Director of the Visiting Fellows Programme
Anna Korhonen
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Eeva Korteniemi
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Location & Connections


Visiting Fellows 2012-2013



Thomas Bremer, University of Münster, Germany

“Church and State in the Russian Tradition”
Fellowship period: February 1–March 31, 2013

Dr Thomas Bremer is a Catholic theologian and specialist in Eastern Churches. After his studies of Catholic theology and Slavonic languages in Munich, Belgrade and Münster, he gained in 1990 his PhD with a dissertation on the ecclesiology in the Serbian Orthodox Church. In the 1990s, he was research assistant at Münster University and later executive director of German Association for East European Studies in Berlin. In this time, he was intensively engaged in interchurch and interreligious contacts in former Yugoslavia, led respective projects, and he also did research on questions of churches and religious communities in situation of conflict. In April 1999 he became professor of Ecumenics (Eastern Churches) and Peace Studies at the Faculty of Catholic Theology in Münster; between 2003 and 2005 he served as dean of the Faculty. His research interests are Orthodoxy in Russia, Ukraine and in Serbia, ecumenical relations between Eastern and Western Churches, Orthodoxy and modernity. He has published several books and many articles. In 2011/2012, he was Research Fellow at the Imre Kertész Kolleg in Jena University.

Abstract of current research:
The project I work on intends to research the relationship between state and Church in Russia. As there is not so much theoretical reflection on this issue by the Church itself, the research concentrates on the analysis of statements and acts of Church representatives. This will be done in an historical perspective, although with an accent on modern history. The research will focus on theological foundations within Orthodoxy; there is a theological tradition within the Russian Church which comes from the Byzantine heritage. Here we find the notion of symphonia as description of an ideal vision of this relationship. Russian Orthodoxy has received this tradition; however, it changed radically with the Petrine reforms, and again with the revolution in 1917 when the Orthodox Church was – for the first time in its history – confronted with a hostile state. After the end of communism, both sides – state and Church – were trying to develop new ways of their relationship, both by practicing and by theoretical reflection. In this regard, a document on social doctrine is of importance which the Church adopted in 2000. One needs to take into account these developments and this background in order to get a better insight into the complexity of the relations between state and Church in today’s Russia. The objective of my project is to develop a theory which will enable us to better understand this relationship by regarding its theological roots, and which will avoid judgment exclusively from a Western perspective.

By February 2013, when I will come to Helsinki, I intend to have done already a great share of the overall project. In Helsinki, I plan above all to consult material which is difficult to access in Germany, especially literature from Russia and also from social sciences.

Email: th.bremer [at]

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Kaarina Aitamurto