Chris Chulos

Paradigms and stereotypes

Peter the Great's desire to transform his empire through a broad array of modernising reforms helped to shape the course of Russian history for the next two centuries. Among the great leader's notable achievements, the construction of a European-style capital facing westwards, the creation of a standing army, the introduction of a regularised system of taxation and the reorganisation of higher education often overshadow the importance of Peter's reform of the Orthodox faith. Tension between secular and religious authority was not new to Russia. The destructive conclusion of the mid-seventeenth-century struggle between the overbearing Patriarch Nikon and Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich ostensibly over reforms in ritual practice ended disastrously for the patriarch, who was unseated, and for the church, which was rent by schism. Those accepting reform were considered to be proper Orthodox Christians, while those defending the existing rituals were soon branded Old Believers, Old Ritualists or schismatics (starovery, staroobriadtsy, raskol'niki). Although the schism of 1666-67 produced some of Russia's most colourful religious figures, among them self-immolators and flagellants, any lingering doubts about ultimate secular authority were resolved between 1700, when the young Tsar Peter failed to replace the recently deceased Patriarch Adrian, and the enactment of the Spiritual Regulation in 1721 that replaced the patriarchate with the secular administrative apparatus of the holy synod.1

Peter's ecclesiastical reforms were left incomplete yet unchallenged at the time of his death. Throughout the eighteenth century, state policy sought to

1 Informative overviews of the Church Schism of 1666-67, the reign of Peter the Great and the Spiritual Regulation can be found in R. O. Crummey, The Old Believers and the world of Antichrist: the Vyg community and the Russian State, 1694-1855 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970); L. Hughes, Russia in the age of Peter the Great (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998); The spiritual regulation of Peter the Great, ed. and trans. A. V Muller (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1972); J. Cracraft, The church reform of Peter the Great (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1971).

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