Patriarch Sergius in the Policy of Memory of the Russian Orthodox Church in the End of the XXth – Beginning of the XXIst Century

Pinyugina E.V.


The article discusses the shift in memory politics of the Russian Orthodox Church with regard to the compromise of the Church with the Soviet authorities, the focus being on the personality of the Metropolitan Sergiy (Stragorodsky), who acted as Head of the Russian Church under Stalin’s rule and during World War II (till his death in 1944). From 1991 to 2007, there prevailed a critical appraisal of his church policy, which now changes into an apologetic and positive assessment. His authority in the Church was never undisputable for many of the clergy and believers. The deal with Stalin undertaken by Sergiy for quite noble reasons (aimed, above all, at preventing mass executions of the clergy) had resulted in a most controversial document in the Russian Church history of the 20th century – the so called «Declaration of Metropolitan Sergey of 1927». This text proclaimed the loyalty of the Church to the atheistic authorities and their policies, at the same time condemning dissent on the part of the clergy and believers, thereby picturing them as enemies both of the Church and the Soviet State. In fact, he consented to put the Church under the control of the secret services apparatus, this including the appointment and dismissal of the clergymen. What’s more, Sergiy officially reiterated in his sermons and media appearances, both in Soviet and foreign, the false statements about freedom of conscience without any repressions in the USSR. Condemnation of the Metropolitan Sergiy’s legacy from 1991 to 2007 was prompted by the desire of the post-Soviet Church to meet the expectations of society striving to independence of the Church from authorities. Until 2007, the Church declared its rejection of this legacy. It was argued that he, in order to preserve the official and judicially legal Church structure, had sacrificed his principles. Since 2007, his choice has been assessed as an undoubtedly right one and useful for the Church. These days, he is estimated with admiration and even as a Saint who pursued a wise course aimed at improving relations between the Church and the State. An important reason for this shift was Sergiy’s patriotic position during the Great Patriotic War as well as the need of the Church for new symbols of its unity with the Russian society, committed to preserving historic memories of the huge human losses in the war and the great victory in it.


Russian Orthodox Church; politics of memory; Metropolitan Sergey; 1927 Declaration; USSR; Russia.

DOI: 10.31249/rsm/2020.02.03

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