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Books / Spring 2017

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.


Patrick Lally MichelsonPatrick Lally Michelson is an associate professor of religious studies at Indiana University and the coeditor of Thinking Orthodox in Modern Russia.



“Beautifully written and important.”
Reading Religion

“This impressive, carefully argued book is more than a survey of Russian Orthodox thought in the nineteenth century; it is also an interpretation of Russian intellectual history in the period….It is because of the potential for broader comparisons that this book will be of interest not only to specialists on Russia, but more generally to historians of religion in the modern world.”
Journal of Modern History

“Readers will appreciate the breadth of Michelson’s reading and the finely tuned interpretive force of his intellectual history.”
Slavic Review

“Michelson’s in-depth research is a great contribution to the field of religious and intellectual history, but scholars of nationalism and literary studies will also find the book relevant and revelatory.”
Ab Imperio

“Michelson has skillfully traced the arc of Russian discourse on asceticism over the final century of the Russian Empire.”
American Historical Review

“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



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Related Books

Thinking Orthodox in Modern Russia
Culture, History, Context

Thinking Orthodox in Modern Russia
Culture, History, Context

Edited by Patrick Lally Michelson and Judith Deutsch Kornblatt

Doubt, Atheism, and the Nineteenth-Century Russian Intelligentsia

Doubt, Atheism, and the Nineteenth-Century Russian Intelligentsia
Victoria Frede

Cover: Beyond the Monastery Walls

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July 2017
LC: 2016044004 BV
320 pp.   6 x 9

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Cloth $69.95 S
ISBN 9780299312008
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