The Tensions of Religion and Empire: Early Modern Russia

AHA Session 11
Thursday, January 6, 2011: 3:00 PM-5:00 PM
Exeter Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Barbara J. Skinner, Indiana State University
Brian J. Boeck, DePaul University

Session Abstract

The Sacred in Multi-faith Empire.  This is the one I would be most excited to see.  The uses of religion to legitimize rule has become an obvious and ubiquitous feature of studies of the early modern world, but what happens to the rhetoric of religious legitimation when the target audience is composed of peoples of many faiths?  In early modern Russia, the Muscovite regime devoted vast amounts of time and effort in the apparently successful attempt to inculcate an ideology of divine blessing for the tsarist dynasty and all of its earthly actions.  How did this Orthodox rhetoric play in Muslim, Buddhist, or shamanist parts of the empire?  Or, for that matter, in Catholic areas of Ukraine or eastern Poland, or Protestant areas of the Baltic?  Similar issues plagued European early modern empires.  Patricia Seed and others have explored the ways in which European empires performed rights of legitimation for themselves and for each other, but less work has explored how religiously based claims of domestic legitimacy played out as they were adapted for colonial subjects of other faiths.  The participants in this panel bring perspectives of various parts of the empire and explore the varying approaches that the tsarist regime applied to the problem of integrating an empire of many faiths.

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