Making use of the formerly secret archives of the Soviet government, interviews, and first-hand personal experiences, Nathaniel Davis describes how the Russian Orthodox Church hung on the brink of institutional extinction twice in the past sixty-five years. In 1939, only a few score widely scattered priests were still functioning openly. Ironically, Hitler's invasion and Stalin's reaction to it rescued the church -- and parishes reopened, new clergy and bishops were consecrated, a patriarch was elected, and seminaries and convents were reinstituted. However, after Stalin's death, Khrushchev resumed the onslaught against religion. Davis reveals that the erosion of church strength between 1948 and 1988 was greater than previously known and it was none too soon when the Soviet government changed policy in anticipation of the millennium of Russia's conversion to Christianity. More recently, the collapse of communism has created a mixture of dizzying opportunity and daunting trouble for Russian Orthodoxy.
The newly revised and updated edition addresses the tumultuous events of recent years, including schisms in Ukraine, Estonia, and Moldova, and confrontations between church traditionalists, conservatives and reformers. The author also covers battles against Greek-Catholics, Roman Catholics, Protestant evangelists, and pagans in the south and east, the canonization of the last Czar, the church's financial crisis, and hard data on the slowing Russian orthodox recovery and growth. Institutional rebuilding and moral leadership now beckon between promise and possibility.