April 2017


T. Allan Smith, “Iosif of Volokolamsk and Serapion of Novgorod in Conflict”

This article examines the famous conflict between Iosif of Volokolamsk and Archbishop Serapion of Novgorod that in 1509 saw Iosif excommunicated and then Serapion deposed. The immediate cause of the conflict was the transfer of Iosif’s monastery from the control of the local prince, Fedor Borisovich, to the protection of the grand prince of Moscow, Vasilii III Ivanovich, without the prior knowledge or consent of the ecclesiastical superior, the archbishop of Novgorod. While the episode has attracted previous scholarly attention, this article examines the handling of the canonical issues underlying the positions of the two protagonists.


Maya B. Lavrinovich, “The Role of Social Status in Poor Relief in a Modernizing Urban Society: The Case of Sheremetev's Almshouse, 1810-12”

Sheremetev's Almshouse was the first private institution of social welfare in Russia which openly proclaimed that not all the poor deserved relief and exposed the applicants to inspections by the administrators. The study demonstrates that the recipients of the Almshouse relief did not belong to the lowest tiers of Moscow population but originated from its middle stratum. They were clerks and ranked officials, the military of middle ranks, and priests, or their families. Considerable number of them had additional sources of income before they obtained allowances from the Almshouse, only for a few of them the relief was crucial for survival. This paradox can be explained by examining the reports on the recipients written by an administrator of the Almshouse. The document reveals that the Almshouse supported those Moscow dwellers who were involved in the network of patronage or were connected by the relations of military or civil service with the administration of the Almshouse and with Moscow aristocracy. The support from the patrons served a better guarantee for the Almshouse's administration than the evidences of the neighbours or relatives. On the basis of the unearthed archival documents, the study brings out that the Almshouse was an institution deeply rooted in the Moscow patronage and protective network which connected people of middle stratum and the aristocracy. Selecting recipients of relief, the administration of the Almshouse was guided by the logic of privilege and assertion of status opposed to economic definitions of poverty.


Stephen B. Riegg, “Imperial Challengers: Tsarist Responses to Armenian Raids into Anatolia, 1875-90”

This article considers Russo-Armenian political ties in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. It focuses on the rise of a diverse Armenian nationalist movement in the South Caucasus, the most prominent faction of which strove to aid the Armenians of the neighboring Ottoman Empire. Whereas the concept of Armenian nationalism in the late nineteenth century is often considered within the context of the professional revolutionary parties that characterized organized political activism of the era, this article highlights the actions of Armenian student groups and small vigilante circles, which furtively crossed from Russian territory into Ottoman domains to assist and avenge their compatriots. I argue that Russian officials struggled to define and diminish Armenian political and cultural self-determination, resulting in a patchwork of policies and efforts that rarely yielded the political and interethnic stability that the state sought in the South Caucasus.


Edward D. Cohn, “Coercion, Reeducation, and the Prophylactic Chat: Profilaktika and the KGB's Struggle with Political Unrest in Lithuania, 1953-64”

This article analyzes the Khrushchev-era KGB's use of a tactic known as profilaktika in its struggle with political unrest in Lithuania, one of the few former Soviet republics with an accessible secret police archive. In many cases involving low-level anti-Soviet activity, KGB officials chose not to prosecute citizens accused of minor political crimes, but to “invite” them to a “prophylactic chat” where they would be intimidated or manipulated into confessing and warned that they would be arrested if they broke the law again; in other cases, known as “profilaktika with the public's help,” the KGB organized humiliating public hearings at which the behavior of low-level offenders was denounced by other Soviet citizens. I argue that profilaktika should not be seen as a straightforward example of post-Stalin liberalization, but as a tactic that combined traditional secret police coercion and surveillance with ideologically inspired efforts at reeducation and moral reform. In the end, profilaktika suited the interests of both Khrushchev-era officials and KGB operatives, allowing it to survive as a secret police tactic long after the ideological enthusiasm of the Khrushchev years had faded away.


Roman Koropeckyj and Robert Romanchuk, “Harkusha the Noble Bandit and the 'Minority' of Little Russian Literature”

From the 1820s to the 1840s, there appeared a number of texts by such writers as Vasilii Narezhnyi, Orest Somov, and Hryhorii Kvitka-Osnov'ianenko that tell tales of Semen Harkusha, a figure straight out of Eric Hobsbawm's Bandits who terrorized the rich and powerful in eighteenth-century Ukraine. Written in Russian, Ukrainian, or in an idiom that oscillates between the two, this corpus of texts articulates the obverse, darker side of what the authors of this article argue elsewhere, in connection with Gogol's Evenings on a Farm near Dikan'ka, is “the singing and dancing” that defines the field of Little Russian literature. If only by virtue of its “strange” linguistic practices, “incomprehensible to a Russian,” this “supposed” literature, as Russian critics of the day put it, would accord with the notion of a “minor literature” as theorized by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. However, besides the disruption these texts introduced into the Russian imperial literary system through their generic lability, the “high coefficient of deterritorialization” that the two critics insist is characteristic of literary minority is also effected in the Harkusha texts on a diegetic level, as the political (noble banditry) expressed Oedipally (in scenes of transgressive seduction and matchmaking); and on the level of enunciation, as (the internalization of) the work of the imperial censor's office.


Irina Erman, “'Husband under the Bed': Specular Enclosures, Cuckoldry, and Logorrhea in Dostoevsky's Early Works”

This article seeks to demonstrate how Dostoevsky processes the devices vaudeville, folk theater, and particularly the cuckold play into his own unique, genre-bending art form. By focusing on his overlooked 1848 half-vaudeville, half-feuilleton “The Other Man's Wife and the Husband under the Bed,” and placing it in the context of his other works, I explore the influence of the cuckold play on Dostoevsky's tendency to privilege two-in-one scenarios, such as doubling, and sometimes the literal enclosure of two men in one tight space. I argue that the main concern that emerges from Dostoevsky's theatrical influences is the relationship between discourse and space. Specifically, in contrast to Bakhtin's focus on “thresholds” as the paradigmatic loci of Dostoevsky's poetics, I point out the way that spatial and specular enclosures originate excessive, logorrheic discourse and the dialogization, or doubling of the characters' inner monologues.


Anna A. Berman, “Darwin in the Novels: Tolstoy's Evolving Literary Response”

Although Tolstoy was deeply critical of Darwin in his notebooks, diaries, letters, and essays, his literary imagination was profoundly influenced by Darwinian theory. Tolstoy's major novels are Darwinian in form--modeling his ideals of gradual development, chance, and interconnectivity--while rejecting Darwin in their explicit discussions of his ideas. War and Peace is set in a pre-Darwinian world where only the author, not the characters, has access to the new worldview opened up by ideas of evolution, natural selection and the struggle for existence. In this work, Darwinian ideas are manifest in the way Tolstoy conceived of the struggle of nations and individuals at the heart of the book and also in the “Second Epilogue,” where he references Darwin directly to help explain and justify his theory of history. Anna Karenina, by contrast, unfolds in the new Darwinian age, where both the characters, as well as the author, engage with Darwin's theories. His influence can be felt in the structuring worldview of the author, which emphasizes chance over teleology and interweaves multiple plotlines. However, the characters' own engagements with Darwin are designed to undermine his ideas, vindicating faith over the new scientific worldview. Anna embraces the “struggle for existence” as natural law and ends her life, while Levin turns away from Darwin and is saved from despair.