• Tatyana Denisova Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia)



Russian Empire, Ethiopia, Russian Orthodox Church, Erhiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, religious missions, Menelik II


The aim of the article is to analyze the first attempts to forge a relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The paper considers religious and political preconditions for the rapprochement of the two empires. It is noted that in Russia since the 14th century, the perception of Ethiopians as exemplary Christians had existed, but Russian-Ethiopian contacts for a long time had remained sporadic. However, by the middle of the 19th century, the Russian Empire had become a major power with enormous foreign policy ambitions: it had also developed its own interests in the Horn of Africa region. In the second half of the 19th century, the interest in Abyssinia, its history and religion on the part of the Russian public, including the academic circles, increased noticeably. In the 1880s, the first religious missions were sent to Ethiopia, and contacts between the two churches were established. The development of relations between the two countries in various spheres was also greatly facilitated by the opening of the Embassy of the Russian Empire in Addis Ababa in 1897.


“Walking of Archimandrite Agrefeny of the monastery of the Most Holy Mother of God (circa 1370)”, in: Orthodox Palestine Collection, Archimandrite Leonid (ed.), Vol. XVI, No. 3/43, St. Petersburg, 1896.

Archimandrite Ephrem (Tsvetaev), Trip to Abyssinia, University Printing House, Moscow, 1901.Archimandrite Porphyrius (Uspensky), Codex Sinaiticus, Printing house of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, 1847.

Archimandrite Tikhon (Zatekin), Archimandrite Paisiy and the Russian Spiritual Mission to Abyssinia in the 19th century, Nizhny Novgorod Antiquity, Vol. 27-28, 2011.

Archive of the foreign policy of the Russian Empire (AFPRE), Politarchive, inventory 482, case 142, folio 208, 234-238.

Bolotov Vasily, Several pages from the ecclesiastical history of Ethiopia. On the question of uniting the Abyssinians with the Orthodox Church. Theological disputes in the Ethiopian Church, F.G. Eleonskogo and Co., St. Petersburg, 1888.

Bulatovich Alexander, With the Armies of Menelik II, Nauka, Moscow, 1971.

Dmitrievsky Alexey, Archimandrite Porphyrius Uspensky as the initiator and organizer of the first Russian Orthodox Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, B. Kirschbauma, St. Petersburg, 1906.

Dolganev Ephrem, The Country of Ethiopians (Abyssinia), Bogelman, St. Petersburg, 1896.

Fedorov Vladimir, Abyssinia, Suvorina, St. Petersburg, 1889.

Gokov Oleg, “The Russian military intelligence in Africa (second half of the 19th – early 20th centuries”, available at:, (date accessed: 14.11.2020)

Jesman Czeslaw, The Russians in Ethiopia: an Essay in Futility, Chatto and Windus, London, 1958.

Khrenkov Andrey, On the history of Russian-Ethiopian religious contacts, Countries and Peoples of the East, Nauka, Moscow, No. 27, 1991.

Khrenkov Andrey, Russia and Ethiopia: the development of bilateral ties (from the first contacts to 1917), Institute for African Studies, Moscow, 1992.

Letters from Pobedonostsev to Alexander III, Vol. II, Novaya Moskva, Moscow, 1926.

Materials for the biography of Archimandrite Porphyrius Uspensky, Vol. I, official documents, St. Petersburg, 1910.

Matveevsky Pavel, Christianity in Abyssinia, Strannik, St. Petersburg, 1867.

Nelyubov Boris, “Ancient Eastern Churches. Ethiopian Church”, Alpha and Omega, No. 16, 1998, available at:, (date accessed: 12.11.2020)

Nikolaev Leonid, The Abyssinian mission of Archimandrite Paisiy and N.I. Ashinov, I. Zhelikhovsky, Odessa, 1889.

Panaev Valerian, V.A. Panaev's memories, Russian antiquity, No. 11, 1906.

Russian State Historical Archives (RSHA), fund 796, inventory 205, case 518, section I, folio 4-5.

Russian-Ethiopian relations in the 19th – early 20th centuries: Collection of documents, Nauka, Moscow, 1998.

The Extraordinary Abyssinian Embassy, Niva, No. 29, 1895.

“Trifon Korobeinikov's walking”, in: Orthodox Palestine Collection, Chryzant Loparev (ed.) No. 27, Moscow, 1889.

Yakushev Michail, Russian followers Vasily Barsky and Kir Bronnikov on Mount Athos. Russia and the Christian East, 2016, (date accessed: 11.11.2020)




How to Cite

Denisova, T. (2022). THE FIRST RUSSIAN RELIGIOUS MISSIONS TO ETHIOPIA . Politics and Religion Journal, 15(1), 49–64.