As Russian militarism becomes increasingly intertwined with Russian Orthodoxy theology in the 21st century, the history of the Church’s relationship to war and its justification becomes particularly relevant. Betsy Perabo
’s book Russian Orthodoxy and the Russo-Japanese War
(Bloomsbury Academic, 2017) is a unique and important contribution to this area of inquiry, representing a rare contemporary academic exploration of just war theory within Russian Orthodoxy in the context of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. Perabo examines the conflict through the concept of an “interreligious war” between Christian and Buddhist nations, paying particular attention to the writings of Nikolai of Japan, the Russian leader of Orthodox Church in Japan, as well as Russian soldiers, chaplains, military psychologists, and missionary leaders. In this interview we discuss the genealogy of Christian just war theory, the Russian Orthodox mission in in the late 19th-early 20th century the Japanese and Russian perception of religious motivations and divine influence in the 1904-05 war, and the implications of this history for Russian militarism today.
Diana Dukhanova is Visiting Assistant Professor of Slavic Studies at Brown University.