Religious practices in today’s Russia brings together anthropologists and sociologists who present their recent empirical research, as well as some generalizations, on how religion is being practiced in post-Soviet Russia Two symposia on this subject have been animated in 2003 and 2005 by a group of Russian and French scholars, supported by the French-Russian Center for Social Sciences and Humanities based in Moscow.
The cases studied in the volume belong to Russian Orthodoxy, Old Believers, Islam, Judaism, Russian sects, and a new urban cult; two papers based on French data serve as a comparative and methodological background. The authors’ main objective is to show specific forms and dynamics of the collective religious experience, revived in the years 1990-2000S against a general background of Russia’s exit from the “socialist era”
The authors treat “practices” as including large latitude of patterns and styles as opposed to the perceived, imagined uniformity dominated by a dichotomous opposition of the norm and practices as a deviation. “Practices” show a great variety and contextual flexibility, in spite of the reappearing stereotypes of the true, authentic tradition, associated with the religious institutions who claim to represent the Norm and Tradition. In fact, we witness an ongoing competition for authenticity by various groups and actors, such as clergy and laity, rural and urban believers, different generational groups, etc.
Apart from a critical reappraisal of such notions as “official religion” and “popular religion,” the authors deal with particular forms of veneration of saints, relics, icons; religious fairs and pilgrimages; informal religious networks structuring groups and communities; mechanisms of identity and intercultural interaction; and some political implications of religious practices. All these and other themes are set in the new and rapidly changing economic and cultural context of today’s Russia, with its individualizing behavior, commercialism, ongoing testing of democratic politics, and an emerging (consolidating?) civil society, of which religious communities make an important part.