The Russian True Orthodox Church (RTOC), also known as the "Tikhonites," is one of several jurisdictions to emerge out of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia's (ROCOR) activity in Russia in the 1990s, claiming to be the "true," "free," or "catacomb" Orthodox Church in Russia. Many of the RTOC hierarchs have been suspended or deposed by the Russian Orthodox Church. The RTOC does not maintain eucharistic communion with any other jurisdiction but now retain close ties to the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece and are in informal communion.
The RTOC traces its origins to Archbishop Lazar (Zhurbenko) of Odessa, who was secretly ordained as a catacomb bishop for Russia by Bishop Varnava (Prokofiev) of the ROCOR. Following the Mansonville schism in November 2001, Bishop Lazar and Bishop Benjamin (Rusalenko) of Kuban left the ROCOR for the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile (ROCiE), the jurisdiction formed by Bishop Varnava with the self-retired Metropolitan Vitaly at its helm.
However, only a few months after the Mansonville schism, Lazar and Benjamin left the ROCiE synod and set up their own organization in Russia. In 2002, they unilaterally consecrated bishops for Russia, one of whom was Leonid Alimpovich Pasechnik, the future Archbishop Tikhon.
Metropolitan Vitaly condemned the actions of Lazar and Benjamin on two occasions. On July 28, 2003, both were suspended from the ROCiE synod and on November 19, 2004, Metropolitan Vitaly wrote "I consider the consecrations of Hieromonks Dionisy, Germogen, Tikhon, and Iriney, performed by Archbishop Lazar and Bishop Veniamin, to be illicit, and I declare that I have no prayerful or liturgical communion with them."
Following the death of Archbishop Lazar (Zhurbenko), Tikhon Pasechnik was elected on July 7, 2003, the new First-Hierarch of the RTOC, with the title "Archbishop of Omsk and Siberia."
The RTOC today
The RTOC numbers several dozen parishes in Russia and Ukraine and a handful of parishes abroad. Among the better known are the former ROCOR cathedral in Lyons, France, and the Lesna Convent, also in France. the latter left the ROCOR for the RTOC following the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion between the ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate in 2007. The RTOC also maintains a number of web-logs and newspapers, which publish political propaganda critical of the current Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church. These include the popular Russian émigré newspaper Nasha Strana (Our Country).
Critics of the RTOC frequently argue the RTOC is primarily a political organization, with financial ties to the Ukrainian Bankers Association. The current RTOC episcopacy includes:
- Archbishop Tikhon of Omsk and Siberia
- Bishop Dionisy of Novgorod and Tver
- Bishop Iriney of Verny and the Seven Rivers
- Archbishop Benjamin of the Black Sea and the Kuban
- Bishop Stefan of Trenton and New Jersey
- Official RTOC site (Russian)
- RTOC Mission in the United States (English)
- History of the Russian True Orthodox Church, from Assumption Parish Website (Russian/English)