"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, February 3, 2020

Uniates in a Partitioned Poland

If this new book by Larry Wolff is half as fascinating as his The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture, it will be very good indeed. Just out last month is Larry Wolff, Disunion within the Union: The Uniate Church and the Partitions of Poland (Harvard University Press, 2020), 156pp.

About this new book the publisher tells us this:
Between 1772 and 1795, Russia, Prussia, and Austria concluded agreements to annexand finally eradicate the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. As a result of the partitions of Poland, the members of the Uniate Church (later known as the Greek Catholic Church) found their dioceses fractured by the borders of three regional hegemons.
Larry Wolff’s deeply engaging study of these events delves into the politics of the episcopal elite, the Vatican, and the three rulers behind the partitions: Catherine II of Russia, Frederick II of Prussia, and Joseph II of Austria (with their successors). Wolff uses correspondence with bishops in the Uniate Church and ministerial communiques to reveal the nature of state policy as it unfolded.
This detailed study of the responses of common Uniate parishioners, as well as of their bishops and hierarchs, to the pressure of the partitions paints a vivid portrait of conflict, accommodation, and survival in a Church subject to the grand designs of the late eighteenth century’s premier absolutist powers.
Additionally, Wolff adopts methodologies from the history of popular culture pioneered by Natalie Zemon Davis (The Return of Martin Guerre) and Carlo Ginzburg (The Cheese and the Worms) to explore religious experience on a popular level, especially questions of confessional identity and practices of piety.
“Ukraine has been blessed and damned as a land between the East and the West, as has been the Uniate or Greek Catholic Church, an institution poised between the Orthodox East and the Catholic West. Larry Wolff provides an erudite and fascinating insight into the late eighteenth century, when the Uniates, facing attempts by imperial Russia to destroy them, were able to survive thanks to the enlightened if self-serving policies of Austria’s Habsburg monarchs” (Paul Robert Magocsi, University of Toronto).

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