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Aspects of Greek-Russian Relations in the Early Modern and Modern Periods (17th-20th Centuries)

Conférences prévues en 2020-2021 et reportées en 2022 en raison de la pandémie de Covid
Nikolaos Chrissidis
p. 365-370

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1This series of four presentations sought to examine case studies of Greek-Russian relations in the early modern and, mostly, modern period. In the choice of topics, I was guided by two considerations: first, I sought to highlight topics that, to my mind, have not yet attracted the attention they deserve in historiography. For example, although alms collections in the Russian Empire in the early modern period have been discussed repeatedly, this has not been the case until quite recently for the modern period, that is, the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In particular, the mechanisms of collection, official and unofficial networks of contacts, and the role of women in these activities deserve, I believe, more sustained analysis. Similarly, the nineteenth century saw a considerable number of Greek (together with other fellow Balkan Orthodox) students head for the Russian Empire’s theological academies in pursuit of higher education and, perhaps, even a subsequent career. Examination of the course of study and of the activities of such individuals has barely begun by historians. Beyond the obvious political and foreign policy contexts, these cases also point to a partial reorientation (among Greek students) of theological pursuits away from the German, largely Protestant, universities and theological schools towards Russian academies.

2A second consideration, and ultimate aim, in selecting the presentation cases has been to highlight new sources and to present what I believe to be new angles for understanding the spectrum of Greek-Russian contacts in the modern period. In this vein, the case of Maria Voutsina, who fashioned herself as a refugee from the Russian Empire to Greek state authorities and sought monetary compensation for war losses from both international and national bodies, helps us trace the transition from the imperial to the national context from the perspective of a woman who passed from considerable wealth and high social standing in an empire to a position of dependence on the largesse of the national state and her relatives at the end of her life. Finally, archival materials on both Greek and Russian activities allow us to consider the spectrum, or pendulum, of cooperation and confrontation between the two sides in their attempt to defend and/or assert control over the experience of pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Such examination allows us to see the pilgrimage experience warts and all, and to avoid (or at least seek to avoid) the traps of pious platitudes or of assumed animosities between the Greek and the Russian sides.

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  • 1 See, among others: N. F. Kapterev, Характер отношений России к православному Востоку в XVI и XVII с (...)

3The presentation Greeks Collecting Alms in Russia: Zeteiai in Eastern Orthodoxy sought to investigate a topic which has recently attracted the attention it has long deserved: the collections by Eastern Orthodox clerics of donations in the Russian Empire in the modern period. Such collections by clerics hailing from the Orthodox East—Greeks, Slavs, Arabs—were widely practiced since the seventeenth century, if not before. The topic has only been partially covered and certainly not in all its ramifications.1 I sought to examine it from two perspectives:

  • 2 Several unpublished records from Mt. Athos monasteries and from the archive of the office of the Ru (...)
  • 3 E. Karakalos, Ημερολόγιον περιοδείας εν Ρωσία προς διάδοσιν της Κορινθιακής σταφίδος […], Thessalon (...)

41) The development of specific practices associated with such alms collections in the early modern and modern periods; 2) The policies instituted by the Russian government in order to control and regulate the collection process. The sources consisted of formal permission letters issued by the Russian government granting the right to perform alms collections; legal controls instituted in order to supervise them; the practices and logistics involved (organization, selections of collectors, relics and other sacred objects carried by the itinerant clerics, etc.); published travelogues of collectors; and, finally, Russian police and administrative records regarding the abuse of such practices by fraudsters who sought to exploit the pious inclinations of believers in the Russian Empire. After an initial foray into the historiography, the presentation focused on the types and practices of donation collection (including the strategies of perambulation), the governmental attempts to prevent, preempt and punish fake collectors, and the role of official and unofficial networks of individuals, and in particular women, in the collection process.2 It also highlighted the criticism addressed to itinerant clerics from other types of itinerant Greeks (such as E. Karakalos,3 a promoter of Greek raisin products in the Russian Empire), all the while comparing the various itinerant individuals (merchants or agents, on the one hand, with clerics on the other) in the wider framework of the Russian Empire as an arena for both economic and pious travel and activity.

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  • 4 L. Rossolimo, Η εν Οδησσώ ελληνική εκκλησία της Αγίας Τριάδος, 1808-1908 Греческая церковь Святой (...)
  • 5 J. A. Mazis, The Greeks of Odessa. Diaspora Leadership in Late Imperial Russia, Boulder, CO, 2004; (...)

5The presentation Greeks Pursuing Careers in the Russian Empire: The Affair(s) of the Most Reverend Archimandrite Grigorios Vegleris in Odessa focused on the Russian Empire as a career destination for young Greek clerics in the modern period. A graduate of the Theological School of Chalki and of the Theological Academy of Kiev, Grigorios Vegleris headed the Church of the Holy Trinity, the main Greek church of Odessa, in the first half of the 1860s.4 I examined his case from two angles: 1) As representative of the wave of Greeks seeking theological training in Russian educational establishments in the nineteenth century; 2) As a case study of the inner workings and power relations of Greek diaspora communities in the Russian Empire in the modern period.5

  • 6 Γεννάδειος Βιβλιοθήκη, Αμερικανική Σχολή Κλασσικών Σπουδών, Αρχείο Κωνσταντίνου Οικονόμου [Gennadei (...)
  • 7 See N. Chrissidis, “Priestly Scandal and Civic Association Among the Greeks of Odessa: The Case of (...)

6The sources included published sermons of Vegleris; unpublished archival records regarding the scandal surrounding his affair with the wife of a prominent Odessa Greek merchant; and unpublished archival documents regarding his family’s attempts to exploit the archimandrite’s death in order to promote other members of the family for careers in the Russian Empire.6 Vegleris’s case allows us to investigate the internal dynamics of the Greek community of Odessa during the time before its leadership was securely handed to the Greek Benevolent Association of Odessa. It also reflects the ways in which Greek and Russian political interests combined to “bury” the Vegleris scandal in order to promote an image of harmony and a semblance of good order in the Greek community’s affairs.7

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  • 8 Οι ΄Ελληνες της Ρωσίας και της Σοβιετικής Ένωσης. Μετοικεσίες και εκτοπισμοί. Οργάνωση και ιδεολογί (...)

7The presentation Greeks Leaving Russia: Maria Voutsina Facing War and Revolution sought to examine a case of departure from the Russian Empire as a result of the upheavals and changes brought about by World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917.8 In this case, the focus was rather unusual: a woman whose small archive (specifically, a legal file) came in my possession through purchase at auction. Maria Voutsina was the wife of the Greek consul in Odessa, Ioannis Voutsinas, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The seminar focused on the experiences of a female member of the Greek merchant bourgeoisie of the port city in that period, by tracing the vicissitudes of life for a representative of her class in the second and third decades of the twentieth century.

8The sources came primarily from Voutsina’s legal file and consisted of: Greek and Russian versions of her will; registers of the items left after the death of her husband; her petitions to Greek authorities for monetary and administrative help; and her petitions to the League of Nations for post-war compensation for losses incurred during WWI in Odessa. In the process, the seminar followed Maria Voutsina’s metamorphoses from a “proper” lady of the Odessa Greek upper bourgeoisie to a refugee from war and revolution, to a supplicant for help from both domestic and international authorities. In short, Maria Voutsina allowed us to trace the twilight of Odessa’s Greek merchant class.

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  • 9 N. N. Lisovoi, Россия в Святой Земле: документы и материалы, 2 vols, Moscow 2000; A. Dialla, “Το Αν (...)

9The presentation Greeks Cooperating with and Confronting Russians: The Experiences of Pilgrimage in Jerusalem in the Modern Period shifted the geographic attention from the Russian Empire to another arena of confrontation and cooperation, that of the Holy Land in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During that period Greeks and Russians found themselves at loggerheads over a variety of issues in the foreign policy realm.9 These confrontations spilled out in the intellectual sphere as well, with the two sides exchanging more or less offensive salvos regarding the other side’s intentions, behavior and past and present contributions to the cause of Eastern Orthodoxy. The seminar, however, left aside foreign policy and intellectual polemics in order to examine the everyday experience of pilgrimage in the Holy Land in the same period. It investigated the quotidian Greek-Russian co-existence, cohabitation, cooperation and confrontations in Jerusalem and in other areas of the Holy Land. The sources included consular reports from Jerusalem; correspondence of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem; and internal reports regarding the operation of the pilgrim hostels authored by referees of the Russian Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IPPO). The aim was to provide a view from below, from the street level, so to speak, of the ways in which pilgrimage practices became bones of contention but also areas of cooperation between the two Orthodox peoples. The protagonists of these episodes were both high-ranking officials, lay and secular, and average and less average pilgrims, both men and women. The role of women was particularly highlighted, thus uncovering an aspect of the pilgrimage experience that is not normally at the center of scholarly analysis.

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Notes

1 See, among others: N. F. Kapterev, Характер отношений России к православному Востоку в XVI и XVII столетиях 2nd ed. (Sergiev Posad: Izdanie knizhnogo magazina M. S. Elova, 1914); Η. Angelomate-Tsoungarake, “Το φαινόμενο της ζητείας κατά τη μεταβυζαντινή περίοδο,” Ιόνιος Λόγος 1 (2007), pp. 247–293; P. Stathe, “Τα κατάστιχα ‘Συλλογής Ελεών’ του Παναγίου Τάφου. Η μελέτη και η προβληματική τους,” Επιστημονικές Ανακοινώσεις (20 Νοεμβρίου – 5 Δεκεμβρίου 1979) (Ακαδημία Αθηνών, Σύλλογος Επιστημονικού Προσωπικού), Athens 1984, pp. 125–32; Kr. Chrysochoides, “Άθως και Ρωσία (15ος-18ος αι.). Ιδεολογήματα και πραγματικότητες (μια προσέγγιση),” in Ρωσία και Μεσόγειος. Πρακτικά Α ́ Διεθνούς Συνεδρίου (Αθήνα, 19-22 Μαΐου 2005), eds. O. Katsiarde-Hering, A. Kolia-Dermitzake, K. Gardika, Athens 2011, I, pp. 267–82; I. Carras, Orthodoxe Kirche, Wohltätigkeit und Handelsaustausch: Kaufleute und Almosensammler entlang der osmanisch-russischen Grenze im 18. Jahrhundert, Erfurt 2020 (Erfurter Vorträge zur Kulturgeschichte des Orthodoxen Christentums, 19). For comparable trips to Western Europe, see S. Saracino, “Greek Orthodox Alms Collectors from the Ottoman Empire in the Holy Roman Empire: Extreme Mobility and Confessionalized Communication,” in Confessionalization and/as Knowledge Transfer in the Greek Orthodox Church [Episteme in Bewegung], eds. K. Sarris, N. Pissis, M. Pechlivanos, Wiesbaden 2022, pp. 79–108.

2 Several unpublished records from Mt. Athos monasteries and from the archive of the office of the Russian Holy Synod in Moscow served as sources. An example of a published account is that of Meletios Konstamonites, Περιήγησις Μελετίου Κωνσταμονίτου εις Ρωσσίαν από του έτους 1862-1869, Athens 1882.

3 E. Karakalos, Ημερολόγιον περιοδείας εν Ρωσία προς διάδοσιν της Κορινθιακής σταφίδος […], Thessalonike 2009.

4 L. Rossolimo, Η εν Οδησσώ ελληνική εκκλησία της Αγίας Τριάδος, 1808-1908 Греческая церковь Святой Троицы в Одессе, 1808-1908, Odessa 1908, bilingual Russian-Greek edition, with texts in parallel columns. See also the collective volume Свято-Троицкая (Греческая) церковь в Одессе (1808-2001), ed. Protoierei Viktor Petliuchenko, Odessa 2002.

5 J. A. Mazis, The Greeks of Odessa. Diaspora Leadership in Late Imperial Russia, Boulder, CO, 2004; E. Sifneos, Imperial Odessa. Peoples, Spaces, Identities, Leiden 2018.

6 Γεννάδειος Βιβλιοθήκη, Αμερικανική Σχολή Κλασσικών Σπουδών, Αρχείο Κωνσταντίνου Οικονόμου [Gennadeios Library, American School of Classical Studies, Athens, Archive of K. Oikonomos, Letters to K. Oikonomos], box 1, letters to Oikonomos, letters 58 (dated 10 August 1851) and 59 (dated 24 August 1851); Γρηγορίου Βεγλερή του αρχιμανδρίτου λόγοι δύο, ed. by Konstantinos Kallias, Odessa 1868; Государственный архив Российской федерации (ГАРФ). Ф. 109. Оп. 206 (4-я экспедиция, 1866 г.). Д. 102.

7 See N. Chrissidis, “Priestly Scandal and Civic Association Among the Greeks of Odessa: The Case of the Holy Trinity Church,” in Port-Cities of the Northern Shore of the Black Sea: Institutional, Economic and Social Development, 18th-early 20th centuries, eds. E. Sifneos, O. Yurkova and V. Shandra, Rethymno 2021, pp. 333–56; N. Chrissidis, “Внезапная смерть выдающегося священника: случай с архимандритом Григориосом Веглерисом,” Одиссей: человек в истории no. 1-2(2022): Homines novi: Новые социальные группы в жизни общества; Смерть внезапна, pp. 255–73.

8 Οι ΄Ελληνες της Ρωσίας και της Σοβιετικής Ένωσης. Μετοικεσίες και εκτοπισμοί. Οργάνωση και ιδεολογία, ed. I. K. Chasiotes, Thessalonike 1997; I. Carras, “Greeks in Ukraine in 1919: Identity and Class in the Memoirs of four participants in the ‘Greek Expedition to South Russia’,” Nordost-Archiv, v. 31 (2022), pp. 174-90; N. Chrissidis, « Ναυάγια της τύχης: Πρόσφυγες από τη Ρωσία στην Κύπρο το 1920 », Τα Ιστορικά 68 (2018), pp. 248–53.

9 N. N. Lisovoi, Россия в Святой Земле: документы и материалы, 2 vols, Moscow 2000; A. Dialla, “Το Ανατολικό Ζήτημα κι οι ελληνορωσικές σχέσεις. ‘Ο εσωτερικός εμφύλιος πόλεμος της Ορθοδοξίας’” Греческий мир XVIII-XX вв. в новых исторических исследованиях, Moscow 2006, pp. 51–67; L. Gerd, Константинополь и Петербург. Церковная политика России на православном востоке (1878-1898), Moscow 2006; St. Graham, With the Russian pilgrims to Jerusalem, London 1916; Th. Stavrou, Russian Interests in Palestine, 1882-1914: A Study of Religious and Educational Enterprize, Thessalonike 1963.

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Nikolaos Chrissidis, « Aspects of Greek-Russian Relations in the Early Modern and Modern Periods (17th-20th Centuries) »Annuaire de l'École pratique des hautes études (EPHE), Section des sciences religieuses, 130 | 2023, 365-370.

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Nikolaos Chrissidis, « Aspects of Greek-Russian Relations in the Early Modern and Modern Periods (17th-20th Centuries) »Annuaire de l'École pratique des hautes études (EPHE), Section des sciences religieuses [En ligne], 130 | 2023, mis en ligne le 31 juillet 2023, consulté le 19 juin 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/asr/4498 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/asr.4498

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Nikolaos Chrissidis

Directeur d’études invité, M., École pratique des hautes études – Section des sciences religieuses-PSL, Southern Connecticut State University

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