Thursday, October 1, 2015

Lucien J. Frary's "Russia and the Making of Modern Greek Identity, 1821-1844"

Lucien Frary received a PhD in History from the University of Minnesota in 2003 and is now Associate Professor of History at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ. His main areas of interest are Mediterranean, Slavic, and Eastern Orthodox studies in the post-Byzantine era. He is the co-editor (with Mara Kozelsky) of Russian-Ottoman Borderlands: The Eastern Question Reconsidered and the author of articles and reviews in scholarly journals such as Russian History, Mediterranean Historical Review, Kritika, and Modern Greek Studies Yearbook.

Frary applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Russia and the Making of Modern Greek Identity, 1821-1844, and reported the following:
How do the Greeks of today relate to their Classical and Byzantine past? What role does religion play in Greek social and political life? How did the outside world contribute to the making of modern Greece? These are some of the questions raised on page 99 of Russia and the Making of Modern Greek Identity, 1821-1844. Based on a wide range of unpublished Russian archival documents and Greek historical sources, the book illuminates the connection between religion, politics, and the past in the formation of Greek nationhood during the first decades of the nineteenth century. It also probes the development of Russian foreign policy in the Balkans during this era, when the ideas of nationalism first began to circulate among the Balkan elite as well as among the paragons of Russian culture.

As p. 99 demonstrates, the idea about national and political independence in the Balkans was intimately linked to the question of religious independence. In other words, once the movement for separation from Ottoman rule began to take root among Greek intellectuals, the demand for a break from the Patriarch of Constantinople and the creation of an independent (or autocephalous in ecclesiastical terms) Greek Orthodox Church emerged. Throughout this process, the tensions between secular nationalism and religion helped spawn a new sense of identity among the subjects of the Greek kingdom. The book concerns itself with the hybrid nature of Greek nationhood, which became an amalgam of the past and present, of modernity and tradition. It suggests that the nature of nationalism is not purely secular, as the major theoretical works on national identity tend to argue. The example of the Greek state is important, for it set the groundwork for the fracturing of the Eastern Orthodox Church into national churches during the latter decades of the nineteenth century. Lastly, p. 99 of the study, I hope, helps indicate that the volume contains interesting illustrations and may appeal to a range of readers.
Learn more about Russia and the Making of Modern Greek Identity, 1821-1844 at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue