Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church

The Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (Estonian: Eesti Apostlik-Õigeusu Kirik; EAOC) is an autonomous Orthodox church whose primate is confirmed by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Under Estonian law it is the legal successor to the pre–World War II Estonian Orthodox Church, which in 1940 had had over 210,000 faithful, three bishops, 156 parishes, 131 priests, 19 deacons, two monasteries, and a theological seminary; the majority of the faithful were ethnic Estonians. Its official name is Orthodox Church of Estonia.

The current primate of the church is Stephanos, Metropolitan of Tallinn and all Estonia, elected in 1999.

Orthodox Church of Estonia
PrimateStephanos of Tallinn
HeadquartersTallinn, Estonia
TerritoryRepublic of Estonia
Recognition1923, 1996 by Constantinople
Official websiteOrthodox Church of Estonia


Võru Suurkannataja Ekaterina kirik 2013
Saint Catherine's Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church in Võru.

Orthodox missionaries from Novgorod and Pskov were active among the Estonians in the southeast regions of the area, closest to Pskov, in the 10th through 12th centuries. In the beginning of the 13th century, however, Estonia was conquered by the Northern Crusades, and thus fell under the control of Western Christianity. Little is known about the history of the church in the area until the 17th and 18th centuries, when many Old Believers fled there from Russia to avoid the liturgical reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon of Moscow.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Estonia was a part of the Russian Empire. In the 1850s a rumour spread that the Orthodox Church promised to provide everybody who converted to Orthodoxy a piece of land of their own somewhere in Russia. Some 65,000 Estonian peasants were converted to the Orthodox faith in the hope of obtaining land, and numerous Orthodox churches were built.[1] Later, when the rumour turned out to be a hoax, a great part of the new Orthodox peasants returned to the Lutheran Church.

In the late 19th century, a wave of Russification was introduced, supported by the Russian hierarchy but not by the local Estonian clergy. The Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Tallinn and the Pühtitsa (Pukhtitsa) convent in Kuremäe in East Estonia were also built around this time.

Autonomy under the Moscow Patriarchate

After the Republic of Estonia was proclaimed in 1918, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, St. Tikhon, in 1920 recognised the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (EAOC) as being autonomous (Resolution No. 1780), postponing the discussion of its autocephaly.[2] Archbishop Alexander Paulus was elected and ordained Metropolitan Alexander of Tallinn and All Estonia (et), head of the EAOC.[3]

Prior to this, Soviet Russia had adopted a Marxist–Leninist ideology which held as an ideological goal the elimination of religion and its replacement with state atheism.[4] In response, Patriarch Tikhon had excommunicated the Soviet leadership in 1918, leading to a period of intense persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church.[5] In April 1922, Tikhon was imprisoned,[6] and the Estonian clergy lost contact with the Moscow Patriarchate.

Transfer to the Ecumenical Patriarchate

In September 1922 the Council of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church petitioned the Patriarch of Constantinople, Meletius IV, to (1) transfer control of the Estonian church from the Russian Orthodox Church to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and (2) clarify the Estonian church's canonical status. In 1923 the Patriarchate of Constantinople issued a tomos (ecclesiastical edict) which brought the EAOC under Constantinople's jurisdiction and granted it autonomy, but not full autocephaly.[7][2]

Before 1941, one-fifth of the total Estonian population (who had been mostly Lutheran since the Reformation in the early 16th century when the country was controlled by the Teutonic Order) were Orthodox Christians under the Patriarchate of Constantinople. There were 158 parishes in Estonia and 183 clerics in the Estonian church. There was also a Chair of Orthodoxy in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Tartu. There was a Pskovo-Pechorsky Monastery in Petseri, two convents—in Narva and Kuremäe, a priory in Tallinn and a seminary in Petseri. The ancient monastery in Petseri was preserved from the mass church destructions that occurred in Soviet Russia.

World War II

In 1940, Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union, whose government undertook a general programme of the dissolution of all ecclesiastical independence within its territory. From 1942 to 1944, however, autonomy under Constantinople was temporarily revived. In 1945, a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate dismissed the members of the OCE synod who had remained in Estonia and established a new organisation, the Diocesan Council. Orthodox believers in occupied Estonia were thus subordinated to being a diocese within the Russian Orthodox Church.

Just before the second Soviet occupation in 1944 and the dissolution of the Estonian synod, the primate of the church, Metropolitan Aleksander, went into exile along with 21 clergymen and about 8,000 Orthodox believers. The Orthodox Church of Estonia in Exile with its synod in Sweden continued its activity according to the canonical statutes, until the restoration of Estonian independence in 1991. Before he died in 1953, Metr. Aleksander established his community as an exarchate under Constantinople. Most of the other bishops and clergy who remained behind were deported to Siberia. In 1958, a new synod was established in exile, and the church was organized from Sweden.


In 1978, at the urging of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ecumenical Patriarch declared the charter (tomos) of the Church, as granted in 1923, inoperative. The church ceased to exist until the breakup of the Soviet Union, when divisions within the Orthodox community in Estonia arose between those who claimed that the Moscow Patriarchate has no jurisdiction in Estonia and those who wished to return to the jurisdiction of Moscow. The dispute often took place along ethnic lines, as many Russians had immigrated to Estonia during the Soviet occupation. Lengthy negotiations between the two patriarchates failed to produce any agreement.


In 1993, the synod of the Orthodox Church of Estonia in Exile was re-registered as the legal successor of the autonomous Orthodox Church of Estonia, and on February 20, 1996, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I formally reactivated the tomos granted to the OCE in 1923, restoring its canonical subordination to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This action brought immediate protest from the Estonian-born Patriarch Alexei II of the Moscow Patriarchate, which regarded the Estonian church as being part of its territory. The Patriarch of Moscow temporarily removed the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch from the diptychs.

In this difficult situation, the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church received help and support from the Finnish Orthodox Church, especially from Archbishop Johannes (Rinne) of the Archdiocese of Karelia and All Finland and Auxiliary Bishop Ambrosius (Risto Jääskeläinen) of Joensuu. The Ecumenical Patriarchate decided that Archbishop Johannes and Bishop Ambrosius as well as pastor Heikki Huttunen from Espoo should be available to give help in the reconstruction of the newly restored church. Archbishop Johannes would temporarily act as a deputy metropolitan (1996–1999) of the Estonian Autonomous Church.[8]

An agreement was reached in which local congregations could choose which jurisdiction to follow. The Orthodox community in Estonia, which accounts for about 30 percent of the total population, remains divided, with the majority of faithful (mostly ethnic Russians) remaining under Moscow. From a U.S. Department of State report released in November 2003, about 20,000 believers (mostly ethnic Estonians) in 60 parishes are part of the autonomous church, with 150,000 faithful in 31 parishes, along with the monastic community of Pühtitsa, paying allegiance to Moscow.[9]

In 1999, the church received a resident hierarch, Metropolitan Stephanos (Charalambides) of Tallinn who had formerly been an auxiliary bishop under the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Metropolitan of France.

Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church does not permit church service in Church Slavonic or Russian languages.


  1. ^ "Eesti Apostlik-Õigeusu Kirik, Ajalugu (=History) (In Estonian)" (
  2. ^ a b Toom, Tarmo. "Estonia, Orthodox Church in", The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, p.226-8, Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2011.
  3. ^ Historical background of Orthodoxy in Estonia, Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate website.
  4. ^ Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich. "The Attitude of the Workers' Party to Religion", Proletary, No.45, May 13 (26), 1909.
  5. ^ Pospielovsky, Dimitry V. The Russian Church Under the Soviet Regime, 1917–1983, ch.2, St Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood NY, 1984.
  6. ^ "Glorification of St Tikhon, the Apostle to America", Orthodox Church in America website.
  7. ^ Ringvee, Ringo. "History of the controversy", Estonica – Encyclopedia about Estonia, Estonian Institute.
  8. ^ Metropolitan Johannes:"Viron ortodoksisen Kirkon tie uuteen itsenäisyyteen" Aamun Koitto Number 19/2007 p.18-20
  9. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2003


  • Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity, pp. 183–4
  • The Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church by Ronald Roberson, a Roman Catholic priest and scholar.
  • This article incorporates text from the OrthodoxWiki ([1]). Please edit and expand it.

External links

1996 Moscow–Constantinople schism

The Moscow–Constantinople schism of 1996 was a schism which began on 23 February 1996, when the Russian Orthodox Church severed full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and ended on 16 May 1996 when the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate reached an agreement. This excommunication by the Russian Orthodox Church was done in response to a decision of the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to reestablish an Orthodox church in Estonia under the Ecumenical Patriarchate's canonical jurisdiction as an autonomous church on 20 February 1996. This schism has similarities with the Moscow–Constantinople schism of October 2018.On 8 November 2000, in an official statement, the Russian Orthodox Church described this schism as "the tragic situation of February–May 1996, when, because of the schismatic actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Estonia, Orthodox Christians of the Churches of Constantinople and Russia, who live all over the world in close spiritual contact, were deprived of common Eucharistic communion at the one Chalice of Christ."

Canonical territory

A canonical territory is a geographical area seen as belonging to a particular patriarchate or autocephalous Church as its own. The concept is found both in the Eastern Orthodox Church and in the Roman Catholic Church, and is mentioned extensively in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.


Christakis is a name of Greek origin and may refer to:

SurnameAlexander Christakis (born 1937), Greek-American social scientist, systems scientist and cyberneticist

Georgios Christakis-Zografos (1863–1920), Greek politician

Nicholas A. Christakis (born 1962), American physician and social scientistGiven nameChristakis Charalambides (Stephanos of Tallinn, born 1940), primate of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church

Christakis Zografos (1820–1898), Greek banker

Culture of Estonia

The culture of Estonia combines an indigenous heritage, represented by the country's Finnic national language Estonian, with Nordic cultural aspects. The culture of Estonia is considered to be largely influenced by Germanic culture, having grown out of it. Due to its history and geography, Estonia's culture has also influenced by the traditions of the adjacent area's Baltic Finns, Baltic Germans and Slavs, as well as by cultural developments in the former dominant powers, Sweden, Denmark and Russia. Traditionally, Estonia has been seen as an area of rivalry between western and eastern Europe on many levels. An example of this geopolitical legacy is an exceptional combination of multiple nationally-recognized Christian traditions: Western Christianity (the Catholic Church and the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church) and Eastern Christianity (the Orthodox Church (the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church)). The symbolism of the border or meeting of east and west in Estonia was well illustrated on the reverse side of the 5 krooni note. Like the mainstream cultures in the other Nordic countries, Estonian culture can be seen to build upon ascetic environmental realities and traditional livelihoods, a heritage of comparatively widespread egalitarianism arising out of practical reasons (see freedom to roam and universal suffrage), and the ideals of closeness to nature and self-sufficiency.

Eastern Orthodoxy in Estonia

Eastern Orthodoxy in Estonia is practiced by 16.5% of the population, making it the most identified religion and Christian denomination in this majority-secular state after surpassing Lutheran Christianity with 9.1% (which was previously 13.6% in 2000 census) for first time in country's modern history. Eastern Orthodoxy, or more specifically Eastern Orthodox Christianity, is mostly practiced within Estonia's Russian ethnic minority and minority within native population. According to the 2000 Estonian census, 72.9% of those who identified as Orthodox Christians were of Russian descent.Today, there are two branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church operating in Estonia: the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, an autonomous church under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, a semi-autonomous church of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Estonian Church

The Estonian Church may refer to:

The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church

The Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, also officially known as the Orthodox Church of Estonia.

The Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate

Estonian Orthodox Church

Estonian Orthodox Church may refer to:

Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, an autonomous church subordinate to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, a semi-autonomous diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church

Eastern Orthodoxy in Estonia, the development of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Estonia

Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate

The Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (EOC-MP; Estonian: Moskva Patriarhaadi Eesti Õigeusu Kirik) is a semi-autonomous Church in the canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow whose primate is appointed by the Holy Synod of the latter.

This church numbers roughly 150,000 faithful in 31 congregations and is the largest Orthodox Church in Estonia. The primate of the church was Cornelius (Jakobs), Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia, from 1992 to his death in 2018.

Under Estonian law, the "Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church" (Eesti Apostlik-Õigeusu Kirik) is the legal successor to the pre-World War II Estonian Orthodox Church, which in 1940 had had over 210,000 faithful, three bishops, 156 parishes, 131 priests, 19 deacons, two monasteries, and a theological seminary, the majority of the faithful were ethnic Estonians. Its primate is confirmed by the Orthodox Church of Constantinople. The head of this church is Metropolitan Eugene who has been Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia since 2018. This church numbers about 20,000 faithful in 60 congregations today.The reactivation of the autonomous Estonian Orthodox Church caused the name of the Patriarch of Constantinople to be removed from the diptychs of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1996 for several months.

List of cathedrals in Estonia

This is the list of cathedrals in Estonia sorted by denomination.

Meeksi Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist

Meeksi Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist was built in 1953 in Miikse village, Meremäe rural municipality, Võru County in Estonia. The construction work was carried out during Joseph Stalin's rule by members of the congregation, on their own initiative. The building happened at night; the builders escaped persecution.

Meremäe Parish

Meremäe Parish (Estonian: Meremäe vald) was a rural municipality of Estonia, in Võru County. It had a population of 1,140 (as of 1 January 2009) and an area of 131.97 km².Meremäe is a part of the cultural region of Setomaa.

Miikse graveyard

Miikse graveyard is a graveyard in Setomaa and by the administrative division of today is situated in Meremäe rural municipality in Miikse village in Estonia. The graveyard is the public property of Meremäe rural municipality, but belongs under the Meeksi Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist.

Miikse graveyard began to evolve in 1944, next to the common grave for soldiers of the Red Army who had fallen in 1944. After World War II, when Luhamaa orthodox congregation assistant church fell apart, Meeksi Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist was built in the graveyard, by the authorization of the Commissary of the Russian Orthodox Affaires that was situated by the former Estonian SSR Council of Ministers.

New calendarists

The new calendarists are those Eastern Orthodox churches that adopted the Revised Julian calendar, namely the Orthodox churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Poland, Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church, Albania, the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church and most of the Orthodox Church in America. The term is used to distinguish them from those who use the "old calendar" (the Julian calendar), most of whom are in communion with the new calendarists, but a few of whom are not.(Clogg 2002, pp. 8-9)


Obinitsa (also known as Obiniste, Abinitsa, Kirikmäe) is a village in Setomaa Parish, Võru County, southeastern Estonia. It has a population of 187 (as of 1 January 2009).The Meremäe-Obinitsa Primary School was closed in 2009, after that the building is used as a nursing home.

Obinitsa is the Finno-Ugric Capital of Culture in 2015.

Ravenna Document

The Declaration of Ravenna is a Roman Catholic–Eastern Orthodox document issued on 13 October 2007, re-asserting that the bishop of Rome is indeed the Protos, although future discussions are to be held on the concrete ecclesiological exercise of papal primacy. The document was issued at the tenth plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church held from 8 to 14 October 2007 in Ravenna, Italy.The signing of the declaration highlighted the internal tensions between the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Moscow Patriarchate, on account of whether the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church had a right to be represented in Ravenna, which eventually led the Moscow delegation to walk out of the talks. It was an internal dispute within Orthodoxy, however, and had no relation to the issues actually addressed at Ravenna.

Religion in Estonia

Estonia, which historically was a Lutheran Protestant nation, is today one of the "least religious" countries in the world in terms of declared attitudes, with only 14 per cent of the population declaring religion to be an important part of their daily life.The religious population is predominantly Christian and includes followers of 90 affiliations, most prominently Eastern Orthodoxy and Lutheranism. According to Ringo Ringvee, "religion has never played an important role on the political or ideological battlefield" and that the "tendencies that prevailed in the late 1930s for closer relations between the state and Lutheran church were ended with the Soviet occupation in 1940". He further states that "the chain of religious traditions was broken in most families" under the Soviet policy of state atheism. Before the Second World War, Estonia was approximately 80 per cent Protestant; overwhelmingly Lutheran.

Between 2001 and 2011 census, Eastern Orthodoxy overtook Lutheranism to become the largest Christian denomination in the country due to increasing unaffiliation and very small conversions among Estonians and more migration from Russian neighbors. Lutheranism still remains the most popular religious group among ethnic Estonians (11 per cent of them are Lutherans while also 2 per cent of them are Orthodox), while Eastern Orthodoxy is practised mainly by the mostly non-indigenous immigrant Slavic minorities (approximately 45 per cent of them are Orthodox). According to the University of Tartu, irreligious Estonians are not necessarily atheists; instead, the years 2010s have witnessed a growth of Neopagan, Buddhist and Hindu beliefs among those who declare themselves to be "not religious".

Russian Orthodoxy

Russian Orthodoxy (Russian: Русское православие) is the body of several Churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, whose liturgy is or was traditionally conducted in Church Slavonic language.

Stephanos of Tallinn

Metropolitan Stephanos of Tallinn and All Estonia (born 29 April 1940) is the current primate (elected in 1999) of the Orthodox Church of Estonia.

The Obinitsa Church of Transfiguration of Our Lord

The Obinitsa Church of Transfiguration of Our Lord is a church belonging to the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church in Obinitsa, Estonia.

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