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Turns of Faith, Search for Meaning

Orthodox Christianity and Post-Soviet Experience


Alexander Agadjanian

The book examines deep shifts in the religious life of Russia and the post-Soviet world as a whole. The author uses combined methods of history, sociology and anthropology to grasp transformations in various aspects of the religious field, such as changes in ritual practices, the emergence of a hierarchical pluralism of religions, and a new prominence of religion in national identity discourse. He deals with the Russian Church’s new internal diversity in reinventing its ancient tradition and Eastern Orthodoxy’s dense and tense negotiation with the State, secular society and Western liberal globalism. The volume contains academic papers, some of them co-authored with other scholars, published by the author elsewhere within the last fifteen years.
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As I decide, thanks to a kind invitation by the Erfurt Series in Eastern Orthodoxy, to publish in one volume my previous studies in a slightly actualized and modified form1, I feel that it is necessary to preface this volume with a text setting up a few general “braces” that would hold the entire construction together. These “braces” are, in fact, a few core ideas and objectives that have been animating for more than a decade all the papers included here. Throughout this period, my field has been the dynamic of religious phenomena in the former Soviet lands, with a special emphasis on Russia, with the post-communist “exit” generating its own logic and unique historical experience. However, I was always trying to relate these unique developments to the global shifts that have been unfolding through the turn of the century in both the field of the religious being and the field of religious studies.

The post-Soviet turn in Russia and in other lands of Eurasia was, indeed, tectonic, unprecedented in many ways: besides political, economic and cultural breakdown, it was a reshaping of the universe of meanings, a reconstruction of basic symbolic codes. The decades that followed were the years of challenges and choices urged by massive institutional restructuring. These choices, taken by individuals and social groups, were informed, in this situation of symbolic flux, by unfixed, fluid and ← 7 | 8 → sometimes unconscious patchworks of motives and reactions. Occasionally, these patchworks were getting a more or...

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