A Thousand Years of Russian Orthodoxy

Julie Richards-Williams examines the millennium of Christianity in Russia

This year marks the millennium of Christianity in Russia, and commemorates the baptism by Prince Vladimir, ruler of the medieval state of Kievan Rus, of his subjects into the Christian faith in AD 988. From this event the Russians, Belorussians and Ukranians all trace their religious heritage.

To the millions of practising Christians in the USSR, the jubilee is a source of hope and inspiration for the future and, despite the fact that officially Russia is atheist, the state as well as the orthodox churches will be celebrating the event.

For since Mikhail Gorbachev came to power two and a half years ago, although the state will not fund church restoration, a far more tolerant attitude has been adopted towards religion – all part of the hopeful new policy of 'glasnost'.

Celebrations are due to begin in Moscow on June 5th, with special gatherings and services attended by religious dignitaries from all over the world. From June 6th – 9th a Church Council will be held at Zagorsk, attended by delegates from every diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The main celebrations will take place on June 10th at Moscow's Danilov Monastery, which in preparation for the millennium, is currently undergoing a complete facelift – paid for by the Russian Orthodox Church at a cost of 50 million roubles (approximately 645m). Confiscated by the state after the Revolution, the historic thirteenth-century building was restored to the church in June 1983 and is once again a working monastery.

Another initiative specially for the millennium is the total renovation of the Chapel of the Blessed Xenia in Leningrad, which has been officially consecrated and reopened for worship. Many registered churches all over Russia are being generally improved for the event by the Russian Orthodox Church and congregations themselves.

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