Halperin’s extensively researched, methodically logical and thought out, and clearly written, if perforce selective study of Ivan iv and his reign scrupulously devotes attention to the reliability of the available sources. The author’s leitmotif here is that diplomatic papers and chronicles, as well as polemical literature, à la the disputed Ivan iv-Kurbskii epistolary exchange, as well as the History attributed to the latter and also foreigners’ reports, can simultaneously be authentic, authorial works and factually unreliable. Halperin flags in such sources numerous statements which stand either uncorroborated by other sources, some surely not credible, such as the young Ivan as a “monster in training,” or contradicted by them, for example, that oprichnina members were totally separated from the rest of Russian society. Halperin also modifies Michael Cherniavsky’s “Renaissance Prince” paradigm for Ivan iv with an emphasis on the explosive social tensions seen for this era and the dynamics of the domestic terror which the tsar unleashed, as well as his personal religious sensitivities and political ideology. Herein Halperin perceptively grasps the anomaly of Ivan’s repudiating the lasting, state-strengthening reforms of the 1550s. This reviewer takes partial responsibility for where Halperin was misled by the ‘Kurbskii’ History regarding Trans-Volgan hermitages.
Iosif Volotskii’s practical and rhetorical mastery of logic was a major factor in its pedagogical and polemical effectiveness. This logic pervades his Prosvetitel’ (Book against the Novgorod Heretics) in the structure of each discourse, grouping of the discourses, ordering of subjects and themes within and among the discourses, hypothetical heretical objections and Orthodox refutations, sequencing of proof texts, application of syllogistic literary devices, explicit epistemological principles, emphasis on and variety of proofs, enthymematic presentation of both the major heretical doctrines and the Orthodox correctives, and overall syllogistic interconnectedness. The numerous formal refutations in Discourse 11 partially explains its division into four chapters, while the greater unity of discourse structure of the theological Discourses 1–11, in contrast to the more prosecutorial Discourses 12–16, speaks in favor of the chronological primacy of the brief redaction. The positive theology and ethics are presented as a coherent whole, as is the binary opposition of legitimate ruler, pastor or pious layman vs. the tyrant, “wolf,” or lay heretic. The reliability of Prosvetitel’ as a source for dissidence remains questionable, but its pedagogical utility for Orthodox Muscovites is indisputable.
This scholar’s work on Nil Sorskii and Iosif Volotskii progressed unevenly from adhering to Ia.S. Lur’e’s modification of the traditional Nil vs. Iosif paradigm to a strident assertion of their collaborative alliance promoting monasticism and resolutely opposing dissidence, with a mixture of intersection and compatible differences of emphasis in their original writings. But one must concede the possibility that Nil’s collaboration did not include support of Iosif’s enthusiastic endorsement of monasterial riches, the commemoration culture that bolstered it, and the harshest measures against convicted heretics. And while in in no way provable, one cannot know for certain that Nil did not speak up in some way against monasterial riches at a Moscow synod in 1503.