Naumescu, “The end times and the near future”

Naumescu, Vlad. 2016. The end times and the near future: the ethical engagement of Russian Old Believers in Romania. JRAI DOI: 10.1111/1467-9655.12379 [Early View Version].

Abstract: Despite growing insights into the secular practices of former socialist states, we are yet to grasp fully their resonance in religious lives. Taking socialist modernity and Old Belief as distinct ethical projects, in this article I discuss the ethical engagements of Russian Old Believers in socialist Romania as reflected in individual biographies. Their struggle to maintain an ascetic Orthodox culture in the midst of an intrusive atheist state was at odds with the urge to join a modernizing project that preached the collective good. This tension was managed through a temporary ‘secularization’ which allowed for differentiated generational commitments and the successful reproduction of their tradition within the socialist system. Old Believers’ return to the church in old age reveals their attempt to shape their lives through ethical action based on the obligation to continuity, to carry on the old faith. It shows how the pursuit of continuity in the Old Belief is a virtuous practice leading to moral exemplarity in a space of equivocal moralities.

Bernstein, “Freeze, Die, Come to Life”

Bernstein, Anya. 2015. Freeze, die, come to life: The many paths to immortality in post-Soviet Russia. American Ethnologist 42(4):766-781. 

Abstract: Through practices such as cryonics and plans to build robotic bodies for future “consciousness transfer,” the Russian transhumanist movement has engendered competing practices of immortality as well as ontological debates over the immortal body and person. Drawing on an ethnography of these practices and plans, I explore controversies around religion and secularism within the movement as well as the conflict between transhumanists and the Russian Orthodox Church. I argue that the core issues in debates over the role of religion vis-à-vis immortality derive from diverse assumptions being made about “the human,” which—from prerevolutionary esoteric futurist movements through the Soviet secularist project and into the present day—has been and remains a profoundly plastic project.

Occasional Paper: Mikeshin, “Russian Evangelicalism Glocalized”

Russian Evangelicalism Glocalized
Igor Mikeshin (University of Helsinki)

This paper echoes the idea of glocalization of Evangelical Christianity, suggested by Joel Robbins (2004). Robbins marks two simultaneous processes in Pentecostalism and Charismatic (P/C) Christianity as Westernizing homogenization and indigenizing differentiation. I suggest that Russian Evangelicalism’s relation to the Russian culture is glocal in a similar way: “a relationship of both rejection and preservation.” (Robbins 2004: 137) Russian Evangelical congregations, as well as P/C, are also to a great extent autonomous, egalitarian, and focused on evangelism.

Although I place Russian Evangelicalism in the Robbins’ model, there are remarkable differences between those two phenomena, constructing a distinct narrative of glocalization. These differences go beyond denominational features, or even explicit display of the Holy Spirit by P/C, and they rise from the dogmatics. Firstly, the emphasis on the direct interaction with God was spread through the vast activity of P/C missionaries. Initially it took form of planting and growing churches by the Western ministers, which can be also seen in Russia after 1991. However, Russian Evangelical groups, even Pentecostals, originated from the spiritual endeavors of certain Russian intellectuals, most remarkably Ivan Voronaev (Pentecostal) and Ivan Prokhanov (Evangelical Christian). They brought Western teachings to Russia, interpreted and transformed them on the basis of the Russian Bible, and constructed the narrative of response to the Orthodox spiritual monopoly and Russian sociocultural context.

Continue reading

Vallikivi, “On the Edge of Space and Time”

Vallikivi, Laur. 2014. On the Edge of Space and Time: Evangelical Missionaries in the Post-Soviet Arctic. Journal of Ethnology and Folklorisitics 8(2): 95-120.

Abstract: Evangelical missionaries have missionised pretty much throughout Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Among their favourite targets are the small-numbered indigenous groups in the Russian Arctic, where the numbers of converts are steadily growing. One particular denomination, known as the Unregistered Baptists, are among the leading agents of religious change in the North today. They are driven by the promise of the return of Christ after the gospel is preached “at the ends of the earth”. I suggest that the Baptists’ agenda is shaped, on the one hand, by the literal reading of the Bible, which allows them to be the divine instruments at the end times and, on the other hand, by the idea of Russia’s special role in God’s salvation plan. I shall analyse the Baptists’ ideas and practices, using among others Bakhtin’s concept of chronotope in order to demonstrate how powerful narratives are created and lived.

Engelhardt, “Singing the Right Way: Orthodox Christians and Secular Enchantment in Estonia”

Engelhardt, Jeffers. 2014. Singing the Right Way: Orthodox Christians and Secular Enchantment in Estonia. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s description: Singing the Right Way enters the world of Orthodox Christianity in Estonia to explore musical style in worship, cultural identity, and social imagination. Through both ethnographic and historical chapters, author Jeffers Engelhardt reveals how Orthodox Estonians give voice to the religious absolute in secular society. Based on a decade of fieldwork, Singing the Right Way traces the sounds of Orthodoxy in Estonia through the Russian Empire, interwar national independence, the Soviet-era, and post-Soviet integration into the European Union. Approaching Orthodoxy through local understandings of correct practice and correct belief, Engelhardt shows how religious knowledge, national identity, and social transformation illuminate how to “sing the right way” and thereby realize the fullness of Estonians’ Orthodox Christian faith in context of everyday, secular surroundings. Singing the Right Way is an innovative model of how the musical poetics of contemporary religious forms are rooted in both consistent sacred tradition and contingent secular experience. This landmark study is sure to be an essential text for scholars studying the ethnomusicology of religion.

Ładykowska, “The Role of Religious Higher Education in the Training of Teachers of Russian ‘Orthodox Culture’ “

Ładykowska. Agata (2012) “The Role of Religious Higher Education in the Training of Teachers of Russian ‘Orthodox Culture’ ” European Journal of Education [Special Issue: Russian Higher Education and the Post-Soviet Transition] 47(1):92-103

Abstract: This article provides an ethnographic account of the tensions arising from the different ways of building authority as teachers and the role of higher education in establishing teachers’ legitimacy in Russia through the specific example of religious education. After state atheism was abandoned in 1991, an unprecedented demand for religious knowledge appeared in Russia, in particular in relation to Russian Orthodoxy. Since the Russian context of Orthodox education lacks shared standards, there is considerable latitude in the criteria determining norms and rules. Seeking to increase its influence, the Russian Orthodox Church aspires to have Orthodox catechism taught in a systematic way both in parishes and in secular schools. In practice, the Church is encouraging professional pedagogues to submit their curriculum proposals that would be suffused with Orthodoxy and at the same time be eligible for adoption in all settings and institutions. Thus, in order to educate teachers of religion, the Church has made available multiple, diverse sources of religious knowledge (self-learning, various courses offered by the eparchies, Spiritual Academies, and other institutions of higher education). But the legitimacy of these sources is often questioned, for instance by asking whether the institution that delivers diplomas of religious higher education has been granted formal state recognition. The teachers’ quest for being acknowledged as competent technicians of religious education leads to competing claims for the authenticity of the sources of their training.