Relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and Judaism: Past and Present

A survey of 1200 years of Christian-Jewish relations in Russia, including the need for a renewal of Christian life and thought today to overcome age-old antagonism.



Relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and Judaism: Past and Present


By Yuri Tabak 


Before expounding our chosen theme we should to define our terms. The reader will   anticipate that we are going to discuss the relationship between Russian Orthodoxy – the   predominant and historically most influential faith in Russia – and representatives of the   Jewish religion (1). For centuries the terms evrei (Hebrew) and iudei (Jew)   have been interchangeable, although in the specific stages of the development of Jewish   consciousness, the ethnic and religious components of Judaism have acquired a separate   significance: secularised Jews have broken away from the religious community but have not   lost their cultural and ethnic identity.  

Secularised Jews who no longer observe the faith nonetheless may recognise the tremendous   human significance of traditional Jewish religious values (2). In this sense the term iudei,   conventionally applied in Russia to those who practise the Jewish faith, is too narrow a   term to denote the wider concept of evreistvo ("Jewry"), as understood by today"s   Orthodox Christian. Moreover, the very meaning of the word iudei taken in its   historical and religious context is complex and contradictory enough (3). For this reason we   prefer to use the wider term evrei, even though this term does not remove a whole   series of difficulties when considering the complexities of Judeo-Christian relations (4).


Furthermore, before analysing contemporary attitudes of the Russian Orthodox Church to   Jews and Judaism we must examine the religious and historical circumstances which have   determined the current situation. Extensive academic studies have been made of the position   of the Jewish community in Russia and our task here is not to analyse this in detail (5).   Nonetheless, we will attempt briefly to outline the main features of the relationship   between Jews and Orthodox Christians in the thousand or more years of their coexistence.


The Jewish-Orthodox relationship dates back to the founding of the Russian state when in   the ninth and tenth centuries Jews from Western Europe and Khazars professing the Jewish   religion settled on the territory of Kievan Russia (Kievan Rus). It appears that the Jewish   community was strong both socially and economically: Kievan Jews studied in the famous   Jewish educational insitutions of Europe and Kiev was a leading trading centre between East   and West, with trade being conducted mainly by Jews and Italians (6).


Jewish religious influence was also significant: it is no accident that in the famous History   of the Baptism of Rus there is an account of how Prince Vladimir came to choose the   future monotheistic state religion to replace old pagan beliefs, with one of the   alternatives being Judaism. Although the question of the provenance and historical   reliability of the History remains unanswered to this day (7), there is no doubt that   in Kievan Rus a sharp polemic between Christians and Jews was already in its early stages:   there are strong anti-Jewish passages in the Speeches of a Philosopher contained in   the History.


It is possible that in the beginning of the battle of the Christian church against Jewish   influence its anti-Jewish rhetoric was employed mainly in the service of apologetics. Even   after the establishment of Christianity this polemic continued and is clearly reflected in   the manuscripts of the time such as Sermon on Law and Grace by the first Russian   Metropolitan Illarion, and in Tolkovaya Paleia, Arkhivskiy khronograf (XIII   c.) and other works (8). In parallel with polemical writings there were practical attempts   to convert Jews to Orthodoxy: the episode in the Life of St. Feodosy when "the   saint scolded the Jews and argued with them about Christ, calling them apostates and   transgressors" (9) is well known. Moreover the economic prosperity of the Jews could at   times lead to increased hatred towards them.


Thus the prerequisites were laid down for the problematic situation of the Jews in   ancient Russia, which reflected that of Jews in Western Europe, where periods of comparative   calm and economic prosperity alternated with periods of religious repression, "bloody   slander" and pogroms. The first pogrom in Ancient Rus took place as early as 1113, when the   Jewish quarter in Kiev was destroyed. The further development of the Russian state   reproduced the model of relations between Jews and Christians characteristic of both Kievan   Rus and Western Europe: with its insecure social and economic standing, the Jewish community   remained to a greater or lesser extent a persecuted ethnic and religious minority.


When studying the history of Russian Jews it is not hard to recognise that the social and   religious persecution and measures applied against the Jewish population took on forms   already traditional in the West: exclusion from the professions, enforced baptisms, bloody   pogroms. The numerous Jewish ghettos in Western European towns could be compared to the   "Pale of Settlement" in Imperial Russia. The authorities blamed Jewish influences   for heretical movements in the Catholic world, such as the Albigensian, and subjected Jews   to the cruellest persecution. Likewise in Russia, in the fifteenth century the "Judaising"   movement brought a number of misfortunes on the Jewish community (10).


Despite these similarities between the forms of the religious repression of Jews in   Western Christendom and in Russia, there are a number of differences resulting from the   underlying causes. Western academic research, in its analysis of antisemitism, traditionally   addresses three main sections of medieval Christian society, namely the masses, the Church   and the state, and analyses them according to their relationship to the Jewish community. Of   course, here Russia has much in common with Western Europe. In Europe and in Russia, state   policy and official practice were governed by a series of shifting ideological, economic and   social factors, with the result that the degree of repression of the Jews varied,   alternating between periods of relative calm and prosperity and the bloodiest pogroms.


The Christian community, linked by numerous trading and economic ties to the Jewish   community, maintained a more or less neutral attitude towards the Jews during these periods   of calm, and, on the personal level, even conducted individual friendships (11). However,   the mixture of fear and hatred of Jews characteristic of medieval Christian consciousness   (the religious roots of which will be discussed below) never completely disappeared: these   latent emotions smouldered beneath the socio-economic necessity of maintaining the status   quo. It only took the emergence of any new circumstances in society, whether in the   social, economic, religious, or governmental spheres, or in the internal dynamics of the   Jewish-Christian debate, for these latent emotions to reach boiling point. The defenceless   Jewish community would then become the target of harsh economic measures, a pawn in   someone"s political games, or a convenient focus for the lower classes to vent their own   discontent. These factors readily combined to ignite the smouldering embers of religious   hatred: the uneducated Christian masses could change overnight into a fanatical crowd   capable of murder and pillage. This anti-Jewish feeling reached its culmination in the   twentieth century, when six million Jews became the victims of Hitler"s genocide (12).


However, the fundamental difference in the conduct of anti-Jewish measures in Russia, in   our opinion, lies in the much lesser role played by the Russian Orthodox Church in the   conduct of this policy, compared with the Byzantine Church, the Catholic Church of the early   and late Middle Ages and the Protestant denominations of Western Europe. In the West (and   partly in the East (13)), church policy in relation to the Jews was contradictory. In the   history of the Roman Catholic Church (for example under Popes Innocent IV, Gregory X and   others) many examples can be found of a tolerant and humane attitude towards Jews,   protecting them from tyranny and the worst excesses of antisemitic attacks. However, there   are also many negative examples when the church authorities either initiated or readily   participated in the conduct of antisemitic legislation and policy. Moreover, the Western   Church at times adopted a more actively antisemitic position than the State, which, from   time to time, defended the Jewish community (14).


Such examples in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church are difficult to find. All   anti-Jewish decisions were conducted by state administrative organs, acting on the authority   of emperors, state committees and ministries. Even if the Ecclesiastical Collegium under   Peter the Great and, later, the Holy Synod, agreed with and approved certain measures, it is   important to remember that these aforementioned institutions were essentially government   departments. Before Peter the Great when the church preserved some degree of independence,   it is hard to find any definite statements of an official anti-Jewish policy. By official,   we mean the highest church authorities, the decisions of local and diocesan councils,   decrees of the Patriarch and so on. Although it would be entirely natural to suppose that   the Church authorities had a particular influence on the State in the conduct of anti-Jewish   measures and even that these were indeed initiated by the Church, there is no conclusive   evidence to support this (15).


Undoubtedly the Russian church can be criticised for its total submission to the State in   the Synodical period (after the abolition of the Patriarchage in the early eighteenth   century), for its inability to express an independent opinion and for its failure to   demonstrate love for one"s neighbour and defence of the persecuted in accordance with the   basic teachings of the Gospel: unlike the Western church, the Russian Orthodox Church took   no steps to protect the Jews. But once again we must emphasise that unlike the Western   churches, antisemitic policies were not conducted in the name of the Russian Orthodox   Church.


It does not follow, however, that the clerics and priests of the Russian Orthodox Church   were not prone to antisemitic attitudes. The cruellest attacks on Jews can be found in   Orthodox polemics, in the sermons and speeches of the most illustrious clerics and hierarchs   of the Russian Orthodox Church, from Iosif Volotsky to St John of Kronstadt. At the end of   the nineteenth century the antisemitic views of Archbishop Nikon of Vologda, Hieromonk   Iliodor (Trufanov), Archpriest Ioann Vostorgov were widely known. These individuals were not   expressing an official church position on the Jewish question, which had simply not been   formulated; they reflected the widely-held negative attitudes of the general population   towards the Jews.


It is important to remember that an equal number of Russian Orthodox clerics, including   senior hierarchs, openly defended persecuted Jews, at least from the second half of the   nineteenth century. In Russia, perhaps more than in the West, hierarchs of the church and   professors in the theological academies refuted the accusations that Jews conducted pogroms   and ritual sacrifices and were organising a "worldwide conspiracy", as they fought for the   social rights of Jews (16). Soloviev, Bulgakov, Ilyin and other prominent Russian religious   philosophers played an active role in this movement. However, neither the number of speeches   by the Christian community, nor the impassioned nature of their appeals on behalf of the   Jews, could alter the general hatred of Jews characteristic of the Russian population since   medieval times. A corresponding attitude towards the Jews was reflected also in state and   religious laws (17).


Moreover, if the eighteenth century was a watershed in the situation of Western European   Jewry, with the gradual widening of their religious and social rights, no such movement took   place in Russia. This happened, in our view, due to two basic factors. Firstly, the path of   Russian history has been characterised by the weakness of any liberal and democratic   tendencies – these were too poorly developed to stand against the reactionary   authoritarian views which permeated all levels of public life, as had happened in the West.   In particular, a series of major historical developments – the Renaissance, the   Enlightenment and the Reformation – which played a key role in the fate of Western Jewry,   bypassed Russia. It is not possible within the confines of this paper to concentrate on this   important and complex theme (18); we will, however, briefly examine the second factor, the   particular religious and cultural features of Russian Orthodoxy which influenced attitudes   towards Jews in Russia.


Orthodox belief rests on the changelessness of its religious teachings, formulated in the   era of Ecumenical Councils and set down in HolyTradition, which is deemed as being "from   God". Moreover, although the compass of Holy Tradition is wide and includes the whole   historical experience of the church – the Bible, Service Books and Prayer books, decrees   of the Ecumenical Councils, writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church, lives of the saints,   canon law, iconography, music and architecture (19) – the theological foundation of modern   Orthodoxy is constructed upon Holy Tradition, set down before the end of the eighth century.   Holy Tradition by its very definition embodies a "sacred" character, that is its religious   and cultural value and relevance have never been called into question.


The materials contained in Holy Tradition have never been placed in any order of   importance: the private pronouncements of the Fathers of the Church, even if contradictory,   are respected as no less sacred and meaningful as decisions of councils and even of the   Bible itself (20). It is no coincidence, therefore, that Russian Orthodox believers have   always been encouraged to study the lives of the saints and the holy fathers just as much as   the New and a forteriori Old Testaments. Hence the universally-accepted convention of   citing the holy fathers in Orthodox polemics, whose writings are almost universally   perceived as equally convincing.


Given the duty of every Orthodox Christian to be guided by the teachings of the church   embodied in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, then his/her attitudes towards Jews and   Judaism must equally be governed by Holy Tradition, since in accordance with Orthodox   teaching the true meaning of Holy Scripture is revealed exclusively through Holy Tradition.   However, due to the particular objective social, religious and historical circumstances   prevailing at that time, Holy Tradition dating from the period of the holy fathers is   suffused with an overt antisemitic spirit. This mood was reflected both in the decisions of   the Ecumenical Councils and in the works of the holy fathers, where Jews were called   "murderers of God" and "a despised people". Generation after generation of Christians were   educated in the spirit of this "teaching of contempt" (to use an expression coined by the   French historian J. Isaac) in relation to Jews, which led to the most terrible persecutions   of the Jews by Christian society over the last seventeen-hundred years.


As has already been noted, religious hatred of the Jews was for centuries also prevalent   in the consciousness of Western Christians. However, the opportunity for the teaching of the   church to evolve, seen in the historical experience and practice of the Roman Catholic   Church, living in the context of a gradual rejection of the old medieval world view and the   growth of anti-clerical tendencies, meant that by the time of the sixteenth century the   fathers of the Council of Trent (1545 - 63) had developed the thesis that the guilt of   Christians, who continue to crucify the Son of God by their own sinfulness, is greater than   the guilt attached to the Jews (21). The Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church   cancelled the guilt of the Jews for the crucifixion of Christ and expressed its "sorrow" for   its antisemitism. In the ensuing thirty years the Catholic theological understanding of   Israel has undergone further significant changes and definitive progress has been made in   Catholic-Jewish relations (22).


Unlike the Catholic Church, the Protestant Church from the outset declared Holy Tradition   to be the work of man. This made it possible to reject prevailing medieval anti-Jewish   concepts and formulate an independent approach to the Jewish question on the basis of new   criteria. Such a step did not entirely rid Protestantism of occasional manifestations of   antisemitism, but it gave an opportunity each time to reassess and reformulate their   religious and philosophical approaches in the context of a changing society. Following the   Holocaust, many Protestant churches adopted a radical position in relation to Jews and   Judaism through their categorical rejection of all forms of antisemitism and anti-Judaism,   of paternalistic attitudes and ultimately through a rejection of any form of missionary   activity among the Jews.


Thus the Western churches had the opportunity in the second half of the twentieth century   to develop a new position in relation to Judaism. Unlike them, the Russian Orthodox Church   has not taken such steps, being wholly governed by the writings of the holy fathers about   the Jews "who crucified Christ". Russian Orthodox teaching still rests on medieval   preconceptions; thus the most extreme Orthodox antisemites can logically claim that their   monstrous anti-Jewish invective is based upon "Church teaching".


If, for example, St John Chrysostom, one of the most esteemed church fathers, called the   Jews "unclean and foul" and the synagogue "a refuge of demons", then, given the accepted   sanctity of Holy Tradition, the Orthodox Christian has no cause to think otherwise. Indeed   nearly all of the most respected church fathers are not distanced from him in their   attitudes towards the Jews, including the most respected church activists from Bishop   Ignatiy Bryanchaninov to St John of Kronstadt (23). Conversely, there is to our knowledge   not even one church father who has professed a genuine love for the Jews in accordance with   the Biblical commandments. In this sense, the position of those modern authors who angrily   denounce antisemites, denying that they are "true" Christians, strikes us as somewhat   bizarre (24). Following such logic one could add the most respected pillars of the Orthodox   Church to the list of "pseudo-Christians" and deny the genuineness of their faith, given the   sorry two-thousand-year history of Judeo-Christian relations. What, then, is true   Christianity?


In order to give some kind of response to this question, attempts have been made to   define the positive tendencies in Christian history which opposed Christian antisemitism,   looking in particular at the Orthodox traditions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth   centuries (25). These attempts were only partly successful: in calling Orthodox believers to   religious tolerance and condemning antisemitism, the overwhelming majority of Orthodox   priests saw the resolution of the Jewish question only in terms of conversion to   Christianity (in the historical context this would take place only in the "last days"). They   attributed the Jewish reluctance to accept Christianity not only to the unworthiness of   Christians themselves, but to the spiritual "blindness" of the Jews. The Jews were often not   perceived so much as brothers but as enemies who had to be "loved".


This infelicitous position, often put forward as an example of a true Christian approach   to the Jews, has been demonstrated by a large body of Western academic research (26) to be   unsuccessful in rooting out Christian antisemitism. There is no exception here, despite the   opinions of contemporary liberal Orthodox thinkers and the views of Russian religious   philosophers on the Jewish question: behind the incoherence and internal contradictions of   their position lies (perhaps involuntarily) the same Christian antisemitism (27). However,   the paradox is in the fact that even if one could find in Orthodox tradition any pro-Jewish   attitudes, this would solve nothing: everyone would select their own elements from Holy   Tradition (28). In our view, the only way out of this impasse would be if the Russian   Orthodox Church would issue a clear and unambiguous statement on this question, reassessing   Holy Tradition as the Roman Catholic Church has done (29).


A whole body of Orthodox tradition, therefore, including the more liberal tendencies,   underlies the contemporary attitudes of clerics and lay people of the Russian Orthodox   Church towards Jews and Judaism (30), which we shall examine below. In order to do this it   is useful to divide Russian Orthodox Christians into four main groups:


1. A relatively small, if active, part of the lower clergy, in which monks play an   important role. The clergy, together with lay activists belong to a number of social and   political movements operating mainly under the banner of Orthodoxy (31), whose outlook and   ideology in essence combine an anti-Jewish and anti-Western ideology (including Western   Christian denominations), as well as anti-democratic tendencies. These organisations include   the Russian National Council, the Russian National Union, the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods   and others. A number of well-known cultural figures – writers, artists, and   cinematographers – belong to this group. Their views are mainly expressed in the journals   "Moskva", "Molodaya gvardiya", "Nash sovremennik" and in the newspapers "Zavtra",   "Russkiy vestnik", "Russkaya gazeta" and others (32). Dozens of books have sprung from the   pen of this group"s ideologues. They put forward various ideas regarding the salvation of   Russia from the "Jewish conspiracy", from the screening of the ethnic and religious   background of prospective holders of government posts, to mass expulsion of the Jewish   community (33).


2. The overwhelming majority of rural and urban parish priests and laypeople who   regularly attend church. They are characterised by a generally low level of religious   education and their church life centres on a conscientious observance of Orthodox rituals   and fasts. For them the Jewish-Christian debate and related issues bear no relation to their   everyday lives, although a degree of underlying suspicion and religious fear of the Jews   does occasionally manifest itself, arising from their sketchy knowledge of Holy Tradition   regarding the Jews "who crucified Christ" (34). This negative attitude towards Jews is   generally a passive one, though in a changing social and political climate, or as a result   of the activity and influence of the first group, one might expect a growth in religious   aggression towards the Jews from this second group, as has been the case on more than one   occasion in Russian history. In this context, education and the democratization of society   take on a particular importance, since they are known significantly to reduce levels of   religious intolerance.


3. The church leadership, the main authors and exponents of the official line of the   church, form a distinct group. The senior hierarchs of the church occupied their high   positions during the Communist era, which has undoubtedly left its mark on their   psychological outlook and on the way in which they conduct church policy. This, in our   opinion, is not based so much on universal Orthodox principles, nor even on the individual   views of a particular hierarch, but on the prevailing socio-political and socio-religious   situation. The financial and economic dependency of the church on the state is too great and   accordingly, when developing a general church position, the hierarchy is forced to gauge the   strength of competing ideologies in the state organs of power. In turn, any important   socio-political movement in modern Russia, resting on "national patriotic", "democratic   reformist" or other principles, holds varying views on the role and position of Orthodoxy in   modern society, as has been demonstrated by the ongoing conflict between various   socio-political forces over the drafting of the Law on Freedom of Conscience (35). The   church leadership, when working out an appropriate line, is forced to waver between   conservative tradition and the demands of the political establishment. There is, moreover, a   whole series of additional factors which influence the position of the church hierarchy:   competing socio-religious interests, internal power struggles and the need to preserve face   in Western church circles.


The uncertainty and instability of Russian political life is reflected in the uncertainty   and instability of the ideological position of the Russian Orthodox Church and its   hierarchy. This affects virtually every area of church life: liturgical reform, social   policy, the ecumenical movement. The problem of antisemitism is subject to the same   contradictions and uncertainties. It did appear that the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia,   Aleksi II, in his speech at the end of 1991 to the rabbis of New York, had more or less   defined the position of the Russian Orthodox Church by addressing the Jews as "brothers" and   making a strenuous rejection of antisemitism in any form. However, it would seem that this   speech, which aroused strong criticism both from the Russian Orthodox Church abroad and from   the Moscow Patriarchate, especially the monastic community (36), has simply evaporated into   thin air and has done nothing to alter the prevailing attitudes in church circles. Quite the   reverse: in the last few years the antisemitic sermons, articles and speeches by the now   deceased Metropolitan of St Petersburg and Ladoga Ioann (Snychev) have been actively   circulated (37). The response of the Moscow Patriarchate has been to limit itself to the   inadequate statement that these are merely the personal views of the Metropolitan.


The Moscow Patriarchate has not reacted in any way to the dozens of openly antisemitic   books which have been published by Orthodox authors, nor to the articles published in the   fascist and neo-fascist press, calling itself "Orthodox". In cathedrals and Orthodox   bookstalls it is perfectly possible to buy a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,   printed under the title of a book by S. Nielus, Velikoye v malom. In addition, openly   antisemitic books have been published from time to time by the church itself (38). The   hierarchy makes no response either to the representations of the few clergy and laypeople   who are troubled by the problem of antisemitism, nor to the appeals of of Western   theologians on the same question (39). Instead, with the exception of Metropolitan Ioann,   who had the full support of the first group of believers described above, the remaining   Russian Orthodox hierarchs prefer not to touch on the Jewish question at all and not to take   any measures in this regard (continuing the long tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church),   choosing instead to limit themselves to general appeals for tolerance and hoping to avoid   being subjected to criticism from both the conservative and democratic factions in the   church (40).


4. Priests campaigning for a renewal in church life who advocate ecumenical dialogue with   members of other Christian denominations, strongly condemning Orthodox antisemitism, form a   distinct fourth group within the Church. Their views are reflected in the journal Logos,   in the newspapers "Russkaya mysl", "Segodnya" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta"; and in the   broadcasts of the Moscow-based radio station "Sofia". There are also laypeople, the majority   of whom are parishioners of churches in Moscow, who share these views. However, this group   of priests and laypeople, who are constantly subjected to the furious attacks of   conservative factions in the Moscovite clergy, is very small and usually sharply criticized   by the official Church (41). Moreover, the contradictions inherent in the Russian Orthodox   position do not allow this group of Orthodox believers to present a more convincing   theological argument in support of their position (42).


Finally we will assess what concrete outcomes may emerge from the attitude of the Russian   Orthodox Church towards the Jews. Religious persecution of the Jews in its medieval form is   unlikely: firstly because it is our hope that Russia will follow a civilised and democratic   path (43); and secondly because, sadly, the Russian Jewish community, the possible object of   such persecution, is slowly being eroded. The main reason for this rapid decline of the   Jewish community is the mass emigration of practising Jews. The population of Russian Jews   at the end of 1993 based on the official census was estimated at less than 400,000 (44). The   majority of religious Jews have emigrated: the overwhelming majority of those who remain are   almost entirely assimilated and secularised. The continuation of democratisation and the   removal of the notorious "fifth paragraph" from passports (designating Jews as a separate   nationality) will probably in a paradoxical way speed up this process of assimiliation.   Furthermore, among the Jewish intelligentsia there have been a number of conversions to   Christianity over the last few decades (45). A whole series of complex sociological factors   still divides the Christian and Jewish communities, excluding the possibility of dialogue.   This does not allow for religious stereotypes to be abandoned for greater mutual   understanding between Jew and Christian (46).


However, neither the low probability of pogroms nor the objective difficulties of   Judeo-Christian relations should become the excuse for stagnation in Christian religious   thought. For it is only through a re-evaluation of the central issues for the Christian of   the fate of Israel, the Jewish roots of Christianity, of antisemitism as the worst sin in   the history of Christianity, that the "crisis of the medieval world view" (to use Vladimir   Soloviev"s expression) can be overcome and a decisive step forward in the history of   Orthodox-Jewish relations be taken, following in the footsteps of Western Christians.

  1. This does not mean that we do not consider the other Christian denominations, which saw renewed activity at the beginning of perestroika, to have religious significance for Russia (see Na puti k svobode sovesti, Moscow, "Progress" 1989, Religiya i demokratiya. Na puti k svobode sovesti, 2nd Edition, Moscow, "Progress", 1993). However, it is difficult to make any firm statements about their relationship to the Jewish community in modern Russia since as far as we know there are no separate sociological or other studies on this theme. A general comparison of the various religious denominations and their relationship with the Jewish faith can be found in the works of L. Vorontsova and S. Filatov. See Bibliography in Russkaya pravoslavnaya tserkov i evreii: XIX-XX vv, Moscow, "Rudomino - Bog Edin", 1994, p.130
  2. In Russia this movement was represented by Evreiskiy mir (The Association of Humanist Jews).
  3. See for example the entry "Jew" in The Interpreter"s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol.2, Nashville, 1962, pp 897-898.
  4. The predominance of the ethnic component of the understanding of the word, evrei, is particular to Russian, thus the combination evrei-khristianin (Jewish-Christian) does not arouse particular surprise. This combination of words is not possible in Western European languages, although the understanding of the word evrei, i.e, Jew, Juif, Jude has to a large extent absorbed both the ethnic and religious meanings: it can imply a practising Jew, a secularised Jew, an ethnically Jewish person who practises Buddhism or any eastern cult, and finally can be used to describe a non-Jew who has adopted the Jewish religion, but it cannot be used for an ethnically Jewish person who has converted to Christianity. The term "converted Jew" might be used, but never simply "Jew". It is no coincidence that within the framework of the Jewish-Christian debate, religious movements in the West which to some degree espouse Christian religious values but have some roots in the ethnically Jewish milieu, would never call themselves "Christian", preferring instead to call themselves "Jews for Jesus", or "Messianic Jews".
  5.  A short bibliography on literature in Russian can be found in our afterword to the book by J.-P. Likhtenberg, Ot pervovo do poslednego iz pravednikov. K istorii evreisko-khristianskikh otnoshenii. Moscow, "Put",1996, pp. 107-8.
  6. Evreiskaya entsyklopediya, St Petersburg, Brockhaus-Yefron, 1906-1912,Vol IX, 516-17.
  7. See for example, M. Yu. Braichevsky, Utverzhdeniye khristianstva na Rusi, Kiev, "Naukova dumka", 1989, pp. 217-223
  8. S. Dudakov, Istoriya odnogo mifa, Moscow, "Nauka", 1993, pp 9-14
  9. It is not inconceivable, incidentally, that some Jews were baptised against their will, along with a significant proportion of the pagan Slav population and that this was designed to test the loyalty of the Jews and expose any secret heresy. See G.M. Barats. Povesti i skazaniya drevnerusskoi pismennosti, imeiushchiye otnosheniye k evreiam i evreistvu, Kiev, Kievskaya starina, 1906.
  10. Evreiskaya Entsyklopedia, vol. II, p.115-116; Kratkaya Evreiskaya entsyklopedia, Jerusalem, 1976- , vol. 7, p. 289.
  11. A brilliant analysis of the complex and contradictory relationship between the Christian population and the Jewish community in the MiddleAges can be found in the book by the modern Jewish historian, J. Katz, Jews in Medieval Europe, Jerusalem, "Biblioteka Alia", 1997, now available in Russian.
  12. There are numerous works which analyse the roots of antisemitism and its manifestations in the Christian world. For more recent general studies on this theme see Gavin I. Langmuir, History, religion and antisemitism, USA, 1990 and Yves Chevalier, L"antis_mitisme, Paris, 1988. For us it is significant that various social groups and Christian organisations had an interest in and participated in anti-Jewish policies.
  13. In pointing out the differences between the Russian Orthodox Church and in particular the Roman Catholic Church regarding their attitudes towards the Jews it does not follow in the least that this is another example of the usual opposition of West and East or Catholicism versus Orthodoxy. The policies of local Eastern Orthodox Churches towards the Jews varied widely – from the more or less tolerant attitude (primarily in the new era) of the Serbian and Bulgarian churches to the clearly antisemitic views of the Greek Orthodox and particularly the Romanian Orthodox churches. See Kratkaya Evreiskaya Entsyklopedia, vol. 6, 729-733.
  14. For a general analysis of the policies of the Western Christian churches towards the Jews see the popular book by Malcolm Hay Thy brother"s blood: Christian Roots of Antisemitism, New York: Hart Publishing Co., 1975, now available in Russian.
  15. It is no coincidence that in the entry on "Orthodoxy" in the seventh volume of the Kratkaya Evreiskaya Entsyklopedia, devoted to the Russian Orthodox Church (pp. 733-743), where numerous examples are given of persecution of the Jews in Russia, including religious persecution, no evidence is given of the direct participation of the church, either in legislative terms or in the conduct of policy. Although the authors of the article state that the active role of the Church in inciting the government to conduct anti-Jewish acts (for example in the case of Ivan the Terrible"s policy in the defeated territories) is "obvious", no facts are given in their article to support this.
  16. See Pravoslavnaya tserkov" i evreii: XIX - XX vv. The most important extracts from the speeches of Russian church hierarchs in defence of the Jews can be found in the important article by V.N. Toporov: " "Spor ili druzhba?"" in collection AQUINOX. Sbornik pamyati o. Aleksandra Menia, Moscow 1991, pp. 91-162.
  17. There are many historical studies which analyse the difficult legal position of the Russian Jews. However this does not prevent a well-meaning author from leading his readers astray. For example, V.N. Toporov, in the above mentioned article, while noting that Jews were subjected to all kinds of injustices: "violence, lies, slander’, oncentrates his attention on "positive facts". He gets so carried away by these that he comes to the conclusion that "the secular authorities, government administration and the church guarded the gradually increasing rights of Jews" (p. 99) and that "society in general defended the rights of the Jewish population" (ibid.). It is difficult to imagine how such an erudite scholar cannot fail to have realised that the social and economic position of Jews in pre-revolutionary Russia was worsening, and that even the half-baked projects aimed at improving their situation did not see the light of day; that anti-Jewish feeling was on the increase, reaching its highest point in the last decades before the Revolution, culminating in pogroms, "bloody slander", the appearance of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; that dozens of the most talented cultural figures in Russia, from Lermontov to Blok were to a greater or lesser extent antisemitic. Like many other members of the Russian intelligentsia (there is apparently no other explanation), V.N.Toporov is unconsciously falling into the trap of presenting the desirable as fact.
  18. See the book by Richard Pipes Russia under the Old Regime, Cambridge, Mass., 1981. We agree wholeheartedly with his views.
  19. Archpriest Foma Khopko, Osnovy pravoslaviya, New York, 1987, p.9
  20. Orthodox catechisms and the works of Orthodox theologians at times point to a hierarchy of importance within Holy Tradition, and to the religious value only of the declarations of the Holy Fathers which are not in contradiction to each other (so called consensus patrum). They also point to the need to make the distinction between personal theological positions and church teaching, to the possibility of theological development etc. However, in practice a more or less detailed corresponding analysis of the religious heritage of the holy fathers, let alone a reassessment of church dogma, has never been undertaken.
  21. See J.-P. Likhtenberg, Ot pervogo do poslednego iz pravednikov, pp. 53-54.
  22. Ibid, p.101, 511–61
  23. See Israil v proshlom, nastoyashchem i budushchem, Sergiev Posad, 1915; Protoierei Ioann Sergiev(Kronstadtskiy), Nachalo i konets nashego zemnogo mira, St Petersburg, 1904.
  24. See articles by M. Chaikovskiy, Z.A. Krakhmalnikova, in Russkaya ideia i evrei, Moscow, "Nauka", 1994.
  25. See Pravoslavnaya tserkov i evreii: XIX-XX vv.
  26. See A.Roy Eckhardt, Elder and Younger Brothers, New York, 1967, which gives an extensive bibiliography of works on this important theme.
  27. See Taina Israilya, Sofia, St Petersburg, 1993. S. Lezov, in his article, "Natsionalnaya ideia i khristianstvo", Russkaya ideia i evrei, gives a convincing critique of the views of N.A.Berdyaev – commonly seen as one of the most liberal Russian religious philosophers – on Jews and Judaism. The recent publication of archive materials in the press has similarly caused a sensation: A.F. Losev, the leading light of the Soviet intelligentsia, considered by many to be a fine example of integrity and scholarship has been revealed to be an ideologue of antisemitism in its classical medieval form. See "Segodnya", October 18, 1996, p. 5
  28. Here parallels can be drawn with the religious heritage of Nil Sorski and Iosif of Volotsk, two outstanding activists in the fifteenth century Russian Church, whose views on the most important questions of church life are diametrically opposed. They have both been elevated to sainthood by the church, so the Orthodox Christian has a choice: should he follow the opinions of Iosif of Volotsk that, "to beat the transgressor and heretic with bare hands is akin to prayer", or obey the command of Nil Sorski, "try not to blame nor judge anyone in anything".
  29. A positive role here may also be played by the position that has been observed by many researchers, but which is quite unknown to the main mass of Orthodox clergy and laity: the theological non-acceptance of Judaism in Orthodox teaching paradoxically coexists with a veneration for Old Testament saints in Orthodoxy, with a clear link being made between the ancient synagogue worship and Byzantine Orthodox worship which are similar in structure with their yearly liturgical cycles and so on. The education needed in this field could significantly change the relationship of Orthodox believers to Judaism. See: C.W. Dugmore, The Influence of the Synagogue upon the Divine Office, London, 1964; E. Werner, The Sacred Bridge - The Interdependence of Liturgy and Music in Synagogue and Church during the First Millenium, London, 1959; D. Flusser, Die Sakramente und das Judentum, Judaica 39 (1983), pp. 3-18.
  30. The position presented here, from which follows the conclusion about the fundamental contradiction rooted in the very dogmatic structure and apologetics of Orthodoxy, cannot help but evoke disbelief and protest among some believers who do not see themselves outside Orthodoxy and at the same time categorically do not accept antisemitism. Some of these Orthodox (clergy and laity) I have had the honour of knowing personally, and I have the deepest respect for them. On the basis of a number of conversations with them, I consider that their arguments on the given question can be summed up as follows: the value of Orthodoxy consists in the main not in the historically formed relationship of "Scripture toTradition" nor in the theoretical and practical conclusions which flow from this relationship, but in the truly ancient liturgical structure, in the emotional effect of eastern Orthodox church rituals and singing, in the incomparable beauty and inspiring quality of Orthodox churches where you sense "the real presence of God". Those things which suit the enlightened spirit and cultural situation of believers emerge haphazardly from the Orthodox inheritance. In other words, the theological basis of Orthodoxy as a whole is not, as it were, taken into consideration and is not seen as significant for religious practice. Anti-Judaic Orthodoxy is in no way reflected in a similar emotional and subjective perception of the Orthodox faith, but its historical relapses which have survived reveal this Orthodoxy in the liturgical texts which are due to be changed. However, it is easy to see that the priority given to emotional and individual subjectivity in such a perception does not inspire much confidence: there are not, after all, many sensitive people who value ancient aesthetics and see Orthodoxy through this prism. The overwhelming majority of people see their religious alliegiance as obedience to authoritative church teaching (as in the case of Orthodoxy, Catholicism and the main Protestant denominations) or to the teaching of charismatic sectarian leaders, and formulate their convictions in conformity with the theological principles which have been inculcated into them. We already know the theological principles applied by Orthodox teaching to Jews and Judaism. Admittedly, a positive role can be played by the differentiation of church Tradition, by the blessing of church authority, and, on the other hand, by its criticism on various fronts (see footnote 20) - however, even if the work is completed, can we begin to talk about Orthodoxy in its classical definition? For if such were the case it would be necessary to reexamine or at least to give an entirely new meaning to the fundamental theological postulates of Orthodoxy on "the rejection" of the Jews by God, on the replacement of the "Old" Testament by the "New" and so on. But will this not be some new teaching which has nothing in common with historical Orthodoxy, and, above of all, with the Orthodoxy of the Church Fathers?
  31. Some nationalist organisations declare themselves to be pagan or neo-pagan, claiming that Christianity is a "Jewish invention".
  32. Some of these papers which say they are "Orthodox", e.g. "Zemshchina","Tushino", "Russkoye Voskreseniye" and others concentrate almost entirely on the Jewish question. These publications advocate the most virulent antisemitism. They are periodically tried in court on grounds of incitement to racial hatred, but do not receive any real punishment. Sometimes these newspapers are banned, but immediately reappear under a new name. To all intents and purposes, the laws regarding the ban on the publication of fascist material, acting as incitement to racial and religious hatred are simply not working.
  33. "Poetomu my dolzhny gnat IKH v sheiu.." (So we must throw THEM out neck!...) "Russkoye Voskreseniye", no 4/12, p.4. It is interesting to note that the medieval idea that the baptism of Jews could act as a means of their salvation and as a protection against all the ills perpetrated on them by Christian society is no longer considered valid by today"s more extreme "Orthodox" antisemites. Thus: "It is to be hoped that Archpriest Alexander Men has atoned for the sin of ecumenism by his death. For, as St Serafim of Sarov states (? - Yu. Tabak), for a Jew the only possible path of salvation is to accept an agonising death for the sake of our Lord" (ibid., p.1). Obviously this is linked with the growth of the racial aspects of antisemitism, which began to develop in the nineteenth century when people began to believe that even religious conversion could not rescue the Jews from their racial deficiency and their "satanic" nature.
  34. See Pravoslavnaya tserkov i evrei: XIX–XX vv. This contains the first and to our knowledge the only sociological study which compares the attitudes of Orthodox and atheists to Jews (V. Borzenko, "Antisemitizm i pravoslaviye v sovremennoi Rossii", pp 99-106). This study was published in 1992. Both Orthodox and atheists were categorised according to age and education. The results led the author to the somewhat surprising conclusion that there is a lower level of anti-semitism among Orthodox believers than among atheists. However, Borzenko did not take into account a very important factor, that the majority of those surveyed were nominally Orthodox, in the context of the traditional identification "Russian =Orthodox". This is demonstrated in, for example, the interesting research conducted by L. Byzov and S. Filatov ("Religiya i obshchestvo segodnya" in Religiya i demokratiya, pp. 9–42) in which only 13% of those declaring themselves Orthodox in Moscow said that they "believe in God" (p. 28). At present, therefore, the boundary between Orthodox and atheist in the majority of cases is very fluid and it would seem senseless to draw any real conclusions from the answers given by "Orthodox" or "atheists". Moreover, many other factors – other than age and education, such as regional particularities, professional status etc. – have not been taken into account, which renders Borzenko"s selection even of strictly Orthodox respondents unrepresentative. It is obviously no accident that the more systematic approach of L. Byzov and S. Filatov yields different results: according to their research, practising Orthodox Christians are more prejudiced in their attitude towards Jews and Judaism, than non-believers (p. 32).
  35. See Materialy parliamentskikh slushanii: Svoboda sovesti i prava cheloveka v Rossiiskoi Federatsii, Analiticheskiy vypusk, No.13, Moscow, Gumanitary, 1995.
  36. See Speech by Patriarch Aleksii to the Rabbis of New York, 13 November1991, USA, 1992. (Issued in Russia by "TOO Pallada" publishers, 1992); "Molim vas - prislushaityes" in Russkaya pravoslavnaya tserkov v sovetskoye vremya, vol II, Moscow, "Propilei", 1995, pp 335-338. Rumour has it that some sections of the monastic community have even stopped using the patriarch"s name at the celebration of the liturgy.
  37. The basic ideas of Metropolitan Ioann can be found in his book, Samoderzhaviye dukha, St Petersburg, 1994. See also a detailed review in I. Levinskaya, "Ranny Gitler, Pozdny Stalin, niezlobivy Ivan Grozniy i drugiye", Barier, St Petersburg 1994, pp. 11-13.
  38. For example the Memoirs of Prince Zhevakhov, prepared for publication by the publishing department of the Spasso-Preobrazhenskiy Staropigal"ny Monastery.
  39. See Pravoslavnaya tserkov i evrei:XIX-XXvv., pp 81, 82, 92; Yu. Tabak,"Ochen" aktualno, no sovershenno secretno", "Megapolis-Express", No. 18/30, August 1990, p.13.
  40. One can only guess at the views of the church hierarchy on the Christian-Jewish question. However, there are moments when the veil of secrecy is lifted: Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, an educated man, a gifted orator and experienced administrator who is widely tipped to be the next patriarch, unexpectedly announced at an evening dedicated to the memory of Anne Frank that the suffering and death of Jews during the Second World War had an "atoning significance" (Kratkaya Evreiskaya Entsyklopedia, vol. 6, p.742)
  41. Mainly for their "pro-Catholic", "ecumenical" and "reformist" views. See "Russkaya mysl", 24-30 October 1994, pp 8-9.
  42. Only archpriest Vitali Borovoy (who incidentally belongs to the more conservative circles in the church) has tried to find the reasons for the sin of antisemitism in the Orthodox church tradition. See V. Borovoy "Christian Orthodoxy in the Modern World" in Orthodox Christians and Jews on Contiunity and Renewal, Immanuel 26/27, Jerusalem 1994. Other Orthodox authors, many of whose views we share (A. Kyrlezhev, "Zachem evreii khristianam?", "Evreiskaya gazeta", No.1-2, 1994; V.N. Toporov, op.cit.), skirt round this question and are led by their own personally-held theological opinions.
  43. Although there are single tragic events, such as the recent desecration of Jewish graves and the arson attacks on the Moscow synagogues, which unfortunately may recur in the future, as in many other countries where there is a Jewish population, anti-semitism has not died out. However this type of vandalism at present is to my mind more a product of racism or general hooliganism than a conscious demonstration of religious (Christian) anti-semitism.
  44. Kratkaya Yevreiskaya Entsyklopediya , vol.7, Jerusalem, 1994, col.402. It follows, admittedly, that the statistical data for the Jewish population of Russia, given in foreign sources, are usually higher than the data of Russian statistics, sometimes almost twice as high (I am grateful for this information to Professor Donna Arzt, of the Faculty of Jurisprudence, University of Syracuse, USA).
  45. Obviously the number of baptised Jews is insignificant in comparison with the total number of Russian Jews. Conversions to Christianity have taken place mainly in Moscow and a number of other large towns. It is important however, to note that many converts belonged to the cultural elite which created a spiritual and intellectual environment to counterbalance Soviet "spirituality". The christianization of the Russian intelligentsia under Communist regime, and in particular of the Jews, (in the majority of cases influenced by the ideas and teaching of the prominent priest Aleksander Men of Jewish origin himself) was a unique and contradictory process which merits closer study. See T. Ptushkina, G.Yeremeyev, "U Kosmy i Damiana" in Pravoslavnaya tserkov i evreii:XIX-XX vv., pp 118-123; L. Vorontsova, S.Filatov "Rossiiskiye evreii i Tserkov v zerkale sotsiologii". Ibid, pp 130, 133. As for the activity of Protestant-type missionary organisations which specialise in the conversion of Jews ("Jews for Jesus", "Messianic Jews" and others) despite their extensive activity, they would appear not to have achieved any significant results.
  46. See our article: Yu. Tabak: "The Difficulties and Perspectives of Jewish Christian Inter-religious Dialogue" in the collection Dia-Logos. Religia i obshchestvo, 1997, Moscow, "Istina i Zhizn", 1997, pp. 43-60.
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