"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).

Friday, May 11, 2018

Old Believers in Imperial Russia

In 2008, Roy Robson published Old Believers in Modern Russia. This was followed, in 2011, by R.O. Crummey's Old Believers in a Changing World. Crummey had, in 1970, published another work looking at the role of apocalyptic in the life of the Old Believers.  

Now, in 2018, we have what appears to be a fresh take written by Peter De Simone and set to appear this July: The Old Believers in Imperial Russia: Oppression, Opportunism and Religious Identity in Tsarist Moscow (I.B. Tauris, 2018), 272pp.

About this book we are told:
"Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will be no fourth."
So spoke Russian monk Hegumen Filofei of Pskov in 1510, proclaiming Muscovite Russia as heirs to the legacy of the Roman Empire following the collapse of the Byzantine Empire. The so-called "Third Rome Doctrine" spurred the creation of the Russian Orthodox Church, although just a century later a further schism occurred, with the Old Believers (or "Old Ritualists") challenging Patriarch Nikon's liturgical and ritualistic reforms and laying their own claim to the mantle of Roman legacy.
While scholars have commonly painted the subsequent history of the Old Believers as one of survival in the face of persistent persecution at the hands of both tsarist and church authorities, Peter De Simone here offers a more nuanced picture. Based on research into extensive, yet mostly unknown, archival materials in Moscow, he shows the Old Believers as versatile and opportunistic, and demonstrates that they actively engaged with, and even challenged, the very notion of the spiritual and ideological place of Moscow in Imperial Russia.
Ranging in scope from Peter the Great to Lenin, this book is essential for all scholars of Russian and Orthodox Church history.

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