Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

7/1/2007 - 6/30/2008

Funding Totals

$40,000.00 (approved)
$40,000.00 (awarded)

Religious Toleration and the Civil Order in Imperial Russia, 1772-1914

FAIN: FB-53229-07

Paul William Werth
University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Las Vegas, NV 89154-9900)

"Arbiters of the Sacred" integrates the experience of Russia's non-Orthodox religions into larger narratives of Russian history. The project examines discourses of religious freedom and the role of confessional institutions and canonical rules in the creation of a civil order for the culturally diverse peoples of Russia over the long nineteenth century. It tells the story of how an autocratic regime with profound investments in religiously constituted forms of morality and authority sought to enlist confessional elites for the empire's governance and expansion. It also recounts the role of non-Orthodox elites and believers in both constructing this religious order and exposing the limits of imperial religious toleration.

Media Coverage

Special Book Pane (Review)
Author(s): Kelly O'Neill, Yanni Kotsonis, Nathaniel Knight, Eric Lohr
Publication: Annual convention of Association for the Study of Nationalities
Date: 4/15/2015
Abstract: A special panel at the convention of the ASN was devoted to this book.

Associated Products

“Soslovie and the ‘Foreign’ Clergies in Imperial Russia: Estate Rights or Service Rights?” (Article)
Title: “Soslovie and the ‘Foreign’ Clergies in Imperial Russia: Estate Rights or Service Rights?”
Author: Paul W. Werth
Abstract: This essay addresses a significant imperial dimension of the soslovie [estate] question by analyzing the estate status of the religious servitors of Russia's non-Orthodox confessions. It argues that Christian servitors, beginning with the Orthodox clergy and their families, gradually acquired estate rights, while non-Christian servitors were generally able to attain only service rights. The article thus contributes to our understanding of religious toleration in Russia by examining its social dimension.
Year: 2010
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Cahiers du Monde russe
Publisher: Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris

"Religion" (Book Section)
Title: "Religion"
Author: Paul W. Werth
Editor: Simon Dixon
Abstract: This essay represents a succinct overview of Russia's religious history over the last 300 years (since the beginning of the reign of Peter the Great). Instead of focusing exclusively on Orthodox Christianity, Russia's principal religion, the essay discusses all of the major confessional groups in Russia, including Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Protestantism, and Catholicism. It represent one of six essays on the "Fundamentals of Russian History" in the Oxford Handbook of Modern Russian History.
Year: 2012
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Book Title: The Oxford Handbook of Modern Russian History

"The Emergence of 'Freedom of Conscience' in Imperial Russia" (Article)
Title: "The Emergence of 'Freedom of Conscience' in Imperial Russia"
Author: Paul W. Werth
Abstract: Recognizing that the idea of “freedom of conscience” became the central touchstone for discussion about religious liberty in early twentieth-century Russia, this article traces the emergence of this concept in Russian discourse from its earliest appearance up until its formal acceptance by the regime in the October Manifesto. It approaches “freedom of conscience” partly as a philosophical construct implicated in particular lineages of Russian thought, but seeks primarily to trace the deployment of this concept in state administrative discourse before the Revolution of 1905. It furthermore devote considerable attention to the opposition that this concept generated among more conservative statesmen and publicists
Year: 2012
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History
Publisher: Slavica

The Tsar's Foreign Faiths: Toleration and the Fate of Religious Freedom in Imperial Russia (Book)
Title: The Tsar's Foreign Faiths: Toleration and the Fate of Religious Freedom in Imperial Russia
Author: Paul W. Werth
Abstract: The Russian Empire presented itself to its subjects and the world as an Orthodox state, a patron and defender of Eastern Christianity. Yet the tsarist regime also lauded itself for granting religious freedoms to its many heterodox subjects, making 'religious toleration' a core attribute of the state's identity. The Tsar's Foreign Faiths shows that the resulting tensions between the autocracy's commitments to Orthodoxy and its claims to toleration became a defining feature of the empire's religious order. In this panoramic account, Paul W. Werth explores the scope and character of religious freedom for Russia's diverse non-Orthodox religions, from Lutheranism and Catholicism to Islam and Buddhism. Considering both rhetoric and practice, he examines discourses of religious toleration and the role of confessional institutions in the empire's governance. He reveals the paradoxical status of Russia's heterodox faiths as both established and 'foreign', and explains the dynamics that shaped the fate of newer conceptions of religious liberty after the mid-nineteenth century. If intellectual change and the shifting character of religious life in Russia gradually pushed the regime towards the acceptance of freedom of conscience, then statesmen's nationalist sentiments and their fears of 'politicized' religion impeded this development. Russia's religious order thus remained beset by contradiction on the eve of the Great War. Based on archival research in five countries and a vast scholarly literature, The Tsar's Foreign Faiths represents a major contribution to the history of empire and religion in Russia, and to the study of toleration and religious diversity in Europe.
Year: 2014
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Web site for Oxford University Press
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: World Cat record
Access Model: no
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780198786610
Copy sent to NEH?: No