Of Religion and Empire: Missions, Conversion and Tolerance in Tsarist Russia / Edition 1

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Russia's ever-expanding imperial boundaries encompassed diverse peoples and religions. Yet Russian Orthodoxy remained inseparable from the identity of the Russian empire-state, which at different times launched conversion campaigns not only to "save the souls" of animists and bring deviant Orthodox groups into the mainstream, but also to convert the empire's numerous Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, and Uniates.

This book is the first to investigate the role of religious conversion in the long history of Russian state building. How successful were the Church and the state in proselytizing among religious minorities? How were the concepts of Orthodoxy and Russian nationality shaped by the religious diversity of the empire? What was the impact of Orthodox missionary efforts on the non-Russian peoples, and how did these peoples react to religious pressure? In chapters that explore these and other questions, this book provides geographical coverage from Poland and European Russia to the Caucasus, Central Asia, Siberia, and Alaska.

The editors' introduction and conclusion place the twelve original essays in broad historical context and suggest patterns in Russian attitudes toward religion that range from attempts to forge a homogeneous identity to tolerance of complexity and diversity.

Contributors:Eugene Clay, Arizona State University; Robert P. Geraci, University of Virginia; Sergei Kan, Dartmouth College; Agnes Kefeli, Arizona State University; Shoshana Keller, Colgate University; Michael Khodarkovsky, Loyola University, Chicago; John D. Klier, University College, London; Georg Michels, University of California, Riverside; Firouzeh Mostashari, Regis College; Dittmar Schorkowitz, Free University, Berlin; Theodore Weeks, Southern Illinois University; Paul W. Werth, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This collection of essays explores the tremendous religious diversity of tsarist Russia and adds long-overdue perspectives to our understanding of Russia as a multiethnic, multiconfessional entity. It is a highly significant book that is sure to become a classic for students of Eurasian, colonial, and religious history. . . The authors are to be praised for their indispensable contribution to our understanding of a neglected but significant area of the Eurasian past."—Nicholas B. Breyfogle, Ohio State University. The Russian Review, Vol. 60, No. 4

"Whether one is interested in examining the roots of religious and ethnic diversity in contemporary Russia, or in studying the missionary activity of the Russian Orthodox Church, or in probing encounters between Christian and non-Christian traditions, Of Religion and Empire should be placed at the top of the reading list."—Nikolas K. Gvosdev, Baylor University. Journal of Church and State, Vol. 43, No. 3, Summer 2001

"Although many monographs have appeared in the last twenty years on individual aspects of religion in the Russian empire, a truly synthetic treatment of the varieties of religious experience and imperial attitudes toward them has been lacking. Of Religion and Empire goes a long way toward filling this gap. . . The range of subjects covered and the discussions of the overarching theoretical issues make the book a real contribution for anyone who has thought about Russia as an empire."—Nadieszda Kizenko, State University of New York-Albany. Slavic Review, Vol. 61, No. 1, Spring 2002

"The twelve essays in this valuable collection offer case studies of official policy and its impact on local communities. The volume also constitutes an exercise in comparative religion, for it focuses not only on policy but also on the way the different religious communities adapted to the conditions imposed by imperial rule. . . .the information and insight the essays provide illustrate the scope and importance of a subject that deserves further research. The volume. . . is elegantly designed, with some nice illustrations."—Laura Engelstein, Princeton University, Journal of Religious History, 27:1, February 2003

"This volume will remain for quite some time one of the standard works on the interface between national and religious identities, empire building and missions, and conversion and religious tolerance. This holds true both for persons interested particularly in imperial Russia and for those who seek a broader comparative context for the study of these topics in other geographical areas of the world."—Vera Shevzov, Smith College, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"Ranging across a vast period of time and space, Of Religion and Empire demonstrates the extraordinary complexity of the problems that faced ecclesiastical and secular authorities in Russia. This book represents a serious contribution to this new inquiry."—Gregory L. Freeze, Brandeis University

"A fascinating, original, and wide-ranging investigation of religious conversion in its political and imperial dimensions."—Catherine Evtuhov, Georgetown University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801487033
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 356
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Khodarkovsky is Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago. He is the author of Where Two Worlds Met: The Russian State and the Kalmyk Nomads, 1600–1771 and Bitter Choices: Loyalty and Betrayal in the Russian Conquest of the North Caucasus and coeditor of Of Religion and Empire: Missions, Conversion, and Tolerance in Tsarist Russia, all from Cornell. He is also the author of Russia's Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500–1800.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. I The Western Regions: Christians and Jews
1 Rescuing the Orthodox: The Church Policies of Archbishop Afanasii of Kholmogory, 1682-1702 19
2 Orthodox Missionaries and "Orthodox Heretics" in Russia, 1886-1917 38
3 Between Rome and Tsargrad: The Uniate Church in Imperial Russia 70
4 State Policies and the Conversion of Jews in Imperial Russia 92
Pt. II Converting Animists and Buddhists
5 The Conversion of Non-Christians in Early Modern Russia 115
6 Big Candles and "Internal Conversation": The Mari Animist Reformation and Its Russian Appropriations 144
7 Russian Orthodox Missionaries at Home and Abroad: The Case of Siberian and Alaskan Indigenous Peoples 173
8 The Orthodox Church, Lamaism, and Shamanism among the Buriats and Kalmyks, 1825-1925 201
Pt. III Facing Islam
9 Colonial Dilemmas: Russian Policies in the Muslim Caucasus 229
10 The Role of Tatar and Kriashen Women in the Transmission of Islamic Knowledge, 1800-1870 250
11 Going Abroad or Going to Russia? Orthodox Missionaries in the Kazakh Steppe, 1881-1917 274
12 Conversion to the New Faith: Marxism-Leninism and Muslims in the Soviet Empire 311
Conclusion 335
Notes on Contributors 345
Index 349
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