"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
mattress,/
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Socialist Churches in Petrograd

More than a decade ago we published in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, a groundbreaking article based on archival research in Russia of the socialist views of clergy in the twilight of the Romanov era. The author showed just how many parish clergy in particular were far more socialist in their views that has often been alleged by those who portray the Church as a monolithic agent of reaction and conservative bourgeoisie hanging on to their privileged positions.

A book set for release next month takes us further into exploring this time and these political views: Catriona Kelly, Socialist Churches: Radical Secularization and the Preservation of the Past in Petrograd and Leningrad, 1918–1988  (Northern Illinois University Press, 2016), 440pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In Russia, legislation on the separation of church and state in early 1918 marginalized religious faith and raised pressing questions about what was to be done with church buildings. While associated with suspect beliefs, they were also regarded as structures with potential practical uses, and some were considered works of art. This engaging study draws on religious anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, and history to explore the fate of these “socialist churches,” showing how attitudes and practices related to them were shaped both by laws on the preservation of monuments and anti-religious measures. Advocates of preservation, while sincere in their desire to save the buildings, were indifferent, if not hostile, to their religious purpose. Believers, on the other hand, regarded preservation laws as irritants, except when they provided leverage for use of the buildings by church communities. The situation was eased by the growing rapprochement of the Orthodox Church and Soviet state organizations after 1943, but not fully resolved until the Soviet Union fell apart.
Based on abundant archival documentation, Catriona Kelly’s powerful narrative portrays the human tragedies and compromises, but also the remarkable achievements, of those who fought to preserve these important buildings over the course of seven decades of state atheism. Socialist Churches will appeal to specialists, students, and general readers interested in church history, the history of architecture, and Russian art, history, and cultural studies.

1 comment:

  1. A book to look forward to reading. Fr. Gregory Gapon for example, although an ethnic Ukrainian and descendant of the Ukrainian Kozaks after his wife died went to study at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and was influenced by his professors to become a working-class leader among his parishioners before the Revolution in St. Petersburg. There was a type of Social Gospel type movement in St. Petersburg.

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