Eastern Orthodoxy in Russia, II Orthodoxy and Modernity
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Eastern Orthodoxy in Russia, IIOrthodoxy and Modernity
Michael Makin, LHSP 100, 28 October 2003
Moscow Church Door, June 2003
Church Door, detail
Discussed today:• The Old Believers – Avvakum writes his own hagiography; the Russian translations are more “authentic” than the Greek originals; the Old Believers, conservative in dogma and practice, are highly innovative in discourse and art; later they are to be perceived as “more Russian” than all other Russians.
• In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, educated Russia becomes very secular, relatively indifferent to religion; even educated people can no longer understand Old Church Slavonic; popular religion thrives.
• Later nineteenth century – revival of Orthodox culture; Russian Modernism very interested in religion
• Chekhov stories – calendar and literature (genre of “Easter Tale”), careful observation of church, but view is of outsider; role of Easter in community; traditional elements – beauty, landscape, collectivity. But also, characteristic Chekhovian ambivalence. Nikolai’s “canticles” -- a puzzle. Misunderstandings of liturgy? What is quoted as his is not the work of a humble monk, but a familiar part of the liturgy. Non-communication between Bishop and his own mother – distance of church from people.
• Soviet period. Officially atheist state. Orthodox cultural models clearly persist even in state rituals, however. Meanwhile, Orthodoxy provides means for describing new cultural situation in alternative culture.
•World of alternative culture, alternative books – community formation not entirely “modern” (“pre-Gutenberg conditions” in which books are not printed, and circulate secretly in alternative cultural economy; what this does to the acts of writing and reading; what this does to the notion of “canon”).
• Erofeev – inverts but also asserts Orthodox forms: Eucharist; holy fool; martyrdom; revelation. His hero’s story is a not-too-distant echo of the powerful (and popular) Orthodox idea of kenosis, an idea that is of particular importance in understanding the notion of the “holy fool” or “fool in Christ”. This concept and the practices associated with it survive to the present in the Orthodox world.
• Kenoticism – a popular form in Russia. Main scriptural source is usually taken to be the opening of Philippians, 2:
• If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
• Tarkovsky’s film, “Andrei Rublev” (you can watch the whole film in the LRC; a short extract should be on Course Tools web site next week) – life of fifteenth-century iconographer, modeling both Old Russia and Soviet modernity. “Oppositionist” art in Soviet context.
•Russian crucifixion – Rublev’s vision is of a “Russian Calvary”: the crucifixion of Christ transported to fifteenth-century Russia. The film re-imagines the Russian past, making extensive use of material drawing on Christian scripture, but in order, at least in part, to reflect on the Soviet present.
Timeline of Church History, from St Vladimir’s, Dexter. How an Orthodox Christian is invited to view Christianity
A question of location and perspective…
In the early 1960s, not long before Tarkovsky started work on “Andrei Rublev”, the state ran
a new atheism campaign
Remains of two churches, village of Makachevo, northern Vologda region. The brick church was blown up during the
Andrei Rublev’s most famous work
“Old Testament Trinity”, early 15th century
The Internet offers many possibilities for exploring Russia. A good place for the English-speaking surfer to begin is the web site of the Russian
Department at Bucknell College (http://www.departments.bucknell.edu/russian/index.html).
More locally, note our own sites:http://www.lsa.umich.edu/slavic/
And don’t miss the opportunity to see a brilliant production of Pushkin’s play Boris Godunov, at the Sports Coliseum
29 October – 2 November (http://www.ums.org/season/artists/ap.asp?pageid=154)
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected]