To Ernu’s text I would add something about the origin of Moscow, the third Rome:
Runciman draws attention to the fact that as early as 1390 Constantinople’s Ecumenical Patriarch Anthony wrote to the Great Kneaz Basil I of Moscow ‘to remind him that no matter what happens, the emperor in Constantinople was still the only true emperor, God’s Orthodox deputy on earth.’
Both political and ecclesiastical relations between Constantinople and Moscow were tense at the time when the Eastern Orthodox Metropolitan Isidore of Kiev was expelled, due to his unsuccessful attempt to proclaim the union at Moscow. Consequently, from 1448 the Russian Church became fully autonomous. Constantinople being taken by the Turks, Moscow could think about taking a more prominent position in the Christian East. The marriage of Tsar Ivan III to Zoe Paleologus in 1472 opened up new possibilities. On the one hand, the house of Moscow would receive the lost glory of the fallen Byzantium, a prestige that would have raised them to a level equal with any of the western houses. On the other hand, if a reconquista was not possible, there was an ambitious project to make a Russian empire of a Byzantine tradition. He (Ivan III) adopted the double-headed eagle, symbol of imperial power, and the elaborate ceremonial of the Byzantine court, and demanded that his nobles be completely subject to him.’
The metropolitan of Monemvasia drew attention to the possibility of schism in the Eastern Church if Russia became too powerful. The rise to prominence of Moscow as a possible replacement for Constantinople actually came soon after the elevation of the Russian metropolitan to the position of patriarch. The existence of Christian Moscow was a fact that had to be considered both by Constantinople (as the see of the ecumenical patriarch) and by Istanbul (as the capital of the Ottoman Empire). On the other hand, Moscow was conscious of her role, which would pay both political and ecclesiastical dividends, as the only power to defend and support the Christians in the Ottoman Empire. From now on Russia would be a continuous factor of distress for the Ottoman administration because it was the place where neither the only Christian Orthodox emperor (tsar), nor the patriarch was living under Turkish occupation. The Russian clergy’s reaction to this superior position in the Christian East became evident even before 1589. Runciman draws attention to a letter written just five years after the fall of Constantinople, in 1458, by the metropolitan of Moscow. This further step to achieve Russian hegemony over the Eastern Orthodox Christianity recorded:
Constantinople had fallen because it went astray from the true Orthodox tradition. However, in Russia, the true faith of the seven synods is still living, in this way Constantinople passed to the Great Kneaz Vladimir. In the world, there is only one church, the Church of Russia.
It was clear that Moscow (like Constantinople in the past) was stressing the importance of the same condition: the observance of the seven ecumenical synods. In addition, Moscow was crystal clear that the union of the Byzantine Church with the Roman Catholic Church was the danger, which caused the fall of the second Rome. As a proof that they had learned something from history (of the Church), the Russians would not agree to any church union in the future. More than, that they would at any cost act against those churches which agreed to unite with the Roman Catholic Church.
Not too long afterwards, in 1512, in a letter to the Great Tsar Basil III (1505-1533), the Russian monk Philotheus from a Pskov monastery wrote that ‘the Christian empires had fallen. Only the empire of our masters is still alive. Two Romes had fallen, but the third lasts, and the fourth will never be. You are the only Christian sovereign of the entire world, the leader of all truly Orthodox Christians.’
The message was clear: Moscow (the tsar and the patriarch) was provided with a raison d’être. Philotheus’ letter was more than an invitation to take over Constantinople’s role: it provided the reason why Moscow, already the third Rome must take over responsibility for the destiny of all Christians without consideration of frontiers. In a way Philotheus highlighted the destiny of the third Rome by contrasting it with the fate of the other two.
Kochan highlights the role of the Church concerning Moscow’s dream of supremacy. This was possible only due to a very close association between the Church and the State. Early in the sixteenth century, Abbot Joseph of Volokolamsk gave legitimacy to the model by comparing the authority of the tsar to God’s authority. Similarly, the authority of the Byzantine emperor passed to the Muscovite tsar:
The autocracy became, in theory, the divinely ordained fountainhead of an undifferentiated concentration of authority – political, in that the Tsar was the only political authority; economic, in that he claimed ownership of the totality of the land; military, in that he led the country in war; religious, in that he ruled by divine right and was committed to maintain and defend the rights of Orthodoxy.
Such an ideological translation was not ensured by the right of succession, hereditary right or by conquest or by any other accustomed procedure. Its legitimacy derived from the continuous rise to power of Moscow in the East. However, only during the seventeenth century did Russia dream of conquering Constantinople. The desire that that dream come true led to Empress Katherine II having her grandsons baptised with two significant and prophetic names in the context of the East: Alexander and Constantine, and her engaging in a definitely aggressive policy towards the Ottoman Empire. These Russian efforts to expand at the expense of the Ottoman Empire caught the Romanians between two lines. Apparently, the Russians supported the Eastern Orthodox Church, but in practice, Russian policy demonstrated that the Church was being used to attain political goals.
F. Miklosich and I. Möller, Acta et diplomata Graeca mediiaevii, quoted by Runciman, Căderea, 188.
Meyendorff, The Orthodox Church. Its past and Its Role in World Today (Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir’s Theological Press [fourth edition] 1996), see 52.
Runciman, Căderea, 188.
P. Evdokimov, Ortodoxia (Bucharest: Editura Institutului Biblic şi de Misiune al Bisericii Ortodoxe Române, 1996), see 37. Evdokimov expresses this by saying that the crown of the emperor was transmitted as a heavenly blessing to the legitimate heir of the Orthodox kingdom, the tsar of all Christians.
58 L. Kochan, The Making of Modern Russia (Penguin Books, [first published 1962], 1979), see 38.
59 K.S. Latourette, A History of Christianity. Volume I: to AD 1500 (New York, Hagerstown, San Francisco, London: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1975), 616.
60 Iorga, Bizanţ după Bizanţ (Bucharest: Enciclopedică Română [first edition Paris: 1938] 1972), see 101.
61 On 26 January 1589, Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremias II anointed Metropolitan Job of Moscow as the first Russian patriarch.
62 Walker, A History, 676. During the sixteenth century the Turkish Empire was occupying the Balkans, most of Hungary, the Romanian Principalities, and had had the Black Sea as an ‘interior’ sea. In Africa the Sublime Porte had Egypt and the area along the coast up to Algiers, in the East Armenia, Georgia, part of former Babylon, in the South it had Palestine and Syria.
63 Boris Godunov asserts Moscow’s ecclesiastical independence from the Ecumenical see of Constantinople in 1589.
Runciman, Căderea, 188.
At this point Runciman contradicts V. Malinin who mentions Tsar Ivan IV (1533-1584).
Runciman, Căderea, 188.
V. Malinin, Le vénérable monastère de la saint Eléasare, Philothée et ses épîtres. (Kiev: 1901). imprecisely quoted by Evdokimov, Ortodoxia, see p. 37 Thomas suggested this idea to the Muscovite Grand Prince Basil in a letter from Tver in 1453.
Kochan, The Making, see 39. Kochan claims that ‘In actual fact, Ivan and his successors’ hopes lay more with the West than in any Byzantine political legacy. But for all that, the ecclesiastical doctrine gave an ideological hallowing to the new state.’
Kochan, The Making, 36.
D.B. Clendenin, Eastern Orthodox Christianity. A Western Perspective (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), see 42-44.
And a small correction: I.V. Stalin’s temporary pact with the ROC was made not at the beginning of the so-called Great Patriotic War, as Ernu claims (we keep forgeting about all Soviet invasions prior to June 1941), but in 1942 when the USSR was close to colaps.