Nepochatova Marina

The state-church relations in Estonia during the years 1944 - 1953

Nepochatova Marina (2014) "The state-church relations in Estonia during the years 1944 - 1953 ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia II : Istoriia. Istoriia Russkoy Pravoslavnoy Tserkvi, 2014, vol. 60, pp. 18-33 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturII201460.18-33


The article features an analysis of the nature and dynamic of church-state relations in Estonia during the first years following its integration into the USSR. In 1944 the religious situation in the republic was characterized by a number of distinctive attributes. The local population, which had lived prior to the accession of the Baltics to the USSR in 1944 in an atmosphere of relative religious freedom, presented the Soviet authorities with a new phenomenon that would have to be reckoned with. The Plenipotentiaries for Estonia appointed by the Council on ROC Affairs at the USSR Council of Ministers were able to convince their superiors of the need to tread carefully in light of the local specifics. The article deals with an analysis of the distinctive features of the Estonian Orthodox Church. As a secondary denomination in the region, it felt the powerful influence of Lutheran customs and rites. The ethnic heterogeneity of the fold and pronounced language barrier determined the choice of candidacy for the ruling eparchy. The Estonian diocese was rather well endowed with cathedrals, meaning that the main problem of church life in the USSR since the easing of persecution in 1944-1947 - the opening of new parishes - was not an issue in Estonia. On the whole, the church-state relations that dominated the republic in 1944-1947 were quite stable, just as they were around the country; moreover, they were typified by a cautious policy on the part of the Soviet authorities. In 1948-1949 the situation began to deteriorate across the country and Estonia was no exception. The difference was in the methods used: in Estonia, the decision was made to fight the Church and its clergy primarily through collectivization, which was actively pursued in the Baltics beginning in the early 1950s. Collectivization left rural parishes and their clergy in dire straits, and religious life in the countryside began to wane. Yet, the arrival from the central regions of the USSR of a Russian-speaking population tasked with elevating the republic’s industrial base resulted in a revitalization of church life in the cities where it was stationed, causing tremendous alarm at the Council on ROC Affairs. As a consequence, Estonian orthodoxy began to gradually change its ethic composition. The nationwide trend towards the ramping-up of religious persecution, begun in the early 1950s, made its way to Estonia. The crackdown included the arrest of clergy, the closure of cathedrals, and even a campaign to close Pühtitsa Convent. Religious pilgrims from neighboring USSR republics began converging on the monastery - to the great consternation of the central authorities. Thanks to their well-considered, systematic actions, the ruling Estonian eparchy managed to keep church life in the republic alive, yet, beginning in the early 1950s, church-state relations within the territory of Estonia were increasingly marked by nationwide trends.


state-church relations in Estonia, church-state relations in Estonia, the Orthodoxy in Estonia, the Council on ROC Aff airs, Estonian Orthodox Church, Estonian eparchy, the accession of the Baltics to the USSR


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