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  • Holy Fathers, Secular Sons: Clergy, Intelligentsia, and the Modern Self in Revolutionary Russia, and: Vysshaia dukhovnaia shkola v Rossii v kontse XIX–nachale XX veka: Istoriia imperatorskikh pravoslavnykh dukhovnykh akademii
  • Heather J. Coleman
Laurie Manchester, Holy Fathers, Secular Sons: Clergy, Intelligentsia, and the Modern Self in Revolutionary Russia. xiv + 288 pp., illus., glossary, appendix. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2008. ISBN-13 978-0875803807. $43.00.
Vera Aleksandrovna Tarasova, Vysshaia dukhovnaia shkola v Rossii v kontse XIX–nachale XX veka: Istoriia imperatorskikh pravoslavnykh dukhovnykh akademii [Theological Higher Education in Late 19th- and Early 20th-Century Russia: A History of the Imperial Orthodox Theological Academies]. 567 pp., illus., appendices. Moscow: Novyi khronograf, 2005. ISBN 594881016X.

Looking back on the meetings of the Religious-Philosophical Society in St. Petersburg in the first years of the 20th century, the poet Zinaida Gippius recalled the extraordinary novelty of this encounter between the secular intelligentsia and the clerical world: "As we got to know the 'new' people better, we went from surprise to surprise," she wrote. "I'm not even talking about internal difference but simply about habits, customs, language itself; everything was different, like a different culture. Neither origin nor direct membership in the clergy—the cloth—played a role here. A person from the church world of the era, be he an official, a professor, a writer, a teacher, or simply a theologian … invariably bore the imprint of that other world, one unlike our ordinary, secular (as the churchmen would say) world."1 Indeed, two generations after the 1860s reforms that granted Russian Orthodox clergymen's children secular legal status and made it easier for them to enter the secular professions, imperial Russia's clerical estate remained remarkably closed and caste-like. Priests still overwhelmingly married clergymen's daughters and sent their children to the separate church-run school system. Transfer between the seminaries and the gymnasia, which educated the sons of Russia's other educated estate, the nobility, remained virtually impossible. This perpetuated the social isolation of the clergy, for it was almost [End Page 181] unheard-of for someone from a nonclerical estate to become a priest. And so, unlike in most of Europe, family ties and shared educational experiences did not bind Russian educated society together; rather, that society was culturally bifurcated, as Gippius discovered.

These recent books by Laurie Manchester and Vera Tarasova take us into the culture of the "church world," which was indeed in many ways a separate universe from the rest of educated society, even for its nonordained members. Previous studies of priests and of clerical institutions have, of course, shed light on this "world."2 Manchester and Tarasova expand our picture, however, by moving the focus away from clergymen themselves to their sons, the popovichi. Whether it is Manchester's collective biography of the popovichi or Tarasova's study of the theological academies that were overwhelmingly attended and staffed by priests' sons, both probe the mentalité of that world, exploring what it meant in practice to belong to a caste-like estate and how its members made sense of their estate identity. In the process, they challenge us to think anew about the nature of the Russian intelligentsia, about the broader consequences of the persistence of the estate system and estate mentalities in late imperial Russia, and about the question of the challenges to developing a "middle" class in Russian society and the consequences for Russian civic and political development in the late imperial period.3 Certainly, Manchester and [End Page 182] Tarasova describe the social isolation and cultural particularities of the clerical estate and show how cultural conflict among educated Russians impeded the development of the kinds of links and alliances across social groups that underpin civil society. But both authors also make clear that, despite their outsider status, the popovichi played a crucial role in shaping late imperial—and indeed, early Soviet—educated society.

Students of Russian literature and history know well the figure of the revolutionary priest's son, cut loose from the bonds of the clerical estate yet unable to find his place in broader Russian society. In her fascinating study of the popovichi, Manchester explores this topic that...


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