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Martyrs in the Service of the State: Ideology and “Military Sermons” from the Turn of the 17th–18th Centuries

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Abstract. The article examines the formation of the rhetoric of martyrdom “for faith, tsar and fatherland” in the Russian polemical literature of the early modern period. The equating of fallen soldiers to martyrs was commonplace in the war stories of the era of the Tatar-Mongol invasion, but the secularization of the discourse of martyrdom begins in the period of state and imperial building. It manifests itself in the manipulative use of martyrdom for ideological purposes. The authors of the so-called “military sermons” from the turn of the 17th–18th centuries use patriotic state rhetoric and equate a soulsaving death for the Church, faith, and Russian land with death for representations of the common wealth: the fatherland, the state, the sovereign. The topoi of martyrdom is actualized in sermons addressed to the participants of the Russian-Turkish wars, while different authors (Symeon Polotsky, Karion Istomin, Ignatius Rimsky-Korsakov, Stefan Yavorsky and others) introduce the actual ideological content in their texts in different ways. Already in the Petrine era, panegyric texts include an independent secular patriotic rhetoric, in which readiness for martyrdom becomes a criterion of devotion to the fatherland and part of the new imperial-state mythology and ideology.

Keywords: “military sermon”, martyrdom, rhetoric, state ideology, fatherland, Symeon Polotsky, Karion Istomin, Ignatius Rimsky-Korsakov, Stefan Yavorsky, Russian-Turkish wars, Petrine era, empire, common wealth.

For citation: Popovich A.I. Martyrs in the Service of the State: Ideology and “Military Sermons” from the Turn of the 17th–18th Centuries, in Novoe Proshloe / The New Past. 2023. No. 2. Pp. 36–50. DOI 10.18522/2500-3224-2023-2-36-50.

The article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).

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