An Examination of Church-State Relations in the Byzantine and Russian Empires with an Emphasis on Ideology and Models of Interaction

Author: Gvosdev, Nikolas
Examines church-state relations from the Eastern Christian tradition, as manifested in the policies and practices of the Byzantine Empire, the Mongol Empire, and medieval Russia, and their implications for modern times.


“…Gvosdev’s work is a significant contribution not only to the study of church-state relations, but also to Christian ethics and the history of Orthodox thought. Gvosdev has synthesized a vast amount of primary and secondary literature to provide an analysis that is replete with detailed political, theological, and historical data. The book contains a bibliography and a general index…. Gvosdev has succeeded admirably to fulfill his stated objective of providing a framework to understand the basic relations between church and state in the Orthodox world.” – Perspectives in Religious Studies

“Beginning with Constantine and his understanding of the role of the church in the Roman Empire, Gvosdev demonstrates how the political ideology of symphonia developed and how it has been interpreted through the succeeding generations of Eastern rulers up to the present century. The definite strength of the work is explanation of symphonia and its implications for Eastern Christian political thought….the book is an excellent resource on Byzantine and Russian understandings of the church-state relationship. It’s depth in exploring primary sources little examined outside of Eastern European studies makes it an invaluable piece of scholarly research. It would make an excellent addition to any library devoted to the political thought of Eastern Christendom.” – Journal of Church and State

“. . . breaks new ground by comparing the understanding and realization of the Eastern goal of symphonia between church and state in different time periods and in various cultural contexts. Of particular interest is the author’s demonstration of the unified Orthodox commitment to the symphonic model and the variations this model has passed through and continues to engender in the twenty-first century. The attention he gives to largely neglected aspects of Orthodox culture, e.g., medieval Georgia, and the focus on contemporary Romania and Russia is especially valuable. Dr. Gvosdev’s analysis of the historical development of the concept of symphonia in those cultures fundamentally shaped by the Orthodox tradition will be read with profit by historians of ecclesiastical thought as well as by students of Byzantine and Slavic studies and those interested in international politics and cultural development in countries formerly dominated by the Soviet Union. The author makes a valuable contribution to subsequent scholarship in the field through his extensive and up-to-date bibliography.” – James L. Haney

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
Foreword; Preface; Introduction
1. The Legacy of Early Christianity
2. Constantine: Archetype of the Christian Sovereign
3. The Nature of Power and Authority in a Christian State
4. The Political Language of Orthodoxy
5. Unity, Citizenship, Church, and Nation
6. The Importance of Founding a “New Rome”
7. The Theory of Symphony
8. Speaking Truth to Power
9. Mission Work and Church-State Relations
10. “Symphony” in Practice: The Case of Medieval Georgia
11. “Symphony” in Practice: The Theocratic Republicanism of the Medieval Russian North
12. The Challenge of Non-Christian “Emperors”: Khans and Sultans
13. The Failed Third Rome: Russia and the Impact of Westernization
14. The Slavophile Conception of Church-State Relations
15. Being Subject to the Higher Powers: Four Attitudes of the Russian Church Towards the Soviet Regime
16. Church-State Relations in Romania, 1947-1958: The Attempt to Create “Symphony” within a Communist State
17. Concluding Thoughts
Appendix: Canons and Councils; Bibliography and Literature Review; Index