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Title: The crisis of religious toleration in mid nineteenth-century Imperial Russia : the state and the old believers, 1842-55
Author: Marsden, Thomas
Awarding Body: Oxford University
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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The Old Believers were the largest group of Orthodox dissenters in Russia. In 1853, the government introduced a new system of measures aiming at their eradication. These marked the highest point of religious persecution during the final century-and-a-half of Imperial Russia. This thesis explains what lay behind these extreme policies, examines how they were implemented and the reasons behind their abandonment in 1855. Rather than seeing the system as the result of the autocratic reaction of these years, it argues that it derived from wider processes of modernisation in the political, intellectual and social spheres. The first part of the thesis (1842-52) shows how forces of secularisation and rationalisation led to new pressures to delineate the religious and civil spheres. This was complicated by developments which challenged the rationale behind religious toleration: the foundation of an Old Believer hierarchy abroad; the discovery of the beguny, a radical branch of Old Belief, and statistical revelations about the spread of dissent. Meanwhile, attempts to create a more expert officialdom brought progressive intellectual influences into government. Their concern for national unity gave Old Belief a new political significance. The second part of the thesis (1853-5) examines the implementation of the system. It created a sense of political emergency for extraordinary repressive measures but was the realisation of progressive impulses: the desire to create a more effective state administration and to build a national unity. It transformed the basis of religious politics from concerns about public order and spiritual well-being to ideas about protecting state integrity and the popular spirit. Finally it confronted a modem problem. Old Belief was associated with emerging capitalist forces. The system focussed on dissenting industrialists and merchants, this reveals that the state's religious policy was bound up with attempts to control social development.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available