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It was formed as a jurisdiction of Eastern Orthodoxy as a response against the policy of Bolsheviks with respect to religion in the Soviet Union soon after the Russian Revolution of 1917, and separated from the Russian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1927 after an imprisoned Patriarch Sergius I of Moscow pledged the church’s qualified loyalty to the Bolshevik state. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia officially signed the Act of Canonical Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate on May 17, 2007 restoring the canonical link between the churches. Critics of the reunification argue that the issue of KGB infiltration of the Moscow Patriarchate church hierarchy has not been addressed by the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Church has over 400 parishes worldwide, and an estimated membership of over 400,000 people. Within the ROCOR there are 13 hierarchs, and also monasteries and nunneries in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and South America.