Primates of Russia,
Metropolitans and Patriarchs
of Kiev and Moscow

Russia, under St. Vladimir, converts to Christianity in 989. A Metropolitan for Russia is established at the capital, Kiev, by appointment from the Patriarch of Constantinople. For a good while these prelates are Greek, and for a great deal longer they continued to be appointed from Constantinople, alternating Russian and Greek candidates. Things began to change first with the Mongol conquest of Russia, 1236-1239. Kiev, sacked in 1240, itself falls under the Khanate of the Golden Horde. Soon the Metropolitan moved to the most recent center of Russian rule, Vladimir, and then to Moscow. Soon Moscow itself became the preeminent Russian state.

An interesting conflict turned about the Patriarch Cyprian, a Bulgarian appointed by the Patriarch Philotheus (1353/4-1354/5, 1364-1376). Conflict in Constantinople between revolving Patriarchs supported by Venice and Genoa, on top of factional disputes in Moscow, was compounded by the demand of the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Olgierd (1345-1377), now the ruler of Kiev, the Ukraine, and White Russia, for his own Orthodox Metropolitan, independent of Moscow. It should be remembered that Olgierd was himself still a pagan. Lithuania as such had not converted yet to Christianity. In 1375, Cyprian was actually appointed to this Lithuanian office, with the understanding that he would succeed the Metropolitan Alexius in Moscow when he died. When Alexius died (1378), Cyprian was imprisoned rather than enthroned. Returning to Constantinople, the political winds had shifted there, the Russian candidate, Mityai, died on arrival, but another division of the Russian Church, as a compromise, was effected. Cyprian returned to Lithuania. After further factional conflict, Cyprian eventually was established in Moscow for a substantial reign (1390-1406). Lithuania, of course, converted to Catholicism in 1386, as the Grand Duke Jagiello married the heiress Jadwiga of Poland.

The next major alteration in the status of the Russian Church came as the Ottomans absorbed Romania and surrounded Constantinople. After the Empire became a Vassal of the Sultân Murâd I, the Russian Church stopped using the Emperor's name in prayers (1392). When a deal was struck at the Councils of Ferrara & Florence, 1439-1440, to reunite the Latin and Greek Churches, against which most of the Greeks and Orthodox dissented, the Russian Church rejected the authority of Constantinople and began to elect its own Primate. The last Metropolitan nominated by Constantinople, Isidore of Kiev (1437-1441), who tried to promote the Union, was imprisoned and then went into exile. The Patriarch of Constantinople did not accept the independence of the Russian Church until 1589, when the Metropolitan was also elevated to the status of a Patriarch himself. By then Constantinople had fallen to the Turks (1453) and the Patriarch of Constantinople himself lived a precarious existence at the will of the Sultân. Moscow now became the "Third Rome" to sustain the Christian and Orthodox cause against both the Ottomans and Rome.

For some, however, Rome seemed less threatening than Moscow. In the Ukraine and White Russia, which had been retrieved from the Mongols by Lithuania and then folded into the union of Lithuania and Poland, the Russian Patriarchy seemed at once a possible claim of authority and a threat of Russian control and intervention. In the Union of Brest of 1595 the Ukrainian Church thus shifted its ties from Orthodox Moscow to Catholic Rome. This was certainly agreeable to the King of Poland, who in that year would have been Sigismund III Vasa. The area thus became largely Catholic. In the 17th century, Moscow began to conquer the eastern Ukraine. Russian settlers, the Cossacks, fought a war with Poland (1648-1657), which resulted in a partition of the Ukraine, with Poland on the right (west) bank of the Dnieper and Russia on the left (east). Kiev itself was Russian by 1686. The return of Russia also meant the return of Orthodoxy, and the Ukrainian Catholic Church retreated before Russian conquest. By the 20th century, it survived largely in the Austrian province of Galicia, which had been obtained in the First Partition of Poland in 1772. After World War I, this was restored to Poland until the Russians arrived, as Soviets, in 1945. The Catholic Church was all but annihilated. With Ukrainian independence in 1991, however, Catholic Ukrainians reemerged in the western areas that had never been part of Moscovite Russia before Stalin. A Catholic Ukrainian Church now flourishes, though perhaps as much or more overseas than in its homeland.

Meanwhile, there had been major changes in the Russian Church itself. Peter the Great abolished the Patriarchate, to create an institution that would be more pliable and so more receptive to his ideas for modernization. This reduced status for the Primate continued until the Russian Revolution.

Primates of Russia, Metropolitans of Kiev,
appointed by Constantinople
Michael I988-991
Leontius I992-1007
John I1008-1035
Cyril I1050
first native Russian Metropolian
Efrem I1055
Gregorius II1067-1077
John II1077-1089
John III1089-1091
Efrem II1092-1097
Nicephorus I1103-1121
Vacant, 1126-1129
Michael II1129-1145
Vacant, 1145-1147
Kliment Smolyatich1147-1154
Constantine I1155-1158
Vacant, 1158-1161
John IV1164-1166
Constantine II1167-1177
Vacant, 1177-1182
Nicephorus II1182-1198
Dionisius I1205
Vacant, 1205-1209
Vacant, 1220-1224
Cyril II1224-1233
Joseph I1237-?
Mongols sack Kiev, 1240
Cyril III1243-1281
Vacant, 1281-1283
Vacant, 1305-1308
Metropolitans of Moscow,
appointed by Constantinople
St. Peter1308-1326
moves from Kiev to Vladimir,
then Moscow, 1314
Vacant, 1326-1328
St. Alexius1354-1378
CyprianPrimate of Kiev & Lithuania, 1375-1378, 1380-1381
1381-1382, 1390-1406
Mityairival, 1378-1379
vacant, 1379-1380; Russian Church stops mention of Roman Emperor, as a Vassal of the Ottomans, 1392
Pimen1380-1381, 1382-1384
Dionysius I1384-1385
Vacant, 1385-1390, 1406-1408
Vacant, 1431-1437
Isidore of Kiev1437-1441, imprisoned, escaped
Vacant, 1441-1448
Autocelphalous Church, Autonomous Election
St. Jonah1448-1461
Philip I1464-1473
St. Philip II1566-1568
Dionysius II1581-1587
Patriarchs of Moscow
St. JobMetropolitan, 1587-1589
Union of Brest, Ukrainian Church adheres to Rome, 1595
Vacant, 1612-1619
father of Tsar Michael Romanov
Joasaphus I1634-1642
Pitirim of Krutitsylocum tenens, 1658-1667
Joasaphus II1667-1672
Pitirim of Krutitsy1672-1673
Peter the Great's Synodic Government, 1700-1917
Stefan of Ryazanlocum tenens, 1700-1721
Metropolitans of Moscow
Plato I1745-1754
Hilarion of KrutitsyCoadjutor, 1754-1757
Samouel of KrutitsyCoadjutor, 1771-1775
Plato II1775-1812
Macarius I1879-1882
Sergius I1893-1898
Macarius II1912-1917
Patriarchs of Moscow
St. Tikhon1917-1925
Vacant, 1925-1943
Peter of Krutitsylocum tenens, 1925-1936, executed 1937
SergiusDeputy locum tenens, 1926-1936, locum tenens, 1936-1943
Patriarch, 1943-1944
Alexius I1945-1970
Alexius II1990-2008
Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningradlocum tenens, 2008-2009

The status of Moscow as a Patriarchate was ironically restored in 1917 -- ironically because the Russian Revolution of the same year would unleash a storm that all but destroyed the Church. The Communists had no use and no sympathy for Christians. The Patriarch Tikhon, who has subsequently been canonized, was imprisoned and regarded, by the State, as deposed for much of the rest of his life. When there was a sewage leak under the new mausoleum of Lenin, he remarked, "The balm accords with the relics" -- one of the great bon mots in the history of Russia.

Peter, elected in 1925 as no more than a regent or place holder (locum tenens=lieutenant), was almost immediately imprisoned. As his fate was not even known, Sergius was then elected in 1936. Peter was actually still alive, but would indeed be executed the next year. Meanwhile, there had been a wholesale arrest and slaughter of priests, monks, and nuns and a looting and demolition of countless churches. Priests could only be trained or ordained in secret, and the Church hierarchy was hunted down and all but annihilated. This Terror ended, after a fashion, in 1943, when Stalin decided to use the moral support of the Church in the fight against the Germans. Sergius then became the first official Patriarch since 1700.

Under the Soviets, however, the Patriarchs lived an existence rather like that of the Patriarch of Constantinople under the Ottomans, with a dangerous, suspicious, and hostile master who would tolerate nothing in the way of independence, criticism, or opposition. This twilight reality ended with the fall of Communism. Now the Russian Orthodox Church even has legal powers to keep out foreign missionaries. Moscow's great Cathedral of Christ the Savior, completed in 1881 (as a belated monument to the defeat of Napoleon) and demolished by Stalin in 1933, was entirely rebuilt and then consecrated in 2000.

This list is from Wikipedia. Details about the adventures of Cyprian are from Colin Wells, Sailing from Byzantium, How a Lost Empire Shaped the World [Delta, Bantam Dell, 2007, pp.258-272].

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Copyright (c) 2007, 2008, 2010 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved