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Religion and Enlightenment in Catherinian Russia

The Teachings of Metropolitan Platon

Elise Kimerling Wirtschafter

Publication Year: 2013

This valuable study explores the Russian Enlightenment with reference to the religious Enlightenment of the mid to late eighteenth century. Grounded in close reading of the sermons and devotional writings of Platon (Levshin), Court preacher and Metropolitan of Moscow, the book examines the blending of European ideas into the teachings of Russian Orthodoxy. Highlighting the interplay between Enlightenment thought and Orthodox enlightenment, Elise Wirtschafter addresses key questions of concern to religious Enlighteners across Europe: humanity’s relationship to God and creation, the distinction between learning and enlightenment, the role of Christian love in authority relationships, the meaning of free will in a universe governed by Divine Providence, and the unity of church, monarchy, and civil society. Countering scholarship that depicts an Orthodox religious culture under assault from European modernity and Petrine absolutism, Wirtschafter emphasizes the ability of Russia’s educated churchmen to assimilate and transform Enlightenment ideas. The intellectual and spiritual vitality of eighteenth-century Orthodoxy helps to explain how Russian policymakers and intellectuals met the challenge of European power while simultaneously coming to terms with the broad cultural appeal of the Enlightenment’s universalistic human rights agenda.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-6


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pp. 7-8

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pp. ix-x

...The research and writing of this book has benefited from the support of numerous colleagues and institutions. California state Polytechnic University at Pomona provided research and professional leaves at regular intervals. The interlibrary loan services of document delivery in the University Library remain unsurpassed. in spring 2010 the École des Hautes ...

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Note on Dating and Biblical Citations

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pp. xi-xiv

...Throughout this book dates are given in the old style, based on the Julian calendar used in Russia from the reign of Tsar Peter I until January 1918. In the eighteenth century the Julian calendar lagged eleven days behind Europe’s Gregorian calendar; in the nineteenth century, twelve days. Unless otherwise stated, the biblical passages cited throughout this book...

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pp. 3-6

...the governing and educated elites of eighteenth-century Russia worked tirelessly to make their country “European.” although the role of European ideas and administrative models in the Petrine and subsequent reforms is well studied, the substantive process of cultural Europeanization remains poorly understood...

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1. The Meaning of Enlightenment

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pp. 7-32

...scholars tend either to deny its meaningfulness or to hold it responsible for a linear process of development leading from Westernization to revolution. starting with the assimilation of European cultural models and the origins of intellectual dissent in the eighteenth century; then moving to open political opposition, the birth of the intelligentsia, and the spread of radical ideologies in the nineteenth century...

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2. Christian Enlightenment and Enlightenment Learning

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pp. 33-58

...which includes psalms, prayers, selections from service books, and the confession of faith. The Book of Hours is followed by the Psalter, in which King David prophesies the coming of the Messiah, bemoans his own personal sins, gives thanks to god, and asks for divine assistance. In Shcherbatov’s firm opinion, divinely inspired books, such as those he had just enumerated, provide the most effective moral education. More than works of human philosophy, they establish the foundation for enlightenment...

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3. Divine Providence and Human History

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pp. 59-91

...given the modern commitment to individual conscience and earthly progress, the persistence of human suffering calls into question the idea that history unfolds according to the divine plan of a beneficent creator. difficulties arise on two counts. First, what is the meaning of individual conscience, a form of human freedom, if God governs the universe, his creation, and intervenes directly in historical events?...

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4. Free Will and the Human Person

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pp. 92-122

...Isaiah Berlin takes issue with teleologies that posit “a perfect, inevitable, self-explaining harmony” in which “all apparent disorder, inexplicable disaster, gratuitous suffering, [and] unintelligible concatenations of random events are due not to the nature of things but to our failure to discover their purpose.” imperfection, according to teleological thinking, results from “the failure of our vision” because “we are blinded by ignorance, stupidity, passion...

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Conclusion: Toward a Definition of the Russian Enlightenment

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pp. 123-140

...(the) Enlightenment became associated with the conscious pursuit of progress, defined as the amelioration of the human condition. in social and political life the assumption took root that through the use of reason, the spread of education, the accumulation of empirical knowledge, the advance of philosophical understanding...

Appendix 1: Chronology of Metropolitan Platon’s Career

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pp. 141-144

Appendix 2: Metropolitan Platon’s Subscribers

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pp. 145-146


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pp. 147-164


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pp. 165-182


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pp. 183-194

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090845
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875804699

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 867741394
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Religion and Enlightenment in Catherinian Russia

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Subject Headings

  • Enlightenment -- Russia -- History -- 18th century.
  • Philosophy and religion -- Russia -- History -- 18th century.
  • Platon, Metropolitan of Moscow, 1737-1812.
  • Faith and reason -- Christianity.
  • Learning -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Spiritual life -- Christianity
  • Sermons, Russian -- 18th century.
  • Russkai͡a pravoslavnai͡a t͡serkovʹ -- Theology -- History -- 18th century.
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