Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion


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My second objection is connected to the first: the way in which Orthodox Christianity, the religion of the Russians historically, is usually portrayed as the source of this inadequate national character, as a faith that emphasized form over content and that preached a world-denying passivity.

All of this usually adds up to an argument that Russia was insufficiently secularized—and thus insufficiently modern—on the eve of the revolution.

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In the process, this approach unnecessarily exoticizes and essentializes Russia. Slezkine does not advance an argument based on national character—indeed, national identity seems of little interest to his multi-ethnic Bolsheviks—and Orthodox Christianity as an explanatory factor is virtually absent from his analysis. On the contrary, although he is careful to draw on the lively research of the last two decades on late imperial Russian religion in order to place Bolshevism within a broader atmosphere of religious ferment, his model of religion in general, and of sectarianism in particular, is overwhelmingly based on Western Christianity and, indeed, on the radical Reformation.

Here he falls back on a sort of universal Western European-based model of the modernization process, and the concomitant secularization thesis. In his seminal study of the emergence of modernity, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism , Max Weber suggested that Calvinist asceticism produced—and was ultimately secularized in—the rationalized and disenchanted modern world.

Still, comparison is a necessary component of all analysis. So is model-building to enable that comparison.


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But we need to continually refine these models. This involves asking new questions and doing careful empirical work to unpack the assumptions within the models. Useful surveys include: David D. Accordingly, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries witnessed few canonizations. In the battle against superstitions, including what the Holy Synod viewed as excessive veneration of saints and miracle-working icons, the Russian Orthodox Church was unable to stem the disaffection of believers to Old Belief, sectarianism, Protestantism, and ultimately scientific rationalism.

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Consequently, in the s the Synod somewhat softened its stance toward the laity's steadfast belief in miracles in their contemporary world. It now understood that the recognition of some miracles, while still subjected to the greatest of scrutiny, could improve its chances of success in the battle for control of the faithful.

That relaxation resulted in the printing of unusual miracle stories in the church's newly established religious journals or in pamphlet form. With the explosion of print literature, by the late nineteenth century miracle tales appeared regularly in all religious publications, especially those geared toward the growing pilgrimage trade. Generally, printed miracle stories were dramatically redacted versions of the miraculous cures.

Following the medieval formula, a miracle tale recorded the name, estate, and residence of the recipient of the miracle as well as the nature of the individual's illness prior to the miracle; the ways in which the person prepared for the miraculous event; the nature of the saint's intervention; and finally, the type of thanksgiving the recipient bestowed upon the holy intercessor.


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  6. The archival documents are much more elaborate in detailing the stories of the recipients of the miraculous cures and those of the eye-witnesses. While the components of the medieval genre remain, the testimonies include more personal information about the recipients and more detail about the miraculous cures.

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    Some also provide insight into the verification process. The archival file regarding the healing of the nineteen-year-old freeholder peasant Sergei Ivanov, who had been mute for nine years, at the reliquary of St. Sergius on 23 February , located in the Trinity—St. Sergius Lavra the term "lavra" denoting a monastery of exceptional importance and size in Sergiev Posad just over 78 kilometers northeast of Moscow is fairly lengthy.

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    Only a sampling of the documents is included below. In addition to Ivanov's sworn testimony to the miracle he had witnessed and the eyewitness account from the monk who was in charge of overseeing St. Sergius's reliquary, the monastery's investigative council took statements from eight others, mainly staff from the monastery's kitchen who could affirm that Ivanov had in fact been a mute. Some could attest to the miracle itself. The council also contacted Ivanov's village elder to ensure that he had the proper passport to travel to the monastery.

    In the end, Metropolitan Filaret and the Holy Synod accepted the council's recommendation that further inquiries were unnecessary, given the irrefutable signs that Ivanov had been the beneficiary of God's grace. An imperial decree signed by Nicholas I was issued on 30 March announcing the miraculous cure, and just two months after the miracle's occurrence an imperial censor allowed the publication of Ivanov's oral testimony as a pamphlet.

    Sergei Ivanov was typical of Russian Orthodox pilgrims in traveling on foot to a number of holy sites before receiving his miraculous healing. Walking hundreds of kilometers was part of the arduous process of fulfilling a pledge to God and various saints to visit the holy men's and sometimes women's shrines. Prior to his pilgrimage to the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, Ivanov had made a pilgrimage tour the previous spring of the holy sites in Moscow, Sergiev Posad, and finally the distant city of Kiev, which housed the first Orthodox monastic institutions in the Rus lands, including the Caves Pecherskaia Lavra.

    Such an ambitious route exemplified Ivanov's resolve to demonstrate his sincerity in leading a committed Christian life.

    Co-director of the Russian Studies Program. Faculty affiliate and member of the advisory council of the Central and Southwest Asian Studies Center.

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    Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion
    Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion
    Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion
    Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion
    Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion
    Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion
    Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion

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