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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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4. Public Religion and the Quest for National Ideology: Russia’s Media Discourse of the 1990s




In the Soviet Union the quasi-religion of communism expelled traditional religion from the public space, which it filled with its own symbols, rites and doctrines. Traditional religion became a secret form of “inner emigration” (the term that Soviet dissident intellectuals used to describe their stance of escaping the ideological grip of communism by withdrawing into their own spiritual worlds). In the last years of the Soviet Union religion emerged from underground and ceased to be a private refuge. It rapidly entered the “empty” public space.

However, this was a very much more complicated development than might appear. Being now open to global processes, Russia became subject to “post-modern” relativism, consumerism and, once again, privatization. Of course, being private in the modern (or post-modern) sense is something completely different from Soviet clandestine privacy. Rather, post-modern religiosity relegates religion to the private sphere, as the secularization thesis predicts in the post-modern world: religion becomes “invisible”, although omnipresent in a metaphorical sense (see Luckmann 1967). As a matter of fact, Russian culture appeared at the end of the1980s, and perhaps for the first time in its history, to be rapidly moving towards a fully secularized society in the Western sense.

At the same time, public interest in religious issues, and the public prestige of religion increased dramatically (galvanized by the simple fact that state control was at once removed). What was in fact beginning to happen in the Russian case was exactly what...

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