Altar and classroom: the Orthodox schools in the Baltic provinces 1870–1914
This project focuses on the confessional aspects of the modern history of the Baltic. The presence of a substantial Orthodox minority in the Baltic lands – composed largely of Estonian and Latvian peasants – has been neglected in the historiography of the region.
Even though it is a well-known fact that Estonian and Latvian peasants had the highest literacy rates in the whole of the Russian Empire, not many people know that a substantial part of elementary education (up to one third) was provided by the Orthodox Church. Thus, the current project funded by the Estonian Research Council (PUT 428) is focusing on this neglected aspect of Baltic history, aiming at a thorough archival study of the activity of these schools during the period of Russification between 1870 and 1914.
The role of education in this period has become prominent, and following the Franco-Prussian war (which was famously described as won by a Prussian schoolteacher), all European countries began paying a lot of attention to the development of school systems.
Eric Hobsbawm argued that the era from 1870 to 1914 was the age of the primary school. The classroom was the medium through which the notions of discipline, public order, citizenship, and national identity were sought to be imposed. What notions of citizenship were promoted through education in the Baltic borderlands of the Russian Empire?
Our research aims to demonstrate what the central state wanted to achieve through the Orthodox schools, and how the schools were administered and financed. We also need to understand the social component of these schools, including the social background of the teachers and students. In our research we look at schools not as objects of state-imposed identity programmes, but as areas in which different interests competed, policies were ignored or subverted and various forms of local initiative were taken.
This is very much a ‘history from below’ approach, which shifts the focus from state policies and ideologies to a community level looking at individual and everyday life.
The study of Orthodoxy in the Baltic region is currently experiencing a revival, yet the role of the Orthodox Church in education remains fairly unstudied. Our project fills the gap and provides evidence for the study of Orthodoxy elsewhere. Many studies have focused on the spiritual and ritual aspects of Orthodoxy, leaving the social work of the church neglected.
During the three years of the project a substantial amount of primary evidence has been uncovered: the materials of the Ministry of Education, the Holy Synod, the Riga Ecclesiastical Consistory, individual local parishes and schools, autobiographical documents, textbooks, school plans, and evidence from schools, including rare photographs of schoolchildren with teachers, and school journals.
The results of the project have been published in three languages, in scholarly journals and collective volumes. In 2015, the University of Tartu hosted an international conference “Orthodoxy in the Baltic Rim religion, politics and education (1840s–1945 and beyond)”. A collection of articles resulting from the conference is currently being prepared.
The project is carried out by Dr. Irina Paert and Dr. Liudmila Dubjeva with help from doctoral student Toomas Schvak.
- Orthodox education in the Lutheran environment 1840-1917. Nordost-Archiv: Zeitschrift für Regionalgeschichte, XXVI, xx−xx [forthcoming].
Pravoslavnye shkoly v Pribaltiiskikh provitsiiakh (1840-1914): problemy religioznoi i etnicheskoi identichnosti’ [Orthodox schools in the Baltic provinces (1840-1914): problems of religious and ethnic identity], E. Tokareva (ed). Religioznoe obrazovanie v Rossii i Evrope XIX v. [Religious education in Russia and Europe in the Nineteenth century], (St Petersburg: Rossiiskaia khristianskaia gumanitarnaia akademiia, 2016). 186-202.
‘Orthodox Education in a Baltic province of Imperial Russia and Independent Estonia from 1840s till 1941’, Quaestio Rossica 3 (2014): 142-158 (co-authored with Toomas Schvak).
- ‘Uchebnaia literatura v pravoslavnykh shkolakh Lifliandii vo vtoroi polovine XIX -nachale XX vv. kak sposob vkliucheniia inorodtsev v imperskoe prostranstvo’ [Teaching literature in the Orthodox schools of Livland between the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries as a method of inclusion of non-Russian subjects into the Empire], Problemy sovremennogo obrazovaniia [Studies in Contemporary Education] 4 (2014): 5-31.
- Dubjeva, Ljudmila (2016). Ревизия сенатора Н. А. Манасеина в Прибалтийских губерниях в отражении современных ей архивных документов (1882-1883). Русский сборник: Исследования по истории России., 19, 330−377.
- Dubjeva, Ljudmila (2016). Письмо Преосвященного Доната, Епископа Рижского и Митавского о переходе шведов острова Вормси в православие. Православие в Балтии, 5 (14), 165−169.