicholas, an eyewitness reported: Metropolitan Aleksi courageously walked in procession with an icon around the church even during air raids. In the meantime the members of the Cathedral choir were dying, one-by-one, until the choirmaster himself collapsed and died in the middle of a church service. The three surviving women in the choir grew so weak that they could no longer climb to the choir loft, but they continued to sing as best they could from a low platform in the sanctuary the kliros.
Aleksi himself was wasting away, looking increasingly waxy. A novice monk named Yevlagi foraged just enough food to keep the Metropolitan alive. Another witness, Nikolai Uspenski, reported passing by the Cathedral one day. He saw an older man struggling to clear enough snow to make a walkway to the church. Nikolai joined in to help, and Aleksi invited him to reestablish the choir, which by then had expired.
The last remaining deacon in Leningrad continued to serve until he, too, died. Thereafter Aleksi celebrated the liturgy alone. Soviet government policy toward the Russian Orthodox Church was changing, albeit slowly. Antireligious propaganda stopped, and the League of the Militant Godless was dissolved in September of A small number of churches were reopened in late around Ulyanovsk where Metropolitan Sergi had set up church headquarters after his evacuation from Moscow.
Soon bishops were consecrated and a few churches opened in Saratov, Orenburg, Kuibyshev, and other places east of Moscow. The church's fortunes continued to improve, and in March of Bishop Luka Voino-Yasenetski happily wrote his son that a church had been opened in the distant Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, where the bishop, who was still technically a religious detainee, was serving as chief surgeon at a military hospital.
A Soviet writer with access to the record of the meeting reported that Stalin met earlier in the day with Georgi Malenkov, Lavrenti Beria, and Georgi G. His aides endorsed the idea, and the churchmen responded to the summons that same day.
Stalin was accompanied at the meeting by Vyacheslav Molotov and Karpov. Stalin assented to Sergi's request for a church council to elect a patriarch. When the clerics proposed a date weeks later, Stalin asked, "Why so slow?
The churchmen sought authorization for a part of parish and diocesan receipts to be given to the central church administration and for the inclusion of priests in parish executive organs. Stalin did not object. The hierarchs then turned to less "convenient" questions, including the fate of imprisoned hierarchs and clergy and the seizure of the living quarters of arrested priests.
Stalin told the churchmen to make lists of cases and said Karpov would look into these matters. Finally Malenkov suggested that a photographer be brought in to take a photograph. Stalin responded that it was already two o'clock in the morning and "we'll do it another time. Why did Stalin receive the hierarchs, and why did he do so when he did, more than two years after Hitler's invasion? The probable explanation starts with his limited amelioration of church policy in , which was in reaction to the renaissance of church life behind German lines and his evident fear that the yearnings of Soviet believers would make them anti-Soviet activists.
In the desperate months of the initial Soviet retreat and in the renewed retreats of , Stalin's energies were concentrated on survival and military strategy; he probably concluded — to the extent that he thought about Sergi and his church — that additional concessions would have little effect on Sergi's already supportive public stand. By , however, Stalin was thinking more about politics, and Red forces were liberating areas where newly opened Orthodox churches abounded.
Soviet social control in these formerly occupied areas was partial at best, and Stalin may have felt that an indiscriminate closure of Orthodox churches would be difficult to enforce. Some sort of policy was clearly necessary, and Sergi's church was an instrument of Soviet dominance over unsubmissive Ukrainian and Byelorussian Greek-Catholics, sects, and other religious forces that had collaborated in varying degrees with the Germans.
A softer policy toward the Russian Orthodox Church could reduce the incentive to organize a religious underground, which Stalin clearly did not want, and diminish unrest. Moreover, Stalin's own atheism was probably as much political and pragmatic as profoundly held.
In addition, as William Fletcher suggested, Stalin may have been willing to elevate Sergi to the patriarchal office in order to strengthen Sergi's hand in his struggle with the separatist Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Metropolitan Polykarp Sikorski.
The last thing Stalin wanted was a vigorous, independent Ukrainian church that was ready to help political nationalists longing for a non-Soviet Ukraine. The same national church council in Moscow that elevated Sergi also excommunicated Polykarp.
Foreign policy may also have entered into Stalin's calculations. Stalin was hoping for loans and other help from the West, and he undoubtedly was aware of Western sensitivities regarding the persecution of religion in the USSR. Stalin wanted the West to open a second front in France, and his natural political allies in England included the dean of Canterbury, Hewlett Johnson, and the archbishop of York, who was planning to lead a church delegation to Moscow.
The Tehran summit meeting of Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill was in the offing. Moreover, the Russian Orthodox Church might prove useful in furthering Soviet ambitions in the Balkans and the near east after the war. Reportedly Stalin had quizzed Malenkov, Beria, and Karpov about the patriarchates of Constantinople and Jerusalem and the Orthodox churches of Romania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia when he held his preparatory meeting on September 4, In fact, Russian Orthodox hierarchs were subsequently employed in the pursuit of Stalin's goals in those areas.
According to Russian Orthodox Church sources, after Patriarch Sergi was enthroned in September , "the number of churches began to increase in both the cities and villages. Even after the meeting, the Soviet government hardly rushed to authorize new parishes. According to one well-placed source, Vyacheslav Molotov instructed Karpov to delay authorizing the registration of new church societies until the situation could be surveyed, recommendations submitted, and clearance obtained.
Molotov was quoted as saying: Sergi lived for eight months after his historic meeting with Stalin. During that time regular dioceses were established in Soviet territories behind the war zones, and more bishops were consecrated. An official Soviet report dated March 15, , listed twenty-nine functioning bishops besides the patriarch.
Metropolitan Sergi died on May 15, , and Metropolitan Aleksi of Leningrad became acting head of the church. The opening of churches continued, as did the consecration of new bishops and the ordination of pious laymen as priests. Priests in hiding or detention increasingly were able to return to their clerical duties. Many priests who had opened churches under the German occupation continued to serve.
A pastoral school and theological institute opened in Moscow in June , a development that reversed the total prohibition of such institutions that had been in effect since the beginning of the s. In August of Karpov stated that the number of Orthodox churches exceeded the prewar figure. By that time Soviet troops had already pushed the Germans out of pre Soviet territories and were fast reconquering the lands annexed in and Most of the functioning parishes were in these formerly occupied lands.
In late November of Aleksi reported to a council of bishops that "over two hundred churches" had been opened in the USSR in the year after Sergi had been enthroned; no doubt he was referring to churches in the Soviet heartland. Two Soviet government decrees, one at the end of and another in mid, authorized the turning over of more churches to the Orthodox. On January 31,, a national church council convened in Moscow and unanimously elected Aleksi as the new patriarch.
Of the forty-two bishops then in the country, forty-one were in attendance; Archbishop Luka Voino-Yasenetski , then of Tambov, was not invited as a consequence of his objection to the uncanonical presentation of a single candidate for patriarch.
A Soviet government decree of August 22, , implemented Stalin's decision to grant the church significant attributes of a "legal person.
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