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Tom E. Dykstra, Russian Monastic Culture, "Josephism," and the Iosifo-Volokolamsk Monastery, 1479-1607.

Tom E. Dykstra, Russian Monastic Culture, "Josephism," and the IosifoVolokolamsk Monastery, 1479-1607. Munich: Otto Sagner, 2006. ISBN-13 978-3876909806. 26.00 [euro].

Nikolai Konstantinovich Nikol'skii, Kirillo-Belozerskii monastyr' i ego ustroistvo do vtoroicbetvertiXVIlveka (1397-1625) [The Kirillo-Belozerskii Monastery and Its Organization up to the Second Quarter of the 17th Century (1397-1625)], 2: Upravlenie. Obshcbinnaia i keleinaia zhizn'. Bogosluzhenie [Administration, Communal and Cell Life, Church Services], ed. Z. V. Dmitrieva, E. V. Krushitel'nitskaia, and T. I. Shablona. St. Petersburg: Dmitrii Bulanin, 2006. ISBN 5860074670.

The publication of these two volumes has placed the study of Muscovite monasticism on a new plane. In the early 1900s, the superbly trained church historian Nikolai Konstantinovich Nikol'skii (1863-1936) turned almost exclusively to the study of Rug literature and became a seminal Soviet academic figure in this field. But before he did so, he published monograph-length chapters on Kirillov's physical structures (chapter 2) and economy (chapter 1), and, in three journal installments, four-fifths of chapter 4 on the Beloozero cloister's communal and cell life, as well as some specific and general materials which might have served as the base for an eventual chapter 6 on its bookcraft (knizhnost'). (1) Now in one volume a team of scholars led by Z. V. Dmitrieva has issued chapter 3 on administration, an enlarged chapter 4, chapter 5 on church services, and several useful appendices, all as found in manuscript form in the Library of the Academy of Sciences. Tom Dykstra, for his part, has produced the most intensive study to date of the social structure of a major Muscovite cloister. Here we examine these works in turn.

Nikol'skii was about as immersed in the original papers as anyone could be. He personally rescued some of the Kirillov manuscripts that had appeared on the open booksellers' market and assiduously guarded all codices in his possession in 1917-18 (see N. V. Kraposhina in 2: 6). The minutiae in these chapters are staggering, as if the proverbial statement about God and details (attributed, maybe apocryphally, to Goethe) was one of Nikol'skii's chief mottos. All his chapters contain numerous extracts from sources in the footnotes, and all but one have ample appendices with published sources ranging from estate registries relating to agriculture, income, expenses, and upkeep of state servitors (1: chap. 1) to inventories of church and estate buildings and graves, a synodicon (memorial list), Vasilii Shuiskii's army recruits in 1607, and a description of the "Lithuanian vandalization [razorenie]" of 1612-13 (1: chap. 2). (2) They also include lists of igumens (abbots), managers (stroiteli), cellarers, treasurers, grangers (zhitniki), and librarians (2: chap. 3); and a detailed liturgical obikhodnik from the 1560s, followed by a brief extracted instruction from 1621 to the ecclesiarch concerning the sounding of the church bells (2: chap. 5). Nikol'skii also created his own lists: for example, of the 80 churches, many of them heatable in the winter, within the 51 parishes on lands owned by Kirillov in 1601 (2: 103-5). Scholars researching anything connected to such matters can immediately profit from these sources)

Reading Nikol'skii's first two chapters, one feels as if one is on the site of Kirillov, its estates, and its river network in the late 16th or early 17th century, something that one does not always perceive in reading A. A. Zimin's widereaching and mostly sound study of the Iosifo-Volokolamsk Monastery as a seigneurie. (4) From Nikol'skii's chapters 3-5, one immediately realizes that the author knew the cell rules, liturgies, and liturgical cycles inside out: he even gives the reader a tour of an imagined cell with its limited contents. (5) In the toilsome and assiduous study of Rus'/Russian liturgies going on right now in the manuscript divisions of the Russian State Library, State Historical Museum, Russian National Library, and elsewhere, the publication of this chapter 5 could not be more timely.

One of Nikol'skii's most important findings is that by around 1600, with the continued rise of state imposts, Kirillov's own enterprises (promysly) proved more profitable than the land worked by peasants, and this was where the cloister's economic future lay (2:271-72 n. 54). Yet for me the most intriguing aspect of Nikol'skii's work is the missing chapter 6 on bookcraft or intellectual life, which he never wrote but whose germ one of the editors, T. I. Shablova, rightly sees in his 1900 speech on the relevance of Muscovite manuscript books and homiletics. She gives us only a brief extract, but from the entire work and his publication of the early Kirillov book catalogues, we might be able to outline where he was heading. Relying on pure numbers, he noted that 67 percent of all the known Rus' books through 1400 were liturgical in nature, another 29 percent--hagiographic and (unoriginal) homiletic--were for reading in the church, just 3 percent for the monk's cell-reading, and even the most popular book for cell-reading, the Psalter, was, in its form and appendices, subordinated to the church service. As the preponderance of service material continued into the next centuries, one must, in Nikol'skii's opinion, use liturgical texts to understand such leading writers as Nil Sorskii, Iosif Volotskii, and Metropolitans Daniil and Makarii, not to mention the Book of Royal Genealogy (Stepennaia kniga). (6)

The one place in the book where Nikol'skii did make some specific observations on Kirillov intellectual life besides bibliography is the first section of chapter 4, which treats the question of monastic landholding as a central issue to communal and cell life. Though he fully grasped the common ground of the supporters and the purported opponents of such estates (as did several other imperial Russian church historians), he had no reason in his time seriously to question the prevalent ideas about the allegedly conflicting approaches of Nil Sorskii and Iosif Volotskii to the problem of church landowning. So in the light of recent source-based analyses, this part of Nikol'skii's work is dated. Unfortunately, the editors did not choose to indicate where his conclusions have been well challenged, but his work on Kirillov has established a still unmatched standard for a comprehensive study of a major Muscovite monastery.

Tom Dykstra has set out to rewrite the social history of Iosifov from its ample available documentation, some provided by those Soviet-era scholars, whose neglect of spiritual life he justifiably criticizes, but also with the aid of the sociological speculations of specialists in Western monasticism and such approaches as "social categorization theory" (152). He concludes that not so much the highest social echelons as former modest landowners, personal servitors, and other professionals predominated in the cloister's administration; that self-categorization regarding the collective yielded much greater cohesiveness than individual or factional interests created divisiveness--which would make Iosifov "from the standpoint of social culture ... truly just another monastery" (193)-and that the monastery was chiefly interested in its own well-being, with no trace of institutional charity, despite the founder's personal inclinations.

As does Nikol'skii, Dykstra blesses his readers with a tight organization, here providing chapters on historical context, sources, methodology/terminology, social provenance/mobility, social culture, and political culture, as well as a full, forecasting introduction and a brief conclusion. According to Dykstra's analysis, a place-based name, though not a patronymic, signifies a clan. Thus, if a rare surname such as Cheglokov appears first with a layman, here Grigorii, and then later with a compatible monastic name, here German, then we can assume one individual. (7) An adjectival or substantive surname, such as Bosoi for Iosif's illustrious comrade Kassian (once the young Ivan III's archery instructor) or Riazanets for Iosif's successor, Igumen Daniil, signifies a likely servitor or professional, maybe a priest. Our author utilizes the distinction between starers = "career monk" and the generic inok, invariably used for those who chose to be tonsured just as death approached. (8) The lower social strata included people as economically well-off as many landowners, which, along with the monk's adoption of a new identity and primary loyalty at tonsure, can explain the ready mixing of classes. Half who joined for the long haul served as officials in some capacity, and half of those who so served attained council elder status, if not one of the top three posts (igumen, cellarer, and treasurer).

Dykstra's division of former social status for monks is innovative, as he groups the sovereign's non-lineaged state secretaries (d'iaki) with "court nobles" (dvoriane) and successful junior boyars (deti boiarskie)--who, together with the top-ranking boyars, okol'nichie, and appanage/service princes, form the "nobility." Beneath them stand first what he calls the "untitled" ("unranked" might be better) provincial landowners like Iosif's family, then "servitors," who need not have possessed any lands but acquired status from their abilities and highly placed employers, and finally "tradesmen" and "peasants," a few of whose capabilities allowed them to mingle as equals with the monastery's administrative elite. Running the numbers and creating visually friendly pie charts, Dykstra finds that for his socially identifiable individuals, attainment of a formal leadership position breaks down as follows: about 60 percent of the landowners but 38 percent of the nobles, 30 percent of the servitors, 22 percent of the clergy, and only 6 percent of the tradesmen and peasants so succeeded. Maybe 26 percent of the "low-class" unknown and 36 percent of the totally unknown, however, so served in the cloister, leading him to suspect that many or all of them had been servitors in their earlier lives or came from such families (144, 218-19, and n. 218).

We can summarize Dykstra's pie-chart data in Table 1.

The socially upper strata, as we can see, tended to serve high in the monastery, or not at all, whereas only a few of the lowest strata could do well and only inside the cloister--and even there not as (known) masters of disciples.

Dykstra bases his analysis of what he terms the monastery's social culture on a combination of scholarly conclusions concerning self-categorization toward collective identities in medieval Western monasteries and the values found in the original texts pertaining to Iosifov. The writings from or about Iosif and the Iosifov monastery show that the twin ideals of non-possession and humility formed the core values to help "foster mutually perceived similarity," even if the ideal of non-possession hardly squared with the reality of de facto individual ownership of books and other commodities for purchasing commemorations. (9) He doubts that any Iosifov monks ever lost any sleep worrying about possible "corrupting influence" from monastic landholding. (10)

As for political culture, Iosif's Testament-Rule and recorded practice show the igumen responsible to the council and, at times, the council responsive to the rank and file, so that one can readily apply notions of consensus governance to the cloister, despite the sovereign's ultimate power to appoint abbots. Typically for any political institution, an extraordinarily forceful personality could dominate a governing elite, as did the ex-oprichnih Misail Beznin for six years (1590-95/96). He standardized estate fees and imposts, converted some peasant rents into labor dues (no different from the Trinity-Sergiev and Kirillov monasteries in the 1590s), and forced high-interest loans on the monastery's peasants to increase their productivity--all for the material benefit of the monastery as a collective, this constituting the basis of the consensus. An inquest from Moscow silenced the one council voice that made a principled complaint on high (209-20).

The idealistic observer, seeking some saving grace for the cloister, might wish to point to its standing institutional charity, but, alas, Dykstra adduces no evidence of such, and I found none when I checked his sources. Maybe we or these records missed something, but if not, how different Iosifov had become from Kirillov, where, for example, Nikol'skii noted that the 1601 expense ledgers specified for 102 persons in the sickhouse and for the poor a total of 9 rubles, 6 altyns, and 306 cheti of rye (1, 1: 349). For Dykstra, Iosifov charity was not an institutional but an individual matter, which is how he envisions Iosif's famed famine relief measures, financed to a great extent by secular donors (186-87, 224-26).

If Nikol'skii's lifetime and posthumous publications reveal the scope of possibilities for a full study of a major Russian monastery into the early 1600s, Dykstra's quantitative analysis succeeds in providing a new way to analyze social composition. But does he give too little attention to the peculiar qualitative aspects of his cloister's life? How about the balancing of quasi-consensus administration with the ideal of absolute submission to both the igumen and one's personal elder? What of the coenobium-specific social leveling, which enforced the common and egalitarian trapeza rule (not mentioned by Dykstra) and balanced the parallel social ladders of original secular status, formal discipleship, informal patronage, and one's burial and commemorative arrangements? Just because few startsy (elders) were original writers, dare we neglect literary culture and the careers of Iosifov trainees to the point that we strip iosiflianstvo (what he terms Josephism) of the church- or realm-wide significance of the greatest of them? Our differences may just be one of emphasis, but I think the record of literary and political success indicates that starting only sometime in the 1570s can one justly speak with Dykstra of a Iosifov that, from the standpoint of social culture, is "just another monastery" (193), and even here, this excludes its library and history. As I see matters, Dykstra's reading back into earlier periods of conclusions that may suit the uneducated contingent of monks represents not only an unjustified downgrading of Iosif's own major writings as "compendia" (202) but, perhaps, a failure to examine them and their role in 16th-century Muscovy. Yet, in a provocative if unconvincing reversal of the expected, Dykstra downgrades the Iosifov literary life we actually know but at the same time elevates and may overestimate both the percentage of Iosifov monks who genuinely cared about books and the original homiletic content of the individual monastic miscellanies (sborniki). (11) Nevertheless, our divergent sense of these ascetic miscellanies underscores the need for several dissertations and monographs on them of the quality of Robert Romanchuk's study of Kirillov's long 15th century. (12)

Dykstra's socio-statistical approach is innovative, and he has succeeded in showing us new ways to deal with such data. Hopefully, others so engaged in studies of Russian monasteries will profit from his model. But at the same time, we all must dig in, work on those sborniki, and finally produce Nikol'skii's missing chapter 6--for Kirillov, Iosifov, Troitsa-Sergiev, Solovki, and any other cloister whose library into the early 17th century is sufficiently accessible. This--together with further work with monastic estates, economies, liturgies, plastic arts, and, as shown by Dykstra, socio-clio-onomastics--is the challenge for those of us who in one way or another are continuers of Nikol'skii's barsetting, pioneering efforts. Nikol'skii's works, I must add, merit republication, especially the first two chapters of Kirillo-Belozershii monastyr'.

Dept. of History

Georgetown University

Washington, DC 20057 USA

(1) N. K. Nikol'skii, Kirillo-Belozerskii monastyr" i ego ustroistvo do vtoroi chetverti XVII veka (1397-1625) (hereafter KBMU), vol. 1, pts. 1-2 (St. Petersburg: Sinodal'naia tipografiia, 1910, 1897); Nikol'skii, "Obshchinnaia i keleinaia zhizn" v Kirillo-Belozerskom monastyre v XV i XVI vv. i v nachale XVII-go," in Khristianskoe chtenie, August 1907: 153-89, February 1908: 26792, and June-July 1908: 880-907. Also connected to this theme are his "Kogda bylo napisano oblichitel'noe poslanie Ivana Vasil'evicha IV v Kirillo-Belozerskii monastyr'?" in Khristianskoe chtenie, June 1907: 839-52; Opisanie rukopisei Kirillo-Belozerskogo monastyria v kontse XV veka (St. Petersburg: OLDP, 1897); "Materialy dlia istorii drevnerusskoi pis'mennosti," Izvestiia Otdeleniia russkogo iazyka i slovesnosti 2, 1 (1897): 84-89; and "K literaturnoi deiatel'nosti Nila Sorskogo," in Trudy Slavianskoi komissii Moskovskogo arkheologicheskogo obshchestva 5 (1911). Protokoly, 32-34.

(2) KMBU 1, 1: 50-60, gives the details of the threats, attacks, fortification measures, and results over the 1607-16 period.63

(3) For example, the historian of the parish church will discover that in 1601, 48 of these estate parishes held church lands for the priests to farm themselves and then learn a good deal about the parish size (KBMU2: 105-8).

(4) A. A. Zimin, Krugnaia Jbodal'naia votchilla i sotsial'no-politicheskaia bor'ba v Rossii (konets XV-XVI vv.) (Moscow: Nauka, 1977).

(5) See, especially, KBMU 2:212-14. For knowing and understanding the various services, hymns, and prayers, Nikol'skii enjoyed a special advantage in that he came from a family of educated priests, and his father Konstantin Timofeevich Nikol'skii (1837-1904) was a liturgical scholar. See N. V. Kraposhina, "N. K. Nikol'skii: Biografiia uchenogo v arkhivnykh dokumentakh," in Mir russkoi vizantistiki: Materialy arkhivov Sankt-Peterburga, ed. I. P. Medvedeva (St. Petersburg: Dmitrii Bulanin, 2004), 175.

(6) N. K. Nikol'skii, Istoricheskie osobennosti v postanovke tserkovno-uchitel'nogo dela v Moskovskoi Rusi (XV-XVII vv.) i ikh znachenie dlia sovremennoi gomiletiki: Rech', chitannaia na godichnora akte S.-Peterburgskoi dukhovnoi akademii 17 fevralia 1900 g. (St. Petersburg: N. Lopukhin, 1901), 9-10, 15; Nikol'skii, Opisanie rukopisei Kirillo-Belozerskogo monastyria v kontse XV veka, XLVI-LII.

(7) Russian Monastic Culture (hereafter, RMC), 85; Dykstra, however, may err in accepting some of Zimin's data, which might be checked and seen as speculative: for example, that Filofei Zvenigorodskii was Dionisii Zvenigorodskii's son (Zimin, Krupnaia feodal'naia vatchina, 114 n. 62), and thus placing Dionisii in the list of commemorative donors for their "wives and children" and envisioning him as a council elder without a genuine, cited source for either (RMC, 125 n. 234, 133 n. 257).

(8) Dykstra errs, however, in trying to interpret the term starets via pure Slavic etymology, without recourse to its Greek original in the earliest sources for desert monasticism: geron (RMC, 94).

(9) RMC, 155. Dykstra may go too far, however, in positing that "all these virtues are equally accessible to all" (169). My sense is that the prime virtues open to the lowliest of commoners, who already possess poverty and humility in abundance, are total submission to authority and mournful repentance.

(10) RMC, 152-53. He missed that Iosif's Rule (Predanie 5, following Slovo 13) evinces such concern. See T. V. Suzdal'tsev, ed., Drevnerusskie inocheskie ustavy (Moscow: Severnyi palomnik, 2001), 141.

(11) RMC, 98, 167; Nikol'skii was more cautious (KBMU2: 212).

(12) Robert Romanchuk, Byzantine Hermeneutics and Pedagogy in the Rus' North." Monks and Masters at the Kirillo-Belozerskii Monastery, 1397-1501 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute, 2007).
Table 1. Social Origins of losifov Monks, 1479-1007 (%)

                           Upper ("nobles,"   Middle (servitors,
                             landowners)           priests)

The entire brotherhood            22                  72
No record as officials            18                  73
Igumens                           19                  76
Callarers/stewards                38                  59
Treasurers                        38                  58
Council elders                    36                  62
No-council officials              11                  88
Disciples of masters              11                  89
Masters of disciples              42                  58
Appointed to an abbacy            47                  53
Appointed to a bishopric          37                  63

                           Lower (tradesmen,

The entire brotherhood             6
No record as officials             9
Igumens                            5
Callarers/stewards                 3
Treasurers                         4
Council elders                     2
No-council officials               1
Disciples of masters               0
Masters of disciples               0
Appointed to an abbacy             0
Appointed to a bishopric           0

Source: Dykstra, Russian Monastic Culture.
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Title Annotation:The Kirillo-Belozerskii Monastery and Its Organization up to the Second Quarter of the 17th Century, 1397-1625
Author:Goldfrank, David
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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