The icon of the New Martyrs of Russia

REL 325: History of Eastern Christianity II: From the Fall of Constantinople to the Fall of Communism

TTh 10:00-11:50


Professor: Stephen Shoemaker 
Telephone: 346-4998
sshoemak (at) uoregon (dot) edu  

Office: 813 PLC
Office Hours: TTh 1-2  

(or by appointment)





The New Martyrs of Russia who suffered death for Christ



 Course Description and Objectives | Textbooks | Assignments
 Expectations and Regulations | Grading Scale | Handouts 1 2 (Word Format: 1 2)

Internet Resources of General Use: If you have a general question about a particular person, concept, etc., you might try these resources first to find an answer. 

Schedule of Assignments and Suggested Internet Resources



Course Description and Objectives


The subject of this course is the history of Eastern Christianity from the fall of Constantinople in the 15th century until the fall of European Communism in the late 20th.  The first part of the class will focus on Christianity in the Ottoman Empire, which took the place of the Byzantine Empire after the latter's fall.  The second half of the class will focus on the history of Christianity in Russia and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Europe.  In the course of the term, students will write reflective essays on several primary sources, each selected to represent the historical diversity of the Christian traditions, as well as to present certain basic problems and issues from the history of Christianity.






  • Steven Runciman, The Great Church in Captivity: A Study of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the Eve of the Turkish Conquest to the Great War, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-31310-4.

  • Dimitry Pospielovsky, The Orthodox Church in the History of Russia, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, ISBN 0-88141-179-5. 

Optional (for various paper topics - you will need at least one)

  • Helen Bacovcin, trans., The Way of a Pilgrim, Image Books, ISBN 0-385-46814-8.

  • George Mastrantonis, Augsburg and Constantinople, Hellenic College Press, ISBN 0916586820.

  • Michael Oleksa, ed., Alaskan Missionary Spirituality (Blackboard).

  • Vladimir Solovyov, The Meaning of Love, Lindisfarne Press, ISBN 0-940262-18-5.

Internet Resources of General Use

The Catholic Encyclopedia Although this is an older edition (1907-12), there are many excellent articles on many of the key people, events, concepts, etc. covered in this class.  Although the articles naturally reflect a particularly Roman Catholic point of view, they are almost always fair and accurate.  The articles are often lengthy, but are usually worth the read. 

Glossary of Theological Terms This glossary, taken from Alister McGrath's Christian Theology (2nd edition) published by Blackwell Publishers, provides succinct definitions for a number of theological technical terms.




Attendance at all class sessions is expected.  Since class sessions will involve a fair amount of student discussion, students should read all the assignments carefully before coming to class.  Assignments will generally involve about 100 pages of reading per week.  Everyone should be prepared to contribute both ideas and questions to the class discussions.  Assignments and grading are as follows:

A.  Two exams: 4/28 & 8:00 Friday, June 10 (60%) 


B.  Class attendance and participation (10%) 


C.  One 5-6 page (double-spaced: approx. 1500 words) essays (30%), chosen from the following options.


1.      Due 4/19.  Read The Way of a Pilgrim, 13-94 and the appended selections from the Philokalia in the same book, 176-194 and answer the following questions: “How does 'the Pilgrim' understand the Bible's command to pray constantly?  What sort of practices does the Pilgrim adopt in order pray constantly?  How does he understand the relationship of prayer to other aspects of the Christian life, such as serving others, or theology?  What do you think of this interpretation of Christianity?  Do you have a different understanding of what the command to pray constantly might mean?”


2.      Due 5/5.  Read Mastrantonis, Augsburg and Constantinople, 31-103; 106-149 (and the pages assigned below) and answer the following questions: “What are the primary issues of disagreement between the Lutherans and the Patriarch?  Is there significant agreement on certain points?  Do you think that the two sides have more in common than in dispute?  Are some points of disagreement more significant than the others?  Do you sympathize with one side more than the other?  Explain your answer.”


3.      Due 5/24.  Read Oleksa, Alaskan Missionary Spirituality, 68-72; 80-120; 132-135; 238-251; 285-340 (Blackboard) and answer the following questions: “How would you characterize the relations between the Russian missionaries and the native Alaskans?  What is the nature of the Christianity that the missionaries preach?  To what extent to the missionaries show respect for traditional religion?  Do you see them more as exploiters or protectors of the native peoples?  Do you observe any significant differences in the treatment of the natives by the Russians and Americans?”


4.      Due 5/31.  Read Solovyov, The Meaning of Love and answer the following questions: “What is Solovyov's understanding of erotic love between humans and its religious significance?  What does erotic love have to do with Christian faith and the relationship between God and human beings?  What do you think of Solovyov's views?  What do you consider to be the strengths and weaknesses of his position?  To what degree do you find his views compatible with the Christian tradition?  Why or why not?”


Format of Essay:  In answering the questions, first of all, briefly summarize the contents of the text(s) regarding the questions asked: what do the texts say?  Then, take a clear position in response to the texts and defend it: imagine that your reader believes the opposite and that you are trying to persuade him or her.  Your assignment for this paper is to write from a perspective outside of the traditions in question.  Do not make the mistake of giving a spiritual autobiography or a narrative of how this text relates to your own personal spiritual life and faith.  Do not make the mistake of just dismissing the ideas of a text because you have different religious beliefs: if you disagree, give convincing reasons why.  In all instances, strive for an impersonal and objective tone: you need to represent the contents of the text(s) fairly and accurately and give thoughtful reasons for your response.  Your goal for this assignment is to approach and consider these religious traditions as objects of study from the outside, NOT from the perspective of an insider, legitimate as this perspective is in other contexts.  Even if one is a believer in a particular tradition, the purpose of taking this class is to learn how to see and study the same phenomena from a perspective outside of the tradition.  In general, it is good to avoid using "I," "me," "my," "we," "our," "you", "your" (except in quotations of course); you should give your opinions, but write them using the third person.  Also, while you should cite examples from the texts, be sure to explain and contextualize any quotations made, and be sure that your own voice is not lost in a sea of quotations. All quotations must be identified as such, and references to the text should be given parenthetically either as a page number or section number, as appropriate.  Take care to write correctly and well: you will be graded for grammar and style as well as content.  Finally, please number your pages.  For extra help and advice on writing your paper, the University Teaching and Learning Service in the basement of PLC is an invaluable resource.

Expectations and Regulations

1.  Preparation:  You are expected to come to class having completed the reading assignments for that session.  You should be prepared to discuss and ask questions about the assignments.  Note also that some material from the readings that is not covered in class may be included on the examinations. 

2.  Participation and Class Attendance: You should come to class prepared to ask questions and to discuss the readings for that session.  Regular class attendance is required, and attendance will be taken.  If you expect to miss class doe to illness, observance of religious holy days, or other extenuating circumstances, please notify the instructor in advance at sshoemak (at) uoregon (dot) edu.

3.  Late Papers: Unless an extension has been arranged in advance, late papers will be marked down one full letter grade for each day after the due date.  Late papers will not be accepted more than three days after the due date. 

4.  Make-up or Early Exams: will be allowed only in truly exceptional circumstances, in the case of unforeseeable events beyond the student’s control and must be approved by the instructor in advance. 

5.  Plagiarism or Cheating: Plagiarism or Cheating: Students caught plagiarizing or cheating on any assignment will be reported to the Student Conduct Coordinator in the Office of the Dean of Students.  Students who are aware of cheating or plagiarism are encouraged to inform the instructor.  If you are uncertain as to what constitutes plagiarism (or other forms of academic dishonesty), please consult this helpful guide from the UO library concerning plagiarism, as well as the UO's Policy on Academic Dishonesty

6.  Completion of Assignments:  Completion of all required assignments is necessary to pass and receive credit for the course.  Incompletes will be granted only at the discretion of the instructor and only in case of circumstances beyond the student's control. 

7.  Special Needs: Students with special needs requiring academic accommodations should 1) register with and provide documentation to Disability Services; 2) bring a letter to the instructor indicating that you need academic accommodations, and we will arrange to meet them.  This should be done during the first week of class. 

Grading Scale








Course Outline


Week 1 (Handout 1)

3/29 Introduction  

Read: Runciman, 3-18; Pospielovsky, 1-14

3/31 The Fall of Constantinople

Read: Runciman, 18-37; 75-81; 112-61; Patriarch Anthony: Defending the Position of the Emperor, 1395

Week 2

4/5 Constantinople and Istanbul

Read: Runciman, 165-225; The Status of Jews and Christians in Muslim Lands; James M. Ludlow: The Tribute of Children, 1493

4/7 Constantinople and Rome

Read: Runciman, 81-111; 226-37; The Council of Florence (selections)

Week 3

4/12 Constantinople and Wittenberg

Read: Runciman, 238-58; Mastrantonis, Augsburg and Constantinople, 289-306; 308-14 (Blackboard)

4/14 Constantinople and Geneva

Read: Runciman, 259-88; Cyril Loukaris, Confession  

Week 4

4/19  Constantinople and Canterbury

Read: Runciman, 289-319; Selected Correspondence between the Nonjuring English Bishops and the Eastern Orthodox Church

First paper due

4/21 Constantinople and Moscow

Read: Pospielovsky, 15-50; 81-84; Russian Primary Chronicle: The Christianisation of Russia

Week 5

4/26 Moscow and Rome

Read: Pospielovsky, 84-103; Filofei: Moscow as the Third Rome; Peter Moghila, Orthodox Confession (selections)

4/28 Test 1

Week 6 (Handout 2)

5/3 Divisions and Schisms in the Early Russian Church

Read: Pospielovsky, 50-55; 57-77; Life of the Archpriest Avvakum (selections)

5/5 Church and State in Imperial Russia

Read: Pospielovsky, 105-30; 133-54; Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Pt II, Bk 6, Ch 3; Nikolai Berdyaev, A. S. Khomyakov as Philosopher

Second paper due  

Week 7

5/10 Contacts with the West: Missions and Dialogue

Read: Pospielovsky, 154-57; 159-86; The Life of St Herman of Alaska; Alexei Khomiakov, Second Letter to William Palmer

5/12 The Russian Renaissance and the End of the Empire

Read: Pospielovsky, 186-89; 191-215; An Overview Of Russian Philosophy; Outlines of Four Major Thinkers' Ideas; Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Grand Inquisitor; Alexei Khomiakov, Third Letter to William Palmer

Week 8

5/17 The Bolshevik Revolution and the Russian Church

Read: Pospielovsky, 219-66; Letter from Lenin to Molotov; From the Lives of the Newly Canonized Martyrs; Letter from Gorky to Stalin

5/19 The Bolshevik Revolution and the Russian Diaspora

Read: John Erickson, Orthodox Christians in America, 54-101 (Blackboard)

Week 9

5/24 The Russian Church and the Second World War

Read: Pospielovsky, 269-310; Speech of M. G. Karpov at Council of the Orthodox Church, 1945

Third paper due

5/26 The Russian Church in the Cold War

Read: Pospielovsky, 313-49

Week 10

5/31 The Old Believer Communities of Oregon

Read: A History of Oregon's Old Believer Community

Fourth paper due

6/2 Eastern Christianity and the End of Communism

Read: Pospielovsky, 353-98

Test 2

8:00 Friday, June 10