Department of Church History

Moscow State University, Faculty of History, auditorium -421
Lomonosovsky prospekt, 27-4
Moscow, 119992
Phone: +7 (495) 939-52-64.

Department Head: Professor V.V.Simonov DSc Economics.


Church history has been taught at the Moscow State University since the 19th century. The Department of Exegesis and Church History was established by the University Charter in 1804, but the actual studies began in 1863, when the Department of Church History was opened at the Faculty of History and Philology. It was headed by the leading researchers of ecclesiastical history: Professors N.K.Sokolov, A.M.Ivantsov-Platonov, A.P.Lebedev, A.I.Almazov. The department was closed in 1918 and Church history studies were suspended during the Soviet period for ideological reasons.

Since the late 1980s, with the decline of Soviet ideology, the subject of Church history has become one of the most popular trends in the Russian historical studies. Many leading historians have turned their attention to it, but there was no research and study centre for such investigation. The decision to revive the traditions of Church history teaching at the Moscow State University has been considered by the University since 1990s, involving V.A.Sadovnichiy, the rector of the University and a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Professor S.P.Karpov, the dean of the Faculty of History and a correspondent member of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Professor V.A.Fedorov, and others. As a result, the Department of Church History at the Faculty of History of the Moscow State University was established on the 7th of February, 2007. It is the only such department amongst the Russian secular higher educational institutions. Professor V.V.Simonov was appointed the head of the new department.

Purposes of the course

The department's objectives are:
  • Systematisation of the Church history into a single integrated course;

  • Training of Church history experts who will go on to teach at higher educational institutions and do scientific research;

  • Creating a methodology for the Church history in secular higher educational institutions;

  • Further development of achievements of the Russian researchers in this area.

The Church history is taught at the department in its entirety: the Ancient Church, Orthodoxy, Catholicism, as well as Non-Chalcedonian (Oriental Orthodox), Protestant and other denominations. Particular attention is paid to the Russian Church history: the official Orthodoxy, the Old Belief, and various alternative and dissident groups as well. The course covers 2000 years, from the birth of Christianity to the early 21st century.

Textbooks and special courses

The lecturers of the department have developed a general lecture course, mandatory for all students of the faculty. The textbook on the Church history in 2 volumes (Vol.1: The History of the Ancient Church and Christian denominations from the origin of the Christianity to the early 21st century; Vol.2: The history of the Church in Russia) is currently being prepared for publication. The Church history will be presented there in its entirety, on the contemporary scientific background for the first time in Russian. The work on the textbooks for the source studies and historiography of the Church history is also in progress. The students majoring in Church history attend lectures on historiography, source studies, historic geography, calendar and chronology of the Russian Orthodox Church, and so on. Several theological disciplines, such as dogmatic teachings, liturgiology and canon law, are also taught from the historical point of view. The students are offered several special courses as well:

  • "The history of the Christian economic thought" by V.V.Simonov;
  • "The religious environment of the Early Christianity" by A.V.Belousov;
  • "Three Christian capitals: Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem" by L.G.Khrushkova;
  • "Apocrypha et hagiographica: introduction to the history of the Early Christian and Byzantine apocryphal and hagiographical literature" by A.Yu.Vinogradov;
  • "The history of the Non-Chalcedonian (Oriental Orthodox) Churches" by P.V.Kuzenkov;
  • "The documents of the Western Church as the sources for studying its history" and "History of the English Church: from the Norman Conquest to the New Time" by Z.Yu.Metlitskaya;
  • "The Athos monkhood: history and modernity" and "The Orthodox traditionalism in Greece, Serbia and Russia in 18th - 20th centuries" by A.G.Zoitakis;
  • "Monasteries and monastic culture in Russia in 11th - 21st centuries" and "The Holy Synod and the synodal system in Russia (1721-1917)" by G.M.Zapalsky;
  • "The state denominational institutions in Russia in the 18th - 20th centuries" by D.Yu.Arapov.

The students of the department learn both contemporary and ancient languages (Latin, Ancient Greek and Church Slavonic).

The students also attend lectures by the staff of the Laboratory of Archaeography of the Faculty of History, and take part in the Laboratory's expeditions under the direction of Professor I.V.Pozdeeva. The students also receive hands-on training in archaeology in Pitsunda (Abkhazia) at the Office of Historical and Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Abkhazia, and in Sevastopol (Ukraine) at the Chersonese National Park. Archaeological excavations are carried out under the guidance of Professor L.G.Khrushkova.

The lecturers of the department take part in national and international conferences, and write articles for encyclopaedias, textbooks and monographs. During its short life, the department published the following works: L.G.Khrushkova "Les monuments chrétiens de la côte orientale de la mer Noire. Abkhazie. IVe-XIVe siècles" (Turnhout, 2006), V.V.Simonov "School of Penance: Scholia in the Margins of the Great Canon" (Moscow, 2007), A.G.Zoitakis "Life and the Prophecies of Cosmas of Aetolia" (Moscow, 2007) and "Traditional Enlightenment in the 18th century Greece: Cosmas of Aetolia and Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain" (Moscow, 2008), G.M.Zapalsky "The Settlement Doesn't Stand Without a Righteous Man...: Religious Ascetics of the Meshchovsky Region" (Moscow, 2007) and "Optina Pustyn and its Disciples in 1825-1917" (Moscow, 2009).