Although several Russian churches in Europe date back to well before the Russian victory over the atheist tyrant Napoleon and the liberation of Paris by Russian troops in 1814, ignorant and ethnocentric Western Europe only began to understand the reality of Russia then. The Russian Empire was not after all some kind of Asian khanate, but a fully-fledged modern Empire. Russian science and art flourished with names of world renown and the theological academies brought fame to the Russian Church, amazing obscurantist European scholarship. Although the treason of 1917 put an end to this, today, with freedom come, we are once more seeing Westerners taking a more enlightened attitude to the Russian Orthodox Church, whose presence among them now dates back 400 years.
The 1617 Peace Treaty established the legal status of a Russian priest in Stockholm’s Ryssgarden. Services were conducted in premises which merchants rented. A real and more or less permanent Russian church was founded in 1700, with a diplomatic representative in Sweden, and from then on services were conducted almost continuously. In 1684 an embassy mission to China opened. Church life began in Berlin in 1718. In 1721 a church opened in London. In 1727 the embassy in Paris started Orthodox services. That same year under Anna Petrovna, Grand Duchess of Holstein, a church was set up in Kiel and lasted until 1799. A church which lasted briefly was founded in Tokaj in Hungary in 1749.
From 1759 till 1765 there was a church in Königsberg. A church was set up in Madrid in 1760 and in Vienna in 1762. A church opened in Copenhagen in 1797. The Russian embassy in Constantinople (1802) marked the establishment of the church there. That same year two more churches were founded, one at the court of Ekaterina Antonovna, Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and the other in Üröm, near Budapest, the location of the burial vault of Alexandra Pavlovna, Palatine of Hungary and sister of Emperor Alexander I. In 1804 a church opened in Weimar and in 1808 in Ludwigslust (Mecklenburg-Schwerin). A church was founded in The Hague in 1816.
A church opened in Bern in 1817, later moving to Geneva. That same year a church opened in Teheran. The Stuttgart church was organized in 1819. The church in Rome was founded in 1823 and in Rothenburg (Kingdom of Wurtemberg) in 1824. Emperor Nicholas I sent an ambassador to newly liberated Greece and a Russian church was set up in Athens. In 1844 churches were set up in Naples and Wiesbaden. In 1847 Archimandrite Porfiry (Uspensky) opened the Mission in Jerusalem. A church was set up in Amsterdam in 1852, Baden-Baden in 1858 and Nice in 1859. Two churches were set up in 1862, in Brussels and Dresden, and in 1865 in Karlsruhe and in 1867 in Pau in France. In the following year churches in Karlsbad and Florence were built. In 1870 the mission to Japan began under the future St Nicholas of Tokyo.
In 1874 a church opened in Prague. There was a church in Coburg-Gotha from 1874 to 1905. In 1876 a church was set up in Bad Ems and in 1878 in Vevey in Switzerland. The church in Marienbad opened in 1882. An Orthodox community opened in Argentina in 1888. A church was set up in Franzenbad in 1889, in Biarritz in 1890 and in Menton in France in 1892 and in Merano in Italy in 1897. Two Church missions were founded in 1897 ─ one in Urmia in Persia and the other in Seoul in Korea. In 1898 a church was built in San Stefano, near Constantinople, and in the following year in Darmstadt and in Homburg. Three churches were founded in 1901 ─ in Hamburg, Herbersdorf (Silesia) and Kissingen. Finally, by 1910 there were churches in Sofia and Budapest. Several churches were attached to the main ones in cities like Berlin, Constantinople and Nice.
Thus, by 1894 the Synod and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs oversaw 51 churches with 96 clergy and during the reign of the Tsar-Martyr, this increased to 56 churches. In addition, in 1912 the United States Diocese had 286 churches, while the Japanese Mission had 266 communities, the Beijing Mission fifteen, the Urmian Mission seven and the Korean Mission one. Since the flood of refugees from atheism after 1917, hundreds more churches have opened, and not counting the thousand or so in autonomous Japan and China and in autocephalous Poland, the Czech Lands and Slovakia and North America, the total in 2017 is about one thousand, all dependent either on Moscow or on the Church Outside Russia, now based in New York.
(Our thanks to Deacon Andrei Psarev for information supplied for this article)