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

Monday, September 25, 2017

New Russian Saints and Old Soviet Memories

Today is listed as the official release date of a book that I'm greatly looking forward to reading. I was at a conference last March--the Association for the Study of Eastern Christian History and Culture at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio--and heard an enthralling if alarming paper about attempts in certain circles in Russia today to canonize Rasputin, Stalin, and a sordid cast of others from the Soviet period. That is but a more egregious example of a temptation that besets us all, I think--to romanticize the past, its uglier aspects forgotten by us, whether deliberately or not, or at least softened enough as to be undergo what Freud called abreaction.

In any event, this book looks set to raise all sorts of fascinating issues about historical memory and its uses and abuses: Karin Hyldal Christensen, The Making of the New Martyrs of Russia: Soviet Repression in Orthodox Memory (Routledge, 2017), 256pp.

About this book we are told:
Following the end of the Soviet Union the Russian Orthodox Church greatly increased the number of saints, taking the total from the approximately 300 canonised in the previous one thousand years to over 2,000 by 2006. This book explores this interesting phenomenon. It outlines the process of canonisation, examines how saints are venerated, and relates all this to how Russian people choose to remember the Soviet Union and commemorate its victims. The book includes in-depth case studies of particular saints and their veneration.

The publisher also gives us the table of contents:
Part I: Canonization:
1. Canonization as an Exercise of Power
2. The Grand Narrative of New Martyrdom
3. Separating the Sheep from the Goats
Part II: Iconization:
4. Aesthetics, Genres and Modes
5. Hagiography as a Plea for Imitation and an Argument for Sainthood
6. Depicting Sainthood
Part III: Veneration:
7. Butovo, the Making of a Site of Memory
8. Venerating and Missionizing New Martyrs
9. Saints, Victims and Perpetrators

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