Soviet Union Table of Contents
The Georgian Orthodox Church, another autocephalous member of Eastern Orthodoxy, was headed by a Georgian patriarch. In the late 1980s, it had 15 bishops, 180 priests, 200 parishes, and an estimated 2.5 million followers.
The spread of Christianity in Georgia began in the fourth century. It became the state religion in the sixth century, and in 1057 the Georgian Orthodox Church became autocephalous. In 1811 the Georgian Orthodox Church was incorporated into the Russian Orthodox Church but regained its independence in 1917 after the fall of tsarism. Nevertheless, the Russian Orthodox Church did not officially recognize its independence until 1943.
When the metropolitan of Kiev and all Rus' moved to Moscow in the fourteenth century, Ukrainian Orthodox believers were left without an ecclesiastical leader. From the mid-fifteenth to the late seventeenth century, the see of Kiev was under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople. In 1686, however, the Russian government's pressure on Constantinople led to a transfer of the metropolitan see of Kiev to the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Moscow.
The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church separated from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1919, when the short-lived Ukrainian state adopted a decree in 1919 declaring autocephaly from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The church's independence was reaffirmed by the Bolshevik regime in the Ukrainian Republic, and by 1924 the church had 30 bishops, almost 1,500 priests, nearly 1,100 parishes, and between 3 and 6 million members.
From its inception, the church faced the hostility of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Ukrainian Republic. In the late 1920s, Soviet authorities accused the church of nationalist tendencies. In 1930 the government forced the church to reorganize as the "Ukrainian Orthodox Church," and few of its parishes survived until 1936. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church continued to function outside the borders of the Soviet Union, and it was revived on Ukrainian territory under the German occupation during World War II. In the late 1980s, some of the Orthodox faithful in the Ukrainian Republic appealed to the Soviet government to reestablish the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
Data as of May 1989