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Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 6.2 (2005) 393-408

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Valerie A. Kivelson and Robert H. Greene, eds., Orthodox Russia: Belief and Practice under the Tsars. xii + 291 pp. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003. ISBN 027102349X. $65.00. (cloth). ISBN 0271023503. $22.00 (paper).
Andrei I. Pliguzov, Polemika v russkoi tserkvi pervoi treti XVI stoletiia [The Debate in the Russian Church in the First Third of the 16th Century]. 415 pp. Moscow: Indrik, 2002. ISBN 585759152X.

The widespread revival of religious institutions and practices in the final years of the Soviet Union led to an awakening of scholarly interest in the history of Orthodoxy in Russia. Over the past 15 years this area of research has become one of the more dynamic and creative in the field. With a steady stream of publications, as well as more intensive discussion of the topic in graduate programs and in Ph.D. dissertations, the study of church and religion in Russia has gained a solid place among the core issues of the history of Russia and its Eurasian empire, inspiring both established and junior scholars to investigate developments in the practice of the faith and within church institutions. The danger in a fast-moving subfield is that books sometimes get published that do not necessarily reflect quality research or innovative approaches. The two publications under review here, the edited anthology Orthodox Russia and Andrei Pliguzov's Polemika, differ profoundly in perspectives and goals, but they both make vital contributions to our understanding of processes that shaped the Orthodox experience.

Before assessing each publication separately, an overview of their contrasting approaches to the subject of church and faith reveals the broad scope of scholarly inquiry engaging this subfield. The first book, edited by University of Michigan Professor Valerie A. Kivelson and her student Robert H. Greene, is an anthology of 11 articles by well-known scholars from American universities who participated in two workshops at the University of Michigan titled "Russian Orthodoxy in Lived Historical Experience." Inspired by new theoretical approaches to cultural history and particularly the integration of cultural anthropology into historical studies, the articles explore the place of Orthodoxy—beliefs, practices, values, and teachings—in the lives and mental world of the Muscovite and Russian imperial faithful from the 15th century [End Page 393] through 1917.1 Probing in the conceptually new sphere of "lived religion,"2 the authors guide the reader not only through the specific topics of their research—based on a wide variety of sources—but also into the broad implications of their findings within Russian cultural history and such overlapping spheres of research as gender relations and the modernization of society. The second book, a work of intellectual history by Russian-trained scholar Andrei Pliguzov, is a focused study of fundamental "nonpossessor" texts, especially those attributed to Nil Sorskii's student Vassian Patrikeev (c. 1470–1532). This study represents some 20 years of research into the "nonpossessor" position from the Church Council of 1503–4 up to the trial and sentencing of both Maksim Grek (ca. 1475–1556) and Patrikeev in 1531, thereby reassessing an issue critical to understanding the theological and institutional developments in the period of maturation of the Muscovite state. Essential to Pliguzov's task was determining date and authorship of the selected texts from this period. Rather than cutting a wide swath into new areas of research, Pliguzov utilizes textological study to nudge our specific historical knowledge on the "nonpossessor" position more clearly into focus.

Accordingly, each book reflects contrasting expectations of their respective audiences. The collection of articles in Orthodox Russia, as a tour d'horizon of recent efforts to refine our understanding of popular religion over six centuries of Russian history, appeals to a broad audience of scholars of all periods of Russian history, especially those interested in cultural history, who may or may not be familiar with the canon of historiography in religious history. Alternatively, the collection will also appeal to historians of popular...


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