The Most Famous

RELIGIOUS FIGURES from Russia

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This page contains a list of the greatest Russian Religious Figures. The pantheon dataset contains 2,272 Religious Figures, 26 of which were born in Russia. This makes Russia the birth place of the 17th most number of Religious Figures behind Iran and Japan.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Russian Religious Figures of all time. This list of famous Russian Religious Figures is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Russian Religious Figures.

Photo of Seraphim of Sarov

1. Seraphim of Sarov (1754 - 1833)

With an HPI of 73.59, Seraphim of Sarov is the most famous Russian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 32 different languages on wikipedia.

Seraphim of Sarov (Russian: Серафим Саровский; 30 July [O.S. 19 July] 1754 (or 1759) – 14 January [O.S. 2 January] 1833), born Prókhor Isídorovich Moshnín (Mashnín) [Про́хор Иси́дорович Мошни́н (Машни́н)], is one of the most renowned Russian saints and is venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He is generally considered the greatest of the 18th-century startsy (elders). Seraphim extended the monastic teachings of contemplation, theoria and self-denial to the layperson. He taught that the purpose of the Christian life was to receive the Holy Spirit. Perhaps his most popular quotation amongst his devotees is "acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved." Seraphim was glorifed by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1903. Pope John Paul II also referred to him as a saint.

Photo of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow

2. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow (1946 - )

With an HPI of 71.06, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow is the 2nd most famous Russian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 53 different languages.

Kirill or Cyril (Russian: Кирилл, Church Slavonic: Ст҃ѣ́йшїй патрїа́рхъ кѷрі́ллъ, secular name Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev, Russian: Владимир Михайлович Гундяев; born 20 November 1946) is a Russian Orthodox bishop. He became Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church on 1 February 2009. Prior to becoming Patriarch, Kirill was Archbishop (later Metropolitan) of Smolensk and Kaliningrad beginning on 26 December 1984, and also Chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church's Department for External Church Relations and a permanent member of the Holy Synod beginning in 1989. A close ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Kirill has described Putin’s rule as "a miracle of God." According to Putin, Kirill's father baptized him. During his tenure as Patriarch of Moscow all Rus', Kirill has brought the Russian Orthodox Church closer to the Russian state. Kirill's relationship with Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Ecumenical Patriarch and the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide, has been tense. After Kirill lauded Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, clergy in other Orthodox dioceses condemned Kirill's remarks, with Bartholomew I saying that Kirill's support for Putin and the war were "damaging to the prestige of the whole of Orthodoxy."

Photo of Eugen Sandow

3. Eugen Sandow (1867 - 1925)

With an HPI of 69.52, Eugen Sandow is the 3rd most famous Russian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.

Eugen Sandow (born Friedrich Wilhelm Müller, German: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈvɪlhɛlm ˈmʏlɐ]; 2 April 1867 – 14 October 1925) was a German bodybuilder and showman from Prussia. Born in Königsberg, Sandow became interested in bodybuilding at the age of ten during a visit to Italy. After a spell in the circus, Sandow studied under strongman Ludwig Durlacher in the late 1880s. On Durlacher's recommendation, he began entering strongman competitions, performing in matches against leading figures in the sport such as Charles Sampson, Frank Bienkowski, and Henry McCann. In 1901 he organised what is believed to be the world's first major body building competition. Set in London's Royal Albert Hall, Sandow judged the event alongside author Arthur Conan Doyle and athlete/sculptor Charles Lawes-Wittewronge.

Photo of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow

4. Patriarch Nikon of Moscow (1605 - 1681)

With an HPI of 69.19, Patriarch Nikon of Moscow is the 4th most famous Russian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 35 different languages.

Nikon (Russian: Ни́кон, Old Russian: Нїконъ), born Nikita Minin (Никита Минин; 7 May 1605 – 17 August 1681) was the seventh Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' of the Russian Orthodox Church, serving officially from 1652 to 1666. He was renowned for his eloquence, energy, piety and close ties to Tsar Alexis of Russia. Nikon introduced many reforms, including liturgical reforms that were unpopular among conservatives. These divisions eventually led to a lasting schism known as Raskol (schism) in the Russian Orthodox Church. For many years, he was a dominant political figure, often equaling or even overshadowing the Tsar. In December 1666, Nikon was tried by a synod of church officials, deprived of all his sacerdotal functions, and reduced to the status of a simple monk.

Photo of Basil Fool for Christ

5. Basil Fool for Christ (1468 - 1552)

With an HPI of 69.18, Basil Fool for Christ is the 5th most famous Russian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Basil the Blessed (known also as Basil, fool for Christ; Basil, Wonderworker of Moscow; or Blessed Basil of Moscow, fool for Christ Russian: Василий Блаженный, Vasily Blazhenny) is a Russian Orthodox saint of the type known as yurodivy or "holy fool".

Photo of Sergius of Radonezh

6. Sergius of Radonezh (1314 - 1392)

With an HPI of 68.84, Sergius of Radonezh is the 6th most famous Russian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.

Sergius of Radonezh (Russian: Се́ргий Ра́донежский, Sergii Radonezhsky; 14 May 1314 – 25 September 1392), also known as Sergiy Radonezhsky, Serge of Radonezh and Sergius of Moscow, was a spiritual leader and monastic reformer of medieval Russia. Together with Seraphim of Sarov, he is one of the Russian Orthodox Church's most highly venerated saints.

Photo of Avvakum

7. Avvakum (1620 - 1682)

With an HPI of 68.52, Avvakum is the 7th most famous Russian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.

Avvakum Petrov (Russian: Аввакум Петров; 20 November 1620/21 – 14 April 1682) (also spelled Awakum) was a Russian protopope of the Kazan Cathedral on Red Square who led the opposition to Patriarch Nikon's reforms of the Russian Orthodox Church. His autobiography and letters to the tsar, Boyarynya Morozova, and other Old Believers are considered masterpieces of 17th-century Russian literature.

Photo of Nadezhda von Meck

8. Nadezhda von Meck (1831 - 1894)

With an HPI of 67.97, Nadezhda von Meck is the 8th most famous Russian Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 20 different languages.

Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck (Russian: Надежда Филаретовна фон Мекк; 10 February [O.S. 29 January] 1831 – 13 January 1894) was a Russian businesswoman who became an influential patron of the arts, especially music. She is best known today for her artistic relationship with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, supporting him financially for thirteen years, so that he could devote himself full-time to composition, while stipulating that they were never to meet. Tchaikovsky dedicated his Symphony No. 4 in F minor to her. She also gave financial support to several other musicians, including Nikolai Rubinstein and Claude Debussy.

Photo of Ilia II of Georgia

9. Ilia II of Georgia (1933 - )

With an HPI of 67.73, Ilia II of Georgia is the 9th most famous Russian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.

Ilia II (Georgian: ილია II, romanized: ilia II), also transliterated as Ilya or Elijah (born 4 January 1933), is the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia and the spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church. He is officially styled as Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi and Metropolitan Bishop of Bichvinta and Tskhum-Abkhazia, His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II.

Photo of Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow

10. Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow (1865 - 1925)

With an HPI of 67.59, Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow is the 10th most famous Russian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.

Tikhon of Moscow (Russian: Тихон Московский, 31 January [O.S. 19 January] 1865 – 7 April [O.S. 25 March] 1925), born Vasily Ivanovich Bellavin (Russian: Василий Иванович Беллавин), was a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). On 5 November 1917 (OS) he was selected the 11th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, after a period of about 200 years of the Synodal rule in the ROC. He was canonised as a confessor by the ROC in 1989.

Pantheon has 26 people classified as religious figures born between 1314 and 1966. Of these 26, 4 (15.38%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living religious figures include Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, Ilia II of Georgia, and Hilarion. The most famous deceased religious figures include Seraphim of Sarov, Eugen Sandow, and Patriarch Nikon of Moscow. As of October 2020, 4 new religious figures have been added to Pantheon including Aleksandr Akimov, Anna Vyrubova, and Matrona Nikonova.

Living Religious Figures

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Deceased Religious Figures

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Newly Added Religious Figures (2020)

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Which Religious Figures were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 15 most globally memorable Religious Figures since 1700.