Domostroi 1-11

Chapers 1-11 of the Domostroi focus on themes of social hierarchy as well as the presence of a loving, merciful God. Chapter 1 instructs men to teach Christian values to their children, wives, and servants, in order to spread God’s will. As a testament to God being loving and forgiving, servants are never to be reprimanded with physical harm but with warmth and kindness. Chapter 2 through chapter 5 elaborate on the practices and values held within the orthodox faith. Good Christians must worship the holy trinity and Christ’s cross as well as believe in Christ’s Blood and Body as being present in the communion. The Domostroi instructs, in great detail, that communion must be received carefully and with a pure heart. Most importantly, it is a Christian’s duty to do the work of God and to care for the unfortunate, needy, or troubled individual. In reference to the importance of social hierarchy, chapter 5 is entirely devoted to treating bishops, priests, and monks with reverence and obedience, as God commanded.  In chapter 7, the tsar is honored as the “earthly king” while God is the “heavenly king”. There is a change from the merciful God we have previously seen in this chapter: “The Lord will destroy all those speaking falsely, slanderously, or deceitfully to the tsar, a prince, or any boyar.” The tsar and the princes are not deliverers of God’s mercy but agents of God’s punishment. The author is literally instilling the “fear of God” into the readers’ hearts so they will remember to always obey and honor the tsar. Chapter 8 through chapter 11 focus on respectful, appropriate behavior within the home, instructing readers to place icons in every room of their home, even explaining how to keep the icons clean. There are also instructions for how to invite a priest to your home and how to host a dinner party that honors God. One is to always eat gratefully and devoutly so as to keep angels close and warn away the devil.

Minstrels in Rus’

Due to the destruction caused by the Mongols during their invasion of Rus’, the culture of the time is not as well known as it is in other times. The Mongols obviously had significant impact on the culture of Rus’, but they also left large amounts of destruction in their wake, meaning that culture came second to other activities (namely: survival).

Painting, literature, and other forms of the performing arts were not as prevalent in this time, but we know that one thing that was very prevalent was wandering minstrels. These minstrels would go town to town performing their various arts or crafts for the people.

They were popular among the general populace (mainly in villages), but not as commonly seen in larger cities. This is primarily due to the Church warring against, and banning in some cases, the traveling minstrels due to their activities and methods. The Church was still trying to eliminate traces of paganism and they were very clearly carrying on the traditions of paganism.

The Mongols

This reading focused on a more particular aspect of the Mongol horde and their invasions in Rus. Rather it focused on the belief, by the chroniclers of Rus, of the Mongols being a punishment. As a result of the continuos lack in proper leadership by the princes of Rus, such as fighting amongst each other to control more power as opposed to honoring what they, as well as each other, had, the sight of the Mongol invaders quickly became to be believed as a punishment from God. I found this to be the most interesting aspect of the reading particularly due to the impact in which religion, primarily God, plays on society during this time.

This reading also focused on the affect of the Mongol invasions after having occurred. Particularly the affect the invasions had on the Orthodox Church. With the continuous Mongol invasions the Mongol forces, although having destroyed many of the churches, gained control over religion. As a result of this the Orthodox Church was able to successfully establish themselves as “an independent institution” which ultimately allowed the church to become less restricted and more powerful.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a compelling account of life in the Russian gulag system, based on Solzhenitsyn’s experiences. It deals with the various trials of living in labour camp, and strikingly presents the idea of the relativity of good fortune. A perfect example is the apparent good fortune of Ivan, because he sleeps in the barracks instead of the cells (165). However, the alternative example that I wish to focus on, is Solzhenitsyn’s  commentary on the Russian Orthodox Church. He describes Alyosha, a fellow prisoner who has been imprisoned for his Baptist beliefs. He is described as a naive prisoner, who does not understand the methods for survival within the camp. However, in one exchange between Ivan and Alyosha, the latter talks about the betrayal of the Orthodox Church. He implies that the Orthodox Church’s attempts to work within the communist system is a sin, and that those men who are imprisoned are more righteous in the eyes of the Lord (162-3). This opinion that prison is a method of penance raises a question pertaining to the legality and authority of the Orthodox Church. While the Church collaborated with the government to ensure it’s survival, what was the sentiment of the common man? Did the everyday Orthodox priest loyally follow the Church’s orders, or were they defiant like Alyosha and the other sects of Christianity?