The role of the Church as an element of communication on the territory of Northwestern provinces of the Russian Empire in the late 18th – early 20th centuries is revealed in the article. The importance of the Church in the exchange of information was presented in its role as a unique means of broadcasting government orders to the population, collecting information, legitimating social relations and education. The role of the Belorussian-Lithuanian Orthodox dioceses was determined by confessional specificity of the area, institutional peculiarities of the Orthodox Church, and generaltrendsin the development of the Russian Empire’s social system. On this basis, the author identified the following trends in communication: communication inside the Church, state-ecclesiastical communication, parochial communication, and communication between the Church and society(with the emergence of mass media). Revealing the contents of those trends the author states that, in the first half of the 19th century, participation of the Church in intensification of communicative processes had rather an empirical character. During Nicholas I reign, the initial level of systematical and conceptual understanding was achieved. In the second half of the 19th century, the Orthodox Church was already regarded as the most important factor of the Russian nation’s formation. It was demonstrated through intensification of the state custody over the Church and the decrease of its role as a unique channel of communication between the state and the citizens. Several innovations of that time (church communities, councils of rural deans, and parochial schools) were either originated on the territory of the Northwestern provinces or became the most frequent practice there. But at the turn of the 20th century, the model, in terms of which the key role of the Church in social communication was stated, lost its urgency.
Key words: communication, society, the Orthodox Church, diocese, Northwestern provinces.