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193 Rus­ sia, Mount Athos, and the East­ ern Ques­ tion, 1878–1914 Lora Gerd Be­ gin­ ning in the seven­ teenth cen­ tury, Rus­ sia ­ turned its po­ lit­ i­ cal as­ pi­ ra­ tions to­ ward the Black Sea and the ­ Straits of the Bos­ porus and Dar­ da­ nelles. The de­ sire for a free exit to the Med­ i­ ter­ ra­ nean for its trade, and from the eigh­ teenth cen­ tury on­ ward a safe­ guard for its south­ ern fron­ tier, gen­ er­ ated a more as­ ser­ tive Rus­ sian ­ foreign pol­ icy in its south­ west­ ern bor­ der­ lands. The only pos­ sible way to guar­ an­ tee these eco­ nomic and se­ cur­ ity re­ quire­ ments was the pos­ ses­ sion of the Turk­ ish ­ Straits and Con­ stan­ tin­ o­ ple. The many times re­ vised the­ ory of Rus­ sian dom­ i­ na­ tion in the East­ ern Chris­ tian world con­ tin­ ued to pro­ vide the ideo­ log­ i­ cal back­ ground for this strat­ egy, for after the fall of Con­ stan­ tin­ o­ ple in 1453, Rus­ sia re­ mained the only free and ­ strong Or­ tho­ dox state in the world. As the ­ self-proclaimed heir of By­ zan­ tium and the pro­ tec­ tor of the Or­ tho­ dox world, Rus­ sia ­ sought to add le­ git­ i­ macy to its ­ foreign pol­ icy ob­ jec­ tives ­ through re­ li­ gious back­ ing until the rev­ o­ lu­ tion of 1917. By the late eigh­ teenth cen­ tury, im­ pe­ rial Rus­ sian ­ foreign pol­ icy de­ parted from this gen­ eral line, but after the de­ feat in the Cri­ mean war (1853–56), Rus­ sian pol­ icy mak­ ers re­ turned to the ec­ cle­ sias­ ti­ cal trend when for­ mu­ lat­ ing strat­ egy in the Near East. 194 Lora Gerd­ Russia’s spir­ i­ tual en­ ter­ prise in the Ot­ to­ man Em­ pire aimed at achiev­ ing ­ closer con­ tacts with the Or­ tho­ dox pop­ u­ la­ tion while strength­ en­ ing tsar­ ist in­ flu­ ence in the east­ ern Med­ i­ ter­ ra­ nean as a whole. Mount Athos, a col­ lec­ tion of mon­ as­ ter­ ies sit­ u­ ated on a small pe­ nin­ sula in the north of the Ae­ gean, ­ played a lead­ ing role in this pro­ cess. Un­ like the Rus­ sian foun­ da­ tions in Pal­ es­ tine, the Rus­ sian mo­ nas­ tic com­ mu­ nity on the holy moun­ tain had a long his­ tory out­ side govern­ ment in­ itia­ tives. ­ Rather, the spir­ i­ tual as­ pi­ ra­ tions of com­ mon peo­ ple (narod) sup­ ported by the tsars and gov­ ern­ ing elite pro­ vided the ma­ te­ rial foun­ da­ tion for ­ Russia’s pres­ ence on Athos. This chap­ ter ex­ plores how Rus­ sian pol­ icy ­ between the ­ Russian-Ottoman War of 1877–78 and the First World War har­ nessed pop­ u­ lar spir­ i­ tu­ al­ ity for geo­ stra­ tegic pur­ poses. ­ Stated dif­ fer­ ently, this chap­ ter con­ sid­ ers the pos­ sible sub­ or­ di­ na­ tion of the gen­ eral line of Rus­ sian stra­ te­ gic aims in the Bal­ kans and the Near East to ­ purely spir­ i­ tual con­ cerns. It ­ argues that de­ bates sur­ round­ ing mon­ as­ ti­ cism on Mount Athos crys­ tal­ lized the ten­ sions ­ between Rus­ sia and ­ Greece over po­ lit­ i­ cal inter­ ests in newly in­ de­ pen­ dent re­ gions of the for­ mer Ot­ to­ man Em­ pire. The case of Athos fur­ ther dem­ on­ strates the con­ tin­ u­ ing rel­ e­ vance of Russian Skete of St. Andrew. The diplomat B. S. Serafimov and Archimandrite Hieronym to his right, 1913. (from the Photograph Archive, Simonopetra Monastery) Russia, Mount Athos, and the Eastern Question, 1878–1914 195 re­ li­ gion in the ­ Russian-Ottoman-Balkan re­ la­ tion­ ship. Fi­ nally, the case of Mount Athos sug­ gests ways in which pop­ u­ lar spir­ i­ tu­ al­ ity could in­ flu­ ence East­ ern Ques­ tion di­ plo­ macy. The ­ Russian-Ottoman War of 1877–78 ­ changed the map of the Bal­ kans. The ­ Treaty of San Ste­ fano fi­ nal­ iz­ ing the war sanc­ tioned the crea­ tion...


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