Religious Importance in Russia

When thinking about Russian architecture, it is quite common to almost instinctively picture the large, colorful churches that are scattered around the country. With churches such as Saint Basil’s and Cathedral of Christ the Savior being right in the middle of the bustling city of Moscow, it is easy to see the comparison between the modern new school city life, meeting the more traditional, religious Russian historical influence. However, the image above tells a somewhat different story. Upon first glance, the picture drew me in because it shows a church that, despite being in a more modest fishing settlement, still shows some of the same features as the larger churches previously mentioned. This could be said to be a result of the importance that society, during this Imperial time period, placed on the Russian Orthodox Church.

When this picture was taken, Prokudin-Gorskii was along the route on which the Murmansk Railroad was built, around a village named Soroka. This picture was taken at this location during 1915. Upon further research, I found that this church was built in the 1860s, when it was dedicated to Saint Zosima and Saint Savvatyi. This fits in with the idea that during the time of Imperial Russia, religion played a very important part within the Russian society. While the Orthodox Church was perceived as being of the utmost importance during the Imperial time, this was something that which highly criticized when reform came about; with critics stating that the church itself created many societal norms.

However, despite these critiques of the church, there were still a variety of different religious sentiments that found their way back into society. Interestingly enough, during the beginning of the twentieth century philosophers created something, which was known as the St. Petersburg Religious-Philosophical Meetings; during which they called for people to continue to think about religion and consider it something that was important. With the Murmansk Railroad, connecting St. Petersburg with many different villages, such as the one pictured above, one could argue that people who shared similar ideologies with these philosophers could very well have continued to use the church above.

One could also make not of the fact that shortly after this picture was taken; atheism began to rise along with the implementation of the Soviet ideologies. If we take a look at this picture, we can see that while the simple church is still standing and does have architecture similar to the large scale churches today, it also has a very weathered look to it. One could attribute this to the Marxist beliefs that were shared by Soviet leaders during the early twentieth century; something which created a roller-coaster effect on the importance of religion, and religious beliefs, within the Russian culture.



Frede, Victoria. Doubt, Atheism, and the Nineteenth-Century Russian Intelligentsia. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2011.

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia. A History, 3rd Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Leatherbarrow, William and Offord, Derek. A History of Russian Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.


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5 thoughts on “Religious Importance in Russia

  1. I think you were certainly correct when you said thinking about Russia inspires the thought of “colorful churches scattered around the country.” I certainly know that that is the first thought that comes to my mind. On the note you made regarding criticisms of the church, it was stated that critics thought that “the church itself created many societal norms.” I wonder if this frustration with the amount of churches in Russia creating societal norms is a contributing factor to the rise of Atheism you mentioned in your last paragraph. I just think it’s really interesting, and rather contradictory, that right after the church was built that a rise of atheism occurred! Really interesting and cool!


  2. This is an insightful post with particularly good sources. As I’m sure you could’ve guessed the church remains a powerful, rather controversial part of Russian society throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. I encourage you to keep paying attention to the role of the church as an ideological force as well as architecture in general as the class continues.


  3. I like how your blog went over the different contradictions of religion and churches in Russia. I like how your post showed the timeline of the church and what was also going on in the country at the same time. You mentioned how in the 1860s, when the church was built it “fits with the idea that during the Imperial Russia, religion played a very important part within Russian society.” Then at the end you mentioned how atheism was rising during the 1910s. It really helped me follow along with your blog and the different elements of Russia’s history with religion and churches. Well done!


  4. Your post did a good job of discussing many different aspects of religion. I liked that you included critiques of the church and how it has evolved throughout the years. I wonder if the church setting so many societal norms is why many went to atheist. It would be interesting to see the breakdown of how religion is interacting with society now. Good post!


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