Tsars Foreign Faiths: Toleration and the Fate of Religious Freedom in Imperial Russia

Tsars Foreign Faiths: Toleration and the Fate of Religious Freedom in Imperial Russia by Paul W. Werth

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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 states identity. The Tsars Foreign Faiths shows that the resulting tensions between the autocracys commitments to Orthodoxy and its claims to toleration became adefining feature of the empires religious order.In this panoramic account, Paul W. Werth explores the scope and character of religious freedom for Russias 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 empires governance. He reveals the paradoxical status of Russias heterodox faiths as both established and foreign, and explains the dynamics that shaped the fateof 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 statesmens nationalist sentiments and their fears ofpoliticized religion impeded this development. Russias 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 Tsars 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.
Publication Date:
20 / 03 / 2014

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