John P. Burgess. Holy Rus’: The Rebirth of Orthodoxy in the New Russia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017
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John Burgess’s book both fascinates and disappoints the reader. Through interesting microhistories, the book gives a fresh and unique access to the contemporary Russian Orthodox lived religion. It is even more fascinating as it is written by an American Presbyterian theologian who became fascinated by Orthodox Christianity and its vision of Russia. To such a point that during one Easter morning, he “could glimpse Holy Rus’” (p. 4). However, the way the author understands Holy Rus’ and describes the link between Orthodoxy and the Russian nation leaves the reader with more questions than answers. One may say that my criticism is unfounded because Burgess clearly states at the beginning of the book that his definition of Holy Rus’ is “personal and idiosyncratic” (p. 5). But at the same time the author does not want his book to be perceived as “a journalistic report” and declares that his goal is to show “that the Orthodox Church in Russia today is seeking to re-create … Holy Rus’” (p. 5). Is it really the conclusion that emerges from the book?
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Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, New Martyrs, Politics of Memory, Theosophy
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