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Russian Religion. Russian Orthodox Christianity

Religions in Russia, Orthodox Cultural Traditions

Russian girls Orthodox Church

Russian Orthodox Christianity is the largest religion in Russia since it was adopted in the 9th century AD and is professed by about 75% of Russians who consider themselves religious believers.

The "official" church in Russian Federation is Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow Eparchy, which is supported by the official government.

During the communist era, the church, like every other institution in the Soviet Union, was completely subordinate to the state. Since the Soviet Union promoted "scientific atheism", severely repressed all religious organizations, and destroyed or took over many religious properties and sacred objects.

The recent revitalization of religious identification and practice has been swift and strong among adherents of Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism, although many Jews have emigrated. Indigenous shamanism is also being revived among many Siberian and Mongolian peoples. The state has returned thousands of churches, mosques, and temples as well as icons and other religious objects appropriated during the Soviet period to their respective communities. Monasteries and religious schools and training centers for all faiths have sprung up or reopened, and the number of religious practitioners has more than doubled since the 1970s. There has also been an explosion of alternative and New Age spiritual movements, publications, and practitioners.

Most of ethnic Russians identify themselves as Orthodox Christians, although the vast majority are not regular churchgoers

Islam has been important throughout Russian history. It has been the major religion in the northern Caucasus since the eighth century and in the Volga region since the tenth. Today, Islam is the second largest religion, after Russian Orthodoxy, with at least 19 million practitioners, and among ethnic minorities most Tatars, Bashkirs, Kazakhs, Chechens, and Avars, are Sunni Muslim. Moscow is a center of Islam in Russia, with many active mosques and organizations to serve the one to two million Muslims in Moscow. There are significant populations in many other large cities as well.

Before the revolution Judaism was regarded as an ethnicity but not a religious identity and and most of Russia's Jews were confined to rural settlements and endured constant persecution. From the 1970s, a slow rediscovery of Jewish tradition, both sacred and secular, has occurred.

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Buddhism was officially recognized in Russia in 1741. It is the primary religion of ethnic Buryats, Kalmyks, and Tuvans. Harshly persecuted under Stalin, when most temples and monasteries were destroyed and lamas murdered or sent to the Gulag, Buddhism has made a steady revival, and today claims several million adherents, among ethnic Slavs as well as traditionally Buddhist populations.

Roman Catholicism is practiced mainly be ethnic Poles, Germans, and Lithuanians. Various Protestant sects are long established, especially among ethnic Ukrainians, and in the years since perestroika foreign evangelical sects have sought adherents among nonbelievers and members of other religious groups.

Even though most Russian nationals identify themsleves as Orthodx Christians, not a big percent of citizens live an active religious life: actively particpate in church activities, but the observance of key holidays is increasing.

The statisctic research shows that only 3,6% visit church once a week. One fifth of the respondents go to churn on religious holidays. Women tend to visit church twice as much as men and elderly people do this more often then the youth. About 46% percent of the respondents never go to church. So the majority of church goers are elderly people and women.

A Russian mother with her just baptised child

Some features that can be characteristic of Russian or Ukrainian "cultural" Orthodoxies is that they go to church quite rarely, on religious holidays only or to "light a candle" and remember a close person who is dead. They are seldom well-aware of religious postulates or have read the Bible. They are not used to discussing their faith openly in public or with other people. The general attitude that this is what fanatic old women do. Most people address to the God in a quick prayer to help at the exams or with health problems. It is quite rare that children are taught to pray in the family and family follows all the religious rules. Many people fast for keeping in a good physical, emotional and spiritual shape, then due to the church requirements. Russians normally show tolerance and respect to other religious denominations. Many educated people know world history, culture and origin of different religions.

Anyway people baptise children and order services for the dead as well as some other Christian rituals, but in many cases it is still caused by Orthodox cultural tradition.

The following Eastern Orthodox Church traditions are popular and often observed by Russians.

Icons:

Orthodox tradition teaches that icons have their origin in the first portraits painted of the Mother of God the Virgin Mary and child The tradition of painting icons started in Russia following the conversion of the Kievan Rus' to Orthodox Christianity in 988AD. In all times family icons where the largest treasures for family members, the icons were passed from parents to children, each newly formed family got icons at least two icons - the icon of our Lord Jesus Christ and icon of the Most Holy Mother of God - were given by parents in wedding day for the church wedding ceremony)

Russian girls Orthodox Church

Praying and Prayer Rules

According to the centuries-old Orthodox tradition, the power and energy of God is present in the holy name of Jesus The Eastern Orthodox Tradition has developed a special form of prayer ('inward meditation'), that consists of the constant repetition of a short formula of prayer, such as the Jesus prayer: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner'. There are also shorter formulae: 'Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me', or 'Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me', or even 'Christ, have mercy' and 'Lord, have mercy'. Stillness is essential for the praying, the prayer should be simple and unsophisticated. Prayer, stillness, silence and humility are deeply connected with repentance, which is another Christian Orthodoxy essential.

Fasting

The number of fast days varies from year to year, but in general the Orthodox Christian can expect to spend a little over half the year fasting at some level of strictness.

Fasting is seen as purification and the regaining of innocence. Through obedience to the Church and its ascetic practices the Orthodox Christian seeks to rid himself or herself of the passions. In general, fasting means abstaining from meat and meat products, dairy (eggs and cheese) and dairy products, fish, olive oil, and wine. Wine and oil-and, less frequently, fish-are allowed on certain feast days when they happen to fall on a day of fasting; but animal products and dairy are forbidden on fast days, with the exception of "Cheese Fare" week which precedes Great Lent, during which dairy products are allowed. Married couples also abstain from sexual relations on fast days. The times of fasting are part of the ecclesiastical calendar, and the method of fasting is set by the Holy Canons and Sacred Tradition.

Russian Christmas

Thirteen days after Western Christmas, on January 7th, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates its Christmas, in accordance with the old Julian calendar. It's a day of both solemn ritual and joyous celebration.

After the 1917 Revolution, Christmas was banned throughout Russia, along with other religious celebrations. It wasn't until 75 years later, in 1992, that the holiday was openly observed. Today, it's once again celebrated in grand fashion, with the faithful participating in an all-night Mass in incense-filled Cathedrals amidst the company of the painted icons of Saints. Christmas is one of the most joyous traditions for the celebration of Eve comes from the Russian tradition

More about Russian Christmas

Orthodox Easter

The feast of the Resurrection of Jesus, called Paskha (or Pascha, Orthodox Easter) in Russia and Catholic Easter Day usually fall on different dates as different calendars are used to calculate the dates in Eastern and Western traditions. Normally Eastern (Orthodox) Easter is one week later then Western one.

More about Russian Easter

Marriage in the Orthodox Church

Marriage in the Orthodox Church is the joining of one man and one woman into one flesh. A family is seen as "minor Church" in the Christian doctrine. The purpose of forming a family is not only procreation. The primary purpose concerns mutual help required for finding salvation.

In accordance with the Russian church wedding traditions, a groom and bride should go to confession and receive communion on the eve of the nuptials. The mystery of nuptials comprises two parts: a betrothal and a nuptial benediction. The betrothal service is conducted at the door of the church or the vestibule. The priest blesses the couple's rings and puts the rings in the couple's right hands. The groomsman than exchanges the rings between the bride and groom three times. This means that the bride and groom's lives are now entwined forever. The wedding rings symbolize the infinity of marriage

The Priest asks the couple if they've come of their own free will. Once the couple answers, the Priests leads them into the church and to the altar.

When the couple arrives at the altar, they are given lightened candles, which they hold throughout the service. The candles handed to the newlyweds by a priest are the symbol of purity and chastity, the embodiment of joy transpired by virtue of an encounter of two people in love.

The Priest joins the right hands of the couple and they listen to several passages from the Bible. The Priest then blesses the crowns that the bride and groom will wear. The symbolism of the crowns include that of creating a new house, which the bride and groom preside over. Crowns can be as simple as a wreath of flowers or as ornate as a real, jeweled gold crown.

The crowns are presented to the bride and groom. Each kisses the crown before the Priest puts in on their head. The couple drink from a common cup, signifying they will share their happiness and sorrows together.

Finally, the Priest leads them around the altar three times. The circle around the altar represents eternal marriage since a circle has no beginning and no end. The Priest then uncouples the bride and groom's hands symbolizing that only God can now come between them.

Traditional music is used for the processional and recessional, but old hymns and chants are used throughout the wedding service.

Weddings cannot be scheduled during the Lenten season The Church does recognize that there are rare occasions when it is better that couples do separate, but there is no official recognition of civil divorces

Baptism and Chrismation

The first two are Baptism and Chrismation. Baptism of adults and infants is by immersion in water three times in the name of the Trinity and is both the initiation into the Church and a sign of forgiveness of sins.

Chrismation follows immediately after baptism and is by anointing with holy oil called Chrism. Chrismation is followed by Holy Communion. This means that in the Orthodox Church babies and children are fully communicant members of the Church.

Intercession of saints. Patron saints.

In Russian Orthodox Church there is a tradition of believe in the intercession of saints. Every person who was baptized was named in honor of a specific saint, it is considered that this saint is a patron for the whole life. There are patron saints of occupations and activities, patron saints of ailments, illness and dangers, patron saints of places.

See the Calendar of name days (Angel's days)

Death and Funerals

Orthodox Christians believe the body of the Christian is sacred, since it was the temple of the Holy Spirit and will be restored at the resurrection

The Orthodox funeral consists of three services: The vigil, or Trisagion, after death, is usually conducted by a priest at the wake. The people pray to Christ to give rest with the Saints to the soul of Your servant where there is neither pain, grief, nor sighing but life everlasting. While the people pray for the soul of the deceased, great respect is paid to the body.

The funeral service is continued at the church, where the body is brought on the day of burial. Normally, the divine liturgy (Mass) is celebrated. After the funeral service, the congregation offers its farewell to the deceased.

The Trisagion is repeated at the graveside. Memorial services may be offered in the church on the 3rd, 9th and 40th days after death. Those who commit suicide are considered to have died outside the Church and are not granted Church funeral rites.

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