The creation of Arseny Sukhanov’s The Debate on Faith with the Greeks in 1650
One of the most important journalistic texts of 17th-century Russia, The Debate on Faith with the Greeks was written prior to the Old Believer schism by Arseny Sukhanov, a publicist and archaeographer. The Debate laid the foundations for further disputes about the authority of the Greek patriarchates of the Eastern Orthodox Church over Russian Orthodoxy. The analysis of an autograph found by the author in the Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts helps clarify the history of The Debate. The author uses paleographic, filigranological, and textological methods to help prove the primary nature of the autograph with regards to the other manuscript versions of The Debate. This leads the author to reconsider the order of the extant editions and their proximity to the original. The author reconstructs three stages of Sukhanov’s work on the text. The first version was written in the autumn of 1650 during his trip to Wallachia. First, Arseny wrote about his investigation of the offence committed by Greek clergy against the dignity of the tsar when they burnt books of the Moscow Print Yard as heretical. The investigation led to a dispute concerning the origins and orthodoxy of Greek and Russian rituals. The discussion was taken to a third level when the Greeks failed to provide historical arguments. When working on the second and third versions of The Debate, Sukhanov focused on the independence of the Russian Orthodox Church from the authority of the Greek patriarchs. This resulted in his report for the Ambassadorial Prikaz being turned into a document substantiating the role of Moscow as the centre of the Orthodox world. Sukhanov was aware of the importance of his work and started spreading it upon his return to Moscow on 8 December 1650. However, the ideological struggle which engulfed Russian society during the reforms of Nikon long preceded this.
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