Russian Parish: From Ivan III to Ekatherina II

Parish and Church building of NorthWestern Russia in 16-18 cc.

The main idea of the project is to consider a wide picture of rural church building in North-Western parts of Russia. The region selected • Novgorod and Pscov Lands, Bezetsky Verch, The Velikie Luki, the Novy Torg and the Toropets districts • were joined to Moscow state at the late 15th • early 16th cc. At the same time before the joining those territories have been in different cultural conditions. Some of them were more or less independent subcultures; strong neighbors • Moscow and Lithuania, influenced others. That circumstance determines the main trait of the project • its comparative character.

The chronological limits of the project: 16th • 18th cc. depend of such case. The 16th century is a time which the main sources • record books • belong to. At the same time the 16th c. is a period of the beginning of Moscow subculture spreading to the North-Western territories. It is also the beginning of the Moscow church structure unification. The 18th c. is finishing our project because for that century local particulars of North-West were totally eliminated and in the next 19th c. the parish system was regular on the whole territory of empire.

The main objectives of the project are:

  • The process of rural clergy forming in 16th c. is also of great interest. Our preliminary regards show that in some parts of Novgorod land (Vodskaya pyatina) a typical Novgorod standard of parish clergy formed up to 1500. During the 16th c. its structure changed and up to the end of the century it had no differences with the Moscow standards. Meanwhile after the joining Moscow State small native landowners (local social group named “svoezemtsy”) were in the clergy. Later, in 17th and especially in 18th cc. the transfer from one estate to other was practically impossible. It is one of the aims of a project to consider such processes in other North-Western Lands.
  • Methods to be used:

    The main sources of the project are record books. Just in that books one could find the earliest data on the church building. A very small part of record books were published in the 19th • the beginning of 20th cc. The great number of them is in the archives of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novgorod, and Pscov. Also the other deeds especially connected with landownership is to be used. This material is very important for the revealing rural clergy. The taking part in each rural deed was necessary for clergy until the 19th c. Practically each local deed has a signature of priest and was written by church official.

    The first stage of the project is creating databases on church and clergy of North-Western Russia according to the archive and published data. The database will be composed in the form of electronic card index of local churches of Russian North-West including the materials about clergy (names, years of serving, circumstances of life). At the present time I have created such database for 100 churches of Vodskaya pyatina (totally we suppose to study 1500 churches of North-West).

    The next stage is the statistical processing of information including: the revealing main tends of church dedication, geographical spread of churches and parishes, the dimensions of parishes, genealogy of clergy, family ties between them. This stage also includes the cartographying of the received data. It is clear that we are to compare not only large regions with each other but also local microregions. I suppose that we are to create a number of “map-cuttings” for it. We should use raster copies of Geoinformatic database from the CD-ROM “Россия. 1000 карт” (1000 maps of Russia). СПб., “Ингит”, 1997. The maps and plans of General Land Survey of 18th c. are also very important for creating those maps. These materials let us to reveal the churches lost in the Time of Troubles in the beginning of 17th c.

    The comparison of the results of different regions of Russian North-West is the last stage of our project. I suppose to separate the regions with maximal concentration of churches, regions with stable number of churches during all the period and regions with parish system collapsed. The determination of the time of strict succession of church positions by the relatives (was it before Peter the Great?tm)s reforms or earlier) is also a significant aspect of the results.

    Significance, Dissemination: The problem state in the project has not been lightened in native historiography since 1900. This theme is practically forgotten and is not included into University course “Church history”, etc. Probably publication of the results or as a series of articles either an atlas could create a serious methodic basis for creation of new course “Russian Church history”. Such a publication is possible with the drawing interest from municipal administration on the basis of the Center for Studying Russian Rural Culture at the St. Petersburg Brunch of Russian Research Institute for Cultural and Natural Heritage.

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