Миссионерская деятельность среди нерусских народов поволжьядо 1806 года

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О. Земцова

22 Там же. С. 5.

23 Дионисий. Идеалы православно-русского инородческого миссионерства. Казань, 1901. С. 32−33.

24 Там же. С. 17.

25 Протоколы заседаний Совета Каз. дух. ак. за 1911. Казань, 1912. С. 45−46.

26 НА РТ. Ф. 10, оп. 1, д. 994. Л. 75−76.

27 Письма Николая Ивановича Ильминского к обер-прокурору Св. Синода К. П. Победоносцеву (1882−1891). Казань, 1898. С. 195.

28 Третий международный конгресс ориенталистов в Санкт-Петербурге // ЖМНП. 1876. Ноябрь. С. 52−53.

29 Смирнов В. Несколько слов об учебниках русского языка для татарских народных школ // ЖМНП. 1878. Январь. С. 2.

30 Бобровников Н. А. Калмыцкие издания православного миссионерского общества. (По поводу рецензии А.М. Позднеева). СПб., 1895. С. 7.

31 Письма Николая Ивановича Ильминского к обер-прокурору Св. Синода К. П. Победоносцеву (1882−1891). Казань, 1898. С. 200.

О. Земцова

Миссионерская деятельность среди нерусских народов Поволжья

до 1806 ГОДА

O. Zemtsova

Missionary Activities among the Middle Volga non-Russians

BEFORE 1860s

Although the authorities in the 19th century continued to follow the policy of toleration introduced by Catherine II, Orthodoxy enjoyed the status of state-supported and state-protected religion. Once you became Orthodox you were supposed to remain one- apostasy was a crime and apostates were severely punished. Yet, the cases when Middle Volga Orthodox non-Russians apostatized into Islam were numerous in the 19th century. In the present study I will first present the region, then I will give an overview of missionary activities before the 19th century and finally, I will discuss the issues that favoured apostasy and Muslim proselytism, especially in the village.

The non-Russian population of the region consisted of various ethnic groups-Tatars, Chuvash (Turkic language group), Mari, Udmurt, Mordva (Finno-Ugric lanuage group). Besides, what is even more important for the 19th century discourse, the region was a virtual crossroads of religions and beliefs, for there lived Orthodox, Muslims, Old Believers, pagans, and in smaller numbers Jews, Catholics and Lutherans. For almost the whole 'long 19th century' religion, not ethnicity, defined a person’s identity and these two factors often got mixed. In the popular consciousness Orthodoxy was certainly connected with Russianness, but Islam was blended with Tatars, to a degree that the notions 'Muslim' and 'Tatar' seemed interchangeable. Still, it was a person’s religious affiliation that made him 'visible' to the state. One was 'born into' a religion, and in certain cases it was possible to change one’s religion from a non-Christian to a Christian one and from Catholicism or Protestantism to Orthodoxy.

The Kazan diocese was considered to be one of the largest and most powerful ones in the infrastructure of the Russian Orthodox Church. Although the process of conversion of animists and Muslims into Orthodoxy was underway ever since Kazan was taken under Russian control, and many animists and some Muslims converted, baptism hardly changed their convictions and religious worldview. By the 1860s, the majority


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of the population of the Kazan province was formally Orthodox (71.5%), the second largest confession were Muslims (27.1%), and the other religious minorities constituted 1.4%. 1

Many non-Russians were either converted by force, and therefore refused to accept what they perceived as an alien faith, or got baptized for purely pragmatic reasons — to escape conscription, to get tax concessions or money. Although according to the imperial legislation, a person once baptized or converted from another religion to Orthodoxy, could not change his confessional belonging, apostasies were common, reaching their peak in 1866, as we will see further.

The process of historical migration contributed to the increase of contacts among Turkic, Finno-Ugric and Russian peoples. Missionary work in the region began as soon as Kazan became part of the Russian empire, after the territory was taken in 1552, although more consistent and straightforward measures were introduced in the 18th century. In 1731, a special committee for the Newly-baptized was established in Sviazhsk for the dioceses of Kazan and Nizhnii Novgorod. Already in 1740, it was replaced by the Bureau for the Newly Baptized at Bogoroditskii monastery in Sviazhsk. The Synodal decree of 1740, signed by the Empress Anna Ivanovna and later confirmed by Elizabeth I, affirmed the need to institutionalize missionary work in the region and made the Bureau its main agent. The Bureau was supposed to supervise religious and everyday life of the baptized non-Russians, protecting them from abuse of power from Russian officials and also protecting the neophytes from their former religious community.

However, as it turned out in practice, both the head of the Bureau Sechenov and especially Kazan archbishop Luca (Kanashevich) were infamous for making non-Russians get baptized often by use of direct force, cruelly separating families (taking children from non-baptized parents and baptizing them, proclaiming non-Christian marriages illegal and thus separating husbands and wives).

In 1764, under the reign of Catherine II, the Bureau was closed and transferred to civil authorities. All Orthodox missionary activity was suspended for some time. Catherine allowed the construction of mosques in Muslim villages and cities and in every mosque Muslims prayed for the rulers of Russia just as they did since Elizabethan times. Since then missionary activity remained relatively passive and was aimed at Orthodox Russians and baptized non-Russians. The duty of maintaining, rather than spreading Christianity was shifted to three special preachers under the lead of Kazan archbishop. It was only in 1830s that the mission received an official status when Filar-et (Amfiteatrov) became the new archbishop of Kazan and Mari and Udmurt antipagan missions appeared. In theory, the missionary work consisted in going from village to village, helping the local clergy to strengthen the baptized in Orthodox faith and to make them denounce their pagan beliefs, and proposing baptism to the unconverted.

Missionary trips to pagan villages were considered successful if the parishioners signed written statements of denouncing paganism for good, yet the missionaries themselves hardly believed in the sincerity of such statements. As the priests' reports showed, as soon as a missionary left, non-Russians turned to their animistic practices, remaining Orthodox only on paper.

Given that the religious worldview of the baptized but previously pagan peoples remained unstable, under favourable conditions it could become inclined into Islam just as well as into Orthodoxy. Thus, these two plausible alternatives came to terms


О. Земцова

with each other, both being religions of the book, having long history, certain religious hierarchy, centuries-long tradition of confessional schools. Islam contributed to cultural distinctiveness of its numerous followers, who besides a common language had very close ties and relative self-sufficiency of the community. Given the ability of Muslims to proselytize, downright incapability of the Russian peasants to serve as agents of the Russian Orthodox mission and the fact that the generations of baptized non-Russians still remained unstable in their faith and therefore liable to apostasy, it is evident that missionaries could not ignore the activities of Muslims, especially in villages with mixed population.

Why would non-Muslim non-Russians, especially of non-Tatar origin, be attracted to Islam? The cases of conversion to Islam mostly took place in the villages where Chuvash, Mari, Votyak peoples lived together with Muslim Tatars. The split of the Tatar ethnos in two parts — Orthodox and Muslim — was a lengthy and painful process when the stronger Muslim part was re-assimilating the indecisive Orthodox one and all imperial measures would be useless until deeper spiritual bond to Orthodoxy and understanding of their own particularism appeared within the baptized Tatar milieu.

Cases of apostasies into Islam and paganism occurred throughout the 19th century, but it was the Great apostasy of 1866 that caused more concern and drew more attention of the authorities and missionaries. The phenomenon was striking because of the quantity of apostates — thousands of baptized Tatars as well as Orthodox non-Russians of animistic background openly declared their wish to profess Islam. According to the data provided by a missionary E. Malov, the number of apostates among T a-tars reached 12 000 by the mid-1870s.

Why did the apostasy break out at this point, after almost three hundred years of missionary work in the region? There were several factors that triggered it. The research conducted by Michael Johnson convincingly suggests that the increase of number of petitions requesting the permission to leave Orthodoxy for Islam in the 19th century fell on the periods of accession and coronation of each new emperor, since «Tatar leaders believed that at the beginning of his reign, the new emperor would follow the tradition of issuing a series of manifestos and granting the formal requests of his subjects in an effort to gain their support.» Johnson has demonstrated that the increase of petitions occurred in 1802 (Alexander I), 1826−27 (Nicholas I), 1856 (Alexander II), 1882−1883 (Alexander III) and 1896 (Nickolas II), which supports his point.2 The period under Alexander II is specific since it bred a lot of liberal ideas. The emancipation of serfs in 1861and state peasants in 1866 brought enough confusion since for many Middle Volga people it was a step towards getting other freedoms, freedom of religion among them, which as Paul Werth claims, set off the Great apostasy of 1866. Literate people in the local communities quickly grasped the news of any of the advances and were writing numerous petitions for their co-religionists, making money and often becoming leaders of apostasy movements.

Almost all pre-revolutionary missionary writers (Il'minskii, Koblov, Malov, Mashanov) remark on the almost 'fanatical' devotion of the Muslim Tatars to their faith, and their ability to defend its truth and divinity. The proselytism manifested itself in daily activities, such as family life, schooling, work, markets and festivals and we will further look at these practices.


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Throughout the 19th century the descendants of converted Tatars apostatized en masse and tried to re-embrace Islam. They sent petitions to St. Petersburg asking for permission to profess Orthodoxy, but in vain. As shown in the tables below, there was a significant increase in the number of apostates in Kazan province between 1864 and 1901.

Baptized Apostates Muslims
1864 45 377 7266 399 204
1901 45 377 31 737 6 536 543

Agnes Kefeli, in her article on the role of Tatar and Kriashen women in the apostasy matters, draws a conclusion that one of the missionaries' drawbacks was that they overlooked the importance of Sufism (which is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam) which the baptism to Orthodoxy could not oust, especially in the milieu of Old Baptized Tatars (baptized in the 16th century)4 Sufi traditions were passed from generation to generation in the form of popular religious knowledge. Islamic folk stories were told by visiting Sufis or male seasonal workers who would go to trade in places where Islam was better-spread and were later passed down from parents to children.

Sometimes there were more practical issues in mind, like marriage, for instance. It is hard to say to what extent conversion became a personal choice here, for it was first of all submission to the rules of the new family. In what way could one proselytize more effectively than that? In order to avoid punishment for the prospective relatives (and according to Punishment code of 1845 when «a Muslim, a Jew or a pagan who, taking advantage of the ignorance and simplicity of the Russian inorodets, will bring him from one non-Christian faith to another non-Christian one by means of seduction, instigation or suggestion,» was to be punished), wrote explanatory notes like this twenty-year-old Votyak girl who married a Muslim Tatar:

«I was a simple non-baptized Votyak girl when, at the age of twelve, I sincerely began to love Islam. Without being forced or seduced, or promised money, or being scared but out of my sheer will, I later became a Muslim, accepted the religion of Islam and the duties that come with it… I denounced all the beliefs contrary to Islam in order to, hoping for God’s mercy and grace, avoid the tortures of Hell and resurrect with other Muslims. Now, at the presence of witnesses, I pronounce the words of confession in which I sincerely believe and become a real Muslim. 5»

The cases of such mixed marriages were quite frequent. But even living in the same village with Muslim Tatars or coming to work for them, non-Muslims sometimes found their lifestyle more agreeable, and together with clothing and dietary habits gradually started to follow their religious rituals. Many converted for economic reasons, in order to gain more money when working for a Muslim family, since Muslims in such cases were often more highly-paid than their pagan counterparts. In Kazan province there were whole villages inhabited by the Kriashen, almost all the male population of which for a greater part of the year remained in Muslim villages for work. Naturally, major part of the apostates who troubled the rest of the population were these male workers.

In the light of the impressive dimensions of the 19th century apostasy movement, it is impossible to overlook the importance of women in the reproduction of Islamic 35


О. Земцова

knowledge inside the family, inside a given community and between communities. Much like Muslim Tatars, Kriashens practiced exogamy in their family connections, which meant that the bride rarely remained in her own village and became a connecting element between her home village and her husband’s village. It was usually parents themselves who chose the prospective spouses for their children. When making such a choice, the following factors were taken into consideration: he potential spouse’s village of origin, the family and the degree of Islamization of the village that will receive the bride. The last point was sometimes even more important than the well-being or social position of the prospective family.

Another important factor that worked against the actions of Orthodox missionaries was the spread of Muslim education in the Kazan region. In almost every village mullahs taught the local children the basics of Muslim faith for some parental donation. In cities and towns there were madrassahs, where young people got further education, the quality of which was not very high, but still the quantity of educational institutions among Muslim Tatars was greater than among all other peoples of the Middle Volga regions, including Russian peasants. Not infrequent were the cases when, for lack of any alternative of education, non-Muslim non-Russians would send their children to a mekteb thus making the first step towards conversion to Islam.

Cases of apostasy of former pagans, with no Muslim background, to Islam became especially pronounced in the areas where there were no parish schools, except the mektebs, for the non-Russians would send their children to a Muslim school in order to get at least some education. In fact, Antonii, archbishop of Kazan noted in 1867 in his letter to public prosecutor of the Holy Synod Tolstoi, among conditions, paralyzing the influence of the church and Orthodox priests, was the great number of mosques and mullahs. Using the privilege to have a mosque for every two hundreds of male population, the Muslims built more and more mosques as soon as the population figures reached the number required.

As Antonii reported further, there was hardly a village with even a small number of Tatars without a mosque and a mullah, while the same could not be said about Orthodox villages, which stood far from each other, were composed of mixed baptized and non-baptized population, and by diocesan statute, introduced in 1846, there was supposed to be one priest for 1500 parishioners. Building new churches and organization of new parishes was complicated by formalities and poverty of the local population. At the same time, small number of Muslim population per mullah gave the latter the freedom and convenience to perform rituals and teach children, so at every mosque there were mektebs and madrasah, where mullah gave lessons to boys and his wife taught girls. This is the reason for the fact that the level of literacy of Muslim Tatars is much higher than that of Russians, and Orthodox altogether. «What makes things worse, is that this literacy is non-Russian, which makes them (non-Russians-O.Z.) more alienated from the Russian people and they become less prone to the influence of the church and Orthodox priests.

The representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church complained that more and more threat was coming from the Muslims. They believed that the aim of the missionary activities-to promote Orthodoxy and to fight the apostasy among the indigenous population — was hard to achieve because of counter projects led by Muslims, the re-


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sistance of the apostates and the evident deficit of qualified missionaries. However, Muslims with their proselytism were not to be the only scapegoats in the failure of Orthodox missionary activities. When analyzing the reasons for the apostasies of baptized Tatars into Islam, the representatives of a missionary St. Gurii brotherhood established in 1867 in the Kazan province in order to establish schools and churches for inorodtsy population and assist in the spread of Christian faith in the region, mentioned the fact that the baptized Tatars had not got used to Orthodox Christian rituals. Some priests refused to talk to their Tatar parish since they did not know the language. The missionaries, who, in contrast, knew the languages, and came to the villages in order to talk to the parish, did not have a good idea of the Muslim faith and spoke about it in an insulting way while giving no sound arguments against it.

However, one soon understood that by admonitions alone the mission got nowhere since the parishes and apostates were many and the missionaries were few. A speech given by a missionary once in a while did not have a great impact on the population, and did not make them leave their beliefs-once he left the people would turn to their earlier practices. When a missionary arrived at a village, it was the priest’s duty to gather the parishioners to listen to him, and theoretically also his duty to continue admonitions in order to maintain the missionary effect if such had been produced. In reality, however, priests in the majority of parishes did not speak indigenous languages and had no desire to learn them.

It was clear that, in order to avoid collisions similar to the apostasy of 1866, the mission should have clearly defined methods and strategies which would persuade the non-Russians of the region to consciously embrace Orthodoxy. Thus, schools, books and church sermons in the non-Russian languages were chosen as means of bringing Orthodoxy to pagans, but it took a long time to obtain success in any of the three. Moreover, Great apostasy of 1866 proved not only inefficiency of missionary work among the Middle Volga non-Russians in order to block Muslim proselytism, but also the failure of the state to incorporate these subjects into the imperial system so far.


В данной работе рассматриваются аспекты деятельности православных миссионеров в отношении нерусских народов Среднего Поволжья в первой половине XIX века. Православие, несмотря на то, что представители царской администрации в этот период продолжали политику толерантности, провозглашенную императрицей Екатериной II, оставалось религией, которую государство поддерживало и защищало. Будучи однажды обращенным в православие, российский подданный официально не мог сменить свой конфессиональный статус, отступничество преследовалось законом, и отступники подвергались достаточно жестоким наказаниям. Тем не менее, случаи отступничества или «возвращения» в ислам и язычество среди нерусских народов Поволжья были нередки на протяжении всего XIX века. Целью работы, наряду с изучением деятельности миссионеров, является анализ факторов, которые способствовали отступничеству и мусульманскому прозелитизму, особенно в деревне.

-23------------------------- Примечания


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