Around 300 participants from 55 cities of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine are taking part in the exhibition called 'Pravoslavnaya Rus' (Orthodox Russia), dedicated to the development of Orthodox and popular art and the restoration of churches.
The Russian Orthodox Church, with a history more than one thousand years old, is said to have begun after Apostle Andrew, stopped at the Kievan hills while preaching the gospel to bless the future city of Kiev. Although believers were present since then, ‘majestic churches’ weren’t built until the 10th century.
Nearly 100 years later, in the 11th century, monasteries, which played a tremendous role in Russia, began to develop. During that time, St. Anthony of the Caves founded the famous Monastery of the Caves in Kiev that was to become the center of religious life in Old Russia. The greatest service the monasteries did to the Russian people, apart from their purely spiritual work, was that they were major centers of education. In particular, monasteries recorded in their chronicles all the major historical events in the life of the Russian people. Flourishing in monasteries were icon painting and literary art. They were also those who translated into Russian various theological, historical and literary works.
In the 12th century, the period of feudal divisions, the Russian Church remained the only bearer of the idea of unity of the Russian people, resisting the centrifugal aspirations and feudal strife among Russian princes.
As decades passed, the Russian Orthodox Church continued to play an important role in the revival of unified Russia. Outstanding Russian bishops acted as spiritual guides and assistants to the Princes of Moscow.
In 1448, not long before the Byzantine Empire collapsed, the Russian Church became independent from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Metropolitan Jonas, installed by the Council of Russian bishops that year, was given the title of Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia.
The beginning of the 17th century proved to be a hard time for Russia as the Poles and Swedes invaded Russia from the west. At this time of trouble the Russian Church was said to have fulfilled its patriotic duty before the people with honor, as it did before. The heroic defense of St. Sergius' Monastery of the Trinity from the Swedes and Poles between 1608-1610 has been inscribed forever in the chronicle of the Russian state and the Russian Church.
In the Synodal period of its history from 1721 to 1917, the Russian Church paid a special attention to the development of religious education and mission in provinces. Old churches were restored and new churches were built. The beginning of the 19th century was marked by the work of brilliant theologians. Russian theologians also did much to develop such sciences as history, linguistics and Oriental studies.
Beginning in 1943, a "thaw" began in relations between church and state. The Church, however, remained always under state control and any attempts to spread its work outside its walls were met with a strong rebuff including administrative sanctions.
The Russian Orthodox Church was in a hard situation during the so called "Khrushchev's thaw" as well when thousands of churches throughout the Soviet Union were closed "for ideological reasons".
Later, however, the celebrations devoted to the Millennium of the Baptism of Russia, which acquired a national importance, gave a fresh impetus to church-state relations and compelled 'the powers that be' to begin a dialogue with the Church, building these relations on the basis of recognition of the great historical role it had played in the fortunes of the Motherland and its contribution to the formation of the nation's moral traditions.
Earlier this month, Russia’s President, Vladmir Putin’s addressed bishops from the Russian Orthodox Church during their quadrennial synod, recognizing the "special contribution of Orthodoxy to the history of Russia and to the establishment and development of Russia's spirituality and culture."