Creating a Religious Community in Siberia

The Cultural Politics of Archbishop Nektarii of Tobolsk

in Canadian-American Slavic Studies
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This article explores how Nektarii, the third archbishop of Siberia and Tobolsk (1636–1640), contributed to the creation of a lasting Russian Orthodox community in his diocese by manipulating traditional Muscovite social rituals and the Russian Orthodox practice of venerating miracle-working icons. Challenging the traditional view that the conversion of Siberia was guided primarily by Muscovite imperial policy, Thyrêt instead focuses on local religious developments that were initiated by the Siberian hierarch in order to deal with obstreperous government officials and the unruly flock of his border diocese. The article shows how Nektarii creatively established his ecclesiastical authority in Tobolsk and laid the foundation for a community following a regulated Christian life in Siberia by connecting his arrival in Tobolsk with an impressive ceremonial entrance that was styled after royal welcoming rituals and by engineering the cult of the first Siberian miracle-working icon, the image of the Virgin of Abalak.

Creating a Religious Community in Siberia

The Cultural Politics of Archbishop Nektarii of Tobolsk

in Canadian-American Slavic Studies




Yuri Slezkine“Savage Christians or Unorthodox Russians? The Missionary Dilemma in Siberia,” in Between Heaven and Hell: The Myth of Siberia in Russian Cultureed. Galya Diment and Yuri Slezkine (New York: St. Martin’s Press1993) 15–16; Michael Khodarkovsky “Not by Word Alone: Missionary Policies and Religious Conversion in Early Modern Russia” Comparative Studies in Society and History 38 no. 2 (April 1996): 275–276; idem “The Conversion of Non-Christians in Early Modern Russia” in Of Religion and Empire. Missions Conversion and Tolerance in Tsarist Russia ed. Robert P. Geraci and Michael Khodarkovsky (Ithaca New York: Cornell University Press 2001) 123; idem “Ignoble Savages and Unfaithful Subjects: Constructing Non-Christian Identities in Early Modern Russia” in Russia’s Orient: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples 1700–1917 ed. Daniel R. Brower and Edward J. Lazzerini (Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press 1997) 17.


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Bakhrushin“Voprosy russkoi kolonizatsii” 172–173; Butsinskii “Sibirskie arkhiepiskopy” 281–287. Butsinskii justly criticized Abramov’s view that Nektarii was revered in Tobolsk. On Nektarii and Symeon the New Theologian see Isolde Thyrêt “Uchenie Simeona Novogo Bogoslova o bogovidenii i evoliutsiia zhitiinogo obraza prepodobnogo Nila Stolbenskogo vo Vtoroi redaktsii ego Zhitiia” paper presented at the Sector of Old Russian Literature at the Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkinskii Dom) of the Russian Academy of Sciences St. Petersburg Russia March 25 2015.


Romodanovskaia and Zhuravel’Literaturnye pamiatniki343; Abramov “Nektarii” 71.


Romodanovskaia and Zhuravel’Literaturnye pamiatniki277; Abramov “Nektarii” 71.


Romodanovskaia and Zhuravel’Literaturnye pamiatniki278 343–344; PSRL vol. 36 pt. 1: 198 199; also see Abramov “Nektarii” 71–72.


Romodanovskaia and Zhuravel’Literaturnye pamiatniki94–95 344; also see Abramov “Nektarii” 72.


Abramov“Nektarii” 72.


Peter BrownThe Cult of the Saints. Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press1981) 49.


Romodanovskaia and Zhuravel’Literaturnye pamiatniki14. Some copies of the Esipov Chronicle refer to Abalak as Basan; see Romodanovskaia and Zhuravel’ Literaturnye pamiatniki 42 (text) 366 (commentary).


P.N. Butsinskii“Otkrytie Tobol’skoi eparkhii” 220.


Cited from P.N. ButsinskiiZaselenie Sibiri i byt pervykh eia nasel’nikov. Issledovanie (Kharkov: Tip. Gubernskago pravleniia1889) 110 114.


Romodanovskaia and Zhuravel’Literaturnye pamiatniki277.


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Romodanovskaia and Zhuravel’Literaturnye pamiatniki16–17.


EbbinghausDie altrussischen Marienikonen-Legenden137; Romodanovskaia Russkaia literatura v Sibiri 144.


Romodanovskaia and Zhuravel’Literaturnye pamiatniki278.


RomodanovskaiaRusskaia literatura v Sibiri141.


Romodanovskaia and Zhuravel’Literaturnye pamiatniki277–278.


Romodanovskaia and Zhuravel’Literaturnye pamiatniki390.


V.P. UspenskiiO pogoste Rozhke Ostashkovskogo uezda (Tver: Tipografiia Gubernskago Pravleniia1888) 10 38.


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