Lora Gerd

The Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Russian Church policy in the Near East in 1900-1917


The realtions between Russia and the Greek population of the Ottoman Empire of the XVIII-beginning of the XX cent. were carried through the Greek church authorities and the Russian diplomatic legations in Turkey. The church policy was one of the most important control-levers of the Russian policy in the East Mediterraneum. The archive materials (the papers of the Russian Holy Synod and the Constantinople patriarchate) give us an opportunity to reconstruct the steps of these relations. The centre of Russian presence in Turkey–the embassy in Constantinople had a special member of staff who dealt with the church problems and a special agent to bring information. In the beginning of the XXth century these places were occupied by B. Serafimov and A. Garmmatopoulo. While the members of the embassy dealt with the |Patriarch, the consuls in all Turkish cities had permanent contacts with the metropolitans as heads of the Greek communities. The main line of the Russian diplomats was the tarditional one–protection of the rights and privileges of the Christian population of the Ottoman empire. The most important political and national problem at the Balkans of the beginning of the XX century was the Macedonian question. The church struggle between the Greeks of the Patriarchate and the Bulgarians of the Exarchate had to divide Macedonia into zones of influence. Russia attempted to put an end to the so called Bulgarian ecclesiastic schism, proclaimed in 1872, and to create an independent territory under its own influence. A series of negotiations were carried through in the second patriarchate of Ioakeim III. They were most intensive in the period of preparation of the Balkan war of 1912. But all these attempts could not bring a positive result because of the unwilling of both the Greek and the Bulgarian sides. The Russian monastic communities on Mount Athos represented a significant compact mass of Russian population (about 4500) in the Greek lands. The Russian monks on Athos were subordinated to the patriarch of Constantinople but were as well protected by the Russian embassy and the consulate of Thessaloniki. The liberation of Athos in 1912 brought a discussion on the status of Athos–had it to become an internationalized territory under the protectorate of the six Orthodox states (the Russian position) or it had to be a part of the Greek kingdom (the Greek position). The rights of the Russian communities and the number of their inhabitants were an item of severe polemics and struggle between the Greek and the Russian population of the Holy Land. In order to influence the situation the Russian diplomatic authorities tried to use different measures–to retain the incomes of the big Greek communities which they got from Moldavia and Valachia, etc.

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