New Publication on the Relations between the Dominicans and Russia

On the occasion of the second centenary of the entrustment of the parish church of St. Catherine of St. Petersburg to the Order of Preachers and the arrival of the first friars in the capital of the Russian Empire in the years 1815-1816, the Historical Institute of the Order of Preachers organized an International Historical Conference on the Dominicans and Russia at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome from 9 to 10 December 2016. In the volume of the same title, published by Bro. Viliam Štefan Dóci and Bro. Hyacinthe Destivelle, in collaboration with Fabio Simonelli and published in the series Dissertationes Historicae, the lectures given during the Conference are offered to the reader, together with some other essays on the history of relations between the Order and Russia at various levels. All of these are always bearing in mind, of course, that the geographical-political-legal concept of Russia has changed over the centuries.

The study goes beyond the theme of the presence of the Dominicans in Russia, which dates back to the 13th century. From the time of St. Hyacinth of Poland (Jacek Odrowąż), in the territory of Russia, the friars started concrete foundation projects, the results of which  –success or failure as they may be– depending on various factors and not least, in the order of importance, the will of the secular authorities. One needs  to look at the short duration of the first community in Rus’, in Kiev, founded in 1228-1229, which ended with the expulsion of the friars by Prince Vladimir IV Rurikovič in 1233. And again during the period of the last two hundred years or so, there is the invitation of Tsar Alexander I (1801-1825) to the Dominicans to establish in St. Petersburg, the only Dominican foundation in present-day Russia.

Already during the preparation of the Conference, it was clear that it would be impossible to present an overall history of the relations between the Dominican Order and Russia. The contributions in this volume dealt with only a few topics chronologically framed between the 15th and 21st centuries, to which many others could be related. However, the editors are convinced that this work, as a whole, gives an idea of the important role played by Russia in the Dominican history and may also be a starting point for further stimulating research.

The collection of the articles is introduced by an analysis of the sources present in the General Archives of the Order in Rome. Then, stories of friars and sisters of the Third Order from various European nations are presented from different angles and perspectives: particular attention is given to the cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow. And so, in the exchanges of men and ideas, their coming and going, the reader becomes aware of the theological reflections and other observations expressed by the Dominicans on Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. He or she learns about ecumenical attempts as well as commitments aimed at strengthening the Roman Catholic identity. A paper on the relations between the Holy See and Russia, from Benedict XV to Paul VI, provides an adequate complement to the presentation of the difficult situation during the period of the Soviet Union. The testimony of Bro. Evgenij Heinrichs on the rebirth of the Order after the Communist persecution constitutes, in a certain sense, a bridge between the past and the present.

The individual contributions, in Italian, French, English, and Russian, are all accompanied at the end by an abstract in English and Russian. The volume can be ordered from Angelicum University Press (