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A Borderland Mission: The Russian Orthodox Church in the Black Sea Region *

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Turning to the Russian Empire’s southern borders, Mara Kozelsky assesses Orthodox missions in the provinces of “New Russia” on the northern coast of the Black Sea with a focus on the work of Archbishop Innokentii (Borisov) in the mid-nineteenth century and his attempts to strengthen Orthodoxy in this ethnically and confessionally diverse region. Kozelsky argues that Orthodox leaders saw the Orthodox faith, rather than language or culture, as the key to assimilation into the empire, but that they respected the juridical stature of Muslims and various Protestant groups and worked around rights given to Catholics after the 1847 concordat with Rome. Some success came of Innokenty’s efforts among the Russian sectarians and Old Believers, but mission work among the Crimean Tatars and Protestant colonists were largely fruitless. In the end, “Christianizing” the region came not so much from individual conversions as from reconstructing the region’s Christian past and promoting large public celebrations that drew upon centuries of Byzantine history and the Christian past of the region to promote a Christian identity for the region.

Affiliations: 1: University of South Alabama,


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