Martin, Dominic A. (2017), “Loyal to god: Old Believers, oaths and orders,”History and Anthropology, 28 (4): 477-496.
Abstract: Since the reign of Peter the Great, the Russian sovereign, be it Tsar, Soviet or Putin, has required demonstrations of ‘loyalty’ that evidence subjects’ interior as well as exterior states. This article explores, through historical and current ethnographic examples, how Old Believers, a dissenting movement of Russian Orthodox Christians, have sought to reconcile this worldly demand with their overarching allegiance to the Kingdom of God, and their refusal to acknowledge a separation between the spiritual and the temporal. This dichotomy is particularly problematized around the swearing of oaths of fealty and the giving and receiving of decorations and orders that vouchsafe loyalty to state or sovereign.
Luehrmann, Sonja. 2015. The politics of prayer books: Delegated intercession, names, and community boundaries in the Russian Orthodox Church. Journal of Religious and Political Practice. Early online publication.
Abstract: Prayer is most easily conceived of as political speech when it is a spontaneous practice showing individual and group reactions to current events. Where prayer is a routinized activity involving the recitation of canonical texts, interpreters locate politics in the disciplining of bodies and acts of claiming space. This paper takes inspiration from ethnographies of oral ritual performance and Quranic recitation to include texts and the delegation of speech roles in the analysis of recited prayer. Most Russian Orthodox Christians either pray from a prayer book or order such prayers to be said by specialists. Focusing on the use of baptismal names as indexical elements in intercessory prayer, I argue that Orthodox Christian textual practices sustain a particular form of fractal social authority. Standardized prayer texts synchronize lay and delegated clerical voices, while individualizing responsibility for non-Orthodox kin and acquaintances. Through analyzing canonical and non-canonical intercessory formulae, one can see that part of the political force of prayer lies in constructing community boundaries while dynamically readjusting them.
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.