This collective biography of the 731 Russian Orthodox bishops consecrated between 1721 and 1917 explores the episcopate's regional and social origins, education, and career patterns and compares these with other European ecclesiastical elites. Apart from supplying extensive data on the Russian Orthodox episcopate, the article finds that by the end of the eighteenth century the regional heritage of a bishop ceased playing a role in shaping his identity. Likewise, from the mid-eighteenth century onward almost all bishops were from the clerical estate and the difference in social background stopped being a contested issue. Thus in the early nineteenth century the episcopate coalesced into a cohesive elite group, distinct from the caste-like clerical estate that it was drawn from and should logically have been closest to. Rather than attributing (as in the perception of the parish clergy and existing scholarship) the rift between episcopate and parish clergy to the frequent transfers of bishops from one diocese to another, this article argues that episcopate and parish clergy parted ways during the stratifying seminary years and that mobility--from home parish to seminary, from seminary to academy, and from diocese to diocese--came to characterize an episcopal career early on.

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pp. 5-34
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