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Subcultures and New Religious Movements in Russia and East-Central Europe

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Edited By George McKay, Christopher Williams, Michael Goddard and Neil Foxlee

The collapse of communism has opened up Russia and East-Central Europe to outside influences and enabled new lifestyle choices and forms of religious expression. Based on extensive ethnographic research, this collection uses a variety of theoretical perspectives and methodologies to examine some of the many subcultures and new religious movements that have emerged as part of this process, from members of utopian eco-communities, native-language hip-hoppers and nationalistic skinheads to various forms of Indian-inspired spirituality, neo-paganism and theosophy. Whether they reflect a growing sense of national or ethnic identity, the influence of globalization or a combination of the two, such groups highlight the challenge of creating a free, open and tolerant society in both Russia and new or prospective EU member states. The book seeks to contribute to academic and policy debates in this area by increasing understanding of the groups in question.
The studies in this collection present selected findings from the three-year EU-funded project ‘Society and Lifestyles: Towards Enhancing Social Harmonization through Knowledge of Subcultural Communities’ (2006-2008), which included partners from a wide range of post-communist countries in Eastern Europe and from the UK.

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Part 2: New Religious Movements

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Part 2 New Religious Movements Introduction New Religious Movements in Post-communist Russia and East-Central Europe – a Threat to Stability and National Identity? Neil Foxlee and Christopher Williams This section of the book presents essays which investigate various aspects of the phenomenon of new religious movements (NRMs) in post-communist Russia and East-Central Europe (ECE). The term ‘new religious move- ments’, it should be emphasized, is used here to refer to groups that – from an external perspective – may be neither new nor obviously religious,1 but are liable to be viewed or treated as such in an ECE context. This particularly applies to international NRMs, which are sometimes viewed as a threat to the traditional values of the countries in question, especially by the estab- lished churches, but also by governments, the media and the public. Some NRMs, however, notably Baltic and Slavic neo-pagan movements, are of domestic origin, and may themselves be associated with a greater or lesser degree of ethnic or national exclusivism: the question thus arises, not only of the degree of tolerance or intolerance shown towards NRMs in ECE countries, but also of the degree of tolerance or intolerance shown by some NRMs towards some other groups. These new studies seek to contribute to a greater understanding of both kinds of NRMs, with the aim of informing current academic and policy debates on the subject. Our more modest aim 1 See Pilkington and Popov’s chapter in this collection, which suggests that for some young Russians, neo-paganism does not...

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