Ways of Russian Theology



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Notes to Chapter V.


1. From 1801 to 1825 Russia was ruled by Alexander I, the “enigmatic tsar.” Alexander was born in 1777, the first son of the Grand Duke and future emperor Paul. His education, however, was supervised by his grandmother Catherine the Great, who hired as his tutor the Swiss republican Cesar La Harpe, and thus Alexander was reared in the atmosphere of the Enlightenment. He acquired an early reputation as a liberal, promising to grant Russia a constitution when he came to power, and also took great care to improve education (five new universities were established in his reign). Meanwhile Alexander's foreign policy through the complex years of the Napoleonic wars proved ultimately successful: the borders of the Russian empire were extended virtually to their 1914 limits and Russia emerged as a dominant force in European politics. By the time of Russia's defeat of Napoleon Alexander was openly exhibiting his tendencies to mysticism and the occult, lending his imperial ear to all manner of prophets and seers. Mystical societies were given free reign in Russia, and with the lifting of restrictions on foreign travel and the importation of foreign books, not to mention the direct contact with Europe through invasion and conquest, Russia was inundated by new and diverse ideas. Alexander himself began to travel ceaselessly throughout his empire and throughout Europe, devoting himself to such far-fetched schemes inspired by his mystical interests as the “Holy Alliance,” and more and more he began to leave the conduct of state affairs to subordinates. The last four years of his reign, after he became obsessed with revolutionaries and was convinced that the mystical societies he had earlier fostered were conspiring against the established order, were marked by obscurantism and repression.

2. Ivan Sergeevich Aksakov (1823-1886), poet, editor of the journal Russkaia beseda and publisher of the newspaper Den', was a noted figure in Russian society in his time. In the 1860's he emerged as the leading ideologist of the Slavophiles.

3. The Pis'ma russkago puteshestvennika were written by Nikolai Karamzin after a journey through Germany, Switzerland, France and England in 1789-1790. In them he describes foreign values, customs and ideas in the style of 18th century European sentimental literature, especially Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey (1768). Karamzin also used them to express his ideas on politics and education. The Letters were actually written over a period f ten years, the first part appearing in Karamzin's Moscow Journal in 1791-1792, the second part in the collection Aglaia in 1794-1795, and the last part came out in 1801. They are often considered the highest point of Russian prose in the 18th century.

4. See chapter III, note 47.

5. See chapter IV, note 114.

6. Russian military forces irrst enteted the European wars against Napoleon in 1805, when they were routed by the French in the battle of Austerlitz. At the same time Russia was involved from 1806-1812 in a war with Turkey. After more costly setbacks at the hands of the French in 1806 and 1807, Alexander and Napoleon had their famous meeting on the Nieman River near Tilsit resulting in a Russo-French alliance. Immediately Russia went to war with Sweden and annexed Finland and the Aland Islands. Meanwhile the alliance with France was rapidly deteriorating until on June 24, 1812, after conquering Austria, Napoleon led an army of close to 600,000 men across the Russian frontier. After a costly but inconclusive battle near Borodino the Russian army withdrew behind Moscow. Napoleon occupied the empty, ancient capital for 33 days, waiting for Alexander to sue for peace. This was a humiliating time for Russia, and Alexander's prestige was at a low ebb. Napoleon, however, had no choice but to retreat without Alexander's submission before winter set in, and hounded by peasant guerillas, an early onset of freezing weather, and the lack of adequate roads and supplies in Russia he finally escaped in December with only 30,000 demoralized troops. To Alexander it seemed as if the elements had miraculously delivered him from the invader, and Russian armies, joined by the Austrians and the Prussians, pressed on after the French. On March 31, 1813 Alexander and Frederick Wilhelm III of Prussia made a triumphant entry into Paris, forcing Napoleon into his first exile and leaving Alexander the most powerful ruler in Europe and convinced more than ever of being chosen by God for a special mission.

7. Filaret, metropolitan of Moscow from 1821 to 1867, was the most outstanding Russian hierarch of the 19th century. Born Vasilii Mikhailovich Drozdov in Kolomna in 1783, he first attended the Kolomna Seminary, then the Trinity Seminary in Moscow. Upon graduation he taught Greek, Hebrew and poetics at the latter. In 1808 he became a monk with the name Filaret and was sent to St. Petersburg as inspector of the academy and professor of philosophy and theology. Filaret was named rector of the St. Petersburg Academy in 1812, and during his tenure there he became well-known in society for his preaching, his polemics with the Jesuits and his promotion of Biblical studies and translation, to which end he participated in the ill-fated Russian Bible Society. In 1817 Filaret was consecrated bishop of Revel, in 1819 he became archbishop of Tver' and a member of the Synod, in 1820 he was transferred to the see of Iaroslavl, and finally in 1821 he moved to Moscow as metropolitan, where he remained until his death 46 years later. Filaret's life and his varied and important activity and literary work is discussed in detail below, sections VII and VIII.

8. Filipp Filippovich Vigel' (1786-1856) was a long-time government official, in his youth a member of the pro-Karamzin literary society Arzamas and later in life an extreme reactionary. His Memoirs (Moscow, 1864-1865) provide abundant information on customs, events and Russian literary life in the first third of the 19th century.

9. In classical mythology Astrea was the goddess of justice and later became a poetic symbol of purity and innocence. She was the last goddess to leave the earth after the Golden Age and became the constellation Virgo. At the very beginning of the Russian “Enlightenment,” the coronation of Elizabeth, the empress had a statue of her built, and the last important Russian masonic lodge was named Astrea.

10. This occurred when Alexander was attempting to persuade the Prussian king to join a coalition against Napoleon. Alexander and Frederick Wilhelm III, with his queen Louise watching, swore an oath of eternal friendship in the underground crypt of Frederick the Great in Potsdam.

11. The important statesman Mikhail Mikhailovich Speranskii (1772-1839) was a mason. The son of a priest, he attended St. Petersburg Seminary and also taught there while also serving as a secretary for an influentiat nobleman, Prince Kurakin. Through the latter Speranskii was able to enter government service and rapidly rose through the Table of Ranks. In 1807 he became a secretary and assistant to Alexander and was known as a competent statesman, drafting educational, financial and administrative reforms. Speranskii gained fame, as well as numerous enemies, with his 1809 proposal for a constitution for Russia. One part of his proposal, the creation of a State Council appointed by the emperor, was carried out in 1810 but for the rest Speranskii was exiled to ,Siberia the following year. Even in exile Speranskii worked in the provincial administration, and he was called back to St. Petersburg in 1821 to serve on the State Council he created. Under Nicholas I he served on the special court which tried the Decembrists in the emperor's personal chancellery, and on his secret committee to investigate the peasant problem. His chief contribution to Russian history, however, was his collection and digest of Russian laws, the Polnoe sobranie zakonov rossiiskoi imperii (1830) and Svod zakonov rossiisskoi imperii (1832-1839). See Marc Raeff, Michael Speransky, Statesman of Imperial Russia, 1772-1839 (The Hague, 1957).

12. Koshelev had served in the Horse Guards and as ambassador to Denmark under Paul, and was largely responsible for both Golitsyn's and Alexander's turn to mysticism. He served in various capacities in Alexander's government, being named a member of the State Council in 1810, but he retired from all of his positions in 1818 to devote himself entirely to spreading his mystical ideas in St. Petersburg society.

13. Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801) was a leader of the anti-rationalist religious movement in Switzerland. A Protestant minister, he was the author of numerous poems and folk songs, but is best remembered as the founder of the pseudo-science of physiognomy, which seeks traces of divine being in human features. His Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beforderungder Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe (4 volumes, 1775-1778) was read all over Europe. For LouisClaude de Saint-Martin, see chapter IV, note 121. Karl von Eckartshausen (1752- 1803) was an enorrriously prolific Bavarian writer who began his career as a respected jurist and man of the Enlightenment before turning to mysticism and alchemy. Eckartshausen was personally acquainted with I.V. Lopukhin, who first translated his works into Russian, and though he remained almost unknown everywhere else, in Russia he became immensely popular and eventually virtually all of his works were translated.

14. Aleksandr Nikolaevich Golitsyn (1773-1844), known as quite the rogue in his early days, was converted to mystical pursuits by Koshelev and eventually became a virtual dictator of religious affairs in Russia. The scion of one of Russia's oldest noble families, Golitsyn developed a permanent friendship with Alexander when he was a young page at Catherine II's court. When Alexander ascended the throne he appointed his old friend Over Procurator of the Holy Synod. In 1810 he was also made head of the department of foreign confessions, and in 1816 became Minister of Popular Education. Golitsyn reached his high point in 1817 when he was named head of a new dual ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs and Public Education. At the same time he was head of the postal department and president of the Russian Bible Society. GoHtsyn was known for philanthropical work with the poor, widows and prisoners as well as for his ruthless exercise of his supreme power over all religious matters. His enormous power, however, also brought him many enemies, chief of which was his only rival in the government, Arakcheev (see below, note 115). Finally in 1824 Golitsyn was forced to leave his positions in the Bible Society and the dual ministry. He retained, however, his command of the postal department (which, though insignificant in itself gave him a seat in the meetings of the Council of Ministers) as well as the tsar's confidence and friendship. Under Nicholas I he also preserved great influence and foi a time presided over the meetings of the State Council, of which he had been a member since 1810.

15. St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), a student of Antonio Possevino at Padua and the bishop of Geneva, was known for his struggle with the Calvinists in Switzerland and for his mystical works. His writings were practical and intended for people with active lives in the world, and include Introduction to the Devout Life (1609) and Treatise on the Love of God (1616).

16. Perhaps the greatest woman mystic of the Roman Catholic Church, St. Teresa (1515-1582), the reformer of the Carmelite order for nuns, wrote several works recognized as classics on the contemplative life. Among them are The Way of Perfection (1583), The Interior Castle (1588) and Spiritual Relations, Exclamations of the Soul to God (1588). Besides numerous poems and letters she also left an autobiography, The Life of the Mother Teresa of Jesus (1611).

17. Often attributed, with varying degrees of certainty, to Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471), the Imitation of Christ is one of the best known of all classics of spiritual literature. It marked the beginning of a whole new approach to spirituality at the end of the Middle Ages in the western world, the Devotio moderna. This spiritual attitude, arising in the Netherlands and the German states, emphasized personal interior and exterior asceticism, the reading of Holy Scripture, meditation on the human life of Christ and intellectual simplicity, in contrast to the earlier sophisticated and speculative spirituality of the Scholastics.

18. The Dominican mystic Johann Tauler (c.1300-1361) was a student of Meister Eckhart. He preached and lectured at Strassbourg and Basel, expounding a mystical theology based on Aquinas that gained many adherents because of its practical, rather than speculative, character. Although various writings have been attributed to him, he actually left nothing extant. His sermons, however; were published and widely read.

19. Johann Heinrich Jung (1740-1817) was a physician and economics professor at Marburg, famous for his mystical writings. The “Stilling” attached to his name comes from the pietist ideal of inner peace, of Stille. Jung enjoyed extensive popularity during his lifetime, particularly among masons and pietists. The prophet of a millenium to be ushered in by a new Church, a higher, spiritual form of mystical Christianity uniting and superseding all confessions, he came to regard Alexander as a chosen instrument of God destined to bring his new Church in from the East. Alexander personaily visited him while attending the European peace conferences of 1814. Among Jung-Stilling's many works are Das Heimweh (1794-1797), an allegorical novel translated into Russian and serialized by the Moscow University press in 1817-1818, Theorie der Geisterkunde (1808), and his autobiography, Heinrich Stillings Leben (5 volumes, 1806), the first volume of which was published by the German poet Goethe in 1777 and is still valuable for its depiction of village life in the 18th century.

20. Barbara Juliane, Freifrau von Kriidener (1764-1824) was a Latvian woman from Riga who married a Russian diplomat there in 1782 and for the next 22 years devoted herself to amorous escapades. After her husband's death in 1802 she published an autobiographical novel Valerie (Paris, 1804), then underwent a conversion to a pietist mysticism with apocalyptical strains. She traveled through Germany and Switzerland holding Bible classes, and in 1815 she met Alexander, who came briefly under her sway and attended some of her meetings.She then lived in St. Petersburg, but was exiled in 1821 for espousing the cause of the Greek revolutionaries and died in a pietist colony in the Crimea. Although Baroness Krudener claimed credit for the famous Holy Alliance (see below) her actual influence on it was limited.

21. Henri-Louis Empeitaz (or Empaytaz, 1790-1853) was expelled from the theological school in Geneva for his leadership in the Societe des Amis, an unauthoiized pietist Bible group. He went on to become a disciple of Baroness Kriidener, and later returned to a parish in Geneva. Among his works is Considerations sur la divinite de Jesu-Christ.

22. Johann Friedrich Oberlin (1740-1826) was a Lutheran pastor known for his extensive philanthropical activity in his native Walderback as well as for his spiritual guidance. In his popular and successful sermons he combined the rationalism of Rousseau with the mysficism of Jung-Stilling and Swedenborg. The Ohio city and college is named after him.

23. The Moravian Brethren were descendants of the Czech Hussites. The Quakers, or Society of Friends, were a non-structured ChIistian society founded in England by George Fox (1624-1691). The Herrnhutters trace their origin to an early 18th century community in Saxony known as the Herrnhut [Watch of the Lord]. All three were related to 18th century German pietism and all three found Russia attractive for missionary work, especially after Catherine's decrees of religious toleration (1762 and 1763) and the opening of Russia's vast southern and eastern regions to foreign colonization.

24. Feodosii Levitskii (1791-1845) had earlier written a treatise on the nearness of the last judgment, which he sent to Golitsyn. Through the latter he was invited to St. Petersburg in 1823 and granted an audience with the tsar. The next year Levitskii's life-long friend and cohort Fedor Lisevich was also allowed to come to the capital and together they gave frequent sermons and speeches on the end of the world. Levitskii was soon forbidden to preach and sent away to a monastery because his sermons were also often critical of the government. He returned to Balta in 1827 and produced numerous eschatological works, which were popular with Old Believers and the Skoptsy.

25. Fotii gained prominence in Russia in the 1820's with his vocal attacks on the mystical trends in society, which helped bring about Prince A.N. Golitsyn's fall from power. Born Petr Nikitich Spasskii in 1792, he studied at the Novgorod Seminary and spent a year at the St. Petersburg Academy before becoming a teacher in the Aleksandr Nevskii elementary school. He became a monk in 1817 and taught at the Second Military Academy before being sent to a monastery outside Novgorod in 1820 for the criticism of the nobility's religious leanings in his sermons. During his brief “exile” he became friends with Countess A.A.Orlova (see note 113) who, together with Fotii's sympathizers among the upper clergy, was able to secure his appointment as an archimandrite in the Aleksandr Nevskii Monastery in 1822. Fotii's influence grew as he gained adherents among the upper levels of society, particularly among noble women, and he even became intimate with Golitsyn. The latter was impzessed with his asceticism and apocalyptical statements and had him named head of the prestigious Iur'ev Monastery in Novgorod. In 1824, however, Fotii again appeared in St. Petersburg, wildly declaiming against the enemies of the faith and the masonic “revolutionaries,” both in speeches and in letters to influential people. Golitsyn's enemies, among them Magnitskii and Arakcheev, saw to it that some of his letters reached the impressionable Tsar Alexander, who granted Fotii an audience in 1824. After his talk with the tsar Fotii openly broke with Golitsyn and even pronounced an anathema against him, leading the call for his dismissal. After the accession of Nicholas I the following year Fotii was forcea to cease his prophetic activity and retire to his monastery, where he lived on quietly in strict asceticism until his death in 1838.

26. The Holy Alliance was presented to Europe by Alexander in 1815. Its terms bound its adherents to be guided in their relations with each other and in the government of their respective reahns by the precepts of Christian morality. All the monarchs of Europe, except the Pope, the Sultan and the British king, signed it, but more to humor Alexander than because anyone attached any practical value to it. Only one provision of it had any meaning to its signators, and ultimately to Alexander himself: that existing sovereigns rule by the will of God and therefore any opposition to them is a divergence from Christian teaching. The Holy Alliance thus went down in history as a symbol of extreme reaction in a period of revolutions in Spain, Latin America, France, Italy and Greece.

27. The Elevation of the Holy Cross, celebrated on September 14, is one of the twelve major feastdays of the Orthodox Church. On this day the Orthodox commemorate the discovery in 325 of the Holy Cross by St. Helena, Constantine the Great's mother, and the return of the cross by the Emperor Heraclius in the 7th century after it had been captured by the Persians. The troparion of the feast, “O Lord save thy people” served as a national anthem in Byzantium and in Russia.

28. Established by the decree of October 24, 1817. [Author's note] .

29. Nikolai Nikolaevich Novosiltsev (1761-1836) was a long-time friend and trusted confidant of Alexander. From 41801-1803 he served on a secret committee to plan reforms for the government and the Russian school system, and during the Napoleonic wars he was one of the Tsar's highest diplomats. The “Statutory Charter” was a draft of a constitution commissioned by Alexander in 1818. Novosiltsev's constitution was much more conservative than Speranskii's earlier project, but was consigned to the same oblivion.

30. Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821), a reactionary political ideologist, lived in St. Petersburg from 1803 to 1817 as the ambassador of the King of Sardinia. A Frenchman by birth, he was an active theoretician and organizer of freemasonry in France until he was uprooted by the French revolution. Then his masonic background combined with his hatred of revolutionary terror to produce a peculiar occult Catholic political philosophy fanatically opposed to liberal and Enlightenment ideals. He attained considerable influence in St. Petersburg society, for a time he was a friend and confidant of Alexander I, and perhaps entertained hopes of converting Russia to an ultramontane, authoritarian Catholicism, which he felt was civilization's last hope against the demonic forces of revolution. In 1809 he composed, as a memorandum for.Alexander, Essai sur Ie principe generateur des constitutions politiques et des autres institutions humaines (published in St. Petersburg in 1814), and his most famous work, Les Soirees de St. Petersbourg, a philosophical dialogue in which de Maistre acclaims the public executioner as the guardian of the social order, was also written in Russia. Other well known works of his include Du Pape (1819) and a defense of the Spanish Inquisition, Lettres sur l Inquisition espagnole (1838).

31. Aleksandr Witberg (1787-1855) was a Russian painter and sometime architect. His plan for the grandiose cathedral was enthusiastically accepted and construction commenced in 1817. but Witberg's abrasive character eventually won him exile from the capital and the cathedrai was not finished.

32. Ilarion Alekseevich Chistovich (1828-1893) was a noted writer on Russian ecclesiastical history and a member of the Academy of Sciences. Among his principal works are Rukovodiashchie deiateli dukhovnago prosveshcheniia v Rossii v pervoi polovine tekushchago stoletiia (St. Petersburg, 1894) and Feofan Prokopovich i ego vremia (St. Petersburg, 1868).

33. See, for example, the discussion on this question by Catherine's Legislative Commission of 1767. [Author's note] .

34. Georges Goyau (1869-1939) was a French church historian. His chief works are Histoire religieuse de la France (1922) and Allemagne religieuse (1898-1913). He published a monograph on Joseph de Maistre in 1922.

35. See his letters on education to Count A.K. Razumovskii, the Minister of Education. [Author'snote].

36. The French abbot Carl-Eugene Nicole (1758-1835) came to'Russia in 1810 and six years later established a school in Odessa, the Lycee Richelieu (named for Nicole's patron, the governor-general of Odessa Duke Armand-Emmanuel de Plessis de Richelieu). Nicole directed the school from 1816 until the Jesuits' expulsion from Russia in 1820, and published an asticle on it, “Etablissement du Lycee Richelieu a Odessa” (Paris, 1817).

37. Sent to Russia to teach in the Jesuit boarding school for the nobility opened in St. Petersburg in 1794, Jean-Louis Rozaven de Liesseques (1772-1851) was known as a skillful and persuasive polemist in the aristocratic salons of the capital. After the Jesuits were expelled from St. Petersburg in 1815 he taught theology at the Jesuit Academy in Polotsk, then moved to Rome after the order was expelled from the whole Russian empire in 1820. While in Russia Rozaven wrote G'eglise catholique justifiee contre les attaques d'un ecrivain qui se dit orthodoxe in response to a tract by Sturdza.

38. Nikolai Ivanovich Novikov (1744-1818) was an active publisher, writer, educator and philanthropist in the last third of the 18th century. He had studied at Moscow University and worked on the Legislative Commission, but first gained notice as the publisher of a series of satirical journals in St. Petersburg in the 1770's. At the same time he made important contributions to Russian historical scholarship with his Opyt istoricheskago slovaria o rossiiskikh pisatelei (1772) and the collection Drevnaia rossiiskaia vivliof:ka (1773-1775). He also became a mason, but did not share the mystical inclinations of his companions. In 1779 he moved to Moscow and obtained a ten-year lease of the presses of Moscow University. During this time his Typographical Company published the journals Moskovskie vedomosti (1779-1789), Detskoe chtenie (1785-1789, the first Russian children's magazine) and altogether one third of all books printed iri Russia in that decade, including numerous mystical works translated from wetern writers. Novikov was also active in opening grammar schools for children and various philanthropical enterprises. Arrested in 1792 as part of Catherine's crackdown on the masons, he was freed by Paul in 1796 but was forbidden to pursue his former activities.

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