Nicolas Myers’ account of the history of the Russian Orthodox Church is lacking:
The role of the Orthodox Church in the Russian Empire diverged significantly from that of any Western Christian denomination after 1648. The Tsar’s authority over them was derived from the Tsar’s authority over the Church.
In the 1650s, Patriarch Nikon sought to reform Russian Orthodox services and rituals by making them more true to historical Byzantine ceremonies in line with Moscow’s claim to be the “Third Rome.” And in the early 1700s Peter the Great further consolidated control over the Russian Orthodox Church by replacing the Patriarch of Moscow with the Holy Synod, a council of bishops overseen by a civil servant. The church effectively became a government ministry under the Tsar’s personal authority.
I agree with Myers that Peter’s policies proved very harmful for the life of the church in Russia. The unfortunate history of the Russian Orthodox Church after the Petrine reforms is one of the better examples of the distortions that were introduced into the relationship between church and state in the Orthodox world by the conscious adoption of contemporary Western models. The same treatment of the Orthodox Church in newly independent Greece followed the pattern of turning the church into a department of the state, which represented the imitation of the widely-followed pattern in Europe, especially in Protestant states. The subordination of state churches to their princes was the post-1648 norm in Europe, not the exception.
The Nikonian reforms both enhanced and weakened the tsar’s authority in Russia. Because Tsar Alexis originally allied with Patriarch Nikon and supported his reforms, the enforcement of the reforms increased the power of the tsar and strengthened ties between the ruler and the church. However, because of the popular backlash against the reforms it also alienated a large part of the population from both church and state. One need not be an Old Believer to understand the enormous pastoral and spiritual damage that these reforms caused. These reforms were essentially all liturgical changes, which copied contemporary practice at Constantinople and were technically of more recent invention than some of the Russian practices they replaced. Because Constantinople was perceived at the time to have lost some of its status on account of 15th-century unionism and its subordination to a non-Christian ruler, opponents of Nikon’s reforms considered liturgical practices imported from Constantinople to be less acceptable and represented an unnecessary and undesirable innovation in church life.