Eastern Orthodox Church and Saami
Itäinen ortodoksinen kirkko ja saamelaiset
Katso englanninkielistä välilehteä The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Saami.
Sisällysluettelo: Kristinusko ja kirkko
Dát ii leat vel davvisámegillii
Eastern Orthodox Church and Saami
The Eastern Orthodox Church started missionary activity among the eastern Saami in the 14th century. A first missionary known in the church history was a monk Lazar worked in the 14th century among the Saami and the Veps lived near the >Onega lake. At the end of the 15th century the Orthodox Church expanded its missionary activity to the Kola peninsula, which was renounced to the jurisdiction of the state of Moskow in the 1470s. The Saami became acquainted with Christian faith through the Novgorod people who came to the Kola peninsula in the 10th century. In 1589 the Russian Church established its own patriarchate in Moscow and thus eventually became a national church, independent from the Eastern Orthodox Church. A planned missionary activity among the Saami started in the 16th century, when the Russian Church became an independent national church and when the state of Moscow was gaining power and supported building of monasteries in the northern areas. The monasteries began to extend their administrative power and influence already from the end of the 15th century through their missionary work, which continued to the end of the 17th century.
Since the eastern Saami had long been in contact with Christian Russians and Karelians, the ground for spreading of Christianity among the Saami was already prepared. First there were monks, who had come to preach Christian faith among the eastern Saami. Most of them learned the Saami language. The first Saami, who converted to Christianity, lived on the shores of Käddluhtt (Russian Kandalakša). According to Russian chronicles they were baptized in 1526. It proved to be more difficult to convert those Saami who lived in the inner parts of the Kola peninsula and who had been in less contact with Russian settlers. In the 16th century there were two missionaries who worked among the eastern Saami. Feodorit is supposed to be a founder of a monastery of Kola and a baptizer of the local Saami. Trifon is considered to be a baptiser of the Skolt Saami and a founder of a monastery of Petchenga (Petsamo, Petsamon luostari).
Spreading of Christian religion among the Ter Saami began about the 1570s. Then a church in honour of the apostles Peter and Paul was built in the eastern part of the Kola peninsula, at the tributary of the Pyõnne (Russian Ponoj) river. In the 15th and 16th centuries in the Kola peninsula there were set up more than ten active churches. Two of them were particularly meant for use by Saami.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the Russian government divided the peasants of the Kola peninsula, Saami included, and their lands under the jurisdiction of various monasteries. The Saami lived in the areas that became a property of different monasteries, missed their rights to their lands in favour of their feudal owners. Until the 1760s the Saami had been obliged to pay both for the keeping of churches and monasteries and the services of priests visiting the Saami villages. It caused dissatisfaction among the Saami. In 1764 all the monastery lands were expropriated for the Moscow state by a tsar decree. The monastery of Petchenga was closed then, too. The Saami received their lands back, but they had never become owners of their lands because of the Russian economic expansion in the North-West of Russia, colonisation, taxation and Russian policy supporting new settlers in the North.
At the end of the 17th century there still were individual groups of the Saami who were not baptized, called wild Saami among the Russians. The national decree recommended the Russian clergy in 1681 that the Saami should be converted by rewarding them instead of forcing them. A certain sum of money should be paid to every single baptized Saami, who should be also exempted from paying taxes for two years. In the 1720s the Saami of the most eastern Jofkyj (Russian Jokanga) village became baptised. This meant that practically the whole Saami population on the Kola peninsula was led to accept Christianity by the middle of the 18th century.
The encounter of Saami and Russian religious beliefs. A marked difference in the missionary strategy of the Russian Church as compared to that of the Western Protestant Church among the Scandinavian Saami was, that the Russian missionaries did not use forceful means to convert the Saami. A loyal missionary policy towards the Saami continued during the 16th and the 17th centuries in order to strengthen position of Russia in the North-West where Denmark(-Norway) and Sweden(-Finland) had their interest. For many centuries some of the eastern Saami groupings had to pay taxes to two and even three states. The objective of the syncretism, that formed in the beginning of the missionary work, changed when the influence of Christianity grew stronger in the 18th century. Church leaders started to act condescendingly towards the beliefs of the Saami, branding them as profound paganism. Saami were supposed to break with their own principles, ways and rituals, which lasted in spite of Saami having accepted Christian ideas. They followed some of the church ordinances. They confessed the name of Christ, they respected some of the saints, especially St Nicolaus, they prayed in front of icons, they carried necklace crosses and believed in their protective power. On arriving at Russian villages on some errand or to participate at some great festivity the Saami often most went to the church, attended the church service and gave gifts to the priests. They also made use of the services of the priests when marrying, when bringing their children to christen them.
In the 19th century the Russian Church began establishing seminaries in order to give theological education to the future priests, but it was still a lack of educated clergy in the North. In many remote Saami villages were no regularly functioning churches. The parish priest visited the villages only a few times a year. In the 1880s the Russian Church began establishing the church schools. Some of the schools were closed down some few years after being founded. At most church schools it was taught in Russian, with an exception of a parish school in Paatsjoki (Schekoldin). The Saami children did not know Russian at all when starting the school. Then knowledge of Russian became more necessary for the Saami than ever before, not only for use in business, for taxation needs or in their encounter with the church, but also in order to have possibility to receive general education. The emphasis given by the church schools to the learning of Russian and to church services in Russian, as well as the continual dealings of Saami with the Russian-speaking population, had a lasting effect on the vocabulary of the Saami language. The Saami vocabulary for use in church liturgy and ceremonies is all derived from Russian.
Religious life after the Russian revolution of 1917. After the revolution the church was separated from the state according to the Soviet decree of 1918. In the beginning of the 1920s the churches woke up to a new life, but from the year 1929 churches were shut down once again and church property was expropriated for the state. The measures taken against the church were at worst at the end of the 1930s. At the latter part of the 1930s the activity of the church shrunk as to be insignificant.
In the 1920s-1930s there began a breakdown of moral and social values in the Soviet Union, and it worsened gradually under the pressure of a belligerent atheism upheld by the Soviet Union. The Saami of the Soviet Union were bound either to accept the new morality and raise their children up in the atheistic spirit or else hide their religious notions and even, in their despondency, convert to the pre-Christian beliefs of their ancestors, which had to be kept a secret. In the 1920s there was launched a state programme for the education of the people aimed to abolish illiteracy in the Soviet Russia. The education aimed inter alia at renouncing religion and at inculcating the new moral codex of socialism. The fundamental moral brought to the fore collectivism and had as its basis the materialistic philosophy. In the 1930s many Saami families were removed from their traditional areas of habitation, which were of vital importance to them both in economical and social sense, then the established system and equilibrium of the spiritual life of their social communities were seriously damaged. At the same time their ties to the Orthodox Church were severed. The church-opposing attitude of the state lasted for more than 40 years. The Russian Orthodox Church took up its activity again in the late 1980s. Nowadays different Christian and other confessions from abroad are increasingly working among the Saami in Russia.
With the Tartu peace agreement of 1920 the religious life of those Skolt Saami who had emigrated to Finland had also become difficult. In 19201944 the monastery of Petchenga, however, could continue influencing the life of the Skolt Saami in many ways, constituting a spiritual centre where the Saami would gather during the feast day of Teofania or on the day of the sanctifier Trifon. The Orthodox congregation of Petchenga was founded in 1922. The monastery functioned until the Winter War (1939), in some respects up to the year 1944. The surrender of Petchenga to the Soviet Union meant that Skolt Saami were separated from the monastery. The Orthodox congregation of Petchenga was discontinued. The next few years after World War II the Skolt Saami had not even the possibility of following the church services on a regular basis. Only in 1950 in Finland an Orthodox congregation, which should cover the whole County of Lappi, was founded, but the centre of the congregation was not placed in the area where the Skolt Saami lived. The building of chapels protracted for years and the religious life was thus difficult for the Skolt Saami. The Finnish Skolt Saami have been an ethnic minority both in the County of Lappi (Lapin lääni) and among the small number of Finns who profess the Orthodox faith (about 52 000). Orthodoxy has no doubt meant to the Skolt Saami more than merely religion, since it also has meant an endeavour by them to preserve their own roots in the alien environment.
Laitila, T. & Saarinen, T. (eds.) Uskonto ja identiteetti: Suomalais-ugrilaisten kokemuksia ja vaiheita Venäjällä ja Neuvostoliitossa. (SKS 741). Helsinki; Sergejeva, J. 2000. The Eastern Sámi: a Short Account of their History and Identity. in Acta Borealia 2000/2: 537. (Tromsø Museum, University of Tromsø).
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