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The “Idea of the University” in the Russian Theological Academies (19th and Early 20th Centuries)

Natalia Yu. Sukhova


For the first time, the Humboldtian university model is considered against the background of the 19th- and early 20th-century history of the Russian theological academies. The influence of educational ideas — direct or mediated by the experience of Russian universities — upon higher theological schools is traced along different historical phases delineated by two reforms: one that, between 1808 and 1814, introduced certain university elements into the life of the academies, and another that, in 1869, ushered in the research university model in its entirety. The author concludes that the fundamental principles of the research university significantly affected the further development of Russian theological scholarship, stimulating processes of specialization within the field and triggering the use of the method of historical criticism in all branches of theology. At the same time, however, some of the elements of the research university model failed to meet the specific needs of the theological schools. The application of methods of historical criticism, in turn, prompted speculation about the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, the affiliation of theological scholarship with the Church, and the limits of freedom in theological scholarship.


Russian theological academies; Humboldtian university model; concept of a university; “research university;” theology; theological scholarship; critical historical methods

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