[Post]-Reformation Influences and the Coming of Age of the Baptist Movement in the Russian Empire (1858–1911)
The issue of Baptist origins in the Russian Empire is the subject of hot debates even after more than a century of research. Russian Orthodox polemists at the end of the nineteenth century laid responsibility for the emergence and spread of the movement predominantly on foreign missionary propaganda. But even at the time of the total dominance of the Russian Orthodox Church, this could not convince serious students who, nonetheless, admitted the presence of a foreign factor in the formation of the movement. On the other hand, attempts to explain Baptist origins predominantly by providential factors look rather naive and deserve a critique. It seems that at the end of the twentieth–beginning of the twentyfirst century, scholars reached a consensus that the Baptist movement in the Russian Empire was of neither purely “Western” nor ex clusively “indigenous,” but a “hybrid,” comprising both components. Indeed, what became known as Russian Baptism resulted from the complex interaction of social and economic changes, examples of Western devotional practices, polity and influences, and ambitious and creative indigenous leadership. The history of Baptist origins in Ukraine and the Russian Empire assures us that attempts to label this religious movement either exclusively “indigenous” or “foreign” tend to oversimplify the process of its formation.
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