to the holy synod. When the originals of famous icons were unavailable or too far away to secure a temporary loan, reproductions were purchased and treated with great reverence, while at the same time creating symbolic links with distant parts of the Orthodox world.34
Holy people - living or dead - and religious shrines offered another concrete linkage between dispersed and disparate communities. With the spread of literacy, short biographies resembling abbreviated saints' lives (zhitie) were published about these exceptional individuals and attracted a growing audience for the popular series, Troitskie listki, which was published by the venerable Trinity-St Sergii monastery outside Moscow between 1884 and 1917. Holy fools (iurodivye), wanderers (stranniki, podvizhniki) and more sedentary spiritual athletes served as the heroes and heroines of these stories and created a human web connecting believers of all social backgrounds. Used by clergymen in their weekly sermons, distributed free during religious holidays and sold at many religious kiosks (especially at shrines), these biographies offered multiple paradigms for the religious life and reinforced religious and social traits that readers could recognise as Russian.
Many of these stories featured men and women who refused to accept their lot in life and ignored their social obligations, choosing instead to lead solitary and often strange lives such as Andrei the Holy Fool (1744-1812). The son of a small landowner in central Russia, Andrei decided at a young age to follow a different path in life and wandered the countryside naked (as holy fools were wont to do) with a knout and axe slung over his shoulder. An odd sight, Andrei was ridiculed by local children but eventually he gained a following of devoted believers who admired his spirituality and good works. After his death, Andrei's remains were interred at the Meshchovsk monastery in Kaluga, which became a pilgrimage destination for those seeking to benefit from his spiritual powers.35 The stories of individuals like Andrei served two purposes: to publicise the shrines at which their remains could be venerated or at which their wondrous powers were commonly experienced, and to hold up as examples Russians from all walks of life who chose paths different from those inherited at birth.36
A cross-section of Russian society could be found at shrines throughout the year, but especially during annual festivals that attracted throngs of pilgrims.
34 Chulos, Converging worlds, 47-52; V Shevzov 'Miracle-working icons, laity and authority in the Russian Orthodox Church, 1861-1917', RR 58 (1999), 26-48.
35 'Andrei, iurodstvovavshii v gorode Meshchovske', Troitskie Listki 203 (1905). Cf. E. M. Thompson, UnderstandingRussia: theholyfoolinRussianculture(Lanham, MD: University Press ofAmerica, 1987).
36 Chulos, Convergingworlds, 68-72.
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