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SOURCE:    Manuscript. Tambov: Gramota, 2023. № 5. P. 283-289.
SCIENTIFIC AREA:    Historical Sciences and Archeology
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The Russian Orthodox Church and the practice of spiritual influence on criminals in the conditions of the Yugra North in the late 16th to the early 20th century

Bortnikova Julia Aleksandrovna
Yugra State University

Submitted: 24.09.2023
Abstract. The aim of the research is to characterize the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in the penal institutions of the Yugra North region and the role of local priests in preventing crimes from the late 16th to the early 20th century. The first area of this activity was the work with prisoners, as the North region of Western Siberia was the place for exiling of both state and criminal offenders. The second area was the work with indigenous people, as the missionary work was not aimed only at christening but also at preventing religious crimes (return to paganism, shamanism, non-attendance of the church, etc.). The article identifies the stages and specific features of this church activity, which were influenced by the arctic climate and the nomadic lifestyle of the indigenous population. The research also examines the impact of the Russian criminal legislation and the Penitentiary Reform of 1879, which aimed to humanize the conditions of imprisonment, on the church’s policies in Yugra. The novelty of this study lies in the absence of previous publications on this topic and the use of a new approach to analyze the archived materials: the author utilizes statistical data from the State Archive of the Tyumen Region in Tobolsk to understand the ROC’s position on religious crimes committed by the indigenous peoples of the North. The research concludes that the ROC’s activities in the penitentiary field underwent significant changes during the late 19th and the early 20th century. Providing spiritual assistance to convicts for their reformation became a regular occurrence, while religious crimes committed by the indigenous peoples of the North remained unpunished. This situation was influenced by the overall processes happening within the Russian Empire, including the emergence of social contradictions and imminent revolutionary events. The state had to react to these circumstances by weakening control over outdated legislation and adopting new normative acts. In these conditions, the ROC’s efforts to prevent crimes aligned not only with Russia’s penitentiary policy but also with the political course as a whole. Despite the challenges associated with living and working in the Arctic North, the priests of Yugra fulfilled state tasks. Overall, the ROC’s activities in preventing religious crimes reflected the complex socio-political processes occurring within Russian society. These contradictions ultimately led to the Revolution of 1917, and with the establishment of “scientific atheism” as part of the state ideology, the concept of “religious crime” was abolished, and spiritual activities by priests in places of confinement were prohibited.
Key words and phrases: церковь, миссионерство, Югра, тюрьма, коренные народы, священник, пенитенциарная система, ссылка, каторга, Север, church, missionary work, Yugra, prison, indigenous peoples, priest, penitentiary system, exile, penal servitude, North
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