The Sacral and the Secular in Autobiographical Practices of the Modern Period (Eighteenth to Early Twentieth Centuries)

  • 03.06.2016 - 04.06.2016
  • DHI Moskau, ul. Voroncovskaja, 8/7
  • Konferenzen

Workshop im Rahmen des Forschungsprojektes „Die Kirche spricht“

Organizers: D.A. Sdvizhkov (German Historical Institute in Moscow) in cooperation with Laurie Manchester (Arizona State University).
Description: The workshop is part of the research project, carried out by the German Historical Institute in Moscow and entitled “The Church Speaks: The Ecclesiastical Language and Social Practices in Russia during the Synodal Period (Eighteenth to Early Twentieth Century)” (

The importance for the history of Russia of the Soviet era and the imperial period of the eighteenth to early twentieth century notwithstanding, the last few decades have demonstrated a steady growth of interest in studying self-descriptions of social communities and the establishment of individual self-awareness of the modern type. This calls for inquiry into ego-documents and autobiographical practices in the broader sense of the term (not only diaries and letters but other materials as well, such as administrative, legal, or economic texts, which allow drawing conclusions regarding their authors’ social identities and individual self-awareness). Along with a growing number of studies dedicated to autobiographies by the nobility and other educated classes of the imperial period, a substantial body of research into the merchantry, peasantry, and other “lower” classes has emerged. With few exceptions, autobiographical works by clergymen of the Synodal period have yet to become an object of special study.

The workshop aims to establish the potential of research into this field: to define the corpus of sources and their peculiarities and to ascertain the degree of scholarly interest; to delineate the key parameters of autobiographical practices as they developed among clergy, and to compare clerical self-description with that by other social groups in Russia and, possibly, abroad.

The period in question: the so-called Synodal period, not excluding forays into the periods before the eighteenth century and after 1917.
The subject matter: ego-documents by priests and other ecclesiastics of various ranks who belonged to the so-called “dominant,” i.e., Russian Orthodox Church. This, too, does not preclude comparisons and parallels with external material (that is, from outside the official Orthodox Church or by lay people who did not formally belong to the clerical estate or were not Russian residents).
The workshop’s objectives are:
•    To compare (auto)biographical practices of ecclesiastics with those of other social groups and to establish how they influenced one another;
•    To see how individual self-awareness correlated with group identities of the so-called “clerical estate”;
•    To explore the impact of the Church’s personality culture on the establishment of modern self in Russia;
•    To introduce scholarship to a body of primary sources of personal origin created by this social group, which would help expand the corpus of available sources on the history of the eighteenth-nineteenth century.
•    The proceedings of the workshop will appear as a volume of collected works, published in the framework of a joint project Studia Europaea/Historia Rossica of the German Historical Institute in Moscow and the New Literary Observer publishing house.
•    The possibility of making a critical edition of unpublished or rare sources (as an anthology) will be discussed as well.

Organizational: The German Historical Institute will reimburse workshop participants for travel and living expenses and help non-Russian nationals obtain entry visas.
Working languages: Russian and English.

Applications: Please submit abstracts of up to 300 words by October 31, 2015, to denis.sdvizkov(at)

Please submit only original, never published work.

Confirmed participants will have to submit their completed papers for distribution among other workshop attendees by May 1, 2016.