Possible solutions to the conflict

In early 2001 the conflict seemed to find a solution — the church within the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate did not apply for registration as the EAOC and was prepared to give up allegations of direct legal succession. The new name under which they were to be registered was the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (EOCMP). However, the judicial question of legal succession of the EOCMP turned into a political one, because of the internal power struggle in Estonia. Moreover, the EAOC did not accept the name of the EOCMP, considering it to be misleading. Partly as a result of active lobbying by the EAOC, the Minister refused to register the EOCMP.

The reason for refusal was the confusing similarity between the two names of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, a possible interpretation of some dates in the EOCMP statute as proof of legal continuity and the question whether this was the foundation or the first registration of congregations, in which case additional documents were required. Bishop Kornily accused the Pro Patria party’s Ministry of Internal Affairs of bias and sued the Minister, after which the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the EOCMP started negotiations to reach an out-of-court agreement.

The EAOC suggested that the congregations within the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate should be registered as the ROC diocese or as the ROC in Estonia. This viewpoint reflects the reaction to the unwillingness of the ROC to recognise the EAOC as an autonomous church. The same name was proposed by the representatives of the Estonian government. These names did not satisfy the EOCMP. The experts whose opinion was sought, did not find the name of the EOCMP misleading. At the same time, the Estonian Business Association increased its lobbying activity in the hope that after the registration of the EOCMP, the double customs tariffs on Estonian-Russian trade would disappear. Their hopes were fostered by the earlier statements of the Russian authorities.

In June 2001 the Pro Patria’s Prime Minister announced that the name of the EOCMP was acceptable. After the revisions of the statutes, which were to do away with the ambiguity of the dates, the EOCMP was entered into the Registry of Estonian Churches and Congregations on 17 April 2002. The registration did not, however, lead to the disappearance of double customs tariffs that the companies engaged in Estonian eastern trade had hoped for. The ROC recognised the efforts of the Business Association by conferring an award on one of their leaders. The ROC also thanked the Russian authorities for supporting them in the controversy.

Now, however, a solution seems to have been found to the question of church property, with several buildings used by the EOCMP belonging legally to the EAOC. The latter was prepared to cede its property rights to the state, which will be passed on to the EOCMP; the state, in return, shall renovate the EAOC churches.

What will be the future relations between the two autonomous branches which fall within the jurisdiction of two different patriarchates? Only time will tell. In the future, the question of the spheres of influence in society will become important, as well as the inclusion of ethnic, cultural and social groups in the church and their role in society. Despite the fact that the dispute has been settled, it would be too early to say that the "religious controversy" has been overcome. The traces of history may last for a long time.

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