In Keeping the Faith, Jennifer Jean Wynot presents a clear and concise history of the trials and evolution of Russian Orthodox monasteries and convents and the important roles they have played in Russian culture, in both in the spiritual and political realms, from the abortive reforms of 1905 to the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. She shows how, throughout the Soviet period, Orthodox monks and nuns continued to provide spiritual strength to the people, in spite of severe persecution, and despite the ambivalent relationship the Russian state has had to the Russian church since the reign of Ivan the Terrible.
Focusing her study on two provinces, Smolensk and Moscow, Wynot describes the Soviet oppression and the clandestine struggles of the monks and nuns to uphold the traditions of monasticism and Orthodoxy. Their success against heavy odds enabled them to provide a counterculture to the Soviet regime. Indeed, of all the pre-1917 institutions, the Orthodox Church proved the most resilient. Why and how it managed to persevere despite the enormous hostility against it is a topic that continues to fascinate both the general public and historians.
Based on previously unavailable Russian archival sources as well as written memoirs and interviews with surviving monks and nuns, Wynot analyzes the monasteries’ adaptation to the Bolshevik regime and she challenges standard Western assumptions that Communism effectively killed the Orthodox Church in Russia. She shows that in fact, the role of monks and nuns in Orthodox monasteries and convents is crucial, and they are largely responsible for the continuation of Orthodoxy in Russia following the Bolshevik revolution.
Keeping the Faith offers a wealth of new information and a new perspective that will be of interest not only to students of Russian history and communism, but also to scholars interested in church-state relations.
What Readers Are Saying:
“Important and fascinating . . . It tells the completely untold story of how monasticism adapted and survived under a hostile, officially atheist regime during the interwar years. It provides not only an excellent history of this phenomenon, but also a clear, succinct discussion of the Soviet regime, and of the Soviet period itself. The writing style is clear and straightforward. It is well-researched and substantiated with a myriad of primary sources.”--Brenda Meehan, University of Rochester
“Important and fascinating . . . It tells the completely untold story of how monasticism adapted and survived under a hostile, officially atheist regime during the interwar years. It provides not only an excellent history of this phenomenon, but also a clear, succinct discussion of the Soviet regime, and of the Soviet period itself. The writing style is clear and straightforward. It is well-researched and substantiated with a myriad of primary sources.” --Brenda Meehan, University of Rochester
“Jennifer Wynot has produced a fascinating account of the fate of Orthodox monasticism in the Soviet Union. From her discussion of the Bolshevik exposure of alleged ‘relic fraud’ to her account of the suppressed census of 1937, Wynot's elegantly written and solidly researched monograph offers new insights into a turbulent period in Russian history. Wynot’s Keeping the Faith is a first-rate piece of scholarship.” --Sabrina P. Ramet, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
“An important book on Russian Orthodox monasticism in the provinces of Smolensk and Moscow. . . the time has come to debate orthodoxy’s role in Russia, and Wynot’s book is a good starting place.” --Choice
“This well-researched and inspired work will be a welcome addition to scholarship on Russian church history.” --Slavic and East European Journal
“Wynot’s work is essential reading for scholars and students who seek a more comprehensive explanation of religious responses to the Soviet experience.” --The Russian Review
“Offers significant and sensitive insights into the Soviet period and regime. It complements and at the same time contributes to existing scholarship, which has thus far for the most part over-looked the central role of monasteries in this story…In this regard, Wynot’s book presents not only a contribution but also a correction to recent works by Sara Davies (Popular Opinion in Stalin’s Russia, 1997), Lynne Viola (Peasant Rebels Under Stalin, 1996), Brenda Meehan-Waters (Holy Women of Russia, 1993),and Sheila Fitzpatrick (The Cultural Front, 1992)…The work provides an invaluable introduction of a complicated world from the inside, rather than a cold exposition from the outside.” --St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly