History of the controversy

The controversy has its origin in the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Between 1918 and 1920 the revolutionary Russia and Estonia, which was striving for independence, were engaged in warfare. In 1919, after the emergence of the independent Estonian state, the Orthodox congregations under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate established the Estonian Orthodox congregation and applied to the Patriarch of Moscow for autonomy.

In 1920, Patriarch Tikhon granted the Estonian Orthodox Church independence. Because of the political situation, relations with the Moscow Patriarchate were complicated – Russian church life was disrupted by the ongoing warfare; as a result of the anti-church policy of the young Soviet power, Patriarch Tikhon was dismissed, and the then leaders of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church did not want to maintain links with the "new" Russian Orthodox Church. The EAOC leaders turned to the Patriarch of Constantinople to place themselves under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. In 1923, Patriarch Meletios IV granted the EAOC the tomos. In the 1920s and 1930s the EAOC split into two dioceses on the basis of ethnic origin — one was Estonian and the other Russian.

The changes came in 1940 when Estonia was incorporated into the Soviet Union. Regarding Estonia as their canonical territory, the ROC rejected the decision of the EAOC to leave the Moscow Patriarchate as illegal, and the EAOC was merged with the ROC. In 1942, when Estonia was occupied by the Germans, the EAOC declared itself autonomous, while the Russian diocese remained under the Moscow Patriarchate. In 1944, with the advancement of the Soviet Army, Metropolitan Alexander fled abroad, and since then the continuity of the EAOC was maintained outside Estonia. In 1945, the EAOC was liquidated in Estonia by the Moscow Patriarchate. The congregations in Estonia were included in the ROC as a diocese. The situation in which the EAOC continued in exile and all the Orthodox congregations on Estonian territory fell within the jurisdiction of the ROC diocese, lasted until 1993.

The overall tendency after the re-establishment of Estonia's independence, was the restoration of pre-Soviet associations. The Estonian Orthodox community was split into two — part of the clergy and congregations wanted to be linked to the Moscow Patriarchate and the others wanted to restore the EAOC in Estonia. The division was not on an ethnic basis. In 1991, Bishop Kornily entered the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Estonian registry of Business Companies, Institutions and Associations under the name of "Orthodox Church in Estonia. The Board of the Tallinn Diocese", which in 1992 was declared subject of property reform. This meant that the "Orthodox Church in Estonia. The Board of the Tallinn Diocese " would be the sole owner of church property expropriated in the Soviet time.

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