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HISTORY PAPERS


In this section we will publish papers, essays, historical articles and any document that will broaden the understanding of world history.

REVIEW OF RECENT HISTORIOGRAPHY: CHURCH AND RELIGION IN IMPERIAL RUSSIA


By Irina Mukhina - Ph.D. History (ABD) Department of History, Boston College
Soviet historiography of Russia’s religious history began its existence with the work of N.M. Nikol’skii Istoriia russkoi tserkvi (History of Russian Church).(1) It was the first and most important survey of the history of Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) undertaken in the Soviet Union from a position of Marxism-Leninism, which was to define a development of religious history for historians of the Soviet Union to come. Predictably, Nikol’skii left religion out of religious history, arguing that the ROC was but an institution of feudal society meant to suppress masses emotionally and economically in order to promote the interests of the upper classes of “oppressors”. Purely Marxist definition of religion as “opium for the people” for the sake of obedience is the central theme of the book. Originally published in 1930, it was republished in 1931 and 1983 and remained a sole monogram on the history of Russian Orthodoxy, Old Belief, and sectarianism for over fifty years. However, Nikol’skii was mainly concerned with the church history prior to the nineteenth century and explained the role of the ROC in the last pre-revolutionary decades superficially or not at all. For this omission, and “for presenting insufficiently the punitive actions of the church,”(2) his work was bitterly criticized by later Soviet scholars who nevertheless failed to offer sufficient replacement for Nikol’skii’s Istoriia. D3Numerous other works which appeared in the late 1970s-early1980s did not break though the ideological eggshell of Marxism-Leninism. Most studies did not go beyond claiming that the ROC was but an instrument of mass oppression used by the exploiting (ekspluatatorskiie) classes.(3) Some works were concerned with peculiarities of the church activities. One of such studies, P.N. Zyrianov’s Pravoslavnaia tserkov’ v bor’be s revolutsiei, analyzed counter-revolutionary activities of the ROC in the first decade of the 1900s and argued that the only concern of the ROC was to undermine the revolutionary fervor of proletariat and to support the autocracy (samoderzhavie). Various proposals and church reforms of the period were nothing more than “attempts by clergy to regroup their forces [by] developing new methods for their struggle with revolution.”(4) In this work, Zyrianov condemned and professionally disqualified John Curtis and other Western scholars for daring to mention the existence of liberal clergy during several pre-Revolutionary decades, a fact explicitly denied by Soviet scholars of the time.(5)
While many Western, and later post-Soviet, historians agreed that the achievements of Soviet scholars in the field of religious history, including works by G.P. Frantsov, S.A.Tokarev, M.S. Korzun, I.A.Kryvelev, A.I.Klibanov, N.M.Nikolsky, D.M.Ugrinovich, and P.N. Zyrianov, were significant for their empirical research, even most conservative scholars realized by 1991 that there was a need for “a critical revision of the old-fashioned concepts and a further development of the valuable and advanced heritage accumulated by Soviet scholars”(6) in the field of religious history
This work is a historiographical survey of such attempts at critical revision of church and religious history undertaken since 1991, the year of the so-called “archival revolution” which saw the opening of Soviet archives. Many scholars have indicated that among various research possibilities, the topic of religion is not at the forefront and has not benefited from scholarly attention equal to some other areas of study.(7) This can be partially explained by the fact that research in post-communist societies is often influenced by political needs and affiliations.(8) From a down-to-earth economic perspective, it is difficult to obtain funding to defray the expenses of conducting research and publishing one’s work without politicizing the topic of investigation and finding a direct relation of one’s topic to contemporary politics.
Nevertheless, compared to previous decades as well as in absolute numbers, the sheer volume of publications on various aspects of religious history has increased significantly. Besides such obvious factors as previous negligence of various religious topics, a miniscule number of credible Western scholarly works on the subject,(9) and oftentimes analytical weakness of others, all of which demanded serious reconsideration, the voluminous output of historical religious scholarship can be partially explained by a stimulus the scholars received from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of hitherto inaccessible archives.
Because of the space and time constrains, our survey will be limited to works dealing with religion in Imperial Russia (as in contrast to Soviet Russia), with the explainable and inevitable emphasis on the second half of the nineteenth and the first two decades of the twentieth centuries.(10) To facilitate our discussion, the works have been divided into three broad categories defined by the predominance of these three topics among scholarly works. Two of these are the surveys, monograms, and overviews of history of the ROC, and “gendered” religious history. The third category, that of history of non-Orthodox religions in Russia, will be addressed in a fashion more comparable in its format to suggestions for further reading than to the critical review due to space constrains of this paper.
Several significant studies attempted to analyze the position of the ROC vis-à-vis the Russian government. Since many previous scholarly works, especially those written by Soviet scholars, had represented the ROC as a “handmaiden of the state,”(11) the main goal of recent “broader range” studies was to challenge this assumption by arguing that in the last decades of ancien regime, the Church was not willing to support the state and that the “crisis of the old order” had incorporated the crisis of the church-state relations as well. While in general terms this argument was proposed by Western scholars prior to 1991, the last decade saw the continuation and elaboration of this topic.
Other works on the ROC attempted to incorporate many now “fashionable” trends in the discipline of history. Some research has been dedicated to the perceptions of religion and religious change by ordinary people as in contrast to upper classes or church-state relations. Other works addressed the consequences of modernization and urbanization for religion (arguing pro or contra secularization). Still others analyzed the feasibility of Soviet claims about the persistence of dvoeverie (dual faith) among peasantry and the rise of anticlericalism and rejection of religion by peasants in the eighteenth, intelligentsia in the nineteenth, and proletariat in the twentieth centuries. These historians also attempted to test the applicability of a dichotomized Western model of secularizing society (which perceives religion as “strong” in backward villages and “dying” in proletarian cities) to Russian situation. As we will see, this history “from below,” while not complete by any means, has helped to paint a picture far more complex than could be suggested by either ideology-informed Soviet research or simple repetition of elsewhere existing models.
Some works have been written about women and children, patriarchy and gender relations as applicable to religious history. While “her-story” is still predominant in this sub-field of study, some major breakthroughs have been evident in “deconstructing” gender and in analyzing religious activities as a source of empowerment for women of ancien regime. Seemingly less “post-modernized” historians took up approaches to studying religion traditional of previous decades. Religious minorities of Russia – Muslims, Catholics, Old Believers, Jews, sectarians, and others - have been scrutinized and studied locally and in the context of broader socio-political and economic changes in Imperial Russia. The overwhelming majority of these works attempts to link ethnic identity to the discourse of religion, arguing, predictably, that religion was the strongest in those communities where it was linked to national identity. While this connection is undeniable, the tendency to overemphasize it often leads to one-dimensional representation or outright misrepresentation of religion, as we will see in our later discussion and especially in the case of Islam. What unites all of the above-mentioned works is their attempt to find specificity and peculiarity of religious life and the position of the ROC in Imperial Russia.
Russian Orthodox Church
The list of books which in one or another way deal with a very complex history of the ROC in Imperial Russia(12) is long and promising the riches of unprecedented scholarship. Yet upon closer examination, many books loose their appeal to a historian because of the quality of scholarship or depth of analysis.(13) Needless to say, this does not qualify every book as repetitious or intellectually shallow, as, for example, the last years saw the emergence of good textbooks and surveys.(14) But only a small number of monograms and articles offers new approaches and interpretations of the ROC and religion in Russia.(15)
Already in 1985, Gregory L. Freeze powerfully challenged a common assumption about state-church relations in Russia in his article “Handmaiden of the State? The Church in Imperial Russia Reconsidered.”(16) Freeze argues in this work that even after the reforms of Peter the Great, “the Church never became – in law, in practice, in spirit – a mere ministry of religious affair”(17) and managed to survive until 1917 as an institution existing in parallel with but not as a part of a state apparatus.(18) In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the interests of the state and the ROC were progressively moving in different directions. Each new intervention into ecclesiastical authority and the humiliation of the church undertaken by the government – “reign” of Konstantin Pobedonostsev, a chief procurator from 1880 to 1905; the manifesto of April 17, 1905, which granted the freedom of religious conscience; the “reign” of Gregory Rasputin, and so on - was one more step towards the rapid deterioration of state-church relations. As a result, “neither in 1905 nor in 1917 did the Church act as a pillar of autocracy that authorities expected and demanded.”(19)
In the last decade, Freeze had elaborated on this topic. Russian Orthodoxy has traditionally been one the main pillars of Russian autocracy, and Freeze begins his study, “Subversive Pity: Religion and the Political Crisis in Late Imperial Russia,” on this note.(20) As other secular bases of autocracy (political might vis-à-vis foreign powers, well-being of the subjects, and the persona of the tsar) have lost their political legitimacy in early twentieth century, the government attempted to “resacralize” autocracy by canonizing several saints and thus emphasizing and appealing to popular piety.(21) However, numerous controversial canonizations did more harm than good to the autocracy, especially as it unveiled Church’s desire to embrace an alternative political culture and Emperor’s commitment to alternative, more spiritualized and less ritualized Orthodoxy. Predictably, this hyperactive attention to religion divorced secularized intelligentsia and non-Orthodox minorities from the state. Surprisingly, these events also invoked a sentiment of resentment towards both the government and the church among Russian Orthodox population, who questioned newly canonized saints (the bodies of the saints decomposed, contradicting popular beliefs about sainthood) and disliked poor staging and performance of these rites. Last but not least, canonizations distanced even most conservative members of clergy from the monarchy, as in the process of preparation for these events, the government repeatedly subjected the Church to humiliation and various intrusions. As a result, the Church was not longer willing to support the government, and this conflict could help explain why Synod failed to undertake any decisive measure in defense of autocracy in 1917. In the other words, “the final years of tsarism were marked by a profound crisis not only in state and society but also in the Church,”(22) the crisis which sounded the future collapse of autocracy in 1917.(23)
Similarly, departure of the church’s support for the government is one of the main themes in S. L. Firsov’s Russkaia tserkov’ nakanune peremen.(24) The author wants to break a stereotypical presentation of the Orthodox Church in the early twentieth century as “conservative”, “reactionary”, or “backward”. Firsov argues that the church understood the dilemmas that industrialization and modernization posed for religion. It also wanted to reconcile with the radically non-religious intelligentsia, but the close relation of the church and state was a visible and well-recognized obstacle in achieving this reconciliation and many other goals. The question of another reconciliation was at the forefront of Church’s concerns after the Edict of Toleration of 1905 – how to reunite Old Belief with the “traditional” Orthodoxy. These concerns were the primary reason why the ROC was eager to break with the state, and numerous humiliations both heightened the crisis of church-state relations and served as a pretext for the ROC to withdraw its support for autocracy. Inevitably, such figures as Pobedonostsev, Witte, Rasputin, as well as discussion of greater independence in the church affairs and a desire to call a Sobor on the part of the ROC, played their decisive role in the history of church-state relations in early twentieth century.
Of course, there is more to the study of religion in Russian than the church relations vis-à-vis state. Another field of inquiry is the difficulty the church faced as Russian society was becoming progressively industrialized and urbanized. The “urban” religious history was almost absent from the history of the ROC (25) until Gregory Freeze published an article in 1991 on the church’s “urban mission” in post-reform Russian.(26) In the first half of the nineteenth century the Church, surprisingly, was little concerned with its position in urban centers. By the mid-century, the church became disenchanted with the city, but by the late 19th century it began to reevaluate its attitudes towards the city. Freeze is studying why and how the Church attempted to reach out to intelligentsia (obshchestvo) in order “to forge ties with a useful collaborator to help lead the people and resist the state” (224). As the author explains, various factors prompted the Church to look to the city: the development of “this-worldly” theology (the church’s need to embrace secular issues); recognition of the decline of religious appeal in the city; the Church’s attempts to restore conciliarism (sobornost’, meaning a greater involvement of laity in the Church); and finally the newly-found interests in spiritual matter on the part of intelligentsia (who were moving away from their pure materialism). However, the mission was a failure. Above all, it was a failure because the Church prioritized to invest its energy into solving a simultaneous religious crisis (whether real or perceived) in the village, choosing to preserve its influences in the village over the already-lost city. But there were other reasons as well, which included so-called supraclass ideology (the Church was beyond and above class), isolation of clergy as a closed estate (soslovie), disorganization of urban parishes, and to some degree the repressive activities of bishops and bureaucrats. While one leaves the article craving more information about particular actions undertaken by the Church during its “urban mission,” the complexity of explanation made this work a backbone of the research on urban Church, inviting other scholars to enrich this dimension of religious history with detail and offer variations by analyzing peculiarities of individual domains.
“Individual domain” is what interests Simon Dixon,(27) who offers a fresh look at the Church in Late Imperial St Petersburg.(28) It is fare to say that in the early twentieth century Church’s position in the urban centers was typically more difficult that in rural centers. St. Petersburg was no exception to this rule. Some factors of urban life (e.g. popular appeals for saintly intervention as a side affect of the misery of urban life) worked to the Church’s advantage, while others (e.g. the spread of literacy and the availability of secular entertainment), complicated Church’s position. However, out of wide range of possible obstacles that clergy in St-Petersburg had to face, three were of primary importance, those being the social isolation of the clergy, inadequate provision of worship, and finally the patterns of transience. First, clergy’s separate soslovie status only increased their isolation from the workers while did not allow them to enter the circles of intelligentsia. Inadequate provision for worship was a problem similar to the one faced by other Western European churches. Finally, St Petersburg was a city of migrants, both intercity and between city and village. This constant movement of populace did not allow clergy to establish close contact with parishioners and contributed to the changing patterns of family life which did not fit the preaching of the church.
While Dixon analyzes various factors which contributed to the decline in religion’s role in the workers’ milieu, K. Page Herrlinger in her dissertation attempts to suggest the ways in which Orthodoxy survived and flourished in this workers’ environment.(29) Of course, she agrees that the factory life in particular and urban life in general had altered the workers’ perceptions of spiritual and religious and put many restrains of traditional practices. In this and in many other respects, the urban Russian Church faced the difficulties associated with urbanization and modernization as applicable to Western European churches. Nevertheless, the Church undertook various attempts to return the workers to traditional orthodoxy, as the Church leaders recognized the changing social context of religious life and church’s need to accommodate for it, and theses attempts were not always without success. Hence, although some workers broke away from the Church, religion continued to hold its power over the masses in cities to a degree previously unacknowledged. While a more detailed discussion of this study will become possible only after this dissertation is published, Herrlinger’s work is clearly a challenge to traditional assumptions of the workers’ irreligiousity.
Steinberg draws a resonating, although not necessarily parallel, conclusion in his article “Workers on the Cross: Religious Imagination in the Writings of Russian Workers, 1910-1924.”(30) Steinberg explicitly stays in the beginning of his work that he is not trying to demonstrate the endurance of Christian faith among workers. His is rather concerned with the endurance of religious symbols, images, and language among the workers-writers. The poems that these workers wrote were heavily embedded with religious imagery, even if other non-Christian symbols also made their occasional appearance. What is more crucial, “worker-writers used images such as crucifixion and resurrection neither as empty devices nor as literal signs of faith but as vehicles of emotional meaning.”(31) These images appealed to workers emotionally as signs familiar and comforting to them since childhood and as signs resembling their non-elitist “life-feeling” (zhizneoshchushchenie). Hence religious language, even if not religion itself, was exceptionally persistent among workers-writers.
While some scholars specifically deal with urban settings, another “faction” of historians addresses the issues of rural and popular religion.(32) Thus, Chris Chulos is more concerned with historiographical interpretations of peasants’ religion than, e.g., with the interaction between institutionalized church and popular belief.(33) Historians had typically characterized peasants’ religiosity by using four categories: Orthodox piety (nabozhestvo/blagochestie), Orthodox ignorance (nevezhestvo), dual faith (dvoeverie), and sectarianism. Thus, many of the traditional elements of the Orthodox piety (“church attendance, pilgrimages to holy places, interest in religious places, interest in religion writings, fasting, sober behavior, and decoration of homes with icons and other religious objects,”)(34) had strong manifestation in peasants’ life, proving their adherence to the visual attributes of religion. At the same time, historians believed that peasants had exceptionally limited or non-existent knowledge of religious tenets and followed religious rituals brainlessly, the fact which explained their overall “backwardness” and “darkness.” Furthermore, historians never failed to demonstrate the existence of dvoeverie (combination of Christian and pagan), its various manifestations and the mutilation of “true” religion which resulted from peasants’ adherence to old superstitions. Finally, some attention was given to Old Believers and various sectarians, who were attacked by the church as a threat to its authority and to the association of Russian autocracy and Orthodoxy.
However, application of these categories and pagan/orthodox dichotomy to the study of popular religion fails to break through the stereotype of “otherness” and “backwardness” and see popular religion “from below” and “inside out.” What is missing, according to Chulos, is the understanding that to peasants the so-called paganistic elements were an integral part of their Orthodox Christianity and that peasants “failed to see themselves as anything other than Orthodox Christians.”(35) The distinction between pagan and Orthodox ritual and beliefs was irrelevant to peasants, to whom these beliefs were a part of the same means aimed at preserving traditional village community and explaining the outside world in the paradigm of benevolent vs. malevolent, sacred vs. profane. Moreover, such combination of “pagan” and Orthodox resulted in a diversity of religious beliefs which first, shows that the popular religion defies simple generalization, and second, allowed its adaptation to a specific situation with never-ending combinations. This fact of unity of religion with a degree of diversity might also help to explain why peasants failed to “lose” their pagan roots in favor of “pure” Orthodox Christianity.
Glennys Young adopts a more politically-oriented approach to the study of popular religion in her work entitled Power and the Sacred in Revolutionary Russia.(36) The author’s main emphasis in the work is on the first decade of the Soviet rule, during which, as she concludes, religion remained important to peasants’ social identity, especially as it was used in the discourse of village power by various factions. What concerns us in her work, however, is the first chapter of the book which analyzes a religion in the village in the early, pre-revolutionary twentieth century. Drawing on her own research and new scholarly works, Young concludes that “well before the Bolshevik inaugurated yet another round of subordinating rural Orthodoxy to political ends, Russian villagers were contesting religion’s role in providing the cultural underpinning of village power and, implicitly, the national political order it supported and shaped.”(37) Of course, this conclusion speaks more of the persistent image of close state-church relations rather than of popular religiosity.
Vera Shevzov addresses the question of popular religiosity more directly, taking an unusual approach to its study. Already in her dissertation, Shevzov concluded that the peasants expressed a profound interest in religious teachings and religious literature, an interest suggestive of the central role religion played in lives of many rural believers.(38) This theme of popular religiosity is picked up in her article, “Chapels and the Ecclesial World of Prerevolutionary Russian Peasants,”(39) in which Shevzov analyzes the forgotten (by historians) chapels, or chasovnia, which existed “for the reading of hours, something that could be performed by the laity without the presence of clergy” (587). To peasants, these chapels were often the substitute for far-away churches which became entirely inaccessible in bad weather. By building chapels, peasants wanted to maintain their connection to and remain a part of a larger Christian community. At the same time, chapels were oftentimes built to commemorate important events in the life of the community, such as natural disasters or communal and personal vows, and in the life of the country, such as various political events and dates of importance for royal family. Because of these purposes, chapels became sacred historical monuments meant to reinforce familial and communal bonds and to preserve historical bonds to God and church on a local, village level. Thus, while seemingly distancing peasants from the parish and institutionalized church, chapels in fact demonstrated the simultaneous dual orientation of the peasant religiosity towards Orthodox community at large and towards its interpretation in the context of immediate village community. The church hierarchs, however, failed to realize that not everything which was not explicitly directed at the center was harmful to the authority of the Church. They failed to realize that the heart of the Russian Orthodoxy was in these small chapels and local traditions which were perceived by peasants as a part of a larger Orthodox identity. Had the church recognized this trend, its fate under the Soviet regime might have been entirely different.
Shevzov’s work is especially noteworthy for her attempts to recapture popular religiosity, as in contrast to religious observance. Historians more or less have agreed in the last decade that the level of observance among Russian peasants of the late nineteenth - early twentieth centuries was extraordinarily high and incompatible to Western European countries,(40) as they similarly concluded that the church’s relation to the state was breaking away in the last decades of ancien regime. Yet the above discussion was also meant to demonstrate that the scholarly consensus on the degree and purity of religious beliefs among workers and peasants alike is yet to be reached.
Women, Gender, and Religion
After the publication of Joan Wallace Scott’s “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,”(41) it became almost impossible to ignore gender in history, as it became almost a cliché to mention Scott’s work in every discussion of gender history. Although some scholars working in the field of Russian secular and religious history adopted gender as a concept for their analytical inquiry (often aimed at reclaiming “women’s dimension” of religion), scholarship on gender and religion has developed in Russia later than in and for other Western countries, and it is still in its inchoate phase. Many works that have been produced to the moment are merely descriptive “her-stories” lacking a solid analysis of gender construction and power assertions through gender, and are of limited scholarly value. Most of them are life stories of famous women built on dichotomized male/female perception of history.(42) While these accounts are entertaining, they oftentimes can not satisfy one’s craving for a serious full-scale explanation of, for example, reassessment of patriarchy through the language of religion or women’s empowerment in the sphere of religious.(43)
Nevertheless, several scholars have worked with such category as gender, marriage and/or family with some success, providing noteworthy scholarship from either empirical or analytical perspective, or both. One of the first attempts(44) to write a history of power relation through the prism of gender issues as related to religion was made by Gregory Freeze in “Bringing Order to the Russian Family.”(45) While Freeze’s article was researched and came out before our set date of 1991, it is still one of the most conceptually ground-breaking and important works in the field of religious history of Imperial Russia, more particular on the interrelation of church and society and the usage of family and gender discourse as a means of power reassessment.(46) Prior to the Petrine reforms, divorce was mainly left in the hands of laity as the church lacked an efficient means to influence the reality of marriage practices. Yet in the late eighteenth century and throughout the nineteenth century, the ROC’s control over divorce increased, adherence to the doctrine of the indelibility of marriage was strictly enforced, and it became almost impossible to get a divorce or an annulment, except in a very small number of cases such as Siberian exile of a spouse. As the author says, “the result was a marital order of a rigidity unknown elsewhere in Europe.”(47) This regressive change was important for two reasons. First, it demonstrates that after Petrine reforms, ecclesiastical powers of the church increased rather than decreased, as it has been maintained in traditional studies on the reign of Peter the Great and Imperial Russia. This was so because the Church acquired better-functioning and new bureaucracy, laws, and system of documentation.(48) Secondly, the church used this discourse on marriage and divorce as a means to reassert its spiritual power at the time when social attitudes were changing in a society rapidly becoming more rational, industrial, and overall more modern. Educated elites and later all strata of the Russian society (including lower classes) rejected such rigid enforcement of marital regulations. Hence this enforcement alienated people from the church, fostered an influx of former-Orthodox into more-open-minded sects and religions (e.g. Old Belief, Protestantism), and offered a new impulse toward secularization and dechristianization, which was evident by the end of ancien regime in Russia.
While Freeze utilizes family issues to draw broad, far reaching and society-wide conclusions, other works are more “women-specific.” Many of these works on women and gender in Russian religious history have adopted arguments made by Western historians for women in Western Europe. Charitable activities, available predominantly to upper-class women, are being discussed as an arena of considerable social autonomy and influence for women, as well as a source of female sociability. Increasing “feminization” of religion is measured as reflected in the growth of female religious orders. The church activities in general are often seen as a source of empowerment for such politically and socially underprivileged group as women.
Thus, the theme of religious vocation was picked up by Brenda Meehan(-Waters). Meehan’s Holy Women(49) has all the attributes of the “her-story.” The lives of five women –all deeply religious, all involved in charity work and in establishing, entering, or running religious communities – are recreated with careful attention to both socio-political environment in which they had to function and their spirituality and religious beliefs. Nevertheless, this book is not just a life-story of these five women; this is also a work about female convents in the second half of the nineteenth century and about women who entered them. As was mentioned above, the idea to look at the convents in this period of time is not new to Meehan but was previously explored by historians of religion in various Western European countries,(50) and the conclusions she draws, including the fact of the increasing number of female convents at this time, are not always incompatible to those offered in the studies of women’s convents in England or France. Meehan further argues that religious models of personal transformation through monastic vows allowed women to claim traditionally male qualities and characteristics, such as self-determination, authority and responsibility, thus empowering women in a traditionally patriarchal society and religion. A convent was, after all, the place which offered social and religious meaning for women’s lives and allowed them to exercise power unavailable in other social and political spheres.
Meehan’s deep, although not always explicit analysis also demonstrates the persistent power of Orthodoxy over people in the nineteenth-century Russia. The grip of Orthodoxy was expressed not so much in the lives of these holy women (simply because of their small number) as in the widespread acceptance of the tradition of holiness and in people’s ability to interpret outward “abnormal” behavior as signs of holiness and not necessarily as signs of madness or bewitchment These women could be viewed as holy only because such ideas as holiness, sanctity, and piety existed and persisted in Russia society and culture and were widely respected and valued. Yet gender roles and expectations of the society for the fulfillment of these roles imposed considerable constrains on female religiosity. Women were expected to marry and bare children rather than devote their lives to God. As a result, for the majority of women monasticism and all-consuming religiosity were mid-life options open only after the death of a spouse, a child or elderly parents. While the society at large respected women’s holiness and sanctity, it could accept these manifestations of extreme religiosity only in women who have fulfilled their primary maternal and familial functions.
Furthermore, Meehan was among the first scholars to introduce numerous variables, such as class, education, and age, into the discussion of gender and religion in Russia. For example, women of noble origin had such obvious advantage over their less privileged counterparts as wealth, which allowed them to engage actively in almsgiving even during their married lives and later to establish religious communities that they dreamed of. These were not the options available to peasant women whose beliefs in class-transgressing virtues of munificence and beneficence did not help them to achieve those goals which were closely connected to the availability of financial resources (e.g. founding religious communities). For pious women seeking holiness in life, differences of age, class, and education could only be overcome once they joined already-established zhenskie obshchiny (women’s religious communities) which functioned not only a source of social welfare system for the homeless and aged but also as institutions able to bridge these various educational and other gaps.(51)
Religion, however, could be a source of empowerment not only for ‘holy’ but ‘pious’ women as well, even if it assumed different forms. In his microhistorical study, Marker analyzes memoirs and diaries of Anna Labzina, a noblewoman on late eighteenth-early nineteenth centuries, to trace the creation of “women’s public sphere” framed in religious terms.(52) Marker looks at the writings by Labzina against the background of Enlightenment and “the prevailing oppositions of male/female, public/private, freedom/discipline, and – most crucially – faith/reason that form the very basis of the contemporary debate over the Enlightenment.”(53) In her memoirs, Labzina was mostly concerned with her domestic life. She dedicated substantial attention to telling the story of her first marriage, especially by carefully carving out an image of her first husband – a brilliant scientist educated abroad in the best Western and “Enlightened” traditions – as a sexual maniac, pervert, and a despot in the sphere of domesticity.
Upon closer examination, however, Marker concludes that Labzina’s accounts can not reflect unbent truth and are written in the best traditions of zhitie, or traditional life-stories of Orthodox saints.(54) By denouncing an “enlightened” free man, Labzina was attempting to find a space for herself, and the logical opposition to “egoistic” and “evil” was “pious” and “self-sacrificing.” But the Enlightenment advocated greater individual rights, and however much Labzina detested the intellectual findings of the Enlightenment, she unintentionally absorbed its ideas and through the language of zhitie attempted to enrich her own rights and her own role. By writing this account and by the example of her entire life, Labzina attempted to be more than a mere almsgiver. She attempted to be an intercessor (zastupnitsa), or “the one who used her standing to champion the needs of the powerless and downtrodden by intervening on their behalf with constituted authority,”(55) who with a sense of self-sacrifice faced this authority. This was an exclusively feminine activity which often manifested itself in serving as a mediator “in the name of God for those in need” between those searching for a favor and a politically powerful husband. For Labzina, it was a form of engendered empowerment, which allowed her to carve out for herself, “a third social realm – faith – outside both the civil and the household, in which social patriarchy [was] finally supine before the fatherhood of God and in which the feminine [became] truly powerful.”(56) Prior to her work, women rarely saw religion as an outlet of empowerment, and prior to analyzing her memoirs historians rarely saw any form of intervention on behalf of the poor as of any significance to the role of women or to religious history. This engendered empowerment, which manifested itself in a carefully veiled form in her memoirs, became possible only in the context of Enlightenment and only once Labzina was able to re-think and re-work its call for change in terms of spiritual inheritance of women’s work as religiously-motivated charity givers and protectors of the innocent. While the typicality of her case remains questionable, the possibility of “engendering of spiritual inheritance and its liberating role for this [sic] worldly affairs”(57) should be carefully considered in any study of female religiosity of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The idea that charity and religious self-sacrifice in the late eighteenth – early nineteenth centuries was a form of social and political empowerment of women is, of course, not new or unique to Marker. In her fundamental study, Poverty is not a Vice, Adele Lindenmeyr draws on the inheritance of Gertrude Himmelfarb, Natalie Zemon David, and Linda Gordon,(58) to name a few, in order to reconstruct and assess political and social importance of an official and religious discourse of poverty and charity in Imperial Russia.(59) Lindenmeyr explains that the ROC had traditionally interpreted beggars as Christ-like figures whose poverty was a personal misfortune rather than a result of their laziness or evilness. According to a Russian proverb, one should never renounce poverty or prison, for in this unstable world no one is secured against encountering both. Voluntary almsgiving was thus seen as an act of major religious significance, of personal connection with people touched by God. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the state and some educated elites attempted to secularize poverty by insisting that suitable employment rather than charitable giving was a remedy for poverty. While Lindenmeyr’s work is not primarily concerned with women’s “public sphere” but rather with the government’s failure to develop a functional poverty relief system and welfare state, she nevertheless makes it explicit that charity, almsgiving and religious self-sacrifice for the benefit of the needy was the only form of social and public activities available, accessible, and even expected of women at the time. Hence women were on the side of pro-charity argument resisting state’s intervention into predominantly female sphere of religiosity.
Another curious perspective on popular and institutional religion is offered by Christine Worobec in Possessed: Women, Witches, and Demons in Imperial Russia.(60) Worobec investigates a phenomenon of klikushestvo, or demon possession, which was recorded already in the eleventh century in the first letopisi (historical chronicles) but appeared more prominently from the sixteenth century and onwards. The manifestations of klikushestvo were very similar to those of witch possessions in Western Europe – abnormal public behavior, accompanied by screaming and writhing, and were popularly considered signs of bewitchment. The “witches” who bestowed this bad charm were often attacked by their neighbors. As can be assumed, most participants of such occurrences – accused, accusers, bewitched, - were women, although not exclusively so. Worobec, however, does more than describe this phenomenon. From a perspective of popular religion, her work is an analysis of persistent dvoeverie (dual faith) among Russian peasantry and especially women, an aspect interesting but not new in itself. What is more interesting is Worobec’s analysis of how this “female” phenomenon was used by the state, educated nobility, and institutionalized church to construct an image of peasantry as “dark” and “primitive,” which was especially applicable to peasant women Ever since Peter the Great, clergy and the state attempted to root out such manifestations of irrational among peasantry, but with little success. With the advancement of the “enlightened” ideas and science, clergy became more interested in rooting out folk superstition. Moreover, ethnographers, psychiatrists and even some clergy became so “rational” and oftentimes “secular” that they were unable to explain the continuing occurrences of klikushestvo as anything but a manifestation of Russian peasants’ backwardness. At the end, klikushestvo of the late-nineteenth – early twentieth centuries came to represent “a peasantry so ignorant, backward, primitive, and destructive that it had the power to destroy everything that was progressive and Western in Russian society.”(61)
We can conclude this brief discussion of “gendered” history by saying that the studies discussed broke the ice in women’s and gender studies in Russia as applicable to religion. Yet their number is still small, and “gendered” scholarship is still very poor. More questions remain unanswered than have been answered so far. Just to name a few out of a wide range of unexplored topics, it would be curious and important to see more explicit studies answering questions like: What were the effects of existence of married priests on gender relations in Russia, as compared to Catholic countries? Did it allow for a greater persistence of male religiosity? Did it diminish men’s fear of control that clergy held over their wives, evident elsewhere? Or what were the social, physiological, and religious functions of a white clergy’s wife in women’s network of any given village? Was she seen by peasants as just a useless consumer of resources? Was she an “anti-thesis” of a “proper” woman? Or a model of such? These and other numerous questions could also open up the discussion of masculinity in the context of religion. Inevitable, some of the questions will remain unanswered simply for the lack of adequate sources to study these issues. Yet after reading the above mentioned accounts, a historian is left craving more information of the role of religion in the construction of gender and the role of gender in the history of religion.
Old Belief and Non-Orthodox Religions
As Vera Shevzov has noted in her article on Russian peasants, the tendency to view the Orthodox Church as imposed on Russian people, among other things, “has prompted historians to search for more ‘authentic’ representations of peasant religious beliefs, with the result being that Old Believers and the various ‘sects’ have received more extensive scholarly attention than ‘official’ Orthodox believers.”(62) This statement is as true of the scholarship in the 1990s as for previous decades. Of course, there might be other explanations for the popularity of the topic. For Soviet historians, the study of these “revolutionaries in their own” was often the only allowed outlet for the study of religion history, while for any scholar in general it is understandably and undeniably easier to tackle one community of religious “rebels” under his belt rather than to trace nation-wide dynamics, variations, and politics of official religion. Regardless of the reasons, the fact remains true that the scholarship on non-Orthodox religion and Old Belief is generally more extensive than on traditional Orthodox belief. Need it to be added that the “archival revolution” spurred the craving among historians to revisit such classics as Klibanov’s studies of sektanstvo(63) and Smirnov’s Staroobriadchestvo?(64) Probably not. But of course, we should understand this “more extensive attention” in terms relative to a very limited attention paid to religion in Imperial Russia. Unfortunately, considering the scope of this paper, the following section will assume a form of suggestions for further reading rather than a critical evaluation of various works. The topic of non-institutionalized religions in Imperial Russia merits a historiographical survey of its own.
Let us first look at the Old Belief in Imperial Russia.(65) Probably the most fundamental of the 1990s studies of the Old Belief is Roy Robson’s Old Believers in Modern Russia.(66) The author briefly surveys the history of Old Belief (fortunately without getting bogged down in repeating the story of the Schism of 1666), but the main emphasis of his work is on the decade following the establishment of religious toleration by the Edict of Toleration of April, 1905. Prior to 1905, Old Believers had successfully survived repressions under Nicholas I and renewed attacks on them in 1880s and 1890s and even managed to attract converters, and their cohesive liturgy, architecture, iconography, and ritual are the proofs of the coherent substructure of the Old Belief. However, the problems of the Old Believers changed with the religious freedom. The responses to the 1905 manifesto varied greatly among these dissenters from traditional church. Surprisingly, the response had less to do with theological than the geographical and social positions of those reacting to the change. Residents of large cities, like Moscow and St Petersburg, were “modernizers” who welcomed the change and strove to adapt to the new social and political circumstances. However, Old Believers in more distant areas, e.g. Siberia and the Urals, were radical traditionalists and resisted any changes. Attitudes to the state, to modern technology, to “communitarianism” were being disputed. Hence the freedom brought upon more tensions and fragmentation within the Old Belief than the time of oppression. Robson never openly declares that the first two decades of the twentieth century were a crisis of the coherence of the Old Believers’ community, yet he repeatedly suggests that religious toleration was in many ways more challenging to the “Ancient Piety” of the Old Belief than the centuries of persecution.
Another work on Old Belief, a study of Karelian Old Believers in Russia by O.M. Fishman, deserves a special mentioning, as it is one of the few works which analyzes “foreign” Old Belief in Imperial Russia in the context of ethno-confessional history.(67) Following the general discussion among Western European historians that “religious identities were most intense and least problematic where they were intertwined with ethnicity,”(68) Fishman argues that the Old Belief became a core of Karelian ethnic identity and community, formed as a result of their migration to Novgorod district after the 1617 Peace Treaty of Stolbova.(69) Analyzing ethno-folkloristic sources, Fishman concluded that to the members of the community, especially in eighteenth through twentieth centuries, to be Karelian also by default meant to be an Old Believer, and to be an Old Believer was to be the “other” (the immigrant) on the Russian territory. By the nineteenth century this identification was so intricately linked to Karelian self-perception that while not knowing the origins of schism in 1666, the name of patriarch Nikon or protopope Avvakum, Karelians constructed their own mythologized history, according to which they came to Russia in 1617 as Old Believers. Whatever their misunderstanding about the origins of Old Belief, the link between ethnicity and confessionalism allowed for the preservation of local community in the face of assimilation for three and a half centuries.
Non-Orthodox religions should also be incorporated into the study of religion in Imperial Russia. The studies of Islam are disproportionately concerned with religious justification that Islam offers to Chechen terrorists and other various minority groups in the Caucuses and with ways it explains many various internal and external conflicts in the region. Linking past to the present, these studies predominantly analyze Islam in Imperial Russia in order to explain its violence nature and to show the long continuity of the conflict between Chechen and Russians, brought upon by Russia’s intolerance towards mountain peoples.(70) These works with little variation argue that since the acceptance of Islam by Chechens at the end of the 18th Century, Chechen men have relied heavily on ideas of jihad,(71) or holy war with exceptionally violent features, to resist Russian Imperial domination and to commit violent crimes, presumably or realistically in defense of their homeland. These discussions are so straight-forward and one-dimensional that little can be said about their importance for the history of religion. The argument has even been made that these studies even misrepresent Islam in general and Islam in the Caucasus under the Empire in particular as, e.g., the regulations of warfare written in Koran are nowhere to find in the discussion of jihad in these “pseudo”-historical studies.(72) But let us leave the discussion of jihad and its credibility to the specialists on Islam and only add that these studies might better belong to the history of violence and terrorism and occasionally to the field of ethnic studies than to religious history. Of course, this is not the only dimension of Islam in Russia which is being studied, and some important works have appeared on Islam among Crimean Tatars or in the Middle Asia, among others.(73) But the works on Islam among peoples of Caucasus are at the forefront of research done in the last decade.
Similarly, the study of Jews in Russia(74) is dominated by a major theme of anti-Semitic violence.(75) Pogroms of 1881-82, 1903-06, and 1919-21, were violent manifestations of Russian popular anti-Semitism, which resulted in many deaths and destruction of property. Inevitably, such dramatic events had drawn the disproportionate attention of the scholars. Although some efforts has been made to bring new insights into dynamic of pogrom (by John Klier, Shlomo Lambroza, and Edward Judge), most of what has been done to the moment repeats earlier findings that the Russian government was not a perpetuator of violence in the pogrom and might only be blamed for tolerating anti-Semitic discourse which essentially lead to pogroms.(76) At the moment, only a small number of works are promising to offer new insights into “Jewish question” in Russian history,(77) by suggesting, for example, a liberal tendency of the Russian autocracy of the last decades in dealings with Jews.(78)
Uniate church had also benefited from some attention from scholars of the last decade. Barbara Skinner discovered(79) that after the forceful conversion of Uniate Ukrainians to Russian Orthodoxy in 1794, there was a substantial, though covert resistance to the conversion. Thus, many Uniate religious preferred to not have their children baptized or their dead to not have the last rites and a proper funeral rather than to accept the Orthodox rites and ceremonies surrounding these rites. Moreover, many Uniate priests removed visual signs of their religion from church buildings, thus approximating them to Orthodox requirements, but continued to carry out Uniate services. This work further demonstrate the difficulty of state-church collaboration in their conversion effort (at least until the final conversion in 1839, when the detailed discussion ends) and state’s free manipulation of the religious matter for the sake of territorial integrity and political interests. All along, the regulation of religious matters and conversions was more in the hands of Minister of the Interior and the General-Gubernator of Kiev than of religious authorities. Bruess’ work expresses a similar collaborationist theme when he discusses the state’s and church’s often unsuccessful attempts, undertaken during the reign of Catherine the Great, to unify various minority groups of the Russia’s Southern frontier into a single “Russia.”(80)
Finally, a comment should be made on Protestant and Catholic churches in Russia. The most substantial is the work by Gregory Freeze, “Lutheranism in Imperial Russia: A Critical Reassessment,”(81) which aims to reevaluated the relationship of the Russian Orthodox and Lutheran churches in Imperial Russia. The author argues that contrary to the previous assumption that the mid-nineteenth-century saw a rapid change in the relationship between Orthodoxy and Lutheranism,(82) the change was not as dramatic as might appear. Lutheranism did not influence church reforms of Peter the Great as much as many argued, and after the mid-19th century the ROC continued to express an interest in Lutheran methods but did it very cautiously and covertly. Moreover, the author argues that Lutheranism (unlike Old Belief or Catholicism) was not a major threat to ROC, neither in terms of early-twentieth-century conversions nor in terms of size and geographic locations of Lutheran “communities,” and overall only very little official contact took place between the two. The most important place of conflict between the two churches was in the Baltic States, where the two major assaults on Lutheranism came in 1840s and 1880s. In the 1840s, thousands of destitute peasants converted from Lutheranism to Orthodoxy in the misperceived hope of “earthly rewards.” In the 1880s, there was an abrupt Russification campaign instigated by the state (as in contrast to Orthodox Church) which converted very few but left many irreligious.
Compared to Lutheranism, Catholicism was much more threatening in all respects. The position of Catholic Church in Russia withstood many persecutions, and its relations with the Orthodox Church and the Russia state were complicated by the “Polish question.” Most Catholics resided in [former] Poland and every major Polish uprising (i.e. 1830 and 1863) brought upon renewed persecutions of the Catholic Church. The history of this complex and unstable relationship has been revisited by several scholars, among whom are Dennis Dunn and E. Tsimbaeva.(83) Additionally, more needs to be said about sectarianism and other religious denominations in Russia but let’s leave them for some other time.(84)
Conclusion
It therefore seems to be fare to say that some general facts and trends in the history of church and religion in Russia have been revisited and established anew in the recent decades. Thus, mainly thanks to the works by Gregory Freeze, the ROC is no longer believed to be a tool of the state but rather an independent agent. In the nineteenth century, the ROC attempted to reassert its powers, especially through the marriage and divorce discourse, but had to face numerous humiliations from the autocracy, which further divorced the church and the state. Moreover, the ROC also had to face various financial and bureaucratic difficulties associated above all with the growth of population and urbanization.
In terms of religion per se, it has been established that dynamics of popular religion in Russia did not parallel the processes of secularization evident in Western Europe. Popular piety did not disappear and rate of religious observance, both male and female, was extraordinary high in absolute numbers and if compared to other countries. Russian people embraced various manifestations of Orthodoxy in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, even if in the last decades of ancient regime some workers (but by no means all) became irreligious or apathetic to religious matters, some elements of paganism persisted in the popular rural culture, and number of non-conformists to established church went up.
Some historians have also suggested that religion could be a source of empowerment for women, especially for upper-class women, and that monasticism (female convents) saw its revival at the end of the nineteenth century. Yet gender roles still limited the range of possible religious experiences for women, and historians are still to integrate gender fully as a useful tool into their studies on women and religion in Russia.
Nationality could function as a key factor in the persistence of one or another religion in various communities. To the members of those communities, the life in multi-ethnic and multi-confessional Russia was often difficult, the degree of difficulty varying from the borderlands to the heartlands. But the issue of ethnic minorities is only now being fully reintegrated into the history of religion in Imperial Russia.
While this survey has attempted to show that some important breakthroughs have been made, the study of religion in Russia is still poorly developed and incomparable to historiography of religion in Western European countries. Many issues pertinent to the study of religion are still unexplored, and some of them have been mentioned in this discussion. But to begin with, we might only hope that the discourse of religion finds its way into general accounts of Russian history and introductory courses on Russian and Modern European History.

Footnotes


1. N. M. Nikol’skii, Istoriia russkoi tserkvi, izdanie tretie, (Moskva: Izdatel’stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1983).
2. Ibid., 14 (in the introduction by H.S. Gordienko).
3. M.S. Korzun, Russkaia pravoslavnaia tserkov’ na slujbe ekspluatatorskih klassov, X vek – 1917 god, (Minsk: Belorus’, 1984).
4. P.N. Zyrianov, Pravoslavnaia tserkov’ v bor’be s revolutsiei, 1905-1907gg, (Moskva: Nauka, 1984), 5.
5. John Curtiss, Church and State in Russia: The Last Years of the Empire, 1900-1917, (New York, 1972). Other Western works include Jacob Walkin, The Rise of Democracy in Pre-Revolutionary Russia: Political and Social Institutions under the Last Three Czars (New York, Praeger, 1962); Th. Burd, “Religion and the Revolution of 1905: an introductory word,” Russian History, vol. 4, no. 2 (Temple, 1977); R. Kosler, Kirche und Revolution in Russland (Kolh, 1969).
6. M. Shakhnovich, “The Study of Religion in the Soviet Union,” Numen, vol 40, no. 1(1993): 67-81, as quoted in Science of Religion, (April 2001).
7. M. Tomka, “The sociology of religion in Eastern and Central Europe: problems of teaching and research after the breakdown of communism,” Social Compass, vol. 41, no. 3 (1994): 379-392.
8. Ibid.; this is one of five general observations on religious study made by the author.
9. For such works, see Gregory Freeze, Parish Clergy in Nineteenth-Century Russia: Crisis, Reform, Counter-reform, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983); same, The Russian Levities: Parish Clergy in the Eighteenth-Century, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977).
10.For an overview of recent works on religion in Russia since 1917, see Dimitry Pospielovsky, “The Russian Church Since 1917 Through the Eyes of Post-Soviet Russian Historians,” Religion, State & Society, Volume 26, Number 3/4 (September/December 1998). Religion, State & Society can serve as an introduction to contemporary scholarship on religion in the Soviet Union and beyond, including but not limited to such topics as ROC and Stalin’s Church policy; Islam, Catholicism, and other non-Orthodox religions in the Soviet Union and Russia; interrelation of Orthodoxy and Authority, Nationalism and religious belief, etc.
11.For further criticism of this genre historiography, see discussion of such works, e.g., as Richard Pipes, Russia and the Old Regime (London, 1974) in Gregory Freeze, “Handmaiden of the State?”.
12.For a very short (only several pages long) and readable summary of the legal history of the ROC and its relationship with the state, see Firuz Kazemzadeh, “Reflections on Church and State in Russian History,” Emory International Law Review, vol. 12, issue 1 (Winter 1998): 341-359 (also available at ).
13.For example, Stephen Frank was criticized for his unscrupulous presentation of the Orthodox Church as a “colonizer” pitted against peasantry. Stephen P. Frank, “Confronting the Domestic Other: Rural Popular Culture and Its enemies in Fin-de-Siècle Russia”, in Stephen P. Frank and Mark Steinberg, eds., Cultures in Flux: Lower-Class Values, Practices, and Resistance in Late Imperial Russia (Princeton, 1994).
14.Dimitry Pospielovsky, The Orthodox Church in the History of Russia (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1998) is a solid textbook (whether it was intended to be such or not) on the history of Russian Orthodox Church. L. A. Andreeva, Religiia i vlast’ v Rossii: religioznye I ksazireligioznye doktriny kak sposob legitimizatsii politicheskoi vlasti v Rossii, (Moskva: “Ladomir”, 2001) is also a short and readable account of church relations vis-à-vis state and the role of orthodoxy in legitimization of Russian statehood, although her “spiritual” comments and conclusions should be treated cautiously.
15.Some collections of articles are noteworthy, although I will be able to discuss only selected articles form them and in far smaller numbers than these collections deserve: Charles E. Timberlake, ed., Religious and Secular Forces in Late Tsarist Russia: Essays in Honor of Donald W. Treadgold, (Seattle, Washngton: University of Washington Press, 1992); Judith Deutsch Kornblatt and Richard F. Gustafson, eds., Russian Religious Thought (University of Wisconsin Press, 1996); Geoffrey Hosking, ed., Church, Nation and State in Russia and Ukraine (New Uork: St. Martin’s Press, 1991); Luigi Magarotto and Daniela Rizzi, eds., Russkaia dukhovnaia literature: La culture spirituale russa (Trento: Departmento di Storia della Cvilta Europea, 1992); Valerie A. Kivelson and Robert H. Greene, eds., Orthodox Russia: Belief and Practice Under the Tsars, (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003); Stephen K. Batalden, ed., Seeking God: The Recovery of Religious Identity in Orthodox Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia, (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1993). A special note should be made of issue of Otechestvennye zapiski, no. 1 (2001) which claims for the first time to bring to our attention a multi-dimensional scholarly discussion of the church-state relations. While most articles deal with the state-church relations in contemporary Russia, some offer valuable insights on the traditions of Orthodoxy, church-specific language, and legal issues surrounding ROC-state relations in 19th and early 20th centuries.
16.Gregory Freeze, “Handmaiden of the State? The Church in Imperial Russia Reconsidered,” in Journal of Ecclesiastical History 36 (1985), 82-102.
17.Ibid., 84
18.Ibid., 89
19.Ibid., 101.
20.Gregory L. Freeze, “Subversive Pity: Religion and the Political Crisis in Late Imperial Russia,” The Journal of Modern History, vol. 68, no. 1, (January 1996): 308-350.
21.On canonizations, see also Robert L. Nichols, “The Friends of God: Nicholas II and Alexandra at the Canonization of Serafim of Sarov, July 1903,” Religious and Secular Forces in Late Tsarist Russia: Essays in Honor of Donald W. Treadgold, Charles E. Timberlake, ed. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1992): 206-229.
22.Ibid., 337.
23.For further discussion of the importance of a crisis in state-church relations and the role of this crisis in 1917, see Gregory L. Freeze, “Critical Dynamic of the Russian Revolution: Irreligion or Religion?” from the personal file of the author.
24.S. L. Firsov’s Russkaia tserkov’ nakanune peremen (konets 1890-x – 1918gg), (Moskva: “Duhovnaia literature, 2002). See also S. L. Firson, Pravoslavnaia Tserkov’ I gosudarstvo v poslednee desiatiletie sushchestvovania samoderzhaviia v Rossii, (Moskva: Russkii Khristianskii Gumanitarnii Universitet, 1996).
25.As Freeze mentions in his articles (fn. 16), one could derive only occasional glimpses on urban church from such works as: John S. Curtiss, Church and State in Russia: The Last Years of the Empire, 1900-1917 (New York, 1940); Gerhard Simon, ‘The Russian Orthodox Church and the Social Question in Russia before 1917” (Paper presented to the Conference on the Millennium on Christianization in Russia in Uusi Valam, Finland, September 1988); and J.M.H. Geekie, “The Church and Politics in Russia, 1905-1917: A Study of the Political Behavior of the Russian Orthodox Clergy in the Reign of Nicolas II” (PhD Dissertation, University of East Anglia, 1976).
26.Gregory Freeze, “‘Going to the Intelligentsia’: The Church and its Urban Mission in Post-Reform Russia,” in Edith W. Clowes, Samuel D. Kassow and James L. West, eds., Between Tsar and People: Educated Society and the Quest for Public Identity in Late Imperial Russia (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991): 215-32.
27.Simon Dixon, “The Orthodox Church and the Workers of St. Petersburg, 1880-1914,” European Religion in the Age of Great Cities, 1830-1930, ed. by Hugh McLeod, (New York: Routledge, 1995): 119-145.
28.Other important works include Reginald E. Zelnik, “To the unaccustomed eye: religion and irreligion in the experience of St. Petersburg workers in the 1870s,” in Robert P. Hughes and Irina Paperno, eds., Christianity and the Eastern Slavs, vol. II: Russian Culture in Modern Times (California Slavic Studies, vol. XVII), (Berkeley, CA, 1994): 49-82; Sergei L. Firsov, “Workers and the Orthodox Church in Early 20th Century Russia”, in New Labor History: Worker Identity and Experience in Russia, 1840-1918, eds. Michael Melancon and Alice K. Pate (Slavica Publishers, 2002). Another work which deserves our attention is Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, “The Search for a Russian Orthodox Work Ethic,” in Educated Society and the Quest for Public Identity in Late Imperial Russia, eds. Edith W. Clowes and Samuel D. Kassow, (Princeton University Press, 1991). Rosenthal looks at Weber’s argument that the transition from feudalism to capitalism was facilitated by the so-called “Protestant ethic”, which gave religious sanction to gaining wealth and also promoted such personal qualities as hard work, discipline, etc. In the last decades in the ancien regime, similar attempt to create a specifically Russian Orthodox work ethic based on the older Russian religious tradition were undertaken by Petr Struve, Nikolai Berdiaev, Simeon Frank, and Sergei Bulgakov. The article briefly surveys the thoughts of the first three men and analyzes the works by Bulgakov. All four men were expelled from Russia under the new Soviet regime, and their works had very limited appeal regardless of the fact that their ideas were very similar to Bolshevism. This article was not included in the general discussion because of the limited appeal and influence this development had both on the Church and society at large.
29.K. Page Herrlinger, PhD. Class, Piety, and Politics: Workers, Orthodoxy, and the Problem of Religious Identity in Russia, 1881-1914 (University of California: Berkeley, 1996). Various chapters of her dissertation and overall thesis have been presented at different conferences, including “Unorthodox Orthodoxy: Popular Religious Protest Against the Church in St. Petersburg, 1905-17,” presented at the AAASS meeting in 1999.
30.Mark D. Steinberg, “Workers on the Cross: Religious Imagination in the Writings of Russian Workers, 1910-1924,” Russian Review 53, 2 (April 1994): 213-239. See also the book by the same author, Proletarian Imagination: Self, Modernity, and the Sacred in Russia, 1910-1925, (Ithaca, 2002).
31.Ibid., 237.
32.Other important works on this “sub-topic”, which will not be discussed for the lack of space but are noteworthy, include: Christine Worobec, “Death Ritual among Russian and Ukrainian Peasants,” Cultures in Flux: Lower-Class Values, Practices, and Resistance in Late Imperial Russia, eds. Stephen Frank and Mark Steinberg, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994); Jeffrey Burds, Peasant Dreams and Market Politics, (Pittsburgh, 1998); W. Arthur McKee, “Sobering Up the Soul of the People: The Politics of Popular Temperance in Late Imperial Russia,” Russian Review 58, 1 (April 1999): 212-33; A. V. Buganov, Russkaia istoriia v pamiati krest’ian XIX veka i national’noe samosoznanie (Moscow: Institut etnologii i antropologii Akademii Nauk, 1992); Cathy A. Frierson, Peasant Icons: Representations of Rural People in Late Nineteenth-Century Russia (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).
33.Chris Chulos, “Myths of the Pious or Pagan Peasant,” Russian History/ Histoire Russe, vol. 22, no. 2 (Summer 1995): 181-216. This work is based on the author’s PhD dissertation, entitled “Peasant Religion in Post-Emancipation Russia: Voronezh Province, 1880-1938”, 2 vols, (University of Chicago, 1994), which has been recently reworked and published as Converging Worlds: Religion and Community in Peasant Russia, 1861-1917, (Northern Illinois University Press, November 2003).
34.Ibid., 187.
35.Ibid., 207.
36.Glennys Young, Power and the Sacred in Revolutionary Russia: Religious Activists in the Village, (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997). Other works by the author include Glennys Young, “Trading Icons: Clergy, Laity, and Rural Cooperatives, 1921-28,” Canadian-American Slavic Studies (Revue canadienne- americaine d'etudes slaves), volume 26, issue 1-4 (1992): 315-334.
37.Ibid., 48.
38.Vera Shevzov, “Popular Orthodoxy in Late Imperial Russia” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Yale University, 1994).
39.Vera Shevzov, “Chapels and the Ecclesial World of Prerevolutionary Russian Peasants,” Slavic Review, 55:3 (1996); see also Vera Shevzov, “Miracle Working Icons, Laity, and Authority in the Russian Orthodox Church, 1861-1917,” Russian Review (January 1999): 26-48; same, Russian Orthodoxy on the Eve of Revolution, (forthcoming).
40.It seems fare to say that much less has been done on religious history in Imperial Russia of other periods of time than on religion and church in the last decades of ancien regime. Thus, an attempt to revisit the church history during the times of the so-called Great Reforms was made by S. B. Rimskii. Three sections of the book deal with the state-church relations in the first half of the nineteenth century, preparations for reforms and the reforms themselves respectively. Although not without its merits, one must agree after reading this work with Gregory Freeze who once said that very little could be done on the church history of the nineteenth century after the completion of his work. Besides several curious paragraphs on Orthodoxy among Cossacks and in the Baltic States, this works adds little to our understanding of church history of the time. S. B. Rimskii, Rossiiskaia Tserkov’ v epohu velikih reform: Tserkovnie refomry v Rossii 1860-1870-x godov, (Moskva: Krutitskoe Patriarshee Podvorie, 1999).
41.Joan Wallach Scott, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” in Gender and the Politics of History, (New York: Columbia University Press, several editions). For more information on Gender Theory, see Joan Wallach Scott, ed., Feminism and History, (Oxford University Press, 1996).
42.For example, see Natalia Pushkareva (translated by Eva Levin), Women in Russian History: From the Tenth to the Twentieth Century, (New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1997). The praise on the cover of the book says: “As the first modern survey of Russian women’s history to be published in any language, this book is itself as historic event.” In fact, the book is disturbing for a number of reasons: there are many factual mistakes, which oftentimes distort the role of women in various public events and politics; it studies the lives of “great” women at the expense of others, etc. If this book really sets the precedent to follow for future writings in history, we are not going to see a solid survey of women’s history in Russia for a long while.
43.This is not to say that “she-stories” necessarily lack any merit, historically useless or cannot combine strong analysis with descriptiveness; for a solid example, see Isabel de Madariaga, “Catherine as Woman and Ruler,” in James Cracraft, ed., Major Problems in the History of Imperial Russia, (Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company, 1994).
44.Noteworthy, the first attempt made by Soviet scholars to revisit Russian history and incorporate gender (including Russian religious history) is presented in Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, Russian Traditional Culture: Religion, Gender, and Customary Law (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1992). In the West, the first serious attempt to incorporate women into Russian history can be dated from the publications of Russia’s Women: Accommodation, Resistance, Transformation (Berkley, CA: University of California Press, 1991), edited by three leading U.S. scholars on gender history in Russia Barbara Clements, Barbara Engel, and Christine Worobec. This volume makes several references to popular or institutionalized religion, for example, on Church’s attitude towards childbirth in pre-Petrine Russia in a section authored by Eve Levin. Also of interest to historians are: David Ransel, The Family In Imperial Russia: New Lines Of Historical Research (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978); Faith Wigzell, “Reading the Future: Women and Fortune-Telling in Russia (1770-1840),” in Marsh, Rosalind J., ed., Gender and Russian Literature: New Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). Noteworthy is the work by Sally A. Boniece, “The Spiridonova Case, 1906: Terror, Myth, and Martyrdom, in Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, vol. 4, no. 3, (Summer 2003), which tells the story of the “SR Blessed Virgin” revolutionary terrorist and the construction of heroic myth around her image. It might be included in the study of religion as an example of the religion’s ability to provide a common milieu and language for even a political discourse. For works on pre-Imperial Russian history that set a stage for women’s religious history in Imperial Russia and which are not to be overlooked, see, for example, Isolde Thyrêt, “‘Blessed is the Tsaritsa’s Womb’: The Myth of Miraculous Birth and Royal Motherhood in Muscovite Russia,” Russian Review , vol. 53, no. 4, (October 1994): 479-96, “Muscovite Miracle Stories as Sources for Gender-specific Religious Experience” in Samuel H. Baron and Nancy Shields Kollmann, eds., Religion and Culture in Early Modern Russia and Ukraine (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1997), 115-131, and Between God and the Tsar: Religious Symbolism and the Royal Women of Muscovy, (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2001).
45.Gregory Freeze, “Bringing Order to the Russian Family: Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia, 1760-1860, in The Journal of Modern History, vol. 62, no. 4, (December 1990), 709-746. See also Gregory Freeze, “Profane Narratives and a Holy Sacrament: Marriage and Divorce in Late Imperial Russia”, forthcoming in Sacred Narratives.
46.This work makes me question whether “archival revolution” mattered as much for the history of Imperial Russia as it did for the Soviet studies. Freeze successfully shows that a historian could gain an access to archives in the Soviet Union prior to 1991, especially in such “unfashionable” areas as religious history.
47.Ibid., 711.
48.For further discussion of this topic and critique of traditional literature, the author refers readers to: Gregory Freeze, “Handmaiden of the State? The Church in Imperial Russia Reconsidered,” in Journal of Ecclesiastical History 36 (1985), 82-102.
49.Brenda Meehan, Holy Women of Russia (San Francisco, 1993). Several chapters of this book had previously appeared in other publications: “To Save Oneself: Russian Peasant Women and the Development of Religious Communities in Pre-Revolutionary Russia,” in Beatrice Farnsworth and Lynne Viola, eds., Russian Peasant Women (New York, 1992), 121-33; “The Authority of Holiness: Women Ascetics and Spiritual Elders in Nineteenth-Century Russia,” in Geoffrey Hosking, ed., Church, Nation and State in Russia and Ukraine, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991). Other works by Meehan-Waters include: “Wisdom/Sophia, Russian Identity and Western Feminist Theology,” Cross Currents 46 (1996):149-168; “Popular Piety, Local Initiative, and the Founding of Women’s Religious Communities in Russia, 1764-1917,” St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 30, no. 2 (1986): 117-41; “Russian Converts and the Secularization of Monastic Property,” in Russia and the World in the Eighteenth Century, edited by R. P. Bartlett, A. G. Cross, and Karen Rasmussen, (Columbus, OH: 1988): 112-24.
50.See, for example, Claude Langlois, Le Catholicisme au Feminin: Les congrégations francaises à supérieure générale au XIX siècle (Paris, 1994); Susan O’Brien, “Terra Incognita: The Nun in Nineteenth-Century England,” Past and Present, no. 121, (1998): 110-40; also briefly mentioned in Margaret Lavinia Anderson, “Piety and Politics: Recent Work on German Catholicism,” The Journal of Modern History, vol. 63, no. 4 (December 1991): 681-716.
51.Brenda Meehan-Waters, “Metropolitan Filaret (Drozdov) and the Reform of Russian Women’s Monastic Communities,” Russian Review, vol. 50, no. 3, (July 1991): 310-323.
52.Gary Marker, “The Enlightenment of Anna Labzina: Gender, Faith, and Public Life in Catherinian and Alexandrian Russia,” Slavic Review, Vol. 59, No., 2, (Summer 2000): 369-390
53.Ibid., 371.
54.Marker does, however, give credit to Barbara Heldt, who noted a tendency of perfectionism, including à la zhitie, among Russian women-writers in Terrible Perfection: Women and Russian Literature (Bloomington, 1992).
55.Marker, 384.
56.Ibid., 386.
57.Ibid., 387.
58.See, for example, Gertrude Himmelfarb, The Idea of Poverty: England in Early Industrial Age, (New York: Knopf, 1984) and Poverty and Compassion: The Moral Imagination of the Late Victorians (New York: Knopf, 1991), and Linda Gordon, Pitied but Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare, (New York: Free Press, 1994).
59.Adele Lindenmeyr, Poverty Is Not a Vice: Charity, Society, and the State in Imperial Russia (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996).
60.Christine D. Worobec, Possessed: Women, Witches, and Demons in Imperial Russia, (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2001).
61.Ibid., 146–47.
62.Vera Shevzov, “Chapels...”, 585.
63.Alexandr Il’ich Kilbanov, Istoriia religioznogo sektantstva v Rossii: 60-e gody XIX v.-1917 g. (Moskva, 1965); Religioznoe sektantsvo i sovremennost’ : sotsiologicheskie i istoricheskie ocherki (Moskva, 1969); Religioznoe sektantstvo v proshlom i nastoiashchem (Moskva, 1973); Iz mira religioznogo sektantstva: vstrechi, besedy, nabliudeniia (Moskva, 1974); History of religious sectarianism in Russia, 1860s -1917 (New York: Pergamon Press, 1982).
64.Petr Semenovich Smirnov, Istoriia russkogo raskola staroobriadchestva, (Moskva, 1971).
65.I. M. Yuhkimenko, ed., Staroobriadchestvo v Rossii (Moskva: 1999) is a collection of micro-historical inquiries into various aspects of Old Belief, including studies of chapels and monasteries, family burial places, etc. N.N. Pokrovskii, N.D. Zolnikova, Starovery-chasovennye na vostoke Rossii v XVIII-XX vv: problemi obshchestvennogo soznaniia, (Moskva, 2002) offers a textual, “post-structuralist” analysis of eschatological writings by Old Believers in Eastern Russia. For broader analysis, see such works as Robert P. Geraci and Michael Khodarkovsky, eds., Of Religion and empire: missions, conversion, and tolerance in Tsarist Russia, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001). Forthcoming dissertation by Douglas J. Rogers, “Old Belief and Rural Economies in the Russian Urals, 1861-Present,” (app. 2004, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) appears to be promising if judged based on various presentations by the author at the professional meetings. Irina Paert, Old Believers, Religious Dissent and Gender in Russia, 1760-1850, (Manchester University Press, 2003) analyzes priest-less Old Believers’ communities of St Petersburg and Moscow from the perspective of their economic activities, religious views, and social organization. M.O. Shakhov, Filosofskie aspekty staroveriia (Moskva: Izdatelskii dom “Tretii Rim”, 1997) is more of a meditation upon religiosity of Old Belief than a historical work but it is not without its historical interest. F.F. Bolonev, Staroobriiadtsy Zabaikal’ia v XVIII-XX vv, (Novosibirsk: Izd-vo “Fevral”, 1994) took a very local approach to Old belief. Of course, Robert O. Crummey, The Old Believers and the World of Antichrist: The Vyg Community and the Russian State, 1694-1855, (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1970) became a “classic” of the Old Belief studies. Finally, Susan Wiley Hardwick offers curious glimpses into the history of Old Believers, Dukhobors, Molokane, Baptists, and Pentecostals in California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Susan Wiley Hardwick, Russian Refuge: Religion, Migration and Settlement on the North American Pacific Rim, (University of Chicago Press, 1993).
66.Roy R. Robson, Old Believers in Modern Russia, (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1996).
67.O.M. Fishman, Zhizn’ po vere: tihkvinskie kareli-staroobriadtsy, (Mosckva: “Indrik”, 2003).
68.Hugh McLeod, Secularisation in Western Europe, 1848-1914, (New York: St. Martin’s Pres, 2000), 233.
69.After the long disputes over the Baltic States and access to the Baltic Sea ports, Russia and Sweden signed the Stolbova peace-treaty in 1617, according to which Ingria had been annexed to Sweden as a part of the Baltic province. In the middle of the 17th century local Orthodox population deserted the Ingria in fear of Lutheran conversion. The refugees moved to Russia (mostly Tver province) and became known as Karelians.
70.See, for example, Sebastian Smith, Allah’s Mountains: Politics and War in the Russian Caucasus (London: I.B. Tauris, 1998); James Turner Johnson, The Holy War Idea in Western and Islamic Traditions, (University Park, PA: PSUP, 1997); Alexander Malashenko, Islam Revival in Modern Russia, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Moscow: 1998); R. G. Abdulatipov, Sudby islama v Rossii: Istoriia i perspektivy, (Moskva: Mysl’, 2002); Austin Jersild, Orientalism and empire: North Caucasus mountain peoples and the Georgian frontier, 1845-1917, (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002).
71.In the traditions of Islam, jihad is a holy war that should be carried out endlessly until no one unfaithful to the Muslim religion remains on the face of the earth. Defensive jihad, in defense of one’s family, encourages males to participate in killing in order to defend their families and avenge their lost loved ones. “Converting” jihad is carried out once a year for the purposes of converting or killing infidels. These two types of jihad – “converting” and defensive - when combined, justify to Muslim men the use of any means in this holy war. Moreover, the idea of jihad promotes struggle further by stipulating that all killed infidels will become one's slaves in the afterworld. Another important feature of jihad is that the political and religious are not separated. The rulers of an Islamic state should, according to jihad, perform both political and religious obligations when they engage in holy warfare. Last but not least, jihad dictates that if a family member of a Muslim is killed, the male relatives of the murdered person should exterminate the murderer’s entire family. Unless this is done, a man can not live in peace with his soul and his obligations. James Turner Johnson, The Holy War Idea in Western and Islamic Traditions, (University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997): 29-129.
72.Vladimir Ustinov, Obviniaetsia terrorism, (Moskva: Olma Press, 2002).
73.See, for example, Allen J. Frank, Muslim religious institutions in Imperial Russia: the Islamic world of Novouzensk District and the Kazakh Inner Horde, 1780-1910, (Boston: Brill, 2001); Robert Landa, Islam v istorii Rossii, (Moskva, 1995); Peter R. Weisensel, “Russian-Muslim inter-Ethnic Relations in Russian Turkestan in the last Years of the Empire” and Azade Ayse Rorliche, “Sultangaliev and Islam,” both in Ethnic and National Issues in Russian and East European History: Selected Papers from the Fifth World Congress of Central and East European Studies, Warsaw, 1995 (Selected Papers from the Fifth World Congress of Central and East European Studies, Warsaw, 1995), John Morison, ed., (New Uork: St. Martin’s Press, 2000); Hakan Kirimli, National Movements and National Identity Among Crimean Tatars, 1905-1916, (New York: E.J. Brill, 1996).
74.Although not a scholarly work, I can not ignore the controversy surrounding the publication of the last book by Solzhenitsyn, entitled Two Hundred Years Together. The basic goal of the book is to unveil the role of Jews in the Russian Revolution and the Soviet purges, and its main theme is that the Jews were no less, if not more, the perpetrators of repression than Russians themselves. For example, Solzhenitsyn says that Kiev Cheka was in two-thirds made up of Jews, and facts like this should not be overlooked. It is not to say that the Jews did not suffer under the Soviet regime, but they were only part-victims, while being part-perpetrators. Expectedly, the Jewish community (of Russian origins in particular) around the world was infuriated by many claims made by the author but especially by his argument that in the camps, the Jews received softer treatment that other nationalities, and that the Soviet regime was not as \ anti-Semitic as often perceived. A. I. Solzhenistyn, Dvesti let vmeste, 1795-1995, (Moskva: Rossiiskii put’, 2001).
75.John Klier, “Christians and Jews and the 'dialogue of violence' in late imperial Russia,” in Religious Violence Between Christians and Jews: Medieval Roots, Modern Perspectives, ed. Anna Sapir Abulafia, (New York: Palgrave, 2002); J. Kniesmeyer and D. Brecher, “Beyond the Pale: The History of Jews in Russia,” (Exhibit, 1995); Byt’ evreem v Rossii: materialy po istorii russkogo evreistva, 1900-1917 gody, (Ierusalim: Center for the Study of Slavic Languages and Literatures, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2002); Benjamin Nathans, Beyond the pale: the Jewish encounter with late imperial Russia, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).
76.John D. Klier and Shlomo Lambroza, eds., Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History, (Cambridge University Press, 1991); Edward H. Judge, Easter in Kishinev: Anatomy of a Pogrom (Reappraisals in Jewish Social and Intellectual History), (New York University Press, 1992, 2nd edition 1995). In his other work, John Klier analyzes the discourse of Jewishness among intelligentsia in late Imeperial Russia, when the assumption that Jews were a nation was questioned. John D Klier, “The Russian Jewish Intelligentsi and the Search for National Identity”, in John Morison., ed., Ethnic and National Issues in Russian and East European History: Selected Papers from the Fifth World Congress of Central and East European Studies, Warsaw, 1995 (Selected Papers from the Fifth World Congress of Central and East European Studies, Warsaw, 1995), (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000): 131-146. For further inquiry into the “Jewish question” in Imperial Russia, see useful guides such as: M.S. Kupovetskii, E.V. Starostin, Marek Veb, eds., Dokumenty po istorii i kul’ture evreev v arkhivakh Moskvy: putevoditel’, (Moskva: Rossiiskii gos. gumanitarnyi universitet, 1997); A. Vasil'ev, Obzor dokumental'nykh istochnikov po istorii evreev v fondakh RGVIA (Moskva: Ob-vo “Evreiskoe nasledie”, 1994); and G.M. Deich, Arkhivnye dokumenty po istorii evreev v Rossii v XIX- nachale XX vv.: a research guide to materials on the history of Russian Jewry, 19th and early 20th centuries, in selected archives of the former Soviet Union (Moskva: Izdatel’stvo “Blagovest”, 1994). See also such scholarly works as: Michael Aronson, Troubled waters: the origins of the 1881 anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia, (Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990); V. Kel’ner, ed., Evrei v Rossii: XIX vek, (Moskva: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2000); Erich Haberer, Jews and revolution in nineteenth-century Russia, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Boris Moiseevich Pudalov, Evrei v Nizhnem Novgorode (XIX-nachalo XX veka), (Nizhnii Novgorod: Nizhegorodskii gumanitarnyi tsentr, 1998); V. F. Boikov, ed., Taina Izrailia: "evreiskii vopros" v russkoi religioznoi mysli kontsa XIX-pervoi poloviny XX vv., (Sankt-Peterburg: “Sofiia”, 1993); O.V. Budnitskii , ed., Evrei i russkaia revoliutsiia: materialy i issledovaniia, (Moskva; Ierusalim: Gerashim, 1999); Aleksandr Selianinov, Evrei v Rossii, (Moskva: “Vitiaz’”, 1995).
77.See, for example, Michael Stanislawski, “Jewish Apostasy In Russia: A Tentative Typology,” in Jewish Apostasy in the Modern World, ed. Todd Endelman, (New York, 1987), 189-205; ChaeRan Y. Freeze, “When Chava Left Home: Conversion, Gender, and the Jewish Family in Imperial Russia,” forthcoming in Polin, 19 (2004); Gabriella Safran, Rewriting the Jew: Assimilation Narratives in the Russian Empire, (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2000).
78.Christoph Gassenschmidt, Jewish Liberal Politics in Tsarist Russia, 1900-1914: The Modernization of Russian Jewry (New York: New York University Press, 1995).
79.Barbara J. Skinner, The Empress and the Heretics: Catherine II's Challenge to the Uniate Church, 1762-1796 (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus). Georgetown University, 2001.
80.Gregory Lynn Bruess, Religion, Identity and Empire: A Greek Archbishop in the Russia of Catherine the Great. (Columbia University Press, 1997).
81.Gregory L. Freeze, “Lutheranism in Imperial Russia: A Critical Reassessment,” in Luther zwischen den Kulturen, ed. Hans Medick and P. Schmidt (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2003).
82.The author refers to O.V. Kurilo, Ocherki po istorii po istorii liuteran v Rossii (XVI-XXvv.), (Moscow, 1996): 19-21, for a recent overview of historiography.
83.Dennis J. Dunn, The Catholic Church and Russia: Popes, Patriarchs, Tsars, and Commissars, (Ashgate Publishing Company, 2004); E. N. Tsimbaeva, Russkii katolitsizm: zabytoe proshloe rossiiskogo liberalizma, (Moskva, 1999).
84.For the introduction to the various Christian groups and sects (including Old Believers, Dukhobors, Molokane, Baptists, and Pentecostals) as they existed in Russia, see the above cited work by Susan Wiley Hardwick. See also work by Heather Coleman, “Becoming a Russian Baptist: Conversion Narratives and Social Experience,” Russian Review 61 (2002): 94-112.
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A WAR IN CHINA: Stalin, Realpolitik and the 1945 Soviet Invasion of Japanese Occupied Manchuria


by Brett F. Woods, Ph.D.
Shortly after midnight on 9 August 1945, in what would become the last major battle of World War II, assault parties of Soviet troops crossed the Soviet-Manchurian border and attacked Japanese positions in Manchuria. This was the vanguard of a force of more than 1.5 million men that was to advance along multiple axes on a frontage of more than 4,400 kilometers, traversing in its course virtually every type of terrain from the deserts of Inner Mongolia to the shores of the Sea of Japan. With more than 10,000 kilometers separating Manchuria from the main area of Soviet operations in Europe, the invasion of Manchuria would arguably emerge as the most ambitious Soviet military operation of World War II.
But Joseph Stalin’s decision to invade Manchuria was certainly not motivated by higher ideals or vague notions of revolutionary expansionism. For that matter, it was not even concerned with the idea of protecting the Soviet Union from Japanese invasion. On the contrary, his intentions were entirely pragmatic: primarily it was the means with which to satisfy repeated demands by the United States and Great Britain to enter the war against Japan; but, secondly, and even more importantly for geopolitical implications, it would be a British and American sanctioned vehicle that, if successful, would ultimately serve to strengthen the Soviet Union’s postwar strategic positioning in the Far East.
In the historical sense, the situation that existed between Japan and the Soviet Union in August 1945, both politically and militarily cannot be understood simply in terms of what happened just before the Manchurian campaign. The Japanese and the Soviets had been political opponents in the Far East for some fifty years by the time of the 1945 Manchurian invasion, and for about fifteen years each had maintained a strong military presence in Manchuria or near its borders. Still, in order to fully understand how they arrived at their respective political situations by the time of World War II, it is necessary to go back before the turn of the century, when both the Japanese and the Russians first turned their attentions toward Manchuria.
China’s inability to effectively rule the area beyond the Great Wall created what amounted to a political vacuum in Manchuria, a situation that, during the 1890s, both the Russians and Japanese attempted to exploit for their own geopolitical purposes. However, any early differences between the two countries were essentially settled by the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War, in which the Japanese resoundingly defeated the Russians. After the Russian defeat, and by virtue of the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth, the Japanese were left with major Manchurian interests in the south, particularly the port cities of Dairen and Port Arthur on the Liaotung Peninsula, as well as control of the south Manchurian Railway that ran from central Manchuria to the Liaotung Peninsula.
The Russians, on the other hand, were conceded rights to the Chinese Eastern Railway in the north, an east-west line that shortened the distance between Central Russia and the Soviet eastern maritime region that was otherwise accessible only by the Soviet Trans-Siberian Railway. But the Russians also agreed to evacuate Manchuria. This arrangement is particularly important from the standpoint of military history, since it marked the admittance of Japan into the coterie of the “Great Powers,” and it was during this decade that Japanese war potential was expanded as rapidly as possible under a chauvinistic, expansionist and militaristic leadership. (1)
In the early 1920s, following their defeat by the Poles in 1920 Russo-Polish War, the Soviet Union presented little military threat to her neighbors, and was more concerned with recovering and rebuilding after the turbulent years of World War I and the Russian Revolution. During this same period Japan was conciliatory in her diplomatic relations, amicably resolving a number of political problems: with China over the Shantung Peninsula, with the United States over the disputed Pacific island of Yap, and with the Soviet Union over the withdrawal of Japanese occupation forces from Siberia and Sakhalin Island. But, in the late 1920s, Chinese Nationalists attempted to unilaterally renounce Japan’s vast treaty rights and to abrogate the legal rights of Japanese citizens living in Manchuria. Concurrently, they also sought to undermine the operation of the rail lines operated by the Japanese by building a competing and parallel system. By 1931 these activities had matured into what Japan considered to be a serious threat to Japanese interests and, in response, the Kwantung Army – the name for Japanese armed forces in Manchuria – occupied Manchuria.
Japanese efforts to control all of Manchuria soon began with the aptly termed “Manchurian Incident” which began on 18 September 1931, and was prompted by the alleged Chinese destruction of a length of Southern Manchurian Railway track near the town of Mukden. In reality, the whole affair was doubtless engineered by the Japanese as a pretext for moving elements of their Kwantung Army north from the Liaotung Peninsula in order to confront Chinese and Manchurian forces near Mukden, but to do so without giving the appearance of being the aggressor force. By January 1932 virtually the whole region was in Japanese hands, secured by the Kwantung Army. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese puppet state of “Manchukuo” was formed which allowed Japan to control Manchuria without having to exercise full sovereignty over it.
From the Soviet perspective, the unfolding Nationalist Chinese activities in Manchuria were unquestionably of considerable interest, so much so that by August 1929, Stalin, who had assumed total control over the Soviet Union in 1928, created a new Special Far Eastern Army under Marshal V. I. Blyukher, a proficient general who had previously served with an advisory party in China in 1924. Blyukher’s orders were singularly direct: to protect Soviets interests in Manchuria.
Accordingly, Marshal Blyukher’s first order of business in his new position as commander of the Special Far Eastern Army was to prepare for operations against the current Manchurian warlord, Chiang Hsueh-liang, who was as opposed to Soviet interests in northern Manchuria as he was to Japanese interests in the south. Blyukher, with over 100,000 men under his command, attacked Hsueh-liang’s forces in northern Manchuria in October 1929, and in six weeks the opposition was eliminated. While the Soviet performance was arguably impressive – at least when contrasted against a local warlord – Stalin fully recognized his relative military weakness in the Far East. To this end, he continued to build up and maintain ready forces under Blyukher, while at the same time attempted to preserve Russian interests in the Far East through diplomatic means.
Continued difficulties and incidents with both China and Japan eventually led the Soviets to sell their interests in the Chinese Eastern Railway in northern Manchuria to the Japanese. While this clearly was not something Stalin desired to do, he almost certainly suspected the Soviets would eventually lose out to the Japanese in the long run anyway, and even a forced sale of their interests would allow the Soviets to retain some measure of face. The sale became final in 1935, but not until Japan – as Stalin had suspected – moved to foreclose most of the Soviet options to selling out.
In 1937 the Japanese began in earnest their war against Nationalist China, and in 1939 the war in Europe began. As one would suspect, world events soon overshadowed what took place in Manchuria during the remainder of the 1930s, but two incidents along the border were taken very seriously by both the Soviets and Imperial Japan. The occurrences became known as the Lake Khasan Incident of 1938, which involved division-sized forces, and the Khalkin Gol Incident of 1939, involving corps-sized forces. At Lake Khasan the Japanese 19th Infantry Division fought two Soviet Infantry Divisions in a territorial border dispute on the east Manchurian border. This clash resulted in more than 2500 casualties on both sides in a period of two weeks. After the ceasefire on 11 August 1938, both sides maintained a wary presence on the border until 11 May 1939, when the second territorial dispute arose near the Khalkin Gol River. With each succeeding engagement both sides continued to bolster their respective forces and the skirmish blossomed into a major confrontation. (2) The fact that such large formations were committed against each other in successive years – these were small wars really – serves to highlight the volatile situation that had built up between Japan and the Soviet Union along the Manchurian border; and, indeed, these were but the largest two of well over a thousand such occurrences along the border between Manchuria and Russia.
Generally, it can be reasonably argued that from the time the Japanese and Russians first acquired interests in Manchuria their relationship was marked by nothing less than an endless series of quarrels, disputes, border violations and armed conflicts that, by the late 1930s, bore all the portents of a major military engagement looming on the horizon. (3) However, primarily because World War II was just getting under way, both countries became exceedingly cautious and reluctant to pursue the kind of aggressive posture that had resulted in the incidents of 1938 and 1939. Afraid to become embroiled in a war over Manchuria when events elsewhere in the world held so much uncertainty, Japan and Russia reluctantly came to terms and signed a pact of neutrality. This pact – and perhaps more to point, their respective priorities in fighting the world war itself – was to keep the two countries at bay for nearly five years.
As long as World War II raged, Stalin found himself in a rather curious position with respect to the Japanese. Japan was not only Germany’s Far East ally; she was also a neutrality pact partner with the Soviets, Germany’s wartime enemy. The Germans, coinciding with their 1941 invasion of Soviet territory, quite naturally wanted Japan to attack the Soviets from the east, thus creating a second front from which Stalin would have had little chance of recovery. However Japan, with her eyes on the western Pacific and Southeast Asia, chose not to engage the Soviets, although there were two periods in the war between Russia and Germany when the Soviets most dreaded a Japanese attack on them. The first was the period between the initial German attack on the Soviet homeland in June 1941 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the period of Germany’s initial great successes. The second was the following summer and autumn, when the fortunes of the Red Army were low, and the Russian military situation looked most bleak. (4)
Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Stalin’s military capability quickly deteriorated as his forces struggled to blunt the German offensive. Japan, during this same period, was becoming ever more prepared for war and effecting an ever increasing expansionist posture. Though Japan’s attention seemed to be focusing on the United States, whose Pacific Fleet was an important counterforce to the realization of Japanese goals in the Pacific, some of Japan’s finest military forces remained deployed in Manchuria along the Soviet border. Realistically, Stalin could place little faith in the ultimate strength of the Soviet-Japanese neutrality pact, for it was based upon short term interests rather than long term friendship, and the geopolitical situation had changed considerably shortly after it was signed. Nevertheless, he had to place a certain measure of reliance in it and, as a demonstration of good faith, he withdrew some of his troops from the Far East area. While Stalin never completely stripped away his Far East defensive capability – and as soon as possible restored the Far Eastern defenses to a credible level – he was again able to risk moving forces from Siberia into the war against the Germans at a critical moment. (5)
Stalin’s decision to reduce troop levels in Manchuria at this juncture was undoubtedly reassured by reports from his well-placed spy in Japan, Richard Sorge, who correctly reported the Japanese would not attack Russia. Sorge was one of the most successful spies in modern history. He worked in the Soviet intelligence service in Moscow, and then moved to Germany in the early 1930s, securing work as a journalist after passing himself off as a supporter of the Nazi regime. In this guise he traveled to China and then to Japan, where he became a confidant of German and Japanese businessmen and diplomats. The information he gathered from these contacts he sent on to Moscow. He eventually recruited a small circle of Japanese and European associates, and his spy ring operated successfully until 1941 when the Japanese finally exposed, then arrested him. Three years later he was hanged for espionage, along with most of his confederates.
With Sorge’s espionage network eliminated, Stalin found himself at a considerable disadvantage when trying to predict Japanese intentions; nevertheless, by the end of 1941, he had already gone on record as saying he intended to enter the war against Japan in support of the Allies. Still, his biggest fear at the outset of the war was that Japan might assault his rear, launching their invasion into somewhere in the vast wasteland of Siberia. General Sergei M. Shtemenko, a member of the Soviet General Staff during the war, makes clear this concern, “While devoting our main attention to the fighting fronts, we never forgot about the Far East. Indeed, at moments of crisis in the struggle with the Nazi invaders our Eastern worries were doubled.”(6)
While the war with Germany in the west continued to take its course, Stalin for the most part adopted a status quo posture with respect to Japan and Manchuria. Primarily his lack of attention was due to the lingering apprehension that if open warfare erupted with the Japanese, he would be forced to reduce his forces then engaged with the Germans, thus risking the very survival of the Soviet Union itself. But there were other reasons as well. Stalin particularly wanted to establish what gains were to accrue to the Soviet Union when she joined the allies in their war against Japan. In this regard, Stalin wanted the United States and England to create a second front in Northern Europe as soon as possible, and he wanted the assurance of certain territorial concessions in the Far East at the war’s end. Stalin also – at least marginally – was seemingly concerned with appearances, and worried that by attacking the Japanese while their neutrality pact was still in effect he would not only be viewed as an aggressor; but, too, there were no guarantees that his forces could actually defeat the Japanese Army. Stalin voiced this concern during a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden at the end of 1941, indicating that he hoped that Japan would eventually attack the Soviet Union, claiming he would prefer they did because it would ease matters from a legal standpoint. As Eden later recalled, at this point in the war, Stalin had the Germans temporarily on the defensive, and seemed to hold the erroneous belief that the tide of war had already turned in his favor. The Stalin scenario proposed, that during 1942, Soviet forces would begin to press the Germans hard and, as their defeat became more inevitable, they would strongly urge the Japanese to attack Russia. Japan would enter the war in order to save Germany from going down to defeat, but by then the Soviets would be prepared to engage and defeat the Japanese forces. (7)
Not unexpectedly, the Germans did not share Stalin’s vision. By 1942, they had redoubled their efforts to defeat the Soviets and almost succeeded. But despite their repeated urgings, Germany could not persuade the Japanese to attack the Russians, for Japan was too heavily committed in China and in pursuit of dominance in the Pacific. However, in retrospect, a Japanese attack – had it come at this worst possible time for the Russians – would have found few defenders along the Soviet border and, exploiting the situation, the Japanese could easily have accomplished something that was more important than any territorial gains they may have been able to realize: they could have easily cut the slender supply route for United States Lend-Lease aid to Russia, and it was this very aid, massive amounts of it, which Stalin later admitted was probably the difference between victory and defeat at the times of greatest crisis.(8)
In 1943 the tide finally did turn in favor of the Red Army. In October of that year U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull visited Moscow, and Stalin, without any prompting from Hull, unequivocally promised to join the war in the Pacific. Hull was notably impressed by Stalin’s pledge, and took very seriously Stalin’s admonition that President Roosevelt be informed of it only in the strictest confidence. Shortly afterward, in December 1943, Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill met with Stalin at Teheran. There, Stalin confirmed the promise he had made to Hull, but the discussions at Teheran were still somewhat tentative. Stalin again repeated his request that the Allies open up a second front against Germany before he discussed the details of Soviet involvement against Japan. Furthermore, the war with Germany remained in doubt and he was therefore reluctant to bind himself to detailed obligations in another conflict until the German issue was resolved. (9)
N. N. Voronov, Chief Marshal of the Artillery for the Red Army, later wrote that when Stalin returned to Russia from the Teheran conference he brought the news that within three or four months after Germany was defeated the Soviets would initiate operations in the war against Japan. Stalin even made some remarks about what spoils of victory would fall to Russia after the war, saying that he wanted everything that Russia lost during the Russo-Japanese War, but nothing “…that does not belong to us.” Stalin swore his top military men to secrecy about his decisions and it was shortly thereafter that the first shipments of ammunition and supplies began to flow to the Far East where they would be used in the offensive against the Kwantung Army. Voronov noted that these shipments resulted in wonderment among some people who became aware of them, and there were complaints that supplies were being “wasted” instead of being sent to the German front where they were needed. (10)
In October 1944, during a visit to Moscow by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, General John R. Deane, head of the American Lend-Lease Program in Moscow, was present at the deliberations with Stalin concerning Soviet participation in the war against Japan. In the course of the discussions, Stalin opined that the Soviet Army needed sixty divisions in the Far East in order to be able to conduct offensive operations, some thirty divisions more than were already in place. But in addition to the thirty divisions, there was also the lingering issue of logistical support. Two to three months of supplies would have to be stockpiled in Siberia, since not even the thirty-six trains a day that could be moved over the Trans-Siberian Railroad would be enough to supply sixty divisions. U.S. Ambassador Averill Harriman wanted to know precisely how soon the Soviets could take the offensive after Germany was defeated, provided the United States assisted in building up the necessary reserves in Siberia. Stalin indicated that three months would be sufficient, assuming that the political aspects of the question had been worked out beforehand. Stalin, always careful, again wanted guarantees of territorial concessions before he entered the war in the Pacific. But, during these same discussions, Stalin, for the first time, outlined his general strategy for conducting the invasion of Manchuria against the Japanese Kwantung Army: a main strike from the northwest through Outer Mongolian territory, assisted by two supporting sweeps from the north and east. The three axes of attack, Stalin suggested, would tend to paralyze Japanese forces in Manchuria; moreover, the main attack across the Great Khingal Mountains from Mongolia would target the main population and communications centers while at the same time separate Japanese troops in Manchuria from possible reinforcements in China. (11)
The next time Soviet plans for their campaign against the Japanese were discussed with the Allies was at Yalta, during the last conference held between Stalin, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt. By the time the Yalta Conference took place, during the first ten days of February 1945, the war against Germany was all but over: the Americans had thrown back the Germans in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge, and the Russians were realizing impressive successes in their ongoing Winter Offensive. It is possible the Russians were actually in a position to have taken Berlin in February 1945 when Yalta was in progress, but instead the Red Army attacked elsewhere so as to be able to occupy as much territory as possible before Germany’s final defeat. (12) But despite the Soviets’ other activities, Stalin’s forces had still pushed to within fifty-seven miles of Berlin by 2 February 1945, and the purpose of the Yalta Conference was not so much to consider plans for the defeat of Nazi Germany as to talk about what would happen after her surrender. The Soviet entry into the Pacific war was naturally a topic of discussion, although other topics occupied positions of greater importance on the agenda.
On 8 February 1945, Roosevelt and Stalin talked privately at Yalta. Roosevelt made it clear that he would not support future British or French colonialism in Asia and wanted to make sure he and Stalin reached a private understanding that would insure neither of those countries retained much influence in the Orient after the war. Roosevelt proposed that the United States establish herself as a major presence in the Pacific after the war; that China be given hegemony over the Asian mainland, subject to certain stipulations; and that the Soviet Union, with China concurring, be granted certain territorial concessions in return for joining the war against Japan.
Stalin had no reservations about undercutting the influence of Britain and France, and was more than willing to make his own aims known. He wanted the southern part of Sakhalin Island and the Kurile Islands. He also wanted to lease the ports of Darien and Port Arthur on the Liaotung Peninsula of Manchuria, and he wanted control over the Chinese Eastern and South Manchurian Railroads. More importantly, however, he also wanted to retain the status quo in Outer Mongolia, rather than see it fall under Chinese hegemony. Roosevelt agreed, but said he wanted to see Darien and Port Arthur internationalized, rather than given in lease to the Soviet Union. Stalin countered, insisting that he needed the ports outright in order to justify war with Japan to the Russian people. Roosevelt suggested that he might acquiesce on this point if Chiang Kai-shek, the supreme commander of the Allied forces in the China Theater, were also to agree to the Soviet leases. Stalin, satisfied with this arrangement, told Roosevelt he wanted the terms reduced to writing before the end of the Yalta. (13)
One problem in the way of Soviet preparations for declaring war on Japan was the neutrality pact that existed between the two countries. Stalin, who sought to keep up pretenses even when he was being politically unscrupulous, began a campaign in 1944 that was to prepare the way for denunciation of the pact. In October 1944, when U.S. troops were landing in the Philippines, some anti-Japanese articles began to make their appearance in the Soviet press and Stalin himself, in a speech on 6 November 1944, called the Japanese “aggressors” for the first time. With Yalta now behind him, Stalin now seemed fully resigned to war against Japan. Germany was on the brink of defeat, and the major buildup of Soviet forces in the Far East could now begin. It was time, therefore, to break the pact with Japan and the Soviets declared it void on 5 April 1945, despite the fact that it had yet another year to run according to its terms.
In Washington there was no question but that the previous uncooperativeness of the Soviets with respect to other European geopolitical matters made American policymakers somewhat reluctant to place too much faith in Soviet promises about the Far East. There were, in fact, many questions to which the answers were in doubt in May 1945. President Roosevelt had died the previous month and was succeeded by Harry S. Truman who shortly thereafter dispatched Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt’s former personal Chief of Staff, to Moscow in the capacity as Truman’s personal emissary. (14) Hopkins met with Stalin in late May and after each of the meetings between the two he sent a message back to the State Department and President Truman. In the cable following their third meeting Hopkins reported, “By August 8 the Soviet Army will be properly deployed on the Manchurian positions.”(15)
Stalin made it clear to Hopkins that he wanted to take up matters concerning concessions by China before 1 July 1945, and was determined to conclude a pact with the Chinese before he attacked Japanese forces so that any Soviet territorial gains could not later be contested. As Hopkins reported, Stalin believed that no Communist leader was strong enough to unify China, and was therefore willing to back the Nationalist Chinese against the Communist cause. Stalin also told Hopkins that the Japanese had begun putting out peace feelers, hoping to obtain more flexible terms upon the cessation of hostilities. But while Stalin still favored the policy of unconditional surrender that the Allies had earlier agreed upon, he also suspected the Japanese would not give up if unconditional surrender were demanded. Japan, just as Germany had been, would have to be destroyed.
While the various political intrigues continued in the background, the Soviets began preparations for the military offensive in Manchuria. Stalin decided to reorganize the existing troop alignments that had been formed earlier for the defense of the Soviet Far East. All existing forces that bore some responsibility for Chinese-Japanese matters – principally the Far Eastern Command, the Primorye (Maritime) Group, and the Trans-Baikal Command – were aligned under a new command-and-control structure: the Soviet High Command Far East, organized under the previous Chief of the General Staff, Marshal A. M. Vasilevsky. Vasilevsky’s new command would eventually triple the strength of the original Soviet Far East presence.
In April 1945 various Soviet units and their headquarters began shifting from the western front to the Far East. Although there was some initial concern that Japanese attacks or spoiling operations could conceivably blunt the Soviet build-up, the issue was soon put to rest. Soviet estimates of Japanese potential were assisted by reliable intelligence projections, in contrast to the limited intelligence data the Japanese were able to develop regarding Soviet numbers or intentions. (16) To some extent the Soviets were fortunately able to rely on intelligence that had been available for some time, such as the fortification lines that had been built by the Japanese. In the area bordering the Soviet Maritime Region the Japanese had long occupied concrete fortifications and bunkers behind which the Japanese generals felt reasonably secure. The fortifications were tied into natural obstacles in the area as well, including mountains and swampland. There were also the numerous natural impediments the Soviets would be forced to overcome such as the Amur River, and the Little Khingan and Ilhuri-Alin mountain ranges. It would be very difficult terrain. From the area near Trans-Baikal the approaches into the heart of Manchuria crossed a semi-desert plateau that was essentially an extension of the Gobi Desert, as well as the flanks of the heavily forested Great Khingan mountains that formed the eastern edge of the Mongolian Plateau. (17)
After completion of the Soviet staff estimates, the Soviets – as Stalin discussed earlier with the Allies – elected to group their forces and proceed with three axes of advance: from the Trans-Baikal with a thrust aimed at such vital centers as Mukden, Changchun and Port Arthur; from the Maritime Region directed toward the confluence of the Sungari and the Amur Rivers; and a drive along the shore of the Sea of Japan that was directed to routing the Japanese 17th Army Group in Korea. While all three operations were ambitious, the attack from the Trans-Baikal area would be particularly challenging. Still, Stalin believed that if a tank army could successfully negotiate the plateau across Outer Mongolia and make it through the Greater Khingan range it would have two primary advantages: the first was that the Japanese had not heavily fortified that area so enemy opposition would be fairly light by comparison; but, secondly, and even more to the point, the attack would be unexpected.
General Shtemenko, writing from the Soviet General Staff point of view, admits that the use of surprise seemed impossible when plans were being made to attack the Japanese. He clearly indicates an awareness of the tremendous enmity that had built up between the Russians and the Japanese over the years and, to the Soviet strategic staff at the time, it did not seem there could be any doubt in the minds of the Japanese that Russia would soon attack. If nothing else, what better signal could there be than the renunciation of the treaty between them in April; and, if not that, surely the post-treaty abrogation build-up of Soviet troops in the Far East should have provided some measure of forewarning.
However, Shtemenko also suggests that simply because the Japanese could not help but be convinced of the inevitability of a 1945 war with Russia – and was indeed well aware of the Red Army’s preparations for such a war – it did not necessarily mean that some level of strategic surprise was impossible. And, to this end, when considering the problem of attaining surprise in the Far East, key Soviet staff members drew on their own experience with Nazi Germany: while Stalin had worried about war with Hitler and, to some extent, had even prepared for it, the German attack had nonetheless caught the Soviets by surprise. Anticipating a similar Japanese response to the looming Soviet threat, the element of surprise remained central to Soviet operational strategy and, by the end of June 1945, planning for the invasion of Manchuria was virtually completed. (18)
In July 1945, while the remaining Soviet troops were being transferred to the Far East in preparation for the Manchurian maneuver, the Allied leaders met for a last conference, this time at Potsdam, just outside Berlin. With Roosevelt dead, President Truman represented the United States and, during the conference, Winston Churchill was defeated in an election surprise that brought in the government of Clement Attlee. With the exception of Stalin, the old order seemed to be fast changing.
There is no question that President Truman went to Potsdam with the expressed goal of insuring that the Russians would enter the war against Japan; but prior to the actual meetings between the heads-of-state, Army Chief of Staff George Marshall suggested to President Truman that a Soviet invasion of Manchuria might not be necessary after all. (19) Marshall felt that the mere presence of a strong Soviet force on the Manchurian border would serve to keep the Japanese from transferring troops back to the Japanese Home Islands. And, as long as the Soviet troops stayed where they were in Russia, they did not actually need to enter Manchuria to provide the diversion the United States needed as it prepared for the invasion of Kyushu – the southern-most island of the Japanese Archipelago – tentatively set for 1 November 1945. General Dwight Eisenhower echoed Marshall’s position on the Soviet invasion, cautioning Truman not to give anything away to the Russians in order to get their cooperation, because the war would soon be won even without Stalin’s assistance. (20)
For his part, President Truman had to weigh the advice of his military men against predictions that had been made only a short time in the past about the tremendous losses of men that would result following the invasion of Japan, and of the danger that the war might be prolonged if Stalin’s troops did not engage the Japanese.(21) At this juncture, the atomic bomb was still no more than a possibility and could not be depended upon. Further, even if it actually worked, no one had a very good idea of how much power one bomb would release, although the estimates would prove to be universally low when compared to its actual destructive power.(22) In the end, Truman determined he needed Russia in the war and, while still not convinced of Stalin’s sincerity, continued to press Stalin for the Manchurian invasion.
One of the first to bring some semblance of realism into the highest reaches of the Japanese government following Germany’s surrender was Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo. Togo was one of Japan’s “Big Six,” the six charter members of the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War, Japan’s “inner cabinet.” Premier Suzuki directed the Big Six, and aside from the Premier and the Foreign Minister, military representatives made up the remainder of the group. Togo, always forthright and outspoken, was courageous enough to speak his mind in May 1945, when he persuaded the Big Six to agree to a proposal that the Foreign Office begin a series of overtures to the Soviet Union. Togo proposed three guidelines: first, the Soviets must not be allowed to go to war with Japan; second, Soviet friendship must be actively cultivated; and, third, the Soviets should be looked upon as possible mediators during efforts to end the conflict with the Allies on terms favorable to Japan. Togo additionally proposed that among the concessions Japan should be willing to offer Stalin was the return of all territories seized after the Russo-Japanese War. Once the guidelines were agreed upon by the Big Six, Togo personally took the initiatives to the Soviet Ambassador to Japan, Jacob Malik. Simultaneously, he also opened up a second track of dialogue with the Soviets through the offices of the Japanese Ambassador to Russia, Naotake Sato. Stalin, not surprisingly, was markedly indifferent to the Japanese overtures. He had little interest in becoming a peacemaker in Asia; moreover, he wanted to end the conflict, from the Soviet perspective, on much different terms than those detailed in the Togo proposal. (23)
On 13 July 1945, the United States intercepted messages from Foreign Minister Togo to Ambassador Sato in Moscow. Togo was seeking peace, and wanted Sato to attempt to use the good offices of the Soviet Union to arrange terms with the Allies. The Japanese did not want war with Russia – a point Sato was specifically to convey to the Russians – and Japan did not desire to annex any Manchurian territory. Unconditional surrender, suggested Togo, which the United States and Britain demanded, was the only thing preventing termination of the war. More messages, proposing similar lines of thought, were intercepted on 15 July 1945. In his replies to Togo, Ambassador Sato was coldly realistic. He said there was little hope that Stalin would respond to a Japanese offer to give up Manchuria because, from the Soviet perspective, Japan was already considered to be defeated. Even more to the point, Sato indicated that there was little prospect for Russian assistance in negotiating a peace with the Allies. (24)
On 17 July 1945, as the Potsdam conferees discussed the Far-East situation, Stalin said he had not yet finished negotiating with China. However, in the diplomatic sense, Stalin would doubtless have had better success in reaching an agreement had he not tried to negotiate based on distortions of the agreements reached at Yalta, central of which was to keep Outer Mongolia from falling under Chinese hegemony. The Chinese, who had been briefed in advance by U.S. Ambassador Harriman in Moscow, viewed Stalin’s proposals with skepticism and held out for the terms previously discussed and agreed upon. (25)
On 20 July 1945, another intercepted message from the Ambassador Sato conveyed, in the words of U.S. Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, Sato’s “…unreserved opinion as to the situation of Japan…His review left no hope of preventing ultimate and complete surrender.” Ironically, only the day before, the Combined Allied Chiefs of Staff, meeting at Potsdam, selected a target date for forcing the unconditional surrender of Japan. The date set was 15 November 1946, to be adjusted as the situation demanded.(26)
On 25 July 1945, Foreign Minister Togo again cabled Ambassador Sato in Moscow about seeking Soviet support for surrender terms. Once again, Togo stressed that although Japan could not accept unconditional surrender she was willing to surrender on any terms that, ostensibly, secured and maintained Japanese existence and honor, but was actually more concerned with obtaining a guarantee of the safety of Emperor Hirohito. Sato dealt with Soviet People’s Commissar (later Foreign Minister) Andrei Vyshinsky – the deputy of Commissar of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov – who continued to hold out a faint hope the Russians would eventually help out. (27)
The following morning, on 26 July 1945, fissionable material was delivered to the island of Tinian in the South Pacific – the same material that would be used in the first atomic bomb attack against Hiroshima. It was a week and a day after President Truman had learned by cable that the bomb had been tested for the first time and was operational. He and Churchill discussed whether or not to keep all information about the nuclear weapon from Stalin, and then decided to tell him about it in general terms without revealing the full extent of the development. Stalin was therefore only told of the bomb in an informal manner by Truman, who took a moment to be alone with him after concluding one of their daily meetings. Truman called it a “super bomb,” and Stalin probably was not aware until later that it was, in fact, a nuclear weapon. (28)
Potsdam, for the most part, concluded with the communication of a surrender ultimatum to Japan, an ultimatum delivered by message on 26 July 1945. Since Russia was not officially at war with Japan, she was not a signatory to what was later called the Potsdam Declaration. Truman later recorded that on 28 July 1945 Stalin informed the Potsdam conferees that the Japanese Ambassador had approached the Soviet government about peace with the Allies. Earlier, on 18 July, he had mentioned a similar, but less specific effort by the Japanese that he said he rejected as he considered it too vague. Nonetheless, Stalin indicated that this latest offer was more definite and, accordingly, he intended to give a more definite answer. Ultimately, however, the answer was “no.”
Truman, of course, was already aware of the cable traffic between Japan and Moscow and, later the same day, radio intercepts picked up the Japanese answer to the Potsdam Declaration issued two days before. Truman was informed the Japanese had labeled it “absurd,” and “unworthy of consideration.”(29) At this juncture, a certain measure of inevitability entered the process: the Americans continued preparations to drop the atomic bomb, and the Russians made final preparations to launch their ground offensive in Manchuria that, as indicated by General Antonov at Potsdam, would commence sometime “in the last half of August.” The actual date, he qualified, would depend on resolving differences with the Chinese, since the Russians wanted to wait until a Sino-Soviet treaty was signed before the invasion. (30)
For all intents and purposes, by August 1945 Japan was soundly beaten, her once great military forces all but hopelessly defeated. The Imperial Japanese Army, which at the war’s beginning had been such a formidable force, had been decimated over the course of the long war as the Japanese pursued major objectives on the Asian mainland as well as over the vast island domain that constituted the Japanese defensive perimeter. Campaigns in China, Burma, and Indochina had worn down the fighting strength of her armies, as did the losses she suffered from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The pride of Japanese ground forces at the war’s beginning was the Kwantung Army in Manchuria. But, by August 1945, it too had deteriorated until it was no longer the vital reservoir of units, equipment and trained men that it once had been. True, there was still a large force in Manchuria, and even through the end of the war Japan could claim twenty-four divisions there, most were divisions in name only, left there or created near the end of the war in the hope that Stalin’s military advisors would be deceived and not realize the true strength of the once powerful Kwantung Army.
There seems little doubt that Stalin well realized – or at least suspected – the true condition of the Japanese military at this time due to, if for no other reason, the repeated Japanese efforts to negotiate a viable surrender. But the Japanese efforts continued to meet with difficulties. Although Ambassador Sato had been unsuccessful in trying to carry out Togo’s previous instructions, he had not, as yet, been completely rebuffed. And while Sato was personally convinced that Stalin would refuse to assist the Japanese, he was willing to approach the Soviets one more time if Foreign Minister Togo wished him to. Togo indeed wished it so and cabled Sato on 6 August 1945 to inform him Tokyo sources reported Stalin and Molotov had returned to Moscow that same day. Togo’s instructions to Sato were straightforward: see Molotov immediately. Togo’s message was datelined five o’clock in the evening. However, earlier that same morning, although Togo in all probability still did not know the extent of the damage, Hiroshima had been destroyed by a nuclear weapon. (31)
Needless to say, the introduction of previously unknown, nuclear weapons into the war raised immediate concerns in the Japanese government, and on 7 August 1945 Foreign Minister Togo sent another cable to Moscow in which he told Ambassador Sato the situation was so acute that a clarification of the attitude of the Soviet Union was immediately required. Sato cabled Togo back that as soon as Molotov had returned to Moscow he had requested a meeting, and that one had been scheduled for 8 August 1945, at five o’clock in the afternoon. Molotov met with Sato on schedule, and, as they each occupied a chair at either end of a table in Molotov’s office in the Kremlin, Molotov interrupted Ambassador Sato to begin reading the text of a Soviet document declaring war on Japan: “True to its obligation as an Ally, the Soviet Government has accepted the proposal of the Allies and has joined in the declaration of the Allied powers on July 26.” Sato sat in silence as Molotov concluded, “In view of the above, the Soviet Government declares that from tomorrow, that is from August 9, the Soviet Union will consider herself in a state of war against Japan.” Sato expressed his regret that the Soviet Union was not honoring the non-aggression pact that had existed between the two countries since before the war, and which Stalin had renounced before its actual expiration. Molotov agreed to let Sato cable the news of the declaration to his government in Tokyo in code, and Sato was ushered out, expressing his regret at the pass to which things had come. “It is indeed a sad thing that we shall have to part as enemies,” Sato told Molotov. (32)
Almost immediately the telephones at the Japanese embassy were disconnected and the coded message Molotov promised to let through to Japan was never transmitted. Two hours after Sato was informed of the Soviet decision, Russian troops crossed the border into Manchuria. Later in the evening, in Moscow, Stalin remarked to American Ambassador Averill Harriman and U.S. diplomat George Kennan that the leading Soviet units were already ten to twelve kilometers into Manchuria. (33) The Soviet invasion of Manchuria had begun. It would be the last major battle of World War II.
By 19 August 1945, after only ten days of engagement, most Japanese troops had laid down their arms. The Kwantung Army was defeated and Stalin would indeed realize his two original goals: he would establish Soviet strategic dominance in the Far East, and would do so at the expressed behest of the United States and Great Britain – a situation that would emerge as a key geopolitical factor as east and west jockeyed for strategic one-upmanship and moved inexorably toward the tactical sensitivities of the Cold War.

References


1. R. Dupuy and T. Dupuy, The Encyclopedia of Military History (New York: Harper & Row, 1986) p. 1011.
2. A. Myers, ‘Khalkin Gol: Stalin’s Battle to Stabilize the Soviet Far East’, Military Review, (April 1983) p. 60.
3. H. Moore, Soviet Far Eastern Policy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1945) p. 98.
4. A. Werth, Russia at War, 1941-1945 (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1964) p. 1027.
5. K. Whiting, ‘Development of the Soviet Armed Forces, 1917-1966’, Air University Documentary Research Study AU-201-66-ASI (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University, 1966) p. 48.
6. S. Shtemenko, The Soviet General Staff at War (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970) p. 322.
7. A. Eden, The Memoirs of Anthony Eden, Earl of Avon, iii: The Reckoning (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1965) p. 348.
8. J. Deane, The Strange Alliances: The Story of Our Efforts at Wartime Cooperation with Russia (New York: Viking Press, 1947) p. 87.
9. Shtemenko, The Soviet General Staff at War, p. 323.
10. D. Clemens, Yalta (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970) p. 59.
11. J. Deane, The Strange Alliances, p. 223.
12. Shtemenko, The Soviet General Staff at War, p. 306.
13. C. Bohlen, Witness to History (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1973) p.195.
14. H. Truman, Memoirs of Harry S. Truman, i: Year of Decisions (New York: Doubleday & Co, 1955) p. 237.
15. R. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins (New York: Harper & Bros., 1950) p. 262.
16. M. Zakharov, Finale: A Retrospective Review of Imperialist Japan’s Defeat in 1945 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972) p. 64.
17. Shtemenko, The Soviet General Staff at War, p. 328.
18. Ibid., p. 336.
19. Truman, Memoirs of Harry S. Truman, p. 200.
20. W. Millis, The Forrestal Diaries (New York: Viking Press, 1951) p. 78.
21. C. Mee, Meeting at Potsdam (New York: M. Evans & Co., 1975) p. 98.
22. H. Feis, The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966) p. 75.
23. S. Togo, The Cause of Japan (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956) p. 284.
24. Millis, The Forrestal Diaries, p. 74.
25. Feis, The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II, p. 92.
26. W. Leahy, I Was There (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1959) p. 410.
27. Feis, The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II, p. 92.
28. Mee, Meeting at Potsdam, p. 109.
29. Truman, Memoirs of Harry S. Truman, p. 396.
30. Ibid., p. 382.
31. Ibid., p. 314.
32. R. Butow, Japan’s Decision to Surrender (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1954) p. 153.
33. Feis, The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II, p. 127.
Biographical Statement
Brett F. Woods received his Ph.D. in literature from the University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, England, where his principal research involved geopolitics and the evolution of British espionage fiction. He is a senior executive fellow of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the author of numerous essays, monographs and books. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Countermonument as Monument Memorializing the Shoah in the Post-Modern Era


by Wm. Thomas Howell
Memorializing the Holocaust is a tricky proposition at best. Indeed, some commentators claim that it cannot be done, since the horror and suffering inflicted on the European Jews defies the imagination. It is impossible, these critics continue, to portray adequately in any medium the near-destruction by a “civilized” nation of a people and its culture. Even for Jews who survived the camps or somehow escaped the death squads, expressing what they felt, feared, and hoped often cannot be done, for language or other means of articulation simply fail. How much more ineffective, then, can it be for those who were not there! Still, human beings feel a need to commemorate in some manner events that were tragic, heroic or in some other way meaningful. The Shoah is certainly such an event, and for many survivors, even those who do not know exactly how the Holocaust should be memorialized, it is most important that the world never forget the senseless deaths of six million Jews.
If one decides to commemorate the Shoah, the next question is what form the memorial should take. The choices range from heroic and “mythic” sculpture, to expressionistic and abstract painting as well as whatever artistic form may lie in between. Beyond the discussion of a particular style, however, is exactly what meanings or emotions the memorial should convey. In other words, how might the observer respond to the memorial’s style and message? Should the viewer cry, shout with anger, reflect deeply on human existence, or rejoice in the final triumph of life even amongst so much death? Such questions are important, for they reflect humanity’s attempts to explain the Holocaust--why it happened, how the Shoah took a certain path and not another, who was responsible, and others. Even more poignant, these same questions address humankind’s ability (or inability) to come to terms with the Holocaust.
The enormity of the Holocaust precludes finding definite answers. Yet, since the end of World War Two a number of artists and memorializers have endeavored, with varying success, to commemorate those who died in the “Final Solution.” In fact, the 1980s and 1990s have witnessed the rise of a school of artists, including in its membership Jochen Gerz, Esther Shalev-Gerz, as well as Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock, which challenges traditional concepts about memorials and monuments. According to this school, memorials should not limit themselves to merely showing the viewer what occurred or force-feeding the visitor convenient slices of history in an almost “prepackaged” manner. Instead, a monument should interact with the beholder in such a way as to induce an internalization of memory and meaning. Whether it be writing on the monument, having to walk around and find different parts of the commemoration, or becoming part of the memorial itself, the viewer must affect with the monument an active dynamic that serves the process of memory creation. Hence, an individual visiting one of these “countermonuments” ends up contemplating the memorial’s message on a truer and less adulterated level. When commemorating the Holocaust, the countermonument allows the observer, in an intensely personal way, to commit to memory the event’s significance as well as ponder on the frailty of his/her existence and that of humankind. Though not a perfect solution to the problems presented by Holocaust memorializing, the countermonument’s unique way of constituting memory and meaning presents possibly the best method of remembering the Shoah. As alluded to above, the act of memorializing the Holocaust is fraught with artistic and intellectual dilemmas. One could add political and ideological pitfalls, as well. Take, for instance, Nathan Rapoport’s Warsaw Ghetto Monument. Dedicated in April 1948 with the ruins of the destroyed ghetto still very much in evidence, this monolithic edifice evokes the classical, almost mythological style of sculpture advocated during the Stalinist regime. As one circles the monument, the bas-relief figures of Jewish victims being marched to their deaths on the memorial’s reverse side gives way to a frontal view of seven heroic figures valiantly fighting their way out of the stone. In tatters and with one comrade already dead, the male figures stand ready and defiant while the lone female raises her arm to protect a child. Rapoport spent the war years in the Soviet Union producing busts of workers, partisans, and famous Russian generals, and since in 1948 Poland found itself under Soviet domination, Rapoport considered it politically realistic to adhere to the heroic style. Artistically, therefore, the monument clashed with the expressionistic and abstract techniques then prevalent in the West. Yet, when commenting on stylistic criticisms of the Warsaw Monument, Rapoport asked how one could “‘[make] a stone with a hole in it and [say], “Voilà! The heroism of the Jews”?’” Clearly, in Rapoport’s mind abstract art cannot convey the suffering or the courage of the Jewish people. The process of invoking and internalizing the memory of the Shoah becomes lost in the viewer’s attempts to explicate what he/she sees. In this respect, the complications of abstract art hinder an adequate memorialization of the Holocaust.(1)
It is possible, however, to reach too far in the other direction, into the realm of the “memory tourist.” A fine example of this dilemma is located in the very heart of the Holocaust, the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. While touring the museum at Auschwitz one beholds rooms full of eyeglasses, shoes, prosthetics, hair, and so forth taken from Jewish victims before their murder. Likewise, when roaming the grounds of the camp the watchtowers and fencing as well as the ruins of a gas chamber are clearly evident. Such articles and scenery, therefore, provide concrete reminders of the horrors that occurred within these environs. Yet, in their preservation the objects in turn become artifacts of fetishism preserved by museum curators. The visitor can easily mistake the displayed fragments of Jewish culture as a whole, and place that whole within the instruments of dehumanization and murder. As a result, the position taken by the memory tourist is often from the perspective of the perpetrator and lacks a full comprehension of the richness and vitality that was Jewish culture. Indeed, the visitor allows the museum directors to frame history into convenient snippets and “relieve us of the memory-burden” vital to a full understanding of the Holocaust. Thus, camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau replace the internalization of the Shoah’s meaning with symbolic accommodation.(2)
Holocaust memorials also run the risk of co-optation by contemporary ideology and political climate. At Buchenwald, for instance, the German Democratic Republic (G.D.R.) used the concentration camp as a symbol of resistance to fascism. Though many Jews died there after being transferred from the eastern death camps late in the war, the G.D.R. subordinated this fact to the memory of a camp revolt in April 1945 led by the International Committee, a predominantly communist inmate organization. In 1958 the G.D.R. dedicated at Buchenwald a large memorial entitled Revolt of the Prisoners that depicted inmates in triumphant and heroic poses. By doing so, the communist East German regime legitimized itself as both victim of and opponent to the “Hitlerites.” In other words, the G.D.R. was the logical outgrowth of those Germans (mainly communists) who suffered under fascist tyranny as well as played a vital role in liberating the camp. Jewish victims at Buchenwald, however, received “smaller, sepulchral stones” scattered over the old barracks areas, since, the G.D.R. reasoned, mourning the victims of anti-Jewish terror deflected from “the mission at hand.”(3)
The Warsaw Ghetto Monument has also suffered from similar political appropriation. For instance, Chancellor Willy Brandt, writing about his famous “kneel” before the memorial in 1970, claimed that when he visited the monument the pressure of the new German republic’s history and that history’s role in the murder of innocent millions overcame him. He could not help but kneel to the memory of those lost in the Holocaust. Still, the act created a frenzy of debate revolving around Brandt’s possible political grandstanding and obscured the prospect that Brandt’s action was a heartfelt response to the enormity and horror of the Shoah. Thirteen years later the then-banned Polish labor union Solidarity used the monument as a rallying point. By doing so, Solidarity associated its political struggle against the communist government with the Jewish opposition to Nazi tyranny. Moreover, in a most ironic twist, a representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization laid a wreath at the memorial and then pronounced “that ‘as the Jews were then justified in their own struggle against their Nazi murderers, so now are the Palestinians justified in their own struggle with the Zionists.’” Thus, in all three examples contemporary political issues grasped the Warsaw Ghetto Monument and forced its memorializing capacity into the background. The concern was not about the monument’s ability to internalize memory of the Holocaust, but to co-opt that memory for immediate political gain.(4)
Avoiding the difficulties mentioned above is difficult, for memorials such as the Warsaw Monument and Buchenwald are creatures of their time. Through their size, style, and memorial content, such monuments invite artistic debate as well as attract contending ideologizing groups. Camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau also present the subtly different yet equally pressing problem of excessive externalization of the Holocaust in a museum-like atmosphere. In the past two decades, however, a number of artists and their memorials elude such problems by delving into the postmodernist realm. Appropriately, critics argue that even this technique is dangerous, since postmodernism might reproduce Rapoport’s censure of abstractism in Holocaust memorials. Indeed, it is quite possible that a postmodernist monument could mystify the Holocaust and confuse or even anger the viewer. Still, postmodernism allows the artist to introduce new concepts and materials into a memorial besides sculptured figures in stone or bronze. At the same time, postmodernist Holocaust memorials allow the observer to internalize memory and inwardly contemplate the Shoah’s horror and magnitude. In their style, then, such memorials lessen the risk of political co-optation in addition to reducing what Jens Hommel refers to as people’s tendency to let monuments “unburden [them] of the responsibility of confronting past crimes and, in turn, today’s racism.”(5)
Three examples thoroughly illustrate this trend in Holocaust memorialization. Furthermore, each lies within the Federal Republic of Germany, an even more appropriate general location considering the Shoah originated within its borders. These memorials are: Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz’s “Harburger Monument Against Fascism” in Hamburg; Jochen Gerz’s “2,146 Stones, Monument Against Racism” located in Saarbrűcken; and Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock’s “Sign Memorial for the Bavarian Quarter” in Berlin. A short description of each is necessary.
Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz’s “Monument Against Fascism” sits not in a great city square or peaceful “sun-dappled” park (a site similar to the latter was, in fact, offered them), but instead in a small corner of the working class, blue-collar district of Harburg within the city of Hamburg. Today there is little there but a brick pulpit with a plaque calling on the world never to forget the horrors of fascism. Yet, when dedicated in 1986 the pulpit contained a twelve-meter tall column, one meter square, covered in soft lead on which passersby dedicated to resisting fascism could write their name with a steel-pointed stylus. When no more names could fit on the section bounded by the greatest height to which a person could reach, the Gerz’s sank the column into the ground, thus creating new space for more signatures. By 10 November 1993, the date of the last sinking, the entire column lay below ground with nothing in the pulpit remaining but the explanatory plaque.(6)
Jochen Gerz’s “2,146 Stones, Monument against Racism” represents a type of “guerilla memorial action.” While teaching as a guest professor at the School of Fine Arts in Saarbrűcken, Gerz enlisted his students to pry up over several nights a number of cobblestones from the courtyard of Schloβ Saarbrűcken, a Gestapo headquarters during the Nazi era. The students then temporarily replaced the lifted cobblestones with similar stones containing a nail for later retrieval by metal detector. Once this part of the “action” was over, other students inscribed on each removed cobblestone the name of a German Jewish cemetery destroyed by the Nazis, the total number reaching sixty-six. Then, the students returned to the courtyard at night and replaced the nail-embedded cobblestones with the inscribed stones, only making sure the engraved side faced down. Jochen Gerz then wrote a letter to the Minister-president of the Saarland, Oskar Lafontaine, apprising him of what had happened. Lafontaine responded by securing 10,000 DM for the project and warning Gerz that the entire affair was illegal. Nonetheless, as Gerz expected, the newspapers got hold of the story, which in turn sparked a firestorm of controversy. Some were so angered by the affair, that when Gerz addressed the Saarbrűcken city assembly on the matter, the entire Christian Democrat contingent walked out. This type of response notwithstanding, Gerz and his students eventually received permission to continue their work, and by 1993 they had engraved the names of 2,146 lost German Jewish cemeteries on the underside of cobblestones throughout Schloβ Saarbrűcken’s courtyard. The city even voted to rename the square the “Site of the Invisible Monument.”(7)
The final example of postmodernist Holocaust memorializing, Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock’s “Sign Memorial for the Bavarian Quarter” in Berlin, originates with the efforts of a group from the Schőneberg district of that city. With the motto “Excavate where you stand” (Grabe wo du stehst), this neighborhood organization began in 1983 a search into the history of the Schőneberg district during the Holocaust. In the 1920s this area, also known as the Bavarian Quarter for the number of streets named after Bavarian towns, held a large and thriving Jewish community. Nevertheless, the only current sign that Jews had once inhabited the quarter came from a small memorial stone marking the site of a destroyed synagogue. As the Schőneberg group excavated the area, the recovered materials enabled them to reconstruct the history of most of the area’s houses. In doing so, the group discovered where Jews hid during the war, where other Jews after ejection from their own residence were held before transit to the east, and so forth. Five years later an inhabitant of Schőneberg, Andreas Wilcke, diligently researched Nazi property files covering the Bavarian Quarter and discovered much about the individual Jewish families as well as the process of deportation itself. In response to the excavation and research efforts, the Schőneberg district council agreed to memorialize the Bavarian Quarter’s murdered Jews, and after a citywide competition a jury picked the design by Stih and Schnock.(8)
The memorial’s design was quite simple. Throughout the Schőneberg district, on lamp poles and fences, at intersections, and in front of houses or playgrounds, Stih and Schnock installed eighty signs. On one side the sign bore a stylized image, while the reverse held an anti-Semitic Nazi law or decree. Every sign’s location was then marked on three large billboards placed at well-visited public sites in the district, on each of which were maps of the quarter before the war and at present. Thus, an “observer” could assess the quarter’s pre-war physical structure (which the Jews of the district would have intimately known) and then proceed to “collect” the memorial’s signs located on the modern street plan.(9)
How then do these dedications to the Holocaust’s memory avoid the pitfalls of memorials such as the Warsaw Ghetto Monument and the camps of Buchenwald and Auschwitz-Birkenau? First, the current political climate of Germany is one that welcomes expression and inventiveness instead of adhering to any particular ideological vein. Such an atmosphere allows an artist to eschew attachments to state or official doctrine. Second, each of the artists utilizes the concept of site-specificity. This principle maintains that a public work of art should take into account not only “fixed [or] inherent meanings,” but also the context that frames the piece. In this case, the Gerz’s as well as Stih and Schnock place their memorials in settings that eliminate the museum atmosphere. The Harburger monument, for example, is located in a busy blue-collar neighborhood, while the Stih-Schnock signs are scattered over the Schőneberg district. The cobblestones of Schloβ Saarbrűcken, though part of a museum exhibit, lay outside the confinement of museum walls. Thus, each example’s placement lessens the likelihood of the viewer having the Shoah’s meaning or memory burden conceived for him/her.(10)
The artists’ particular use of site-specificity also leads into the final and most important explanation for these memorials’ success, the utilization of the countermonument. On the one hand the use of site-specificity reduces the risk of excessive memory externalization via the “curator’s” hand or of the viewer being force-fed emotions. On the other hand the countermonument fills the interpretive void by inducing the observer to internalize memory and think for one’s self about the event being commemorated. Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz express this belief in their mistrust of “definitive forms in picture, object and speech.” Instead, the Gerz’s believe an art form should link itself to the viewer and vice verse, initiating in the process a narrative where object and observer mirror each other. Thus, the Harburger column may not have exclusively memorialized the murder of six million Jews, yet it did prompt the viewer to contemplate the horror of a Nazi leadership that devoted itself to that goal. By writing their names on the column, passersby pondered over how such a thing could occur and possibly considered (especially if they were German) the fragility of their own humanity. Interestingly, not all passersby wrote their name on the memorial, but instead marked back and forth with the stylus, wrote anti-Nazi slogans, scribbled love notes, drew on swastikas, hacked out holes in the lead covering, and even shot at the column! For the Gerz’s, however, this behavior was totally acceptable and even welcomed, for such deeds proved the column’s strength in stimulating a reaction from the observer that undoubtedly originated from within. Indeed, the extremity of responses exposed contemporary consciousness regarding the Nazis, indicating how far, or not, humankind had progressed from the policies of the Third Reich.(11)
Once the Harburger “Monument Against Fascism” had sunk into the ground, it was possible to argue that once the column was out of sight, it was out of mind. The statement merits consideration since visual observation plays such a large role in a human’s cognitive abilities. Yet, the monument is not completely gone, for the brick pulpit and plaque remain as well as a small window in the underground subway station through which one can still see the column. In effect, the Harburger memorial continues to invoke memory and meaning through it unobtrusive presence. The knowledge that some “thing” opposed to fascism’s methods still lies buried underneath a lead plate sustains the memorial’s ability to initiate an observer’s contemplative processes. Moreover, the small window looking in on the column serves as a mirror on the beholder’s consciousness, once again inducing that person to think about fascism and its history.(12)
Jochen Gerz’s “2,146 Stones” takes his concept of the countermonument even further. As one enters the courtyard and proceeds to walk around, the individual is not truly positive where he/she “stands” in relation to the monument. Being unaware of the engraved stones’ locations, the observer at first feels unsure whether he/she is in the monument or on it. Yet, according to Gerz that is perfectly all right, for by entering the courtyard a person becomes part of the memorial. Much like the destroyed Jewish cemeteries they represent, the engraved stones lack of identification prompts the beholder to meditate on the forces that nearly wiped out European Jewry. Indeed, the seeming want of agency present in the engraved stones’ absence of verification actually gives the Jews that agency. The visitor in his/her own way can reflect on the culture that was destroyed, and, ironically, ruminate over the event within the grounds of a former Gestapo headquarters. Finally, as part of the memorial the visitor is also left to ponder about humankind and the individual’s role in humanity’s achievements and failures, with the Shoah and its aftermath encompassing both aspects. Thus, “2,146 Stones” seeks a level of interaction between monument and visitor, a constant “give and take,” that internalizes the memory of the Holocaust and expands its meaning within the individual.(13)
Though not so extreme in style as the Gerz’s monuments, Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock’s signs in the old Bavarian Quarter still invoke a contemplative act on the observer’s part. As one walks the streets of the Schőneberg district “collecting” these signs, the viewer is struck on the one hand with the seeming innocuousness of the signs’ physicality. Each sign appears not so different from many of the other neighborhood signs noting directions, places to eat, and so forth. It is, however, the seeming innocence of the stylized symbol on one side of the sign contrasted with the anti-Jewish Nazi law on the other that truly piques the intellect. For instance, on the opposite side of a particular sign carrying the decree, “Aryan and non-Aryan children are forbidden to play together” stands a stylized hopscotch game. Another sign contrasts a section of a chessboard with a decree excluding Jews from the local chess club. The signs speak, therefore, to the gradual and encroaching process of Aryanization that overtook the Schőneberg Jews during the Nazi era, a process that had to have been quite noticeable to the local non-Jews of the district. In this way, the memorial appeals to individual contemplation on the actions and non-actions taken by both the Nazi regime as well as the non-Jewish residents of the old Bavarian Quarter. Moreover, the increasing restrictions on Jews evident in the signs’ anti-Jewish laws allow the observer to reflect on the plight of a people increasingly circumscribed and dehumanized. Finally, as Caroline Wiedmer explains, within the urban context that frames the memorial, “every sign creates its own fields of tension between image and script, between script and content, and between sign and site,” that permits a new interpretation at each viewing. Thus, Stih and Schnock’s countermonument, like the Gerz’s, supports a version of Holocaust meaning and memory that courts individual reflection and internalization.(14)
Like all pieces of art, the three memorials discussed above have their critics. Some echo Nathan Rapoport by stressing the abstract nature of the countermonuments. To these critics, the lack of agency is disturbing, for the Jews were not signs, stones, or a lead covered column. Indeed, they argue that anything concrete about German Jewish culture is conspicuously missing. How, therefore, can the observer truly understand what the “Final Solution” attempted to wipe off the face of the earth? Other criticisms come from those who could be termed “social constructionists.” These detractors recognize the problem of memorials that mold memory and meaning through ideology or the curator’s guidance. Yet, the social constructionist also claims that even the countermonument creates the same dynamic by forcing the viewer to conform to that artist’s conception of a memorial. In this case, the beholder never develops a true sense of what he/she believe, for the artist has already framed the thought process.
Such criticisms present valid arguments in their defense yet overlook the fact that no artwork is perfect. Aesthetic tastes differ from era to era and person to person. With the Holocaust the issue is even more delicate since the horror of the event simply cannot be adequately portrayed. The strength of the countermonuments discussed above lie, however, in their “cleaner” ability to induce in the viewer a more personal contextualization of memory and meaning. Free from ideology, a museum-like atmosphere, and debate about artistic style, the observer can interact with the monument and reflect on what that memorial is attempting to convey. Since each monument’s overarching subject matter links to fascism, racism and the Holocaust, the viewer’s continued interaction and contemplation creates a deeper sense of what the Final Solution meant and how that person commits the Holocaust to memory. True, that commitment may not be very deep or the observer may not care to link any meaning whatsoever to the Jews suffering. Some may even revel in that suffering. The violent reactions to the Harburger monument are a testament to how much ethnic hatred remains in this world. Yet, even these responses prove that much work still needs to be done, and that the memory and meaning of the Holocaust cannot be forgotten. By utilizing the countermonument to internalize the observer’s feelings, thus creating a greater personal reflection on the Holocaust, the Gerz’s as well as Stih and Schnock ensure that remembrance and interpretation will continue.
ENDNOTES
1. James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1993), 155-74.
2. Ibid., 127-133.
3. Ibid., 74-78.
4. Willy Brandt, “Der Kniefall von Warschau,” in Rűckblick: Texte und Bilder nach 1945, ed. Andreas Lixl-Purcell (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995), 165-66; Young, 179-80.
5. Omar Sacirbey, “Berlin Struggles to Pick a Memorial to Holocaust,” Christian Science Monitor 90 (January 1998): 7.
6. James M. Clark, “Jochen Gerz: The Cultural Perspective,” Public Art Review 7 (Spring/Summer 1996): 19; James E. Young, “Memory and Counter-Memory: Towards a Social Aesthetic of Holocaust Memorials,” in After Auschwitz: Responses to the Holocaust in Contemporary Art, ed. Monica Bohm-Duchen (Sunderland, England: Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, 1995), 88-90.
7. Clark, “Jochen Gerz,” 19; “Unsichtbares Mahnmal,” n.d., (26 March 2000); Young, “Memory and Counter Memory,” 78-80.
8. Caroline Wiedmer, The Claims of Memory: Representations of the Holocaust in Contemporary Germany and France (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1999), 104-07.
9. Ibid., 107-11.
10. Rosalyn Deutsche, “Public Art and Its Use,” in Critical Issues in Public Art: Content, Context, and Controversy, ed. Harriet F. Senie and Sally Webster (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992), 159-60.
11. Hajo Schiff, “Jochen Gerz & Esther Shalev-Gerz ‘Harburger Mahnmal gegen Faschismus’ 1986,” Kunst im őffentlichen Raum, n.d., (26 March 2000); Young, Texture of Memory, 28-37.
12. Schiff, “Jochen Gerz & Esther Shalev Gerz.”
13. Young, “Memory and Counter-Memory,” 78-80.
14. Wiedmer, 111-12.