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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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1. Revising Pandora’s Gifts: Religious and National Identity in the Post-Soviet Societal Fabric


According to a dominant epistemological paradigm, religion is associated with past-rooted forms of Weltanschauung and sociality that stand at odds with general historical trends. Although this episteme has been recently questioned with a number of new researches witnessing the crisis of secularization theories and the formation of the “post-secular”, in the 1990s the signs of religious revival, in whatever form or context, were considered to have no feasible basis and thus no eventual vitality. They were viewed as especially manipulative and subject to mobilization by ethnic, social and political entrepreneurs.

In this article I will explore the validity of these assumptions as applied to the multifaceted cauldron of religious identities in post-communist societies, particularly in the former Soviet Union. The common vision is that the break-up of the communist system uncovered a “Pandora’s box” of old evil spirits competing with the good spirits of democratization. Religious identities are part of this dubious legacy from the frustrating past, providing a temporary and inefficient substitute for real needs and, at the same time, a convenient means of manipulation by resource-hunting elite groups. In this context the excessive exaltation of religion as identity resource can be seen as the reverse side of its demonization. My purpose here is to try to replace these value judgments with a more balanced vision of the religious processes in this area.

Disintegration and Reintegration in Post-Soviet Eurasia

The post-Soviet religious resurgence of the 1990s is certainly part of a...

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