Zhuk, Sergei I. Russia’s Lost Reformation. Washington, D.C.: WoodrowWilson Center Press, John Hopkins University Press, 2004.
The subtitle of the work, Peasants, Millennialism, and Radical Sects in Southern Russia and Ukraine, clearly describes the thrust of the work. From a multitude of sources, the author develops the thesis that religious sects in Ukraine in pre-revolutionary Russia were widespread and, by and large, radical in their religious, social, and political views. In turn, they prepared the way for revolution in 1905 and 1917.
The author, a former resident of the Soviet Union, has used his linguistic skills to utilize an amazing array of bibliographic sources from both East and West. He lists not only a number of printed primary and secondary sources, primarily in Russian and English, but also archival sources found in Russia and Ukraine. The work shows the diversity and complexity of Russian sectarianism, as well as Ukraine as a breeding ground for populist movements.
With a multitude of facts, Russia’s Lost Reformation, however, will leave most readers rather bewildered because of a lack of a clearly developed story line. The account tends to become something of a jumble, a repetitious recital of sects and leaders buttressed with numerous quotations. In spite of some attempt at differentiation, the book tends to put the sects in one mold. Although all sects have some impact on social life, including the most low profile, because of different theological roots and views of society, their revolutionary impact may differ significantly. The author attempts to make some distinction between Stundists and native Russian sects, but he also draws them into his scenario of radical sectarianism, even though he points out the moderating influence of German Baptists on them.
The author fails to evaluate the trustworthiness of quotations from political and ecclesiastical enemies of the sects. He also tends to highlight not only their social radicalism, but also their sexually aberrant behavior. Although the text gives the impression that radical sectarianism was rampant in Ukraine, the book’s statistical appendices show, even with possible underreporting, that the number of sectarians was relatively limited compared to the total population.
This work on reformation in Ukraine is like writing the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century as if the main forces were the peasants in the Peasant’s War and radical Anabaptists. Both reformations indeed had social consequences, but many other facts need to be evaluated for a proper balance.
Reviewed by Albert W. Wardin, Southern Baptist Historical Commission, Nashville, Tennessee.
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