Test Cover Image of:  Of Religion and Empire

Of Religion and Empire

Missions, Conversion, and Tolerance in Tsarist Russia

Edited by: Robert Geraci and Michael Khodarkovsky

Russia's ever-expanding imperial boundaries encompassed diverse peoples and religions. Yet Russian Orthodoxy remained inseparable from the identity of the Russian empire-state, which at different times launched conversion campaigns not only to "save the souls" of animists and bring deviant Orthodox groups into the mainstream, but also to convert the empire's numerous Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, and Uniates.This book is the first to investigate the role of religious conversion in the long history of Russian state building. How successful were the Church and the state in proselytizing among religious minorities? How were the concepts of Orthodoxy and Russian nationality shaped by the religious diversity of the empire? What was the impact of Orthodox missionary efforts on the non-Russian peoples, and how did these peoples react to religious pressure? In chapters that explore these and other questions, this book provides geographical coverage from Poland and European Russia to the Caucasus, Central Asia, Siberia, and Alaska.The editors' introduction and conclusion place the twelve original essays in broad historical context and suggest patterns in Russian attitudes toward religion that range from attempts to forge a homogeneous identity to tolerance of complexity and diversity.

Contributors: Eugene Clay, Arizona State University; Robert P. Geraci, University of Virginia; Sergei Kan, Dartmouth College; Agnes Kefeli, Arizona State University; Shoshana Keller, Colgate University; Michael Khodarkovsky, Loyola University, Chicago; John D. Klier, University College, London; Georg Michels, University of California, Riverside; Firouzeh Mostashari, Regis College; Dittmar Schorkowitz, Free University, Berlin; Theodore Weeks, Southern Illinois University; Paul W. Werth, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Author Information


Robert P. Geraci is Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He is coeditor, with Michael Khodarkovsky, of the book Of Religion and Empire: Missions, Conversion, and Tolerance in Tsarist Russia, also from Cornell.KhodarkovskyMichael:

Michael Khodarkovsky is Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago. He is coeditor of Of Religion and Empire: Missions, Conversion, and Tolerance in Tsarist Russia and author of The Russian State and the Kalmyk Nomads, 1600–1771, also from Cornell, and author of Russia's Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800.


Nicholas B. Breyfogle, Ohio State University:

"This collection of essays explores the tremendous religious diversity of tsarist Russia and adds long-overdue perspectives to our understanding of Russia as a multiethnic, multiconfessional entity. It is a highly significant book that is sure to become a classic for students of Eurasian, colonial, and religious history.... The authors are to be praised for their indispensable contribution to our understanding of a neglected but significant area of the Eurasian past."

Nikolas K. Gvosdev, Baylor University:

"Whether one is interested in examining the roots of religious and ethnic diversity in contemporary Russia, or in studying the missionary activity of the Russian Orthodox Church, or in probing encounters between Christian and non-Christian traditions, Of Religion and Empire should be placed at the top of the reading list."

Vera Shevzov, Smith College:

"This volume will remain for quite some time one of the standard works on the interface between national and religious identities, empire building and missions, and conversion and religious tolerance. This holds true both for persons interested particularly in imperial Russia and for those who seek a broader comparative context for the study of these topics in other geographical areas of the world."

Laura Engelstein, Princeton University:

"The twelve essays in this valuable collection offer case studies of official policy and its impact on local communities. The volume also constitutes an exercise in comparative religion, for it focuses not only on policy but also on the way the different religious communities adapted to the conditions imposed by imperial rule.... The information and insight the essays provide illustrate the scope and importance of a subject that deserves further research. The volume... is elegantly designed, with some nice illustrations."

Nadieszda Kizenko, State University of New York-Albany:

"Although many monographs have appeared in the last twenty years on individual aspects of religion in the Russian empire, a truly synthetic treatment of the varieties of religious experience and imperial attitudes toward them has been lacking. Of Religion and Empire goes a long way toward filling this gap.... The range of subjects covered and the discussions of the overarching theoretical issues make the book a real contribution for anyone who has thought about Russia as an empire."

Gregory L. Freeze, Brandeis University:

"Ranging across a vast period of time and space, Of Religion and Empire demonstrates the extraordinary complexity of the problems that faced ecclesiastical and secular authorities in Russia. This book represents a serious contribution to this new inquiry."

Catherine Evtuhov, Georgetown University:

"A fascinating, original, and wide-ranging investigation of religious conversion in its political and imperial dimensions."

Audience: General/trade;