History of EOC



The missionary activity of Byzantium was started by Patriarch Photius in the 9th century. It was the freedom that the Byzantines emperors had given to Vikings to trade with the peoples of the Mediterranean Sea that allowed the people of the Northern Lands to hear about and come in contact with the Orthodox Faith of Byzantines. More than a century after Photius' discussion of the peoples of Northern Lands, Vladimir, the leader of Kiev Russ tribes, was baptized an Orthodox Christian in 988. Vladimir's acceptance of Orthodoxy offered an example and motivated his people to learn about and accept Orthodoxy. Thus, a great number of Kiev Russ tribes were baptized Orthodox. It is from the area of Kiev Russ that missionaries would bring the Orthodox Christianity to the peoples of Northern Lands. Moreover, the history records that Jaroslav, the Grand Duke of Kiev (the Christian name of Jaroslav, the Grand Duke of Kiev, was George) and one of the sons of Vladimir (as mentioned above, Jaroslav was the leader of the Kiev Russ tribes and the first who accepted and brought Orthodoxy to the Northern Lands) brought the Chud tribes (the ancestors of Estonians) to live in the Pskov and Novgorod areas in 1030. Those tribes were governed by the princes of Novgorod. Jaroslav also founded the city of Juryev at the bank of the river Omorzhe, which is to be found in the areas of Pskov and Novgorod. The city of Juryev was later renamed Dorpat (now Tartu). The Grand Duke of Kiev Jaroslav also built a church dedicated to St. George in Juryev. The year of 1838 is the turning point of the further establishment and broadening of the Orthodox Faith and the Orthodox Church in Estonia. It occurred through strange and distressed circumstances. Up to that time, the majority of Estonians were Protestants (having been first christianized by Germans first as Catholics, Estonians became Protestants after the explosion of Reformation in Germany and Northern Europe). The year of 1838 was the hardest for the farmers of the land of Estonia. It had not rained for three consecutive years, and the draught had destroyed all the crops. Nothing was virtually left in the land. Then, the farmers, in an act of despair, decided and went to the city of Riga to meet with the Governor. They were not able to meet him ; instead, they met Bishop Irinarhiga of the Orthodox Diocese of Riga. He promised them to talk with the Governor in favor of their problems and convinced them to go back to their homes. Bishop Irinarhiga did speak with the Governor about the farmers' situation, but he did not stop there. He himself sent them some aid, that is, food to feed their families and money for travel expenses. The kind gesture of that Orthodox Bishop had two important consequences. On one hand, the Bishop himself was transferred to another city after some furious local lords had complained to the Governor that Bishop Irinarhiga had spent money to help the local farmers. On the other hand, the elders of those farmers, seeing Bishop Irinarhiga's self-sacrificial attitude, had a change of heart and faith ; from Protestants they converted to and got baptized into Orthodox. In the beginning of the 1920s, the state authorities in Soviet Russia began an open persecution against the Russian Orthodox Church. An immediate consequence of that persecution was that the authorities of the Russian Orthodox Church were deprived of being in contact with their dioceses and any churches abroad. From May 1922 to June 1923, the situation got worse because Patriarch Tikhon was arrested and unable to administer over the Russian Orthodox Church. The lack of communication with the church authorities of the Moscow Patriarchate compelled the Archpastor of Revel and Estonia -that is, Bishop Alexander to approach Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios IV of Constantinople with a request to take the Orthodox Church in Estonia under his spiritual care. To this end, Archbishop Alexander visited the Patriarchate of Constantinople and received the Patriarchal Synodal Tome on 7 July 1923. That Tome was confirming the autonomous status of the Estonian Orthodox Church and the rights and obligations of its Primate. The ruling Archpastor was given the title of «Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia», while the Church was named «The Estonian Orthodox Metropolis» In September 1924, the Estonian Orthodox Church was divided into two dioceses : that of Tallinn and that of Narva. In October 1937, Archpriest Pavel (Dmitrovsky) was consecrated as the Bishop of Narva. It should be noted that, in 1935, under the influence of Metropolitan Alexander, the Council of the Estonian Orthodox Church adopted a new statute. The Church was now designated as «The Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church» (EAOC). The EA0C was a legal identity, which had the right to own and dispose of the movable and non-movable property of its parishes and other institutions. Early in 1940, the Autonomous Estonian Orthodox Church had some 210,000 members, out of the country's total population of 1,200,000. About 80 per cent of the members were Estonian nationals, the other 20 per cent were mainly Russians including a small number of nationals of neighboring countries. There were one hundred and fifty-six active parishes which were served by three Bishops (including the Metropolitan), one hundred and thirty one priests, seven priest-monks, nineteen deacons and three deacon-monks - one hundred and sixty-four clergymen in all. There were also two monasteries with two subsidiary establishments. Petseri, one of the monasteries, housed a Theological Seminary. For those who wanted to further their theological education, they could enter into the Theological Faculty at Tartu University. In June 1940, the Soviet Army invaded and occupied Estonia as well as Latvia and Lithuania, the other two Baltic States. These three Baltic states were shortly incorporated into the Soviet Union, as new Soviet Republics,- that incorporation meant subordination to the Moscow Patriarchate. The Theological Seminary in the Petseri Monastery and the Theological Faculty of the Tartu University were closed down, the teaching of religion in schools was forbidden, and all religious publications were suppressed. Churches and clergy paid extremely high rates for all communal services, such as electricity and water. During that year of Soviet control, there were considerable losses of clergy. Five priests were arrested and shot, twelve priests were arrested at night and deported to Siberia. According to the Russian Orthodox point of view, it was during an enlarged meeting of the EAOC Synod (chaired by Metropolitan Alexander of Tallinn and All Estonia) on 27 December 1940 that it was decided that Estonian Orthodox Church be to restore canonical relations with the Orthodox Church. In March 194 1, Metropolitan Alexander visited Moscow, where the official reunification between the Estonian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church took place on 31 March. Later, Metropolitan Sergey, the Patriarchal Locum Tenens to Estonia, incorporated the Estonian Orthodox Church in the Baltic Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Sergey (Vokresensky) of Lithuania and Vilno. While those negotiations were taking place, another mass deportation of Estonian priests and lay persons alike from the Baltic countries was executed by Russian officials on 13 June 1941. Soon after the German-Russian war broke out and, while the World War II was raging in the rest of Europe, Estonia was occupied by the German Armed Forces. Up to that time, a fierce struggle had started and was still raging between Exarch Sergey and Metropolitan Alexander, the former Head of the Estonian Orthodox Church. That straggle finally led to a complete breakdown between the Estonian and Russian Orthodox Churches towards the end of 1942. With the permission of the German authorities, the Orthodox Christians in Estonia could now choose with which Patriarchate they wished to join. The Russian parishes chose to remain with Bishop Pave, who was under Exarch (Metropolitan) Sergey. The Estonian nationals, however, chose to remain with Metropolitan Alexander. Then the Estonian Orthodox Christians renounced the enforced subordination to the Moscow Patriarchate and resumed the canonical connection with the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Of course, those enmities and fractions meant that the Estonian Orthodox Christians were divided into two groups, each of which belonged to a different jurisdiction. Nevertheless, this period did not last very long only until September 1944 - when the Soviet Army reoccupied and annexed Estonia. Before the reoccupation over 80,000 people fled from their Estonia in order to escape the Stalinist terror. The refugees traveled westward, preferring to face the unknown than being sent to Siberia. Some Estonians went to Sweden, others to Germany. At that time Metropolitan Alexander and about a 22 priests and deacons decided and fled to Germany, and later to Sweden. In 1944, immediately after Soviet Army Forces had invaded, occupied and annexed Estonia, the repression and persecution of the Church began. The first who suffered was Bishop Peeter (Pähkel) who was deported to Siberia and died there in 1948. Many other Orthodox clergy were deported, arrested and imprisoned; some were transferred even to other parts of the Soviet Union. The clergy, who remained in Estonia, and church communities suffered from a heavy financial burden imposed by the Soviet State, as well. Moreover, church-goers were subjected to public derision, threats, and interference with their careers. Despite the harassing methods employed by the Soviet authorities, under the ruthless rule of Stalin or, under the other slightly milder authorities, the churches managed to survive, although they were greatly reduced. According to documentation, before the World War II there were hundred and fifty-eighth Orthodox parishes served by hundred and sixty priests and thirty deacons in Estonia. On January 1948, Metropolitan Alexander appointed a Synod of eight members, five of whom were priests and three laymen. The Synod now conducted regular church business - registration of congregations, a number of hymn books were published and even courses were arranged in Stockholm to train new priests. During the lifetime of Metropolitan Alexander, eighteen Synodal meetings took place, and thirty-nine meetings after his death until the consecration of Bishop Jüri. After the death of Metropolitan Alexander, on October 1953, the Synod informed the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople about the situation of the Estonians in Sweden. Then, the Patriarch appointed Archbishop Athenagoras of Thyateira as Locum Tenens, being effective on December 1953. Seven years later, Bishop Jüri earlier Archpriest Jüri Välbe was consecrated Bishop of Ravenna by the Exarch Archbishop Athenagoras of Thyateira, who was assisted by Metropolitan Jacob from Geneva, Bishop Chrysostomos from Vienna and a number of Estonian priests. Bishop Jüri died suddenly on the 3rd August 1961, a death which was considered a heavy blow to the Church. Exarch Athenagoras of Thyateira was once again appointed the Locum Tenens of the "Estonian Orthodox Church in Exile." During the Soviet occupation the administration of this Church was under Archbishop Pavel (Dimitrovsky) of Tallinn and Estonia from 1945 to 1946, and under Metropolitan Grigory (Chukov) of Leningrad and Novgorod from 1946 to 1947 and from 1949 to 1950. From 1947 to 1949, there was Bishop Isidor (Bogoyavlensky). During the years of the administration of Metropolitan Grigory, the Vicar Bishop Roman (Tang) of Tallinn assisted. Bishop Roman, an Estonian, became the ruling Hierarch of the Diocese of Tallinn from 1950 to 1952. In 1958, Bishop loann (Alekseyev) administered over Tallinn and Estonia, but he died on June 1966. On 3 September 1961, Bishop Alexy (Ridiger), who was born in Estonia and began his pastoral ministry there, was appointed the Bishop of Tallinn and Estonia. On 23 July 1964, he became Archbishop. On 12 February 1968, Archbishop Alexy became the Head of the Estonian Orthodox Diocese of Tallinn until 1990. Then Archimandrite Kornily (Jakobs) took over as the Bishop of Tallinn, Patriarchal vicar. In August 1992, Kornily was appointed the Ruling Bishop of the Diocese with the title of the Bishop of Tallinn and Estonia. At the same time, Metropolitan Alexy was holding the Office of the Administrator of the Moscow Patriarchate, and was the Head of the Secretariat of the Synod of the Moscow. In 1990, Metropolitan Alexy was consecrated as the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. In 1991, after Estonia had broken away from the Soviet Union, the sovereignty of the Estonian Republic was restored. At the time, the ruling Bishop in Estonia was Kornily (Jakobs). He held negotiations with the Government concerning a number of urgent internal ecclesiastical matters, which could not be resolved without state support. On 11 August 1993, instead of registering the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Synod, the Estonian State Department of Religions registered the representatives of the «Synod of the Estonian Orthodox Church in Exile» as the sole legal successor of the Autonomous Estonian Apostolic Church. That registration was of political and social importance because it made the «Synod of the Estonian Orthodox Church in Exile» the sole owner of all church-related immovable property in Estonia. The Russian Orthodox Church started legal proceedings to defend its legal and canonical position in the country, that the «Synod in Exile» had neither an episcopal structure nor an administrative office in Estonia, as required by Estonian law. In 1994, another unexpected event came to be added to the above. A petition signed by the representatives of 54 out of the 83 Orthodox parishes in Estonia formally requested to join the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The 54 parishes represented the majority of the Orthodox believers in the country, and included both Estonian-speaking and Russian-speaking communities. A year later, a series of negotiations between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate failed to reach a solution. On 3 January 1996, a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul for bilateral negotiations about the division among the Orthodox in Estonia. No agreement was reached, but the two sides agreed upon the continuation of the negotiations in Moscow on 2 February of the same year. On 4 January 1996, the Ecumenical Patriarch sent a pastoral letter «to the Orthodox communities in Estonia», in which he expressed his desire to «reactivate» the Autonomous Estonian Apostolic Church on the basis of the Tome (or decision) of the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1923. The letter expressed the hope to unite all in one church with a distinct diocese for the Russian-speaking parishes. On 16 January 1996, a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including one Finnish Orthodox bishop and one priest, visited Estonia in an attempt to reach a viable solution. They meet with representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Estonian State authorities, including Prime Minister Tiit Vähi and the President Lennart Meri. After the meeting, statements were issued that the Ecumenical Patriarchate would accept Estonian Orthodox believers under its jurisdiction, but that it would also accept the division of the Orthodox community in Estonia into two parts and their belonging to two jurisdictions. On 22 February 1996, the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced officially the decision to reactivate the Tome of 1923 and to re-establish the Autonomous Estonian Apostolic Church. The official statement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is actually the following : The Ecumenical Patriarchate proceeded with this decision following the persistent request of the Estonian Government and the overwhelming majority of the Estonian Orthodox parishes, which requested they be placed again under the aegis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate [...] in 1945 the Autonomous Church of Estonia was unilaterally and forcibly abolished by the Patriarchate of Moscow, following the annexation, under the might of weapons, of Estonia to the Soviet Union [...] Having regained political independence as a country, the reinstitution of the Autonomous Church of Estonia [...] constituted a just request of the Estonian Orthodox. To this just request the Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, out of a sense of responsibility and by canonical and historical right, was duty-bound to respond with compassion to their request and in their defense. On 24 February 1996, a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, led by Metropolitan Joachim of Chalcedon, concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with Estonian clergy and in the presence of Archbishop John of Finland in a parish in Tallinn. That act marked the reactivating of the Autonomous Estonian Apostolic Church. On the same day, the Chief Secretariat of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued an official statement. In that statement, it was announced that Archbishop John of Karelia and All Finland, Primate of the neighboring Orthodox Church of Finland, had been assigned as Provisional Head of the Estonian Orthodox Church. «Archbishop John will oversee the restructuring of the Metropolitanate ad referendum to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which will then proceed with the election and installation of the canonical hierarchs of the Metropolitanate» announced the statement. In the year 1998 bishop Symeon of Abydos was ordained to be an auxiliary bishop with pastoral and liturgical functions. Unfortunately he passed away in September of the same year. The preparation of the General Assembly reached the stage where a preliminary assembly (Congress) was convoked in March the 9th 1999. On this assembly there was a voting for the candidate of the Metropolitan, and bishop Stephanos of Nazianzus was strongly supported by the clergy and laity of the Church. After this the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected bishop Stephanos as the Metropolitan of Tallinn and all Estonia. The enthronement of the new Metropolitan took place on March the 21st 1999 after which the Metropolitan begun to prepare the General Assembly of the Church. The General Assembly took place on the 21st of June this year and the organs of the Church, the Synod (Church Administration) and the Auditing Committee were elected there. Also the Metropolitan announced the names of the vicars general and his secretariat. Today the Synod under the leadership of the Metropolitan and the Church organs has begun a serious work inside the Church and co-operation with the State of Estonia.


Metropolitan Stephanos (Christakis Charalambides) was born in Bukavu (then Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo) on April the 29th 1940 from parents of orthodox Cypriot Greeks. In 1959 he finished the college of «Notre-Dame de la Victoire». After this, he studied a year at the medical faculty in Louvain, Belgium, but feeling a clerical vocation he entered the St. Sergius Theological Institute (Paris) in 1960. At the same time he studied at the theological faculty in Sorbonne University, specializing on the ancient Fathers of the Desert. He graduated from the Institute as Master of Theology and got the degree of lector from the University. His master thesis concerned the diaconate in the Church.. He was ordained a deacon on January the 6th, 1963 and a priest on November the 17th, 1968. In 1972 he was nominated protosynkellos (general Episcopal vicar) of South France and in March the 25th 1987 he was ordained the Bishop of Nazianzus (a vicar bishop of the Metropolitan of Paris ; his real residence was in Nice). He has been a secretary of the Conference of Orthodox Bishops in France, the chairman of the media commission of the Orthodox Churches in France, the producer of the Orthodox programs in French television and radio. He has been the representative of the French Metropolis and the Ecumenical Patriarchate on various international meetings in France, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Russia and Finland. He has written numerous theological articles and books that have been translated into Greek, Italian, Spanish and Rumanian and has been the editor of two journals in Southern France. For thirty years he has been the person responsible for the youth work of the Metropolis of France and also for the acceptance of the smaller marginal groups into the Church. He has been a lector at St. Sergius Theological Institute and from 1990 up to 1999 a professor of patrology at the Catholic Seminary of Nice. He has given lectures at the faculty of law of the University of Nice about the geopolitical role of the Orthodox Church and at the University of Montpellier on the spiritual tradition of Byzantium. He has worked a lot with the students and aided the Greek students during the military dictatorship in Greece and the Cypriot students at the beginning of the Turkish occupation in Northern Cyprus. He has made a wide social work with the unemployed, the drug addicts, the prisoners and the prostitutes. He has participated actively in the ecumenical cooperation in Southern France and Spain. He has done much for the integration of the Orthodox into the French society and has opened 12 parishes and 4 monasteries which consist of Orthodox of French origin.




His Eminence Metropolitan Stephanos (Charalambides) of Tallinn and all Estonia, Address : Wismari 32, 10136 Tallinn, Estonia Tel/fax : +3726600781 ; E-Mail : Stefanus@eoc.ee


Address : Wismari 32 10136 Tallinn, Estonia. Tel/Fax : +3726600780 ; E-mail : eaok@hot.ee

a. The Chancellor (protosynkellos)

Rev. Meletios Ulm : home telephone +372-6013721; mobile phone +372-5093607; E-mail : meletulm@hot.ee

b. The General Secretary (archigrammateus)

Rev. Mattias Palli : home telephone: +372-6013244; mobile phone : +372-5245835; E-mail : mpalli@hot.ee

c. The Church Administration (Synod)

The Chairman : Very Rev. Ardalion Keskküla : home telephone: +372-44-98105; mobile phone: +372-5265285; E-mail : ardalion@online.ee

The Vice-chairman : Mr. Andrei Sõtsov

The Secretary : Rev. Mattias Palli

The members : Rev. Andreas Põld, Rev. Alexander Sarapik, Mrs Eha Tammo, Mrs Tatjana Jessipova


a. Tallinn : Very Rev. oikonomos Emmanuel Kirss, tel : +372-6464003

b. Saaremaa : Very Rev. oikonomos Felix Kadarik, tel : +372-45-33663

c. Pärnumaa : Very Rev. Ardalion Keskküla, tel : +372-44-98105

d. Tartu : Rev. Johannes Keskküla, tel : +372-7424672

e. Võrumaa : Rev. Rafael Hinrikus, tel. +372-78-23423



a. Accountant's bureau : Mrs Juta Keskküla

b. Church properties : Rev. Johannes Keskküla, Mr Ard Hellamaa

c. Auditing comittee : Mr. David Papp, Mr. Enn Rand, Mrs. Juta Ots


The Seminary of St. hieromartyr Platon (for the basis formation of priests, chanters, teachers of religion, icon painters, etc...)

Theological co-ordination : Rev. Meletios Ulm and Rev. Mattias Palli

Technical co-ordinator : Mr. Ilmar Kiviloo

Sanctuary of the Seminary : the chapel of St Platon (Vene 27, Tallinn)


The Estonian Orthodox Youth League

Chairman : Rev. Jüri Ilves, Address : Linda 2, 90502 Haapsalu, tel; +372-47-37211, E-mail : jyriilves@hot.ee


Rev Alexander Sarapik, Address : Suur-kloosrti 14-4, 10133 Tallinn, tel : +372-6464194, E-mail : asarpik@c4.com


Mrs. Edith-Helen Ulm tel: +372-6013721

Periodicals : "Usk ja Elu" a journal issued twice a year

"Metropoolia" a paper issued every two months


HE Metropolitan Stephanos, Rev. Andreas Pöld, Rev. Rafael Hinrikus, Mr. Ard Hellamaa, Mr. Villu Rothla, Mrs. Ilvi-Maarja Reitel

The Orthodox Church of Estonia is a member of the Estonian Council of Churches

The Orthodox Church of Estonia has got 20 priests, 4deacons, 60 parishes and around 20 000 faithful.


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