Beyond the Monastery Walls
The Ascetic Revolution in Russian Orthodox Thought, 1814–1914
During Russia's late imperial period, Orthodox churchmen, professionally trained theologians, and an array of social commentators sought to give meaning to Russian history and its supposed backwardness. Many found that meaning in asceticism. For some, ascetic religiosity prevented Russia from achieving its historical destiny. For others, it was the means by which the Russian people would realize the Kingdom of God, thereby saving Holy Russia and the world from the satanic forces of the West.
Patrick Lally Michelson's intellectual history of asceticism in Russian Orthodox thought traces the development of these competing arguments from the early nineteenth century to the early months of World War I. He demonstrates that this discourse was an imaginative interpretation of lived Orthodoxy, primarily meant to satisfy the ideological needs of Russian thinkers and Orthodox intellectuals as they responded to the socioeconomic, political, and cultural challenges of modernity.
“Impressive in its analytical breadth and astute in its interpretive depth, this is an engaging, lucid, and original contribution to the history of modern Russian thought and modern Orthodoxy.”
—Vera Shevzov, Smith College
“Reading this extraordinary book is like having missing pieces of a puzzle click together at last. Actors normally examined separately—radical socialists, theological academies, hermits, great writers, bureaucrats, lay intellectuals—emerge as part of the same religious culture that placed asceticism at the center of discourse and practice in imperial Russia's defining century.”
—Nadieszda Kizenko, University at Albany, SUNY
“Michelson’s groundbreaking study of discourses on asceticism makes a valuable contribution to the religious and intellectual history of both imperial Russia and Europe in the century prior to World War I.”
—William Wagner, Williams College
LC: 2016044004 BV
320 pp. 6 x 9