I think that this reading really helps to give a sense of how ingrained the Russian Orthodox Church was in early Rus society. The most obvious example of this is clearly the Chronicles themselves and how they are written. For instance, when Novgorod did not want to submit to the rule of the Grand Prince, the Chronicles portrayed it as not a political schism, but one of deep religious controversy. Instead of saying that the people of Novgorod had betrayed the Grand Prince, the Chronicles claim that Novgorod betrayed the commandments of God himself. As such, the battles between the Novgorodians and the armies of the Grand Prince are horribly skewed in favor of the Muscovites, making ridiculous claims that an army of 4000 Muscovites was able to defeat the Novgorod army, which mustered nearly 40,000 men.
Another indicator of the power the church had during this time period are the records that we have from after the Mongol invasion. In the analysis given by Kaiser and Marker, they talk about how the Mongols were viewed as pagans sent by God to punish the people of Rus for the infighting going on at the time. In spite of these views and the Chronicles consistent criticizing of the Mongols as being “godless pagans” the Orthodox Church was allowed to survive under Mongol rule and was given vast amounts of power. As long as the khan’s tax was paid, the Orthodox Church was allowed to continue its existence and it was able to develop a level of influence among the people that would never truly vanish. I believe that this was the point in Russian history were the Orthodox Church began to latch onto the power it now holds. Very few places in the world show so much dedication to their religion as Russia does; despite decades of oppression by the Soviets, the Orthodox Church immediately resurfaced after the fall of the Soviet Union and is still heavily influential in the government. I believe that without the Mongol invasion this may not have happened.
I wonder if the Mongol invasion cemented the church’s power, or if the invasion was only able to have the effect it had because of the church’s power already in place. If the Orthodox church had not perpetuated the idea, as the Chronicles do, that the Mongols were “pagans” set on the Russian land for the peoples’ sins (“The Novgorod Chronicle on the Mongol Invasion” 101), would the Mongols have not been seen as such villains, and therefore have gained and held on to more power? I wonder, if the Church had not already had so much influence over the people at the time of the Mongol invasion, then would the Mongols have been able to assume easily the position of the most powerful–and respected–institution in the Russian people’s lives?
Despite the fact that I’m supposed to disagree with others if I’m ever to be a historian, I agree with your idea. I think that the Mongol invasion absolutely provided an opportunity for the Orthodox church that may not have manifested itself otherwise. The Mongol invasion gave the church the ability to truly become a part of the culture of Rus’. Before, the church was an institution supporting the government and supported by the government, but it was very heavily linked to the progress, wealth, and influence of the state. However, the Mongol invasion allowed the church to become a part of Rus’ life even during a time of great political turmoil (which is often when churches have the highest attendance rates).
I agree with the idea that the Mongol Invasion acted as a catalyst, which allowed the Orthodox Church to take such a strong hold in Rus culture and society.
The excerpt describing the Mongol Invasion also depicts how the Church thrived under the supposed Mongol Yoke. How else could the Chronicle have been written (and with such an admonishing tone), without a flourishing, powerful church? If the Church were squashed along with the royalty, the Chronicle wouldn’t have been able to portray the invasion as a purging of the sinners.
It’s interesting and seems counter intuitive that an invasion as powerful as the Mongols could actually boost church influence. Despite being depicted as a savage-like people by the chronicles, the Mongols seemed to have no problem with leaving the Orthodox Church’ s power as long as there was compensation. For the people of Rus, this perseverance probably also boosted faith in the Orthodox Church. Despite being attacked by the most powerful force at the time, their religion still survived.