Northern Illinois University Press

Christianizing Crimea

Shaping Sacred Space in the Russian Empire and Beyond

Mara Kozelsky

“A significant study that enhances scholarly understanding of Russian Orthodox nationalism in the nineteenth century ... based on an ambitious set of sources, involving a large published record of primary documents, as well as local and central archives.”—Christine D. Worobec, author of Possessed: Women, Witches, and Demons in Imperial Russia

"This book will be of great interest to scholars interested in Russia as empire, in the development and dissemination of Russian Orthodox nationalism in the nineteenth century, and in the relationship between religion and empire in imperial Russia....I would also recommend it to visitors to Crimea who seek a deeper understanding of the peninsula and its history more generally." Heather J. Coleman, Journal of Ukrainian Studies

In 19th-century Russia, religious culture permeated politics at the highest levels, and Orthodox Christian groups—including refugees from the Russo-Ottoman wars as well as the church itself—influenced Russian domestic and foreign policy. Likewise, Russian policy with the Ottoman Empire inspired the creation of a holy place in ethnically and religiously diverse Crimea. Looking to the monastic state of Mount Athos in Greece, Orthodox Church authorities in the mid-1800s attempted to create a monastic community in Crimea, which they called “Russian Athos.” The Crimean War catalyzed the Russian Christianization that had begun decades earlier and decimated Crimea’s Muslim population. Wartime propaganda portrayed Crimea as the cradle of Russian Christianity, and by the end of the war, the Black Sea Region acquired a Christian identity. The same interplay of religion, politics, and culture has found new ground in Crimea today as its sacred monuments and ruins lie vulnerable to abuse by nationalist groups sparring over the land.

Christianizing Crimea is the first English language work to analyze the Christian renewal in Crimea. Drawing on archives in Odessa, Simferopol, and St. Petersburg that to date have remained untapped by Western scholars, Kozelsky provides both a fascinating case study of past and present religious nationalism in Eastern Europe and an examination of the political conflicts and compromises endemic to holy places. She explores the diverse strategies of church expansion, the importance of Byzantine history and the Greek population, the assimilation of local pagan and Tatar traditions into sacred narratives, the crafting of Russian identity through print culture, and Crimea’s re-Christianizing in the post-Soviet era. Kozelsky’s unique approach joins the fields of contemporary history, religion, and archaeology to show how Crimea has been reshaped as a holy place. Christianizing Crimea will appeal to both scholars and general readers who are interested in past and current religious and political conflicts.

(2009) 288 pp.
ISBN 978-0-87580-412-5
cloth $42.00

Mara Kozelsky is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of South Alabama and contributing co-editor, with Philip L. Kohl and Nachman Ben-Yehuda, of Selective Remembrances: Archaeology in the Construction, Commemoration, and Consecration of National Pasts.

Table of Contents

List of Tablee
Note on Transliteration, Names, and Toponyms
1. The Limits of Toleration and the Challenges of Conversion
2. From the Temple of Diana to the Cradle of Christianity: Graecophilia and Christian Archaeology
3. Athos in Crimea: A Local Response to the Eastern Question
4. Monasticism Takes Root
5. War: The Crucible of a Holy Place
6. The Legacy of War for Crimean Christianity

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-412-5
Christianizing Crimea $42.00