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Of all classes and estates in Russia, only the clergy has not been the subject of serious study. This book responds to that single most important need in our knowledge of Russian social history.
The parish clergy in Russia in the eighteenth century was so hereditary, so culturally separate, so unique in its education and manner of life that contemporaries called the group a caste and compared it to the Levites of the Old Testament. Why and how did this special condition of the clergy evolve and how did it affect the fate of Orthodoxy in Russia? Gregory Freeze examines all parameters of the clergy’s world—their changing relationship to the state and church authorities, the new world of the seminary, the structure and economics of church service, the role and power of parish communities, and the social and cultural barriers that eventually recast the clergy into a distinctive, even alien, social estate.
Only very recently has it become possible for any historians—Western or Russian—to do original research in certain essential Russian archival files. Freeze’s book represents a new kind of research and suggests the rich potential for serious archival work. Deliberately designed to serve a broad base of scholars, this book speaks to questions of importance to church historians, scholars of modern Europe, and sociologists, as well as historians of Russia.