- Paperback: 724 pages
- Publisher: Rutgers University Press (May 1, 1962)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0813507995
- ISBN-13: 978-0813507996
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #346,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Slavs in European History and Civilization Paperback – May 1, 1962
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Top customer reviews
The reader must be motivated for this erudite sweep of an extremely complex history - successive waves, not just of Germans and Hapsburgs and Angevins, popes and antipopes, but also Mongols and Ottoman Turks. I read the book in preparation for a vacation in Prague, with a road trip across the Czech Republic to Auschwitz. As I breathed in the choking, acrid air of modern Silesia, I could reflect that this battered land had been Bohemian, Hungarian, Prussian, and Polish.
I had to make liberal use of the internet, since, for example, Prof. Dvornik rather assumes his readers know what the Bogomil heresy is. (To my relief, other very interesting heresies are given explanations in the text.)
Not surprisingly, the author is at his best in describing religious history in a political and economic context, including the rise of Jan Hus at the University of Prague in the 15th century, the Hussite wars and the stubborn resistance of the papacy to moderate demands for reform of very real abuses. In response, for instance, the Hungarians preferred to direct a crusade against the Hussites, rather than the Turks, opening the way to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
Poland-Luthuania was hospitable to the later Protestants, with the flowering of many competing doctrines. It is surprising to read of this grudging tolerance (at the time, of course, the Protestants were more than happy to burn adherents of competing Protestant sects) in light of Poland's later complete reversion to uncompromising Catholicism. Prof. Dvornik points out, though, that the reconquering Jesuits had to shrewdly adopt some of the most attractive facets of Protestantism, including reforms in education, literature in the vernacular, introduction of baroque art and
The Russians, on the other hand, quarantined Westerners and zealously protected Orthodoxy from heretical Protestantism. "The tsar's attitude toward the new teachings in best illustrated by an incident which happened in 1563 in Polock. On conquering the city, Ivan [IV, the Terrible] ordered the arrest of the preacher Thomas and, after beating him with his stick, ordered him to be drowned in the icy waters of the Dvina." Any attempt at correcting copyists' errors in the liturgy, moreover, was met by opposition of the eschatological Old Believers, who conflated religion with magic and consequently believed that the liturgy would lose its power if changed at all, and protested by mass suicide. Even by the standards of the time, Moscow was seen by Western travelers of the 16th and 17th centuries as a wretched cesspool of alcoholism and ignorance. Reading the Russian history in the book, I realized how impossible it will ever be for me to understand these fascinating people.
This is a dated book (1960), with a myriad of footnotes to obscure monographs. However, it marvelously depicts the roiling events of medieval and early modern east Europe as a whole, rather than focusing on just one or a few of the slavic nations.