communities.7 This concept has coloured academic perception of Russian medieval (and often modern) spirituality, leading to a preoccupation with identifying latent paganism in piety and culture. 'Double-belief has often been considered a specifically Russian phenomenon, with the medieval origins of the term cited as evidence. The texts themselves suggest that the term was not originally understood in this way, however,8 and that the preoccupations of Russian clerics were similar to those of their western European counterparts.
Limited sources that allow us to enter the non-clerical, 'common' mind do exist - primarily the multitude of birchbark letters preserved in Novgorod and some other Russian cities. However, the majority of these fragmentary testimonies to ordinary lives make no reference to religion, but are concerned with such material matters as commerce, legal disputes and family breakdown. They do, however, demonstrate that by the late fourteenth century peasants called themselves Christians, confirming a self-conscious Christian identity among the 'common people'.9 Miracle stories, which proliferate from the sixteenth century, also offer some insight into lay piety, although usually mediated by their clerical recorders. Healing cults appear to have attracted, according to the records of those healed, predominantly local support from the lower gentry, merchants, artisans, well-to-do peasants and clerics, but even cults which eventually gain national significance, such as the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God of Kazan (discovered by the young daughter of a soldier in 1579), might be initiated by low-status individuals.10
Foreign travellers give another perspective on the externals of religious life: Sigismund von Herberstein (1486-1566),11 Richard Chancellor (d.1556),12 AnthonyJenkinson (1530-1611),13 Antonio Possevino (1533-1611),14 Giles Fletcher
7 See E. Levin, 'Dvoeverie and popular religion', in Seeking God: the recovery of religious identity in Orthodox Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia, ed. S. K. Batalden (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1993), 31-52 for a brief summary of the historiography.
8 S. Rock, 'What's in a word? Ahistorical study of the concept dvoeverie", Canadian-American Slavic Studies 35, no. 1 (2001), 19-28.
9 E. Levin, 'Lay religious identity in medieval Russia: the evidence of Novgorod birchbark documents', General Linguistics 35 (1997), 131-55.
10 Bushkovitch, Religion and society, 102-11.
11 Sigismund von Herberstein, Moscovia derHaupstadt (Vienna: Michael Zimmerman, 1557) [reprinted in, Early exploration of Russia,, ed. Marshall Poe (New York: Routledge, 2003), 11].
12 'The voyage of Richard Chancelier Pilote major, the first discoverer by sea of the kingdome of Moscovia, Anno 1553', in Richard Hakluyt, The principal navigations, voyages, trafiques and discoveries of the English nation (London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1927), 1, esp. 264-6.
13 Hakluyt, Principal navigations, 1, esp. 424-7, 430-7.
14 Antonio Possevino, The Moscovia of Antonio Possevino, S.J., trans. Hugh F. Graham [UCIS Russian and East European Studies 1] (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh, 1977).
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