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«Vladimir milkov УДК 2-335 + 27-144.89 + 94(470)“13” seRgiy RaDoNezHsky. RussiaN patH to soliDaRity The article analyzes the ideological and ...»

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Alexius hailed from Moscovite boyars and acted as regent during Dimitry’s rule, especially after the early death of Dimitry’s father, Ivan the Fair. As a result, priesthood and tsardom moved closer to each other. Consolidation happened with increasing anti-Horde sentiment [Соколов, с. 192–196]. At the time, the Church gradually reflected the interests and expectations of a broader population, especially at the time of Alexius the Baptist, and developed a new bearing, which allowed it to formulate, propagate and defend not only its own, but also the state’s ideology.

Owing to Alexius’s prompting, Sergiy Radonezhsky moved into the arena of religious and political action [Кузьмин, с. 156–178]. Shortly before his death, Alexius, who guided the so-called ‘national party’ in the Russian Church (a term coined by A. G. Kuzmin), planned to hand Sergiy the leadership over the Archdiocese. However, the saint refused, faithful to his belief in ‘not being a gold-bearer’.

During Alexius’ rule over the Russian Church, his ideological and political beliefs emerged. Based upon information in ‘Life’, historians date the foundation of the Trinity Monastery to 1342, which was soon after Sergiy took his vows. Between 1353–1354 Sergiy became father superior of the monastery;

in the 1360s he was drawn into the close circle of Metropolitan Alexius; and in the 1370s he joined the entourage of Dmitry Donskoy [Петров, с. 200;

Кучкин, 2014, с. 32]. Since that time he gained full access to the circles of power and became a part of many political and religious events.

During the 1370s–1380s, when Sergiy’s fame increased, Moscovia contested the notion of the center of Russian unity. However, those processes remained controversial and unfinished. On the eve of the Battle at Kulikovo (1380), the prince of Moscow effectively managed to unite only a small part of the Russian lands. The efforts spent on creating a political union with Tver proved fruitless. Allies of the prince of Moscow during the 1375 campaign (Dmitry Konstantinovich of Suzdal with his sons and Boris Konstantinovich) did not join him for the anti-Tatar campaign. It was actually Boris who seized Nizhny Novogorod in spite of his older brother’s claim to succession, and Sergiy appealed to Boris after ten years, seeking to hand over the reign, while ‘shutting down’ the churches. In this conflict, the prince of Moscow offered Dmitry an army to aid his efforts [СIЛ, cтб. 436].

Both previous allies and primary political opponents (Oleg of Ryazan and Mikhail Alexandrovich of Tver) diverged from the common cause, and the most powerful Russian princes stayed on the sidelines, while minor rulers, such as Vladimir of Serpukhov, or the Princes of Belozersk, Rostov, and Yaroslavl, had little military force. The coalition, created by Dmitry, was apparently insufficient for the overthrowing of the Tatar “yoke”. Furthermore, the coalition itself was falling apart at the seams, as the events of the Siege of Moscow by Tokhtamysh in 1382 clearly showed. Even Dmitry’s cousin, 62 Problema voluminis Vladimir, distanced himself from the prince of Moscow. The preparation for the decisive battle with the Tatars was complicated by the absence of the metropolitan and the unscrupulous struggle for power in the archdiocese after the death of Alexius in 1378. The convergence of the church and the state, which formed during Dmitry and Alexius, ceased to exist starting with church conflicts that were defined by intrigues, violations of the bringing of vows, and conspiracies that ended in the murder of the prince’s candidate for metropolitan, Mikhail (Mityai). Paradoxically, Dmitry led his army against Mamay while being himself under Cyprian’s curse. Cyprian, then a nominal head of the Russian Church, represented a notion of unity that served the interests of the Prince of Lithuania, and this notion of ‘unity’ was unacceptable for the authorities in Moscow. Cyprian tried to unite enemies of Moscow. Sergiy is commonly mistaken as an ally of Cyprian because the metropolitan sent messages to him [Прохоров, с. 28–30]. It would be more logical to think that Sergiy stood apart from and refused to participate in the feuds. The argument that the reverend kept the canon in his sympathies and therefore did not accept autocephalous Mityai, but rather went after Cyprian who was nominated by Constantinople seems invalid. Cyprian received his nomination while Alexius was still alive, which was a serious violation of the canonical rules, as recognized by Church historians [see: Карташов]. Simultaneously, Dmitry’s nomination of Mikhail (Mityai), who was considered ‘the only rival’ of Sergiy, was designed to rid all suspicions of autocephalia. After being elected at a council by the Russian bishops, he headed to Constantinople to confirm his position and to receive the archdiocese rule from the patriarch.

The essence of Sergiy’s position was to stand above the conflicting parties and to personify the authority of the Church during a critical time for the country. Therefore he did not express preferences towards any political power, which promoted its own candidates; such a stance would endanger the idea of the union. Sergiy Radonezhsky did not wish to be ensnared in intrigues, which demonstrated his desire to follow the evangelical principles that stress one’s removal from the discord of the world.





It would be hard to imagine a religious person who would do battle without moral support, which should undergird his sacrifice and willingness to perish ‘for the sake of others’. The vacuum of the Church’s power at that historic moment was ‘covered’ by Sergiy Radonezhsky. According to ‘Zadonshhina’ and the ‘Tale of the Mamay Battle’, Sergiy provided spiritual approval for the Russian army, offering a blessing to the prince of Moscow in his battle against the Tatars.3 Some suggest that such an interpretation of events is a literary fiction [Данилевский, с. 11–15]. However, politically neutral sources demonstrate that father superior sent the monks, Oslabya and Peresvet, from his monastery to the army [Сказания, с. 10–11; СIЛ, стб. 467]. This account The most logical blessing seems to be one written by Sergiy (СIЛ, стб. 461). Dmitry’s 3

–  –  –

is obviously unprecedented because the Church did not permit its members to spill blood. With this action, Sergiy Radonezhsky licenced the Mamay campaign as a ‘Holy War’. The shortage of military forces was masterfully compensated for by Sergiy by encouraging the belief in the sacredness of the campaign for the prince of Moscow and his warriors. Sergiy operated as the spiritual advisor in the absence of the support of the official church authorities. What, then, were the foundations for such actions?

Sergiy’s principles cannot be recovered on the basis of certain prescribed tenets, rather on indirect data of his ‘Life’ as the saint describes his actions.

Surviving fragments of ‘Life’ by Epiphanius show that Sergiy came from an impoverished boyar family and witnessed the persecution of his parents by the prince’s associates. His aspiration to attain monkhood demonstrates his desire to escape the cruelty, injustice and immorality of civil life.

‘Life’ consistently offers the image of Sergiy as an ascetic. He maintained his celibacy, did not play with other children, did not participate in games, did not marry and withdrew from the world of vanity. In the beginning of his monastic sacrifice he ceded all inheritance rights to his younger brother and lived like a hermit together with his older brother Stephan [Житие, с. 284–286, 292, 296–298]. With his brother, he lived as a true ascetic, relinquishing mundane privileges that accompany his social status. He and his brother worked hard, founded a small forest convent and built a church where an incoming priest served during the holidays. All who gathered around the Trinity Convent had to lead a village community life. Everyday monastic life was extremely hard. The monks had to endure hardships, and Sergiy complained about hunger, poverty and scarcity [Ibid, с. 304–306].

An ascetic, monastic way of life gradually set in.

In spite of the hardships, there were many volunteers who settled near the Trinity Monastery. Its routines were quite peculiar. During the first years after the foundation of the monastery, Sergiy led a monk’s life but did not take his vows. When monks started arriving, he accepted only twelve disciples [Ibid, с. 334].4 This manifestation of religiosity, striving to distance himself not only from the abominations of life, but also from the church environment of the time, has not passed unnoticed by researchers. Some even suggest that the deliberate distancing from official church life could compare with strigol'nichestvo, but, unlike strigol'nichestvo, Sergiy did not go so far as to break from the Church [Борисов, с. 6].

As Epiphanius explained, Sergiy wanted to overcome his weaknesses by imposing self-limitations [Житие, с. 290]. Such aspirations usually manifested in neglecting the carnal. However, ‘Life’ demonstrates that Sergiy lived in harmony with nature and his contemporaries, and the conflict between spirit and body was not known to him.

Indeed severe abstinence, scourging, and intense contemplation of the mundane are not described in ‘Life’. Sergiy’s daily routine consisted of prayers, vigils and incessant labor, in which he was ‘not idle even for an This detail is rather symbolic. Twelve is the number of the first Apostles. These 4 sorts of routines allow for comparisons with the Irish monkhood.

64 Problema voluminis hour’ [Житие, с. 322]. Sergiy’s desire for solitude was not motivated by longing to follow the path of the ancient anchorites but to focus on contemplation away from earthly concerns. His asceticism was not an aim in itself, but a consequence of hardships encountered by refusing any external assistance or family inheritance.

This austerity emerged from circumstances. G. Fedotov rightfully observes that Sergiy did not possess ascetic severity in the traditional Christian sense [Федотов, с. 150]. He considers the forest hermit a hesychast of a peculiar kind: a “bearer of a special, mysterious spiritual life that was not exhaustive by the feat of love, austerity, and perseverance of pray” [Ibid].

Only a few monks from Sergiy’s circle follow a path of strict isolation from the mundane life [Житие, с. 374]. It is perhaps incorrect to see it as the influence of Byzantium’s hesychasm, as a number of researchers do [Федотов, с. 150–151; Клибанов, с. 79–92].5 In austere circumstances the disruption between the Egyptian ideal of monkhood and the Russian practice of monk service was indeed drastic [Федотов, с. 147]. Permanent labor did not allow one to enjoy the ‘sweetness of silence’.

With the absence of documentary support for the historical circumstances of the time, the communal way of life was defined by the country’s hard conditions. Early in its existence, the Trinity Monastery was not like other ancient Russian monasteries. At that time, the Rus had three types of monasteries: 1) reclusive, 2) ktitor monasteries and 3) suburban monasteries of collective living. All these monasteries already appeared in the first century after the introduction of Christianity. Many were not able to follow the way of a recluse. This tradition came from Mount Athos, which directs anchorites to heights of spiritual sacrifice, while simultaneously encouraging personal salvation. The practice of reclusion, contemplation and prayer required serious preparation and as such did not develop into a tradition since few wished to withdraw to such an extent.

Monasteries for collective living that followed the traditions of Theodosius of the Caves (Feodosiy Pecherskiy), which included common prayer and collective labor while maintaining the property differentiation of the monks, rapidly declined after the period of Tatar hegemony. Ktitor monasteries became the most common type at that time. Founded by the representatives of the wealthy elite, they were closed residences, in which aging members of the higher feudal class could retire while surrounded by their servants. They became the family vaults and political ‘nests’ of a sort, where adherence to monastic principles was not paramount. Behind the walls of such monasteries, inhabitants brought their household habits and accompanying distinctions based upon wealth and social origin.

V. N. Toporov noticed the incompatibility of convent’s life with mystical practices due 5 to fullly immersing oneself into everyday errands and hard labor [Топоров, с. 558–559, 573]. He also observes controversial features due to the presence of silence, reticence in motives of vows [Ibid, с. 567–568]. At the same time, the researcher does not exclude the influence of palamism upon Sergiy [Ibid, с. 577–592]. It is probably B.M. Kloss who is closer to the truth when he considers that one should talk not of hesychasm of the palamite kind but of borrowing of the ideas from Byzantine ascetic literature [Клосс, с. 37].

65 V. Milkov. Sergiy Radonezhsky. Russian Path to Solidarity In the second half of the 14th century, Alexius initiated monastery reforms. Changes were based on the introduction of a new liturgical charter, the so-called Jerusalem Charter. In ‘Life’ the organization of collective living is connected to the initiative of Patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople.6 From him the monks of the Trinity Monastery received a charter by which they were supposed to ‘live as a brotherhood communally’ [Житие, с. 366].

According to the calculations of V. A. Kuchkin, this happened in 1374 or even 1377 [Кучкин, 1992, с. 80–81]. The introduction of coenobite living in the Trinity Monastery is dated at the same time [Ibid, с. 82].

Trinity Monastery did not immediately respond to these demands. Apparently Sergiy was on an independent quest.



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