4/13/2009

A Question Regarding Chassidus and Russian Folk Religion

I'm currently rereading The Brothers Karamazov. I think that Freud was onto something when he called it the greatest novel ever written. It's certainly the greatest novel that I've ever read (not the most entertaining, mind you, but the greatest).
This time around, I've been noticing many things that I missed the last time around (about 8-9 years ago). In particular, I'm getting a lot more out of Dostoevsky's descriptions of the religious sensibilities of Russian Christianity - amongst the bourgeoisie, the peasants, the intelligentsia, and even various clerical groups.
I've noticed that there are many themes that would have been relevant in a Jewish context as well. In particular, I've found that Dostoevsky describes his heroes in a manner that would easily transpose onto certain figures from early Chassidus (the Besht and Reb Zusha come to mind).
I was wondering if this issue had ever been studies, namely, the Russian context of the rise of Chassidut. As Russia became a world power in the 18th and 19th Centuries, Jewish communities would have confronted Russian Orthodoxy for the first time - until then it had mostly been a Catholic context. I wonder if that had any impact on he contours of the nascent momvement.
Whatever. Just thinking out loud.
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