Les Trois Christianismes et la Russie. Les Voyageurs Occidentaux Face a l'Eglise Orthodoxe Russe (XV^sup E^-XVIII^sup E^ Siecle)

By Goldfrank, David | Canadian Slavonic Papers, September-December 2003 | Go to article overview

Les Trois Christianismes et la Russie. Les Voyageurs Occidentaux Face a l'Eglise Orthodoxe Russe (XV^sup E^-XVIII^sup E^ Siecle)


Goldfrank, David, Canadian Slavonic Papers


Francine-Dominique Liechtenhan. Les trois christianismes et la Russie. Les voyageurs occidentaux face a l'Eglise orthodoxe russe (XV^sup e^-XVIII^sup e^ siecle). Mondes russes: Etats, Societes, Nations. Paris: CNRS Editions, 2002. 208 pp. Illustrations. Bibliographic selective. Index des noms. euro22.00, paper.

"If the Pope believes that he is infallible," Peter the Great is reported to have said when he visited Paris, "then he is a fool; and if he doesn't so believe, then he is a scoundrel" (p. 130). Such vignettes are the stuff of Catherine Leichtenhan's brief, trenchant, and interpretive account of the Russian Church, and of the goals and attitudes of Catholic and Protestant visitors, residents, and outside observers of Russia, from 1246 to 1796. Among the leitmotifs are the mutually compulsive Catholic drive to "recoup" Russia and the resolute Orthodox rejection, tempered by calculating, diplomatic baiting; the greater Protestant interest in material profit over proselytizing; the norm of foreign ignorance concerning the inner life of the Russian Church; and a rather high degree of depravity among foreign residents. Protestants and Catholics manipulated each other's texts-for example, Abraham Wicquefort's suppression of the anti-Catholic motifs of Adam Olearius's account (1659-date of publication). Criticism of Orthodoxy, as by Jean Chappe d'Aucheroche (1768) and Nathanael Wraxall (1776) sometimes anchored the overall smearing of Russia as barbaric. The proto-anthropological Dane, Peter von Haven, compared Russian Orthodoxy to what he knew of Judaism (1744). All in all, this book makes for lively and fascinating reading.

Liechtenhan sees Western negativity towards Russian Orthodoxy hearkening back to the charges of ignorance and paganism by John of Piano Carpini and William Rubruck in the thirteenth century, strengthened by Sigismund von Herberstein's accusations of corruption and servility (1517-1549), and continuing down to the end of the eighteenth century, As a result, the rare positive attitudes elicit interest: for example, Johann Fabri's anti-Lutheran idealization (fed to him by Russian diplomats) of the primitive purity of Russian Christianity (1526); Jacob Reutenfels's proposal to judge Russians on their own terms and approach them as equals (1674-1680); and respect for Russian religious art or pilgrimages on the part of Augustin von Meyerberg (1661), Johann Korb (1700), John Cook (1770), John King (1772), and Jacob Stahlin (1787). …

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