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Basil, John D.


Education: University of Washington, Ph.D., 1966. Hobbies and other interests: Pencil drawing and the study of classical Latin.


Office—Department of History, Gambrell Hall 245, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208.


Historian, educator, and writer. University of South Carolina, Columbia, distinguished professor of history emeritus.


The Mensheviks in the Revolution of 1917, Slavica Publishers (Columbus, OH), 1984.

Church and State in Late Imperial Russia: Critics of the Synodal System of Church Government (1861-1914) (Minnesota Mediterranean and East European Monographs, No. 13), Modern Greek Studies, University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN), 2005.

Contributor to periodicals.


John D. Basil is a retired historian who traveled to Russia, Italy, Germany, and several places in the United States to conduct research for Church and State in Late Imperial Russia: Critics of the Synodal System of Church Government (1861-1914). In his book, the author writes about church-state relations in Russia from the mid-nineteenth century to the beginning of World War I. "The focus is not the actual interaction, but the discourse about these relations—primarily from the perspective of ecclesiastical, bureaucratic, and secular elites," wrote Gregory L. Freeze in the Catholic Historical Review. Scott M. Kenworthy commented in Church History: "This book is an intellectual history of the debates about how church and state should be related as Russia was modernizing." He added: "Given that focus, it demonstrates that the range of positions was far greater and more complex than is usually assumed."

In his analysis of opinions in prerevolutionary Russia concerning church reform and church-state relations, the author looks at the writings of bishops and government officials, as well as canonists, liberals, and radicals. In the process, the author examines the rise of problems in reform efforts that stemmed from critical debate, and he describes the governmental regime's efforts to stall reform. Drawing from sources in Russia's national historical archive, academic writings in history and law, and letters, memoirs, and polemical writings from journals and newspapers, the author analyzes the debates beginning with the seeds of the church-state controversy first sown in the later imperial period when Peter the Great's synodal system of ecclesiastical government came under intense criticism from the educated segment of Russian society. The author's goal is to look at how different segments of Russian society and various Russian groups over the years viewed the system and the changes they perceived as necessary. Basil follows the debates until the year 1912, with the debates in the State Duma concerning religious tolerance and the education of children in church schools. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Russians were distracted from the issue, and the subsequent Communist leaders ended the discussion for the next seven decades.

"This study provides a competent overview and reliable compendium of ecclesiastical, official, and intellectual views," Freeze assessed, and Kenworthy ventured that the author provides "a significant contribution to our understanding of church-state issues in Imperial Russia."



Catholic Historical Review, April, 2007, Gregory L. Freeze, review of Church and State in Late Imperial Russia: Critics of the Synodal System of Church Government (1861-1914), p. 439.

Church History, June, 2007, Scott M. Kenworthy, review of Church and State in Late Imperial Russia, p. 436.

Slavic Review, spring, 2007, Paul Werth, review of Church and State in Late Imperial Russia, p. 149.


University of South Carolina History Department Web site, (July 11, 2008), faculty profile of author.

Basil, John D.

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