The problem of religious freedom in late imperial Russia: The case of Russian Baptists

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<ul><li><p>The problem of religious freedom in lof Russian Baptists</p><p>School of Public Administration, Moscow State Univer</p><p>a r t i c l e i n f o</p><p>Article history:Received 17 August 2011Accepted 18 January 2012</p><p>Keywords:Orthodox ChurchAutocracy</p><p>his attempts to combat the development of Protestantsectarianism in Russia were paralyzed by decrees of theGoverning Senate, the supreme juridical body of theEmpire.1 This statement in fact summed up results of theyears-long struggle waged by the Russian state and Church</p><p>* Ul. 26 Bakinskikh Komissarov, dom 4, korp 3, kv. 137, Moscow 119526,Russia. Tel.: 7 (495) 433 4578, 7 (916) 127 4084 (mobile).E-mail addresses:,</p><p>Peer-review under responsibility of Asia-Pacic Research Center, HanyangUniversity.</p><p>1 The history of the struggle between Synod and Senate is described indetails in the memoirs of A.F. Koni, the head of the Senates CriminalCassation Department. See: Koni, 1913a.</p><p>Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect</p><p>Journal of Eurasian Studies</p><p>journal homepage: www.el</p><p>Journal of Eurasian Studies 3 (2012) 161167the sharpening of the social and political contradictions on the eve of revolution.Copyright 2012, Asia-Pacic Research Center, Hanyang University. Production and</p><p>hosting by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.</p><p>In 1900 Constantine Pobedonostsev, the Chief Procu-rator of the Holy Synod (the lay head of the RussianOrthodox Church), complained in his report to the tsar thatBaptist movementReligious legislationAdministrative repressionsFreedom of conscience1879-3665/$ see front matter Copyright 2012, Adoi:10.1016/j.euras.2012.03.006sity, Lomonosovskii prospect, dom 27, korpus 4, Moscow 119992, Russia</p><p>a b s t r a c t</p><p>The paper deals with the development of the Baptist movements (Stundism and Pash-kovism) in late Imperial Russia, their perception by the ecclesiastical and secular author-ities, the measures undertaken by the Church and government in order to combat theProtestant sectarianism. Different approaches of the contemporaries to the religiousdissent are being investigated. While the members of educated society, liberals andmoderate conservatives viewed evangelical movements as a reection of social changes inpostreform Russia and a reaction to the shortcomings of the ofcial Church, the ecclesi-astical authorities treated the rise of evangelicalism as a result of the sectarians igno-rance and as a threat to the political and social order of Russia. When conservative tsarAlexander III ascended in 1881 to the throne, his former tutor and the Chief Procurator ofthe Holy Synod Constantine Pobedonostsev launched an energetic campaign against theheterodoxy based on a combination of repressive and educational measures. Thiscampaign turned out to be a failure mostly due to passiveness of the ofcial Church whichwas paralyzed by the strict control of the state. The position of the secular administrationwhich was not eager to be drawn into religious struggle also hampered the attempts tocombat the heterodoxy. Finally, the effective repressions against the sectarianism wereparalyzed by the protests of the Senate, supreme juridical body of the Empire which had tooverview the compliance with the law. Though the repressions against the Baptists werestopped in 1905, they made a negative impact on the Russias development contributing toAlexander Polunov*sia-Pacic Research Center, Haate imperial Russia: The case</p><p>sevier .com/locate/eurasnyang University. Production and hosting by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.</p></li><li><p>against the evangelical movements Baptism (Stundo-Baptism) and Pashkovism. Though the main legal prohibi-tions on the sectarians activities were lifted only in 1905, ithad become clear much earlier that the authorities losttheir battle against evangelicalism. Why did the Imperialstate and the ofcial Church of Russia failed to combat thenon-violent religious movement which comprised only thetiny minority of the Russian population? Why the Church</p><p>books Heather Coleman, Nicholas Breyfogle, and SergeiZhuk elucidated signicant aspects of the sectarian move-ments, investigating the content of their belief, their role inthe spiritual awakening inpre-revolutionary Russia, and thereconsideration of religious, political, and national identitiesin Russian society engendered by the rise of sectarianism.5</p><p>A. Polunov / Journal of Eurasian Studies 3 (2012) 161167162and state could not cooperate effectively in the ght againstheterodoxy? Why a signicant part of the secular bureau-cracy was reluctant to launch the war against the here-tics? All these issues provide an important insight in thehistory of the Russian religious life, in the inner working ofthe governmental apparatus and in the Churchstate rela-tions on the eve of the epoch of revolutions.</p><p>Before addressing these problems, another importantquestion should be asked: why did the ofcial authoritiespaid so much attention to the movement which neverchallenged the foundations of Russias social and politicalorder? The spectacle which is thus represented to us of theauthorities, wrote with this regard the well-known Britishjournalist W.T. Stead, animated as it were by some strangesuicidal mania, spending their time, thought and energy, inharrying and destroying those who, as all experience hasproved, would be the most trustworthy and loyal subjectsof the Emperor if they were but allowed to obey theirconscience in the matter of religion, is melancholy indeed.Due to such a policy, Stead stressed, Russia in matters ofreligious liberty was regarded in the West as a medievaland barbarous power rather than a civilized state of nine-teenth century.2</p><p>The persecutions of evangelical sectarians became, asa modern historian puts it, a real public relations debaclefor the autocracy, attracting a close attention of Russianand Western public and engendering harsh criticism of thereligious policy of the government.3 There is scarcelya prison in South Russia, that does not contain Stundists,wrote a British writer R.S. Latimer, there is scarcelya convoy of convicts on the way to Siberia which has not inits midst a Stundist preacher. It is no longer a matter ofmere persecution; it is a determination to extinguishthem.4 Though the scope and cruelty of the repressionswere to some extent exaggerated in the writings of Euro-pean and American observers, it goes without saying thatthe sectarians experienced serious sufferings as a result ofthe governmental policy. What, then, was the reason forthis struggle against religious non-conformists thatreminded the Western observers the times of Torquemadaand Archbishop Laud if not those of Nero and Diocletian?</p><p>The Protestant sectarianism in late Imperial Russia hasbecome over past several years a subject of a number offundamental works which seriously deepened our under-standing of this important historical phenomenon. In their</p><p>2 Stead, 1888a, pp. 389, 372.3 Breyfogle, 2005b, p. 219.4 Latimer, 1909. Religious intolerance, noted in his book a famous</p><p>American writer George Kennan, is just rampant in Russia today as it wasin England during the reigns of the Tudors, and it is only prevented fromgoing to the extremes of personal torture and the oublic stake by thedread of Western opinion (Quoted in: Lowe, 1895).In my article I would like to stress another dimension ofthe sectarians history analyzing religious dissent as theobject of the governmental policy and exploring itsperception by the Church and secular authorities.</p><p>Touching upon the development of Protestant sectari-anism in late Imperial Russia, it should be noted that its risewas deeply connected with the changes in Russian social,economic, spiritual life engendered by the abolition of theserfdom in 1861. It is not a coincidence that evangelicalsectarianism rst emerged in the areas where the capi-talism was intensively developing. The rst and mostprominent trend in the Protestant movement, Stundism,appeared in the late 1860s on the territory of contemporaryUkraine in Kiev and Kherson provinces. The model for therst Stundists were sectarians in the German colonies whogathered at particular "hours" (in German, Stunden) forprayer, Bible reading and song. The movement quicklyspread throughout the South and West of the RussianEmpire, to Volyn, Podolsk, Ekaterinoslavl, Chernigov,Taurida, Poltava, Bessarabia, Minsk, and Mogilev provinces.By the middle of 1880s, in the Kherson region alone therewere about three thousand Stundists, and there were abouttwo thousand in Kiev Province.6</p><p>The reasons which urged Russian and Ukrainian peas-ants to join the new sect were linked mostly to their searchof the spiritual and moral revival stimulated by thechanging conditions of social and economic life. The ofcialOrthodox Church could not often satisfy the men andwomen who were looking for the freedom of individualitywithin the new communities with higher moral standards.Thus, peasants in the Kherson region being brought to trialtold the police that the main reason for converting to theStunde sect was ... a desire to withdraw from a society inwhich all kinds of corrupting vices prevailed, such asdrunkenness, rowdy behavior, thievery, and laziness.Whenthey joined the religious sect they broke off all ties withtheir former associates and entered a new life which gavethem material sufciency.7 It should be added that thenew religious movements, with their communal self-government, charity work, and mutual aid, together withthe active teaching of pastors who were often elected,proved to be much better adapted to postreform realitythan was the bureaucratized ofcial Church.</p><p>Of course, the search for the moral awakening was notconned in the late Imperial Russia only to the lower strataof the population, peasants and workers. In the middle of1870s, a second important Protestant movement emerged,this time among the high society of St. Petersburg. Underthe inuence of the British preacher Lord Radstock, the</p><p>5 Breyfogle, 2005b; Coleman, 2005a; Zhuk, 2004.6 Klibanov, 1965, pp. 18992,2033,2069.7 RGIA (Russian State Historical Archive), f. 797, op. 55, otd. 2, st. 3, d.</p><p>96, 1.12.</p></li><li><p>members of the Petersburg aristocracy started to held theevangelical meetings and organize religious communities.8</p><p>The sectarians who soon became known as Pashkovites(after the name of his leader, Guard Colonel V.A. Pashkov)distributed religious literature, built and supported schools,hospitals, teashops, cafeterias, shelters, crafts shops, and</p><p>secular authorities which were supposed to implement themeasures of repression.</p><p>Though ofcially obliged to assist the dominant Church,the lay ofcials strove in many cases to avoid the admin-istrative and police persecution of the religious non-conformists. While dealing with the subjects of Empire,the tsarist bureaucrats tended at the second half of thenineteenth century to make an emphasis on their political</p><p>A. Polunov / Journal of Eurasian Studies 3 (2012) 161167 163cheap housing for workers. The newmovement also beganto spread among the common folk, primarily in theindustrial center of European Russia: St. Petersburg, Tver,Moscow, Yaroslavl, Olonets, and Arkhangel sk province.Pashkovite propaganda was also found in Simbirsk,Astrakhan, Orel, Kaluga, Voronezh, Tambov, Riazan, andTobolsk province.9</p><p>The third important trend of the evangelicalism wasrepresented by the members of the old Russian sectariangroups, Dukhobors andMolokans, who emerged in Tambovprovince in central Russia, but were largely resettled in1830s to Transcaucasia. In 1860s and 1870s some of thesesectarians started to reconsider their beliefs and practices,stressing the elements of rationalism in their teaching. Intheir doctrine, Stundism, Pashkovism, and the newDukhobor and Molokan movement actually representedBaptism. They rejected hierarchy, church organization, andthe worship of icons, and they acknowledged the Bible astheir sole authority. The different branches of the RussianProtestantism tended to unication.The Molokane Baptistsof the Caucasus arranged contacts with Pashkovs organi-zation, and in 1884 there was a congress of Caucasian andUkrainian Baptists. An attempt was even made to convenea congress of evangelicals in St. Petersburg.10</p><p>An appearance and rapid growth of the Protestantsectarianism in Russia which had hardly any experiencewith religious Reformation became in the second half ofnineteenth and early twentieth centuries a matter of acutepublic discussions. Contemporaries tended to assess thisphenomenon in different ways. The members of educatedsociety, liberals and moderate conservatives viewed evan-gelical movements as a reection of the profound changesin postreform Russia and a reaction to the shortcomings ofthe ofcial Church. N.P. Giliarov-Platonov, a well-knownSlavophile journalist, suggested that the Stunde, like anysect, appeared for one reason: because the establishedChurch was not satisfying peoples spiritual needs.... Itwould be a mistake to seek the reasons for the Stunde inthe outside inuence of Protestantism.... No Lutheransoldier could convert anyone to Stundism if the soul of thehearer were not ready for it. ... There are those who thirstfor spirit; well, give them spirit! ... Do not drive them awayfrom the Church altogether with police techniques andrestrictive disciplinary requirements.11 The hierarchs ofthe Orthodox Church rejected resolutely such an approachclaiming that religious dissent represents a threat both tothe Church and to the state and should be suppressed bythe police and administrative measures. But of a specialinterest was a reaction to the new sectarianism of the</p><p>8 Heier, 1970.9 RGIA, f. 797, op. 54, otd. 2, St. 3, d. 63a, 11. 3-6, 44-53 ob., 85 ob.-86.10 Ibid., 11. 12-13,389, and d. 63b, 11. 8-18, 51-69.11 Giliarov-Platonov, 1906, pp. 44950.loyalty and the economic effectiveness, not on the religiouspurity of their views. Facing the rise of religious dissent, thelocal administrators stressed in their reports that thesectarians were not breaking any civil laws and posed nothreat to the state order, that persecution would embitterthe non-conformists and provoke conicts while provinguseless and creating an aura of martyrdom aroundheterodoxy. Accordingly to the Chief Procurator, onegovernor in southern Russia openly refused to deportStundists, declaring: These Stundists have not committedany crime; they live quietly, they pay their taxes, they obeythe authorities, and they should be allowed to stay.12</p><p>An important factor which hampered the state perse-cution of heterodoxy was an evolution of the Russias legalsystem after abolition of serfdom, especially with regard tothe Churchstate relationship. The logic of the path onwhich the country had embarked during the reforms of186070s demanded that the Orthodox Church be sepa-rated from the state, that all faiths bemade equal before thelaw, and that subjects be given the freedom to choose andprofess any religion. These tendencies were clearly mani-fest in administrative and juridical practice. Aft...</p></li></ul>


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