On Saturday, May 11, Dr. Charles Arndt presented “The Orthodox Wanderer, Folklore Studies, and Russian Writers of the 19th Century,” as a part of the Russian History Museum’s Second Saturday online lecture series.

Orthodox wandering (strannichestvo) is a unique phenomenon in Russian culture. Many writers of Russia’s Golden Age, such as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Nikolai Nekrasov, incorporated wandering figures prominently in their work. But who is this “wanderer,” and why is he considered indicative of Russian spirituality?

In his lecture, Dr. Charles Arndt explained the terms for wandering in the Russian language and reviewed the religious milieu which gave rise to this particular type of Orthodox Christian asceticism.

In the Q&A session, Dr. Arndt spoke about the legal status of Orthodox wanderers and how they were portrayed in Russian visual art.

About the Speaker

Charles Arndt is an Assistant Professor of Russian Language and Literature at Vassar College. He received his PhD from Brown University, where he defended his dissertation “Dostoevsky’s Engagement of Russian Intellectuals in the Question of Russia and Europe: From ‘Winter Notes on Summer Impressions’ to The Devils.” He has written articles on Dostoevsky’s literary relationship to the work and persona of Nikolai Karamzin and Denis Fonvizin, on religious wandering (strannichestvo) in Dostoevsky’s novel The Adolescent, as well as on wanderers in the works of several other 19th-century Russian authors. Professor Arndt has also written on Nikolai Leskov’s use of hagiographical devices in the short-story “The Cadet Monastery” and co-authored an article on one of Russia’s first illustrated journals published for pilgrims. His latest project is a full-length manuscript on wanderers in 19th century Russian literature, titled “‘Our Common People Are a Vagrant Before Anything’: Wanderer-Pilgrims in the Nineteenth-Century Russian Literary Landscape,” which has been accepted by Slavica Publishers and is due to come out in November.