The Phenomenon of Social Orthodoxy

Aleksandr Shchipkov

The paper reviews the phenomenon of "Captivity of the Church" by the state, the autonomy and independence of ideas of modern Russian Church, the distinction between the social concept of the Russian Orthodox Church and the dominant Russian ideology "of total competition"

In our modern attitude toward church history in Russia, ideological clichés are being willingly distributed. Sometimes, someone still meets with the absurd claim that the Church in Russia is the servant of the state, the herald of its secular ideology and, ultimately, that it maintains the alien cult. As soon as it comes to restitution, someone be sure to tell: the estates belonging to churches are returned in exchange for loyalty. Once the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) offers to teach children the standards of Orthodox culture, someone certainly says, "Pardon me! Don't you know? ROC – is a new regional 'governing party committee' in Russia."

And it seems that the Church fully supports for many centuries the strange political system, which some Russian historians from the times of Solovyov and Kliuchevskiij called "Oprichnina system."

However, the Russian situation, quite frankly, can't be described as very much unique. This is just a consequence of the social-Darwinian morality, inhuman essence of which was emphasized by many philosophers. On the one hand, for example, the Christian thinkers of the patristic – told about it presciently, prognostic, and in their own way – in particular, St. Gregory of Nyssa in his sermon "Against the moneylenders"[3].

On the other hand, there're the "classics" of Marxism: "Darwin's theory of struggle for survival is simply a transfer of the theory of Hobbes "bellum omnium contra omnes"; shift of the bourgeois economic theory of competition, as well as of the Malthusian population theory of society, into the organic nature. By making this trick ... now it would be easy to transfer these theories of natural history back into the history of society ... and to declare that this thesis is confirmed as the eternal natural law of society "[2, pp 406-409].

Then what has it all to do with the Orthodox church in these disputes? Explanations are usually scanty and indistinct. Probably, just because the church – it is the flesh and blood of power. Because it so happened ... The strangest thing is – to watch how anti-clerical critics of liberal direction suddenly switch to the Marxist positions, basically alien to them, and talk to the effect that, say, the church – it is an element of the political superstructure, and Orthodoxy – is a part of the ideology of the ruling class.

The ideology of the ruling class is well known: profit-seeking and consumption. Based on this, a group of so-called "liberal Orthodox" occasionally invests slogans kind of "respectable Lord – for respectable gentlemen", "Orthodox Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism", "secular Christianity". And more and more concrete: to be in the spirit of the time, ROC, they say, should abandon "by the biblical concept of Sin," also the "thesis about the exclusivity of Christ," to show loyalty to abortion and gender theory. Sometimes the motif tone of this group becomes the ultimatum.

On this occasion, the famous Russian Orthodox activist Philip Grill said: "I am convinced that if the Church allowed the use of its brand for marking of the liberal values that lie at the heart of this policy, it would be praised. But this would be precisely: servility, nationalization, "Josephite disease." The politicization of the conflict is essential. The Church was forced to face namely political ultimatum. The ROC is expected to support the values of a particular part of the ruling elite. It turns to be a very funny situation. The Church is expected to implement the same in what it is accused of: "Why not to accept our values and not to display servility, since we'll convince everyone in your servility this way and that." [4].

In 2000, the document entitled "Basic Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church" was released. Only cursory flick through it sufficient to make sure that it falsifies the focus of the faith with myths about "neosergianstvo" of the "state church" and the Orthodox state capitalism. But people sometimes do not read carefully, and do not try to recognize the essence, contriving to reconcile the irreconcilable in the soul. So is the modern commitment to neo-pagan cults, elitist settings of the "society of total competition" – and the word of God.

As theologians as secular writers, have repeatedly said about the fact that this is not possible to reconcile. For example, an artist and philosopher Maxim Kantor: "You cannot take everybody in the Future Heaven" – it's a favorite slogan of the innovators of the twentieth century; but Christ, for example, believed that the eternal life will take everybody, but at this point the modern civilization tends to stick to a realistic view of things: not only in life today, everybody is accepted, as well in the Future not everybody will be taken. The Eternal life – is not of a rubber, is not boundless. The first thing withdrawn from the Eternal future – has turned out to be Christian image "[1, P. 80].

Now about the so called "symphony" and "servility". The very assertion that the combined cult of Caesar and the Patriarch is precisely the "symphony" that generations of people have been waiting for – is just as pathetic as it is untrue. Russian Church has not always been involved in the interests of the ruling class. Until the middle of XVII century a people's theocracy existed. It emerged after the Tatar invasion and was created by the efforts of the whole Russian nation. It happened, it should be noted, as contrary to the status of vassalage of Russian feudal lords to Tatar khans. To say more precisely: in Russia, during this period, social Orthodoxy was developed. It progressed thanks to the enthusiasm of Joseph of Volokolamsk and his followers. That social Orthodoxy survived until the time of blessed chronicler Habakkuk and Ivan the Nero. It lasted until the time as the Church has not forcibly entered into the 'Project' of bureaucratic state.

Echoes of this situation were observable in the early twentieth century. Not casually, Russian version of socialism is associated with the name of Sergius Bulgakov. Not accidentally, Archpriest Valentin Sventsitsky in 1912 encourages believers to vote for left-wing parties (not Bolshevik). Unfortunately, the idea of the welfare state in 1917 fell into the hands of political adventurers, who used it as an accidental bait for the Russian society. What happened next is well known.

Of course, there's no smoke without fire. The state tries to impose the Church sometimes – servile complexes, sometimes – The code of Communism, and sometimes – The Weberian ideal. But the Church, as It is able, resists this pressure. Through the efforts of the famous Nilus Sorskij, Joseph of Volokolamsk, Theodosius Pecherskij, Metropolitan Philip, Patriarchs Tikhon and Sergius. The period of the "state capture of the Church", when it was losing autonomy, lasted after the Church split (Reform) and until the end of the Synodal period in 1917. With the Chief Prosecutor of the Synod instead of Patriarch that led the Church at the period. At that period, the members of the Church, indeed, were forced to relate the Word of God with the word of Caesar. They still did not know and had no idea that this period will end forever.

For the first time, Church was torn from society by Bolshevik authorities. This meant death and destruction for thousands of priests. The situation was painful and scary. It was slightly corrected after 1943, and repressions partially terminated under Patriarch Sergius and until the end of the Soviet period. But, the Authorities, which had not managed to destroy the Church to the end, in the early 90s of the last century forgot about it at all for a decade. During this time, ROC has formed its own social concept that has nothing to do with the ruling in the official circles theory of social Darwinism and society of struggle of all against all ("bellum omnium contra omnes").

The Church is inherently required to stand in defense of the welfare state. Today, however, mentioning of socialism or social democracy in the circle of political scientists, it is not easy to explain that we are not necessarily talking about authoritarian system. In the same Germany, by the way, the social phenomenon of the Church, of social Christianity is perceived much easier and is more familiar.

But the situation should be changed. Not going beyond the vicious explanatory model, we can't move forward. And quite excellent conditions for this step have been formed today. Since the days of domination of the state atheism, the Church has been free for the first time. Nobody tries to forcibly enslave It. But the intention of some quarters of the political elite to push the ROC out of space of public debates can be traced quite clearly. However, it can't be ignored that the Orthodoxy in Russia had already taken shape of a powerful social group, whose voice should be considered.

Aleksandr Shchipkov, Moscow, 2014


1. Cantor, M.K. Prospects of vanguard // Fracture. Collection of articles about social justice tradition. – Moscow, 2013. p. 80. – [Kantor, M.K. Perspektivy avangarda // Perelom. Sbornik statej o spravedlivosti tradicii. – Moskva, 2013. s. 80].

2. Marx, K. and Engels, F. Engels' letter to P.L. Lavrov. Compositions, ie. XXVI -M: 1935, p. 406-409. – [Marks, K. i Engel's, F. Pis'mo Eengel'sa P.L. Lavrovu. Sochinenija, t. XXVI, – M.: 1935 g., S. 406-409].

3. Nyssa, Gregory. Against the moneylenders. [Electronic resource] – URL: (date accessed 07/25/2014) – [Nisskij, Grigorij. Protiv rostovshhikov. [Elektronnyj resurs] – URL: (data obrashhenija 25.07.2014)]

4. Shchipkov A. Orthodox church of in the face of secular reformation. [Electronic resource] – URL: (date accessed 07/22/2014) – [Schipkov A. Zcerkov' pered ugrozoj sekuljarnoj reformacii. [Elektronnyj resurs] – URL: (data obrashhenija 22.07.2014)]