Journal of Eastern Christian Studies 58(1-2), 85-104. doi: 10.2143/JECS.58.1.2017737 2006 by Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. All rights reserved.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union in1991 the Baltic region underwentimportant changes, some for the better
and some for the worse. Sometimes eye-catching but more often less pretentious
Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius considerably.
interesting subject of inquiry. First, tak-
it is the largest Christian confession in
tions the foreign press focussed intensely
on the position of the large ethnic Russ-
‘prostitution centre of Europe’ and Narva
on the Russian/Estonian border the ‘ugli-
est city of Europe’. Trafficking of women
non-Russian cultural setting. Third, thelinkage with the spiritual centre
text’ that was sponsored by the Nether-
lands Organisation for Scientific Research
tion for the Roman Catholic and theGreek Catholic Churches in Central and
the 1990s. The Priestless Old Believers’
and very high suicide rates, for example,
social order to a dynamic society of free
individuals carries with it hazards as well
2 April, the flags of Estonia, Latvia and
choose, the news they read, and, in Esto-
selves: Could these former ‘occupants’,
‘New Europe’ is politically very much
the ‘Old Europe’, at least the Baltic gov-
Russian historiography, state officialsand Patriarch Alexey II all alike depict
tsarist and Soviet past and ever-increas-
still is a major concern throughout post-
communist Central and Eastern Europe.
‘class enemies’, destroyed national cul-
Lithuania, where very low fertility rates
nations have been struggling for eco-nomic sovereignty from their Russian
2005), p. 20. National pride in Lithuania
is lowest in Europe, a bit more intense in
Estonia and quite outspoken in Latvia.
is able to keep a grip on the region. Rus-
to the support of the Moscow loyalists.
issues. In both Latvia and Estonia, Russ-
The Patriarch’s visit to Estonia was post-
fulfil specific language requirements and
institutional support. ‘Mother Russia’
voiced severe criticism, and at times the
out to be a bridge too far for the rather
World War II remains open to varyingand controversial interpretations. The
more on the tainted past of their ‘near
being eaten by wolves or by bears is allthe same. The Soviet occupation in 1940
and subsequent ‘liberation’ by Nazi Ger-
divisions participated in the military cam-
The nationality question also reflects on
religious and national self-identification
in Estonia to 4,600 and tripled in Latvia,
during the same period. This has resulted
started to slide after 1989, were on their
fifth of all Latvian newly-weds had their
exception to a very strict rule. In Esto-
their future, and even a little more than
Lithuania. Still, the abortion rate is high,
especially in post-Soviet countries.
(4th) and Latvia (6th) in close pursuit.
health risks of all sorts, the cases of sex-
on the decline, but they are still higher
than in the beginning of the 1990s. Onthe brink of the new millennium life
weddings seems to indicate that a Latvianethnic background plays a decisive role.
facts of an ageing population as well.
And, what is more, it will face the tough-
Religious diversity has increased further
In spite of increased health problems,it must be clear that the change from
Female suicide is relatively high in most
Organization officials applaud the trans-
ficult it is to give clear-cut explanations.
It was a rare phenomenon before 1940,religion is supposed to have a mitigating
influence, alcohol abuse is not unique and
economically the country fairs much bet-ter than Soviet republics, where suicide
decade of Estonia’s primary health care
reform’, 5 January 2005; www.euro.who.
Latvia and Lithuania and met with offi-cial and less official representatives of the
persecution by the tsarist authorities. In
Aktuell. Informationen aus der orthodoxen
activities, while the state discriminated
Religion News, (www.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews) and Service Orthodoxe
States after the Fall of the Berlin Wall’,
Religion, State & Society, 27 (1999), 2,
the beginning of the 20th centuries.
between traditional confessions either.
occasions they stand next to their Ortho-
numerically, they testify to the cultural
differentiation process the Baltic region
period of emphatic identity seeking.
verging beliefs. The previously discussed
secret service investigation, but all except
plays its role, but the general decline of
one failed to meet the legal criteria.11 A
by current events like the terrorist attack
moral issues, as when the first ever Riga
‘prosperity gospel’ in the early 1990s,
satanic or sacrilegious graffiti scar streets
strate first of all the bad taste of a youthsubculture. Every now and then, how-ever, grave acts of vandalism occur. Dur-
derogatory, vague and therefore mislead-ing label ‘sects’.
was put upside down into the ground.
Lithuanian religious landscape, see www.
how differently the Balts look upon reli-
gion, its profession, creeds and signifi-
ters of faith Estonia takes up the rear.
with relatively few practicing believers.
end up last, the Latvians are in the lower
seldom interfere with national and inter-
fore, as no surprise that Estonia emerges
as the most secularised of the three Baltic
mark the most important stages of life.
Latvians finally find themselves some-where in the middle. Interestinglyenough, Lithuanians display a strong,
Italian like interest for the occult. Actu-
dert, Atlas of European Values, pp. 60-73.
ally, their trust in telepathy is highest
the traditional, one time predominantLutheran Church.
shows and above all by the close relations
15 For the Baltic, Pomor’e Old Believers,
Staroverie Baltii i Pol’shi: Kratkii istorich-
seer Lena Lolishvili. The attitude of the
eskii i biograficheskii slovar’ (Vilnius,
Balts toward religion is, generally speak-
2005). This reference book is available on
the Internet as well: http://kopajglubze.
controversy as well. Finally, at a spiritual
About 143,000 believers – 63 percent of
its official status as the sole successor
name and uphold its own legal claim.
with their supporting pillars, the Eston-
of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EAOC).
identified the latter as the sole legal suc-
cessor to the interwar Orthodox Church.
and registration issues were at stake. At
‘grave error’ of anti-Russian sentiment
lower. Meanwhile, infrastructure is well-
regarded as second class’.17 On 30 Sep-
was a matter of protocol. After all, Ecu-
mother superior Varvara (Trofimova).
received the Terra Mariana Cross as well.
Kornely (Yakobs) of Tallinn and all Esto-
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II.
lain Sergy Florinsky of Rakvere as a mar-
Holiness visited several localities in Esto-
of Radonezh by Metropolitan Kornely.
26 and 27 September the Patriarch cel-ebrated Holy Liturgy in the Alexandr
Moscow Patriarchate (www.orthodox.ee).
17 ‘Tallinn: Visite officielle du patriarche
de Moscou en Estonie’, Service Orthodoxe
de Presse, 282 (2003), 11, pp. 10-12.
and Nikolai. Together with Bishop Pla-ton of Tallinn, the two parish priests,
soldiers in 1919. Their bodies were exca-
‘moral report’ of the Church. His pre-
4 to 12-year olds and their parents. Still,
life was severe. Parish catechesis is prac-
tically nonexistent. Furthermore, he felt
loniki, and two clerics and three lay per-
Liit, had gone without consequences.
‘Everything is possible with a good will
was the second visit of Ecumenical Patri-
2003, which preceded the commemo-ration of 80 years of EAOC church
18 Eesti Apostlik-Õigeusu Kirik (www.
task of nastavnik (teacher, educator). It
attests to a general trend of ‘feminisation’
the theft of icons. In Varnja and Kükita
tistics at the grass-root level clearly reveals
believers.23 For instance, there are about
to participate in official events, if rep-
resentatives of the EAOC were present.
Believers live in Tartu, one of the major
the Estonian religious landscape wasn’tpeaceful at all and the EAOC stood
Latvia is the second largest of the three
acterised as ‘under Soviet occupation’.20
Baltic countries. According to a 2003survey 25.1 percent of all Latvians con-
ties of Estonia21 was revived in 1995.
concentrated in the eastern parts of Esto-nia. There is one parish in Tallinn and
générale du 16 juin 2005. Rapport moral’
20 O.S., ‘Kritik an Moskauer Patriarchat’,
Glaube in der 2. Welt, 33 (2005), 3, p. 5.
reveal percentages of 60 to 65 (women)and 35 to 40 (men).
23 This observation is valid with respect
enjoy religion class at school. A remark-
24 Ofitsalnyj Web-server Latvyskoi Pravo-
slavnoi Tserkvi (www.pareizticiba.lv) and
Latvyskaya Pravoslavnaya Tserkov (www.
shifted to the cathedral’s exterior. In the
cial campaign ‘Light’ took off on 8 Jan-
uary 2003. It turned out to be a success,
to the Kremlin Janis Peters, explained in
May 2005: ‘This spiritual project could
extended an invitation to Patriarch Alexy
tists, 6,503 Baptists, and an unbelievably
dox monks are concerned, in Jelgava anattempt is made at reviving a men’s
Following Latvia’s declaration of inde-
autonomy. Under the guidance of Arch-bishop Alexandr (Kudryashov) of Riga
‘Religious situation in Latvia’, Blago-
26 Ofitsalnyj Web-server Latvyskoi Pravo-
slavnoi Tserkvi (www.pareizticiba.lv) and
Latvyskaya Pravoslavnaya Tserkov (www.
vised in the Nativity of Christ Cathedral
27 ‘Large-scale restoration works of main
Orthodox cathedral begins in Latvia’, Itar-
and the young are leaving for the city.
In some villages 95 percent of the inhab-
abuse is rampant and social ties are weak.
Latvian society in transformation, too.
In its ‘Declaration on the Health of the
licly underline its rights, and those of its
‘both Christian and fair’,28 but on 26
teaching language in Russian schools.
After apologising for meddling with state
and respect his or her religion andnationality. The assembly cited theexample of the ethnic Latvian martyr
28 ‘Christmas again’, Baltic Times (17-23
January 2002), p. 5. At present there are
no signs to indicate that this well-meant
distinguished people by their ethnicity.
Awaiting the restitution of the 18th cen-
29 For Janis Pommer, see here below.
esting example of bureaucratic sabotage.
Riga’ (18 January 2006); www.interfax-religion.com
31 ‘Opredelenie. Sobora Latvyskoi Pravo-
slavnoi Tserkvi o zdorov’i lichnosti i nar-
oda’ (Riga, 24 September 2001); www.
ists scream that we are “the wrong kind
of Church” and that the Patriarchate of
to the interwar church leader, whosesavage murder in 1934 is still shrouded
pathies, the culprit is either the Soviet
rank of archbishop in November 2000.
years earlier on its flight to the United
cessful in obtaining official registration
as an ‘Orthodox Church’, since the 1995
association…’33 Therefore, there can be
Constantinople, where it disappeared.
the exclusive use of the epithet ‘Ortho-
dox’, but it did not oppose legal regis-
the original to absorb a part of its spir-
the consequences of non-registration.
(www.roac.ru) and the Russian OrthodoxAutonomous Church web site for the
33 See ‘Latvia’, in Laws on Religion and
eds. S. Ferrari and W. Cole Durham Jr.
books on theology, spirituality and reli-
annual almanac Christianos appeared.
take down new crosses from the church’s
an Easter procession around the church.
Alexandr, which is decried in influential
the Republic of Moldova at the Euro-pean Court of Human Rights, and of
the head of the Latvian Religious Affairs
the Religious Affairs Administration pro-
on the shores of the Baltic Sea is located
resents the main confessions,35 reacted.
rian Church. The Church’s spiritual and
its fifteenth birthday. From the outset its
abuses of religious freedom’. R. Balodis,‘Church and State in Latvia’, in Law
just as its spiritual father Alexandr Men’
pacifist, an attitude which resulted from
than spiritual. After all, the parish not
only keeps centuries-old traditions alive,
Staroverie. Problematic, at least for some,
sing liturgy, direct the church choir, or
Affairs Office subsequently gave its bless-
his tasks themselves. Liturgical singing,
to start with, is a man’s job, a nastavnik
the bezpopovtsy really stirs up emotions.
its ecclesial fullness when the Old Believ-
retary of the commission for the relations
the Grebenchikov parish, who wasstripped from office on 14 July. The
37 In the 1660s Patriarch Nikon’s church
census 80 percent of all Lithuanians call
‘Staroverie in Latvia: Historical experi-
remains the second largest confession.
hand over faith to the next. ‘It cannot
with a flock of twenty-seven thousand.
judge, would fall to the ground’, he told
Believer by birth, representatives of the
end to the persecution of the Old Believ-
guage, and a greater appreciation thereof
groups of Old Believers crystallised: chil-
tion from social security taxes for clergy
and employees and from VAT on util-ities, such as electricity and telephone.
All nine received state funding in 2005.
The population of the largest Balticcountry shrunk considerably over thelast 15 years. At 3.42 million inhabi-
Litovskaya Eparxiya (www.orthodoxy.lt).
Russians start to switch over to Lithuan-
prises three deaneries, notably Klaipeda-
twenty-three villages are left with barely
any believers, and liturgical services have
back to work. Still, change is inevitable,
the feast of the titular saint may be the
sadly clear: the young leave their native
more or less regularly in liturgical ser-
vices, live a religious life, and educate
their children according to tradition.
will further decline in the near future.
provide pastoral care there. In the Maria
now live 12 religious sisters. The eparchy
described as an attractive alternative for
past, but had kept silent for a long while.
ments in Lithuania was a positive one.
claim for the spiritual leadership of the
the Catholic church in Russia’ he found
Baltic Staroverie. At the end of the 1980s
a small-scale establishment and its future
is sought, first and foremost, within the
of the past need healing, too: godless-ness, lack of responsibility and submis-
Believers’ parishes are registered with
planted among the Lithuanian faithfulas well. Following the registration of 39
Lithuania’, Sovershenno Sekretno (July,
eventful history ever since World War II.
41 V.B[aranovsky], ‘Vil’nyusskaya (Vilen-
Even though mixed marriages have beenfrequent in the past, and there are quitea few Lithuanians with Old Believers’roots, they represent just a tiny religiousminority.42
42 G. Potashenko, ‘The Culture of OldBelievers of Baltic States’ [Vilnius, 2005];www.ldm.lt/Naujausiosparodos/Old_Believers_b.en.htm
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