In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Narrating Mary’s Miracles and the Politics of Location in Late 17th-Century East Slavic Orthodoxy
  • Gary Marker (bio)

The subject of this paper is miracles, specifically Marian miracle tales that, between the mid-1660s and the early 18th century, emanated from the pens of Ukrainian monks in such profusion that they, along with several other new works of Mariology produced over a somewhat longer period, constituted an imposing body of literature, in some senses unprecedented within East Slavic Orthodoxy.1 The monks in question, Ioanykii Haliatovs´kyi, Lazar´ Baranovych, and Dimitrii Tuptalo (Saint Dimitrii Rostovskii) were astoundingly prolific, and several of their works gained extensive visibility throughout the East Slavic world, including some of the Marian texts. Accounts of the miraculous suffused the sacral narratives of Byzantine and Roman Christianity, of course, and they comprised much of the corpus of Rus´ Orthodoxy. But the appearance and circulation of so many new compilations and even completely original texts of Marian miracles over such a short time should pique our interest. Emerging from one small corner of Orthodox Christendom, these books radiated in several directions, some [End Page 695] very widely, others less so. For the East Slavic world in particular, this was exceptional. The obvious question is why, or perhaps why then?

One should never lose sight of faith itself: the conviction that actual miracles had taken place, that Mary in Heaven had reached down to touch the lives of real people, and that these intercessions deserved public confirmation and celebration. Their significance as palpable evidence of grace and protection to communities and individual believers alike was axiomatic to the authors, and from that perspective spatially transcendent, like Mary. All these aspects are important, but this essay focuses explicitly on the politics of religion of that time and place, rather than deep exegesis or theology per se.

Although far from unknown, the titles in question have attracted little scholarly scrutiny and, as a collective opus, none at all. As I read them, however, these tales provide a valuable lens onto the outlooks and anxieties of leading clergy concerning political tensions affecting East Slavic Orthodoxy at a particularly fraught period. Before their eyes the long-standing institutional boundaries of the faith across the Muscovite–Ukrainian divide were being reconfigured, and at a time when the political character of Muscovy itself stood at the threshold of what would become Petrine modernity and formal empire. The Hetmanate and its church were in considerable disorder, and leading clergy struggled to find a unique voice with which to have an influence on those lay and religious authorities, some quite far away, who would have the final say. Miracle tales, I would suggest, provided that privileged voice.

Quite a few of the miracles had a highly localized provenance, in particular the sacred spaces of 17th-century Chernihiv (a theme to which we shall return). This immediacy gave them a special poignancy for those who transcribed and explained them. Others did not have local connections, but as we shall see, they too directed the readers’ eyes in a particular geoconfessional direction. As such, the collections constituted bold interventions into big-power politics through a medium over which clerical hierarchs claimed a privileged authority, Marian intercession and local scenarios of grace. In this context, the narratives are best understood neither as uniquely Ukrainian nor as part of a single (or “reunified”) Russian Orthodoxy, two common alternative paradigms. Instead, they are better situated within East Slavic Orthodoxy writ large, an extensive and destabilized geography with interested parties radiating out from the Hetmanate as far as Rome and Constantinople, as well as Warsaw, Cracow, and Moscow.2 Through their words and actions the [End Page 696] authors endeavored not just to respond to the fluid contours of confessional and political spaces but to reshape them as well. These accounts had the added potency of writing not just the authors but local sites and the faithful into miraculous narratives and, by extension, into the annals of Christendom.

As leading clerical hierarchs and as trusted interlocutors with Moscow, Baranovych and Haliatovs´kyi stood at the crossroads of a cultural reformulation taking place in the latter 17th century that brought Moscow increasingly into...