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Dissertation Abstract

Mara Veronica Kozelsky

"Christianizing Crimea: Church Scholarship, "Russian Athos," and Religious Patriotism of the Crimean War," Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of History, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, 2004

This dissertation examines the Christianizing of Crimea during the middle of the nineteenth century. Sixty years after Russia's initial colonization of the Black Sea Region, the province of Tauride contained a diverse population, the majority of whom were Tatars. To preserve the delicate balance of imperial rule, the state prohibited the expansion of the Orthodox Church. During the reign of Nicholas I, however, the Church made rapid advances into Crimea, especially during the administration of Archbishop Innokentii (Borisov, 1848-1857). Under this archbishop, the Church mobilized scholars to rewrite Crimea's history and position it as a holy place of the Russian empire. Through an elaborate program of ritual and mythmaking, Christian scholars unsettled earlier Tatar histories and cast Crimea as the "Cradle of Russian Christianity." It also erected new churches and monasteries on sites designated as sacred, calling the new monastic community "Russian Athos," after Mount Athos in Greece. With the beginning of the war in 1854, the Church intensified Christian representations of Crimea to fix the peninsula as a symbol of Russia's Orthodox identity. By the end of the Crimean War, the Church obtained a separate diocese for the province of Tauride, and assumed the privileges of the state religion. Through textual analysis of local diocesan proceedings, reports to the Holy Synod, patriotic discourse, and contemporary archeological and historical scholarship, my dissertation demonstrates how the Russian Orthodox Church transformed the hitherto multi-cultura/multi-confessional peninsula into a "holy place" of the Russian Empire. In addition to its real presence in the form of new monasteries, it had a serious influence in public debates and regional scholarship. Additionally, the Church was a key formulator of Russian identity and the religious patriotism of the Crimean War. Primarily, however, this dissertation shows that the Orthodox Christianizing process did not necessarily mean conversion, but rather entailed a reworking of local identity.

Posted: July 2005


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