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History Professor Invited to Speak at Harvard's Early Slavic Seminar

Posted on Monday, April 13, 2009

Dr. Russell Martin, Westminster College associate professor of history, presented "Kalliste(i): Bride-Shows and Marriage Politics in Muscovy, 1505-1689" at the Early Slavic seminar April 10 at Harvard University's Davis Center for Russian Studies.

The lecture was based on Martin's nearly-completed book on the topic.

Martin said, "I presented the arguments I make in my book manuscript: that bride-shows were the key means by which Russian tsars found their brides in these centuries; that it was not so much about the beauty and virtue of the candidates as it was about their genealogical connections; that the custom was borrowed from Byzantium to solve uniquely Muscovite dynastic problems; and that it disappeared with Peter the Great, not because the reforming tsar abolished it so much as because it had become obsolete, given the changes in political culture in Muscovy in the decades before Peter's reign."

"I was invited by Dr. Donald Ostrowski of the Davis Center and Harvard University, who is a fellow Muscovite historian," Martin added. "I am always pleased to have the chance to be in Cambridge again and to present ideas that had their origins when I was a graduate student in Harvard's history department. But I am also grateful for the financial, moral, and intellectual support I get daily from colleagues and students at Westminster."

Martin, who has been with Westminster since 1996, earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a master's and Ph.D. from Harvard University. 

Martin appeared on A&E Biography in a broadcast on Ivan the Terrible as an expert on the controversial ruler. He is the co-founder of the Muscovite Biographical Database, a Russian-American computerized register based in Moscow of early modern Russian notables. The Neville Island, Pa., native is not only fluent in Russian, but also reads Old Church Slavonic/Russian, French, German, Latin, and Polish. 

Martin continues to translate from Russian to English the official Webpage of Her Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, the heiress to the vacant Russian throne. Translations are available at In 2008, Martin was awarded the Order of St. Anna (with the rank of Knight Companion) by the grand duchess for his work on behalf of the House of Romanov.

Martin currently serves as president of the Association for the Study of Eastern Christian History and Culture, Inc. (ASEC), an international organization of scholarly study of society, culture, and belief among Eastern Christian communities.

Contact Martin at (724) 946-6254 or e-mail for additional information.

Dr. Russell Martin