Edinoverie and the Concept of Confessionalisation: Discursive Remarks

James White


This article considers whether ‘confessionalization’ can be used to understand and conceptualise the period of edinoverie reforms between 1905 and 1918. Edinoverie was a missionary movement founded in 1800 by Metropolitan Platon (Levshin) that allowed converts from Old Belief to maintain their old rituals in exchange for their loyalty to the Church. The concept of confessionalization was developed by Wolfgang Reinhard and Heinz Schilling in the 1980s to explain religious and social developments in the history of the German Reformation and how these structural processes laid the foundations for the evolution of the absolutist state. The concept puts forward the hypothesis that the religious competition in the aftermath of Luther and Calvin led to the development of strongly delineated confessions and confessional identities, which were propounded and enforced by ever-more comprehensive church administrative organs. The increased level of authority that these administrative bodies gave to church elites allowed for heightened surveillance of behavior and the disciplining of deviancy. The German princes were inherently interested in this process: this frequently led to integration between churches and states, which in turn developed the administrative reach of governments. While the concept is not unproblematic, it has become a cornerstone of historiographical research about the Reformation in both Germany and other European countries: some historians have also applied it to Russia. This article considers the parallels with between confessionalization in Reformation Germany and the programme of edinoverie reforms launched by Father Simeon Shleev after 1905. It argues that, while edinoverie’s peculiarities make it necessary to be cautious when applying confessionalization to this case, conceptualizing edinoverie’s history in the early twentieth century as confessionalization offers numerous benefits to historians.


confessionalization; edinoverie; Old Belief; German Reformation; Orthodoxy; Simeon Shleev; Local Church Council of 1917–1918.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2016.4.199


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