Administrating a Right Life: Secular and Spiritual Guidance at Solovki Monastery in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

in Russian History
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The spiritual and economic endeavors of Russian monasteries in the pre-modern period have often been studied as separate issues by scholars researching the internal life and/or impact of cloisters in a particular region. However, these two areas of monastic life worked not just in tandem, but were mutually supportive as can be observed in the responsibilities and duties of monastic leaders and officers. Solovki Monastery, with its extensive wealth and strong spiritual leadership in northern Russia, provides an excellent example for exploring the manner in which spiritual leadership and spiritual labor dovetailed with economic responsibilities and labors. A broad variety of economic records as well as pious literature and instructional texts provide evidence for the merged spiritual and temporal/economic roles of the leaders, cellarers, treasurers, bailiffs, and other individuals and groups that had designated duties or titles within the cloister. It can be observed that spiritual power and economic success were considered mutually reinforcing among the monks and the surrounding population of Solovki, and at other monasteries of pre-Petrine Russia.

Administrating a Right Life: Secular and Spiritual Guidance at Solovki Monastery in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

in Russian History




Paul BushkovitchReligion and Society in Russia: The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (New York: Oxford Univ. Press1992) 4.


BushkovitchReligion and Society6 9.


Isaiah Gruber“Black Monks and White Gold: The Solovetskii Monastery’s Prosperous Salt Trade during the Time of Troubles,” Russian History 37 no. 3 (2010): 238–49. On salt production and trade see also Bushkovitch The Merchants of Moscow (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press 1980) chapter 8.


RGADA f. 1201op. 1 d. 50 Delo o Savy. A transcript of Delo o Savy from an unknown manuscript is in Ivanov but it appears to be a different copy: Bukhgalterskii uchet 189–94.


SavichSolovetskaia votchina211–12. Cf. Spock “Solovki Monastery” 246–47: Bulotnikov gave more than 3200 rubles-worth of gifts to the cloister and yet no monk named Alexander appears on Solovki’s lists of council elders who signed off on various administrative books during his time there.


Georg MichelsAt War with the Church: Religious Dissent in Seventeenth-Century Russia (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press1999) 145.


DykstraRussian Monastic Culture90–96.


Spock“Solovki Monastery” 181–82. Seventy-five percent of the monks at Solovki for whom a hometown was recorded can be identified to have come from regions villages settlements or towns from the northern regions of Muscovy. Although the cities of Novgorod Archangel and Kargopol can be included in these figures the merchants and traders who hailed from those cities did not choose to donate to Solovki the types of gifts in kind offered by the more sophisticated Muscovite aristocracy. Wealthy northern merchants and traders who had the means to give gifts of tremendous value often donated wheat boats horses and other more mundane goods than the gold silver and richly appointed liturgical items and vestments gifted by the Moscow elite: Spock “Community Building and Social Identity” 546–48 557. This evidence speaks to a social group that identified more closely with the daily routines of northern life than with the ritual needs and pageantry of the liturgy. See Bushkovitch on the identification of the social and political elite with the liturgical service: Religion and Society 8–9.


IvanovBukhgalterskii uchet38–41.


DykstraRussian Monastic Culture132.


IvanovBukhgalterskii uchet32 39 44.


Spock“Giving Voice to the Voiceless” 32–35.


Georg Michels“Ruling without Mercy: Seventeenth-Century Russian Bishops and Their Officials,” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian HistoryNew Series 4 no. 3 (Summer 2003): 515–42.


Michels“Solovki Uprising” 7.

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