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Social Revolution in Russian Female Monasticism: The Case of the Convent of the Intercession, 1700–1917

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Focusing on central Orthodox regions in post-Petrine Russia, Marlyn Miller investigates the changing social composition of nuns in Orthodox convents from 1700 through 1917 through a case study on the Convent of the Intercession in Suzdal. Primarily based on a careful study of archival documents, Miller reveals a dramatic drop in the percentage of noblewomen among the ranks of the nuns in Russian convents and a growing predominance of women from the ranks of the peasantry—a “democratization”, as Marlyn characterizes it, among the social composition of female monastics. This trend was already in place following Catherine II’s secularlization policies and continued throughout the nineteenth century. In post-reform Russia, this accompanied a general growth in the number of female monastics, which tripled from 1869 to 1914, in part following general population trends, but also corresponding to the spiritual revivalism of this era. Intriguingly, however, Miller finds that key motivations for women to enter monasteries remained largely unchanged and centered on economic need, dedication to their faith, or personal reasons of family or marriage avoidance up to 1917.

Affiliations: 1: Brandeis University,


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