Northern Illinois University Press

Converging Worlds

Religion and Community in Peasant Russia, 1861–1917

Chris J. Chulos

"A thoughtful and unique portrait of popular religion."
—Gregory L. Freeze, Brandeis University

"Extremely impressive and highly original, this book is a major contribution."—William Wagner, Williams College

Converging Worlds describes the interplay between peasant religious life and the broader social and cultural transformation of late tsarist Russia. Through a detailed examination of religious practices and ceremonies among the peasantry in the province of Voronezh, Chulos challenges existing conceptions of religion in Russia and sheds new light on the development of modern national identity.

Age-old rituals, customs, and beliefs helped peasants to adapt to industrialization and modernization by providing a spiritual and psychological framework for change. The dependable rhythms of village holidays and rituals marking the stages of human life gave the peasantry a sense of stability and comfort as their traditions slowly unraveled in the face of urban culture. Encouraged by educated Russians who traveled the countryside in search of the ideal national type, peasant communities began to reconstruct tales of their village origin. These stories linked people in remote locales to the central events and heroes of imperial Russian history.

Village and urban cultural worlds clashed over peasant demands for the devolution of political, cultural, and social authority. By the time revolutionary fervor ignited the countryside in 1905, the village faithful demonstrated a new confidence in their ability to shape their own future—and Russia's—as they agitated for greater control over local religious life.

By 1917, peasant disenchantment reached new heights and helped to create a new popular Orthodoxy that no longer looked to tsar and church as valid sources of authority and identity. As peasant believers took control of their local religious life, they inadvertently aided antireligious activists in driving religion underground, thereby estranging future generations from a fundamental pillar of their cultural heritage.

(2003) 216 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-317-3
cloth $46.50

Chris J. Chulos works in the Office of Development at Roosevelt University, where he also teaches history. He is Docent in the Department of History at University of Helsinki and has published extensively on Russian religious history.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Author's Note
Introduction: Orthodoxy, Russianness, and Local Identity
1. Varieties of Piety
2. Telling Time: Eternal Truths, Mortal Fates
3. Mythical Origins, Magical Icons, and Historical Awareness
4. Uncompromising over Parish Authority: The Church, its Clergy, and the Peasantry
5. Saints, Pilgrimage, and Modern Russian Orthodox Identity
6. The Modernizing Village: Rituals, Reading, and Revolution
7. Failed Visions of Reform at the End of an Era
8. Campaign Platforms and Rank-and-File Votes
Conclusion: Religion without a Tsar or a Church
Selected Bibliography

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-317-3
cloth $46.50