Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Old Believers in a Changing World

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Old Believers in a Changing World

Article excerpt

Old Believers in a Changing World. By Robert O. Crummey. (DeKaIb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2011. Pp. xiv, 267. $45.00. ISBN 978-0875-80650-1.)

For nearly four decades Robert O. Crummey has written about the history of Russia's Old Believers in studies ranging from his classic monograph The Old Believers and the World of Antichrist: The Vyg Community and the Russian State (Madison, WI, 1970) to essays in the Cambridge History of Russia and the Cambridge History of Christianity. Unlike other scholars, who tend to specialize in one time period, Crummey has done groundbreaking research about both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He has made significant contributions to the study of Old Belief's legendary founding fathers, the religious and intellectual underpinnings of Old Belief high culture, and the complex relations between this high culture and popular religion. He also has published a number of thought-provoking essays on the historiography of Old Belief. This volume presents a selection of twelve articles and book chapters from Crummey's oeuvre.

The volume highlights Crummey's distinctive approach to the study of Old Belief: his careful analysis of the manuscripts and miscellanies that guaranteed Old Beliefs long-term survival. Crummey's principal interest is in "the intellectual leaders of Old Belief (XHT) and "the theological, liturgical, and moral issues that preoccupied" (XH) them. This focus is illustrated, for example, in four essays on the spirituality and historical philosophy of the founders (e.g., Andrei Denisov) of the famous Vyg Community during the early-eighteenth century and another essay on Old Believer hagiography ("The Miracle of Martyrdom"). Crummey's preference for textual analysis is reflected in two historiographie essays (expressing, for example, great admiration for the Novosibirsk scholar Nikolai N. Pokrovskii, who pioneered the study of old manuscripts surviving in Soviet- and post-Soviet Old Believer communities).

One of Crummey's lasting contributions is his emphasis on lesser-known leadership figures (who were eclipsed by the iconic Archpriest Awakum). For example, he identified the Monk Avraamii as one of Old Belief's principal founding fathers (pp. …

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