Tsar peter the great

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How did Tsar Peter the Great exert his power and authority over the church in Old Regime Russia?

Peter the Great was the Tsar of Russia from 1689-1725, in which time he appropriated many changes to the Russian society. One of his main fears was of his lack of control over the Orthodox Church of Russia. In response to this, and his admiration of European ways, Peter developed a program tobring the church into his jurisdiction, so to set himself up as an almost supreme being, on the same level as God.

The first major change that Peter enforced was making the Julian style calendar the national calendar, which was widely used in Europe. This occurred in 1697.[1] The Julian calendar counts from the birth of Christ as opposed to the former calendar, which counts from the beginning oftime. From here, Peter began his attack on power in the church. Conveniently for Peter, the Patriarch passed away in 1700, so instead of the usual election of a new Patriarch democratically by the clergy, Peter had Stefan Iavorskii installed. This was supposed to be a temporary over-seeing position until an election could be held, but Iavorskii remained in the position for some 20 years.[2] Thisdemonstrates exactly how fearful Peter was of his lack of authority over the church, as at his very first opportunity, he removes a democratic right of the people and begins to use the church for his own means.

Secondly, Peter created a new position in the Church. The Procurator.[3] The purpose of this role was to have an overseer of the church in its entirety, including the Patriarch. Thisvirtually turns the Church into a Government department, as the Procurator becomes Peter’s eyes in the Church, informing him of all goings on. Between Iavorskii and the Procurator, Peter relays the messages that he wishes to be conveyed to the congregation, beginning to use the Church as an audience for propaganda[4].

Keeping in order with these changes, Peter also removes much of the clergy’spower in the church. As previously mentioned, removing their right to vote for a new Patriarch but also their right to choose their own Parish Priest and many other religious positions.[5] This begins to create a gap between the church and its people.[6] The religious avenues they seek counsel from are no longer familiar as Peter can choose whomever he wants to go in to any parish in the country. Asa result of this, the church is no longer for the people, but for the Tsar. This authority of Peter’s, to choose the parish priest, furthers his own means of censoring what is preached in the churches to his people, limiting their religious beliefs, which should of course be something untouchable.

The clergy weren’t the only people who were stripped of some of their authority. Peter alsodecided to change the ways in which any wrong doings by members of the church (Priests, Monks etc) were dealt with. In the past, any issues that arose were dealt with by the perpetrator’s immediate superior initially, then taken further into church council depending on severity and reoccurrence, proceeding to civil court if deemed necessary.[7] Peter decided that all cases should be dealt with by thesame court that sentences the public[8], removing their “immunity from the jurisdiction of the civil courts”[9]. This move obviously reins all power over the church and its servants to Peter, centralising himself as the all-powerful. The approval of marriage, divorce and any matters pertaining to church discipline or sex offences[10] were “guaranteed by the tsar”[11] and could only be challengedby the patriarch.[12] This basically moves any power that the servants of the church had over each other or their clergy to the Tsar and his councilmen.

In 1718, Tsar Peter the Great abolished the position of the Patriarch[13], Stefan Iavorskii. Iavorskii was displeasing the Tsar through corresponding with his son Aleksei even though he was not a supporter of his father Peter the Great. This...
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