Michael Prokurat, Alexander Golitzin, Michael D. Peterson
The A to Z of the Orthodox Church



MUSCOVITE TRADITION. The Muscovite Christian tradition is in direct continuity with Novgorodian tradition (q.v.), coming after its apex, and includes within its purview the possessor theological orientation of Joseph of Volokolamsk, the creation of the Unia, and the Old Believer Schism under Patriarch Nikon (qq.v.). It corresponds historically to Muscovy’s rise to power as the center or capital of Russia, and ends (for our purposes) with the Spiritual Regulation (q.v.) of Peter the Great and the abolition of the patriarchate (q.v.) of Moscow. Thus, it covers the period from the capture of Novgorod by Ivan III of Moscow in 1471 to the publication of the Spiritual Regulation in 1721, including within it the early history of the patriarchate of Moscow, 1589–1700.

Aside from its Novgorodian roots, the religious orientation of Muscovy evolved from a series of church councils in the mid-16th c. Before this, the Muscovite tsars consciously wished to become heirs of the Byzantine emperors, evidenced by the marriage of Tsar Ivan III to Sophia Palaeologus. Councils in 1547 and 1549 canonized almost forty Russian saints (q.v.) and improved ecclesiastical organization. The council in 1554 was devoted to condemning Russian heresies (q.v.) associated with Protestantism or the non-possessors. A type of national self-identity appeared that included political and religious unification.

The Council of the Hundred Chapters (Stoglav) in 1551 was probably the most formative for Muscovite tradition in that it did not pronounce on doctrinal matters, but did pronounce on orthopraxy or ecclesiastical discipline. Its statements on the chanting of two “Alleluias” (q.v.) and the two-fingered sign of the cross set the stage for the Old Believer Schism a century later. This Council was held under the presidency of Metropolitan Makarii of Moscow, who was consciously attempting to systematize and construct a Muscovite culture. Both he and Tsar Ivan IV broke with the Byzantine identification and “canonized” Novgorodian tradition, especially when they cited historical precedents, habits, and customs at the Council.

The Byzantine era (q.v.) that had ended a century before with the fall of Constantinople was no longer a viable religious inspiration for a Muscovy that faced fresh challenges. A devotion to Byzantine contemplatives, of the sort championed by the non-possessors, was replaced by an emphasis on constructing a “Christian society.” Makarii established the first printing press in Russia, collected the lives of the saints, then codified them and published them as a model for proper piety (q.v.) in this new society. He did the same with the Great Reading Compendium and the Biblical Codex, combining history and interpretative story into single volumes. The Hundred Chapters themselves are difficult to analyze because the answers do not address the questions asked. In any case, uniformity and order seem to be the desired effect of the proceedings. These councils laid the groundwork for the final break with the Greeks in 1589, a political and ecclesiastical manifesto, with the establishment of an autocephalous (q.v.) patriarchate in Moscow.

In 1654 the ancient metropolitanate of Kiev located within Ukraine joined the Moscow patriarchate, completing an ongoing process of expansion and betterment of the life of the Church. Although Kievan Rus’ (q.v.) encapsulated the early history of the Church in all Rus’ before the Novgorodian period, the recent preceding centuries were marked by Poland-Lithuania’s domination of Kiev, and overwhelming influence from the Roman Catholic Church in the Unia and Peter Mogila (qq.v.). Parts of Ukraine continued to be annexed to Muscovy through the end of the 17th c. The Church in pre-Petrine Russia enjoyed tremendous wealth, including extensive landholdings and monasteries-an otherwise peaceful situation that ended with Patriarch Nikon’s reforms and the later enforcement of the Spiritual Regulation of Tsar Peter.