Elena Vladimirovna Belyakova,

Candidate of Historical Sciences, Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Transformation of the Concept of “Piety” in Russian Culture of the 17th Century


 DOI: 10.31518/2618-9100-2024-2-17

 This article continues to consider transformation of the concept of piety adopted in Russian culture of the 16th century political content. In the 16th century the idea of «pious» Russian rulers and the fact that Rus’ surpassed all other countries in piety took shape. This concept was set out in the Stepenaya kniga and in the Charter on the Establishment of the Patriarchate. The article shows, that Moscow publications of the first half of the 17th century necessarily call the Tsar “pious”, and the Russian kingdom – “shining in piety.” But already from the 30s of the 17th century they also contain a new theme of book correction, which is presented as the task of a pious tzar. In the widespread anonymous “Cosmography” “piety” appears as an attribute of the earth and it is said about the Moscow kingdom that there is no one similar to it in piety. In Kiev publications of the same period, “piety” is associated with the Eastern Church. At the same time, there is an appeal to the “pious reader” and the publisher is also characterized as “pious”; the concept of “zealots of piety” is also widely used. The article questions the correctness of calling the circle of clerics close to the court of Alexei Mikhailovich “zealots of piety.” Using examples from the works of Grigory Neronov and Archpriest Avvakum, it is shown that the spread of the concept of “ancient piety” is connected with the theme of the fight against “heresies.” Among opponents of reforms, the concept of “defenders of ancient piety” and “suffering for piety” became widespread. It is used especially often in the work “Russian Grapes” by Semyon Denisov, created in the 30s 18th century. By “ancient piety” they understood church tradition and existing customs undamaged by the Latin “heresy” or “Nikon’s innovations”. However, there was no unity in understanding the methods of preserving “ancient piety”, as shown by disputes about the widespread practice of self-immolation. In the literary tradition of the Vyg school, the idea was established that the preservation of piety is associated with following old printed books, and persecution by the official church was interpreted as persecution of piety. The Old Believer tradition preserved the concept of piety flourishing in Rus’, but associated it with pre-reform times. At the same time, it was asserted, that piety still shines in the Vyg monastery. As the texts of Patriarch Adrian and Afanasy Kholmogorsky show, the expression “Eastern piety” appeared in the official church. The idea of piety shining in Rus’ contributed to the creation of a mythology about Russia as the last stronghold of Orthodoxy.

Publishing: 28/04/2024

The article has been received by the editor on 27/12/2023

Original article >

How to cite: Belyakova E.V. Transformation of the Concept of “Piety” in Russian Culture of the 17th Century // Historical Courier, 2024, No. 2 (34), pp. 237–252. [Available online: http://istkurier.ru/data/2024/ISTKURIER-2024-2-17.pdf]

Links: Issue 2 2024

Keywords: Piety; prefaces to printed publications; Kiev printed publications; Old Believers; book correction