Info

and shifting social ladder and thus necessitated great care and, often, fastidious deal-making. For the elite, considerations of pedigree and wealth were never far beneath the surface. Regardless of one's position, marriage brought expectations for reproduction, baptism and the process of identifying suitable partners for the next generation. The once youthful couple eased into middle age when they gradually assumed the mantle of the elderly generation and began to await their ultimate fate. Equally valued by peasant and tsar alike, a proper death nevertheless had very different consequences for each. Peasants who met with untimely, violent or unnatural deaths were considered to cast a pall over the community they once inhabited. If death came naturally, however, deceased members of society acted as auxiliary spiritual members of the community who could bring good fortune and provide protection for their loved ones left behind. Concerns about a proper death among better-off Russians can be found everywhere from political assassination to reactions to suicide. When Alexander II was finally brought down by revolutionaries after numerous prior attempts on his life, the imperial propaganda machinery cranked out hagiographic literature, replete with iconographic images, which were designed both to demonstrate that the tsar was in full control of his mental and religious faculties until the very end and to conceal the extent of damage to the royal corpse.i4

As peasants moved to towns and cities to take jobs in the nascent industries that sprouted up throughout Russia in the last decades of the nineteenth century, they took with them their traditions and customs. The church's ambivalence about its urban mission contributed to its failure to win over either the intelligentsia or the emerging working classes, yet the power of Orthodoxy continued to motivate individuals on a personal level.i5 Religion inspired workers to social engagement, artistic creation and revolutionary activism.i6

14 Philippe Aries's influential typology of attitudes towards death in western Europe has yet to be written for Russia. See his Western attitudes toward death: from the middle ages to the present, trans. Patricia M. Ranum (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, i974).

15 G. L. Freeze, '"Going to the intelligentsia": the church and its urban mission in postreform Russia', in Between tsar andpeople: educated society and the quest for public identity in late imperial Russia, ed. E. W Clowes, S. D. Kassow and J. L. West (Princeton: Princeton University Press, i99i), 2i5-32; S. Dixon, 'The Orthodox church and the workers of St. Petersburg, i880-i9i4', in European religion in the age of great cities, 1830-1930, ed. H. McLeod (New York: Routledge, i995), H9-45; K. P. Herrlinger, 'Class, piety and politics: workers, Orthodoxy and the problem of religious identity in Russia, i88i-i9i4', PhD dissertation, University ofCalifornia, Berkeley, i996.

16 A. Lindenmeyr, Poverty isnotavice: charity, society and the stateinimperialRussia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, i996); B. G. Rosenthal, 'The search for a Russian Orthodox work ethic', in Between tsar andpeople, 57-74; M. D. Steinberg, 'Workers on the cross: religious imagination in the writings of Russian workers, i9i0-i924', RR 53 (i994), 2Q-39;

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment