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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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8. Liberal Individual and Christian Culture: Russian Orthodox Teaching on Human Rights in Social Theory Perspective



The purpose of this chapter is to give an overview and an analysis of the recently propounded Russian Orthodox teaching on human rights: the origins, purposes and significance of this teaching within the Russian ecclesiastical, social and cultural context. Then in the last part of this chapter I will place the entire discussion in the broader context of two social theoretical perspectives of democracy: by John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas, two thinkers who similarly, although with some clear differences, have tried to respond to the recent public claims of religion.

The main source reflecting the Russian Orthodox teaching on human rights is a document called “Bases of the Teaching of the Russian Orthodox Church on Dignity, Freedom and Human Rights”, adopted by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in August 2008. This document was the outcome of decade-long discussions reflected in a number of previous texts. From the late 1990s the notion of “human rights”, or what we may call the “human rights discourse”, was used increasingly frequently in the publications and discussions of the Russian Church establishment, mostly at the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, headed at that time by Kirill Gundiaev. 1 What is the significance of the content of this “teaching”? And what is the significance of the very fact of the appearance of this “teaching”: what are the reasons that brought it into being, and what is its purpose?

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