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The Paradoxes of Kozheozero

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image of Russian History

The Kozheozero Monastery of the Epiphany was founded by the monk Nifont in the mid-16th century. Located in the impenetrable swamps west of the Onega River, it was one of the most remote religious houses in the Russian North and should have remained small in size and insignificant in cultural history. Yet it came to exemplify the complex and seemingly contradictory character of Muscovite religious life in the 17th century, when it attracted about a hundred seekers after solitude to a wilderness community where they found wooden churches surrounded by huts but also a rich sacristy, an extensive library, and an icon collection that reflected the fashions of the capital. Thanks to the support of the new Romanov dynasty, the long residence of the noted ascetic Nikodim, the brief abbacy of the future Patriarch Nikon, and the Moscow connections of the community’s most well-known monk Bogolep L’vov, Kozheozero surprisingly grew into a significant literary and artistic center. The spread of Western cultural influence in court circles and major provincial centers has received considerable attention, but the achievements of Kozheozero demonstrate that the new trends also penetrated the most isolated areas of the Muscovite state.


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