The Tsar's Foreign Faiths: Toleration and the Fate of Religious Freedom in Imperial Russia

ISBN : 9780198786610

Paul W. Werth
304 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Mar 2016
Send mail

The Russian Empire presented itself to its subjects and the world as an Orthodox state, a patron and defender of Eastern Christianity. Yet the tsarist regime also lauded itself for granting religious freedoms to its many heterodox subjects, making 'religious toleration' a core attribute of the state's identity. The Tsar's Foreign Faiths shows that the resulting tensions between the autocracy's commitments to Orthodoxy and its claims to toleration became a defining feature of the empire's religious order. In this panoramic account, Paul W. Werth explores the scope and character of religious freedom for Russia's diverse non-Orthodox religions, from Lutheranism and Catholicism to Islam and Buddhism. Considering both rhetoric and practice, he examines discourses of religious toleration and the role of confessional institutions in the empire's governance. He reveals the paradoxical status of Russia's heterodox faiths as both established and 'foreign', and explains the dynamics that shaped the fate of newer conceptions of religious liberty after the mid-nineteenth century. If intellectual change and the shifting character of religious life in Russia gradually pushed the regime towards the acceptance of freedom of conscience, then statesmen's nationalist sentiments and their fears of 'politicized' religion impeded this development. Russia's religious order thus remained beset by contradiction on the eve of the Great War. Based on archival research in five countries and a vast scholarly literature, The Tsar's Foreign Faiths represents a major contribution to the history of empire and religion in Russia, and to the study of toleration and religious diversity in Europe.


1 Early-Modern Bequests
2 The Multiconfessional Establishment
3 Matters of Integrity
4 The Rhetoric and Content of 'Religious Toleration'
5 Prospects of Reform
6 Depoliticizing Piety, Russifying Faith
7 Towards Expanded Religious Freedom
8 Freedom of Conscience as Legislative Project
9 The Foreign Confessions in the Empire's Twilight
Conclusion: Between Toleration and Freedom of Conscience

About the author: 

Paul Werth obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1996 and has published widely on the history of religion and empire in tsarist Russia. He has held fellowships with the Slavic Research Center (Japan), the National Endowment for the Humanities (USA), National Humanities Center (USA), the Center for the Study of Russian, Central European, and Caucasus World (France), and the Center for Advanced Study at Ludwig-Maximaliens Universitat (Germany).

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.