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  • Konstantinopol´ i Peterburg: Tserkovnaia politika Rossii na pravoslavnom Vostoke, 1878–1898
  • Lucien J. Frary
Lora Aleksandrovna Gerd , Konstantinopol´ i Peterburg: Tserkovnaia politika Rossii na pravoslavnom Vostoke, 1878–1898 [Constantinople and Petersburg: Russian Religious Policy in the Orthodox East, 1878–98]. 445 pp. Moscow: Indrik, 2006. ISBN 5857593441.

Lora Gerd's multifaceted study of the interactions between Russia and the Orthodox East (Pravoslavnyi Vostok) is an impressive contribution to scholarship. Covering a wide range of topics—from the Russian presence on Mount Athos to Petersburg–patriarchate relations, from the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate to Old Believers' contacts in Constantinople—the book illuminates Russian political and religious policy during an epoch of international rivalry, recurring warfare, and exuberant nationalism. Although Gerd offers no overarching thesis or theoretical framework, she convincingly accounts for the success of Russian endeavors in the Orthodox East in the decades preceding World War I.

The title of the book can be misleading, for the first 137 pages cover the general history of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and parallel developments within the Russian Church and society from earliest times. Emphasizing the strong imprint of Byzantine traditions on Rus´ church life (indeed, leaving one wondering whether Russia developed its own religious dogma), Gerd illustrates how Russia, as the only free Orthodox state after 1453, developed the idea of translatio imperii buttressed by the "Third Rome" theory and the establishment of the Russian Patriarchate.1 Improved Russian–Greek relations in the 17th century coincided with the proliferation of prophecies of a xanthon genos (blond race) and a diado Ivana of the North destined to liberate Christians from their Muslim overlords (110). Russia's leaders used the state's primacy among the Orthodox peoples to extend their sphere of interest over all Orthodox Christians until the Crimean defeat in 1856. Gerd sees this defeat as a turning point in Russian–Orthodox relations, when the state had to re-forge ties with the Orthodox and the patriarchate, while new rival ideologies (Pan-Slavism and [End Page 445] the Megali Idea—Greece's irredentist crusade) challenged the diplomacy of even Russia's most talented ministers. Gerd analyzes the Ottoman millet system, which afforded the patriarch wide jurisdiction over the secular lives of Christians and demonstrates how the sultanate effectively exploited church power over the millet to mobilize the support of the Christian masses and church leadership until competing nationalisms and territorial losses in the 19th century weakened the patriarchate's authority over the Orthodox world. Gerd presents a traditional survey of Russia's role in the rise of Balkan nationalisms before turning her attention to a critical assessment of the Tanzimat ("reordering") period. Here, the author exhibits an admirable acquaintance with the secondary literature, but she adds little to the works of specialists such as Donald Quataert, Roderick Davison, Halil Inalcik, Barbara and Charles Jelavich, and L. S. Stavrianos. Her discussion of nationalism is less than theoretically informed. For example, she could have investigated the series of complex and dynamic Bulgarian identities that emerged before the well-known ecclesiastical and political events of the century crystallized Bulgarian nationalism. By the 1870s, the struggle for independence among the Balkan peoples further complicated Ottoman affairs, adding burdens to both the duties of the patriarch and the offices of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A unique component of the book consists of its vivid portrayal of the patriarchs and their attitudes toward Russia. Gerd discloses the central role of the patriarchs in shaping Russian relations with the Orthodox East, citing Joachim III (1878–84, 1902–12) as perhaps the most notable. During his first term in office, Joachim worked to restore the prestige and authority of the patriarchate, to support Russia's eastern policy against Greek opposition (who were fearful of the expansion of Slavdom), and to assert his ethnarchic prerogatives over irredentism. Gerd uses the unpublished correspondence between Joachim and Russian state servants, such as I. E. Troitskii, K. P. Pobedonostsev, and A. I. Nelidov, to show how St. Petersburg and Constantinople cooperated in regulating the interference of Catholic Austria in the Balkans, in managing the problems unleashed by the Bulgarian schism, and in advancing Russian penetration into the monastic community of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-5000
Print ISSN
1531-023x
Pages
pp. 445-452
Launched on MUSE
2007-06-20
Open Access
No
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