Moskaus Griechisches Jahrhundert

Article excerpt

Ekkehard Kraft. Moskaus griechisches Jahrhundert. Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte des ostlichen Europa, Band 43. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1995. 223 pp. DM 68.00, paper.

Ekkehard Kraft's masterful study of what he aptly terms "Moscow's Greek century" has much to offer the specialist in seventeenth-century Russian and southeast European ecclesiastical, cultural and political history. It is not a study of the sources, but primarily a critical reevaluation and reinterpretation of scholarly writing about the influence of Greek religious and political figures on seventeenth-century Russian society. That fact should not dissuade prospective readers for Kraft alerts scholars to many dimensions of this complex century that deserve further research, including the Greek role in the union of Ukraine with Russia, and the significance of Moldavia and Wallachia for the religious and political history of southeastern Europe to name just two.

Taking his cue from George Ostrogorsky, Kraft successfully demonstrates that the Greek presence in seventeenth-century Russia was much more than the afterglow of Byzantine influence and shows that its impact was felt far beyond the usual parameters of tsar and patriarch (Alexis Mikhailovich and Nikon) within which Muscovite grecophilism frequently is confined. He describes how ordinary and influential Greek personages, both at home in the Ottoman empire and on site in Moscow itself, successfully swayed Russian foreign and domestic policy in favour of Greek interests, attaining a zenith in the establishment of the Greco-Slavic academy in Moscow in 1687. Kraft points out that at the moment of its greatest triumph the Greek party in Moscow suffered its most damaging setback, as Peter the Great piloted his nation into western instead of eastern harbours. Yet is was under Peter the Great that Russia began in earnest its protracted military involvement in the affairs of the Ottoman empire, seeing itself as the defender and liberator of Greek and subsequently other Orthodox Christians residing there. In that sense, Kraft may be justified in holding that the Greek influence in Russian society only ended decisively with the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

The introduction to the book is every bit as informative as the chapters themselves, giving a brief and incisive summary of scholarship on Greco-Russian relations in the seventeenth century. Particularly noteworthy is Kraft's drawing attention to the underresearched history of Greece during the Turkocracy. Then Kraft discusses the situation of Greek Orthodox Christians living under Ottoman rule and paints a much more favourable picture than one might expect. He rightly points out that the Greek Church quickly accepted the permanence of Muslim rule and sought ways of accommodating itself without, however, ever abandoning the hope of achieving liberty in the future.

The next section deals with the encounter of Greeks and Russians in the seventeenth century. …


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