By Paul Goble
Much as it is doing now, the Russian Orthodox Church in the last decades of the Russian Empire played a key role in the promotion of Russian nationalist movements, including some of the most extreme and anti-Semitic. Much of what it did is well-known, but a new book fills some key gaps.
A group of St. Petersburg scholars have published an 800-page volume on The Orthodox Church and Russian Nationalism (Second Half of the 19th to the Beginning of the 20th Century) (in Russian; St. Petersburg: Vladimir Dal, 2021). The book includes 94 texts of Orthodox hierarchs, missionaries, priests and theologians.
Its compilers included only those texts which are little known, a principle of selection that makes this book especially important for those concerned about the role of the Church in Russian nationalism and the place of nations and nationalism in Christianity more generally (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2021/06/30/pravoslavnaya_cerkov_i_russkii_nacionalizm).
The documents, many unpublished for more than a century, are introduced by a 100-page essay prepared by the compilers on the Church’s understanding of nationalism. It puts these works in context and presents arguments both in favor and against the Church’s thinking and role from the time of Alexander II to the end of the Russian Civil War.