"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Post-Soviet Religious Policy in Russia

Unlike a lot of other Eastern Christian countries, Russia does not want for scholars studying her history, her Church, her culture, and much else besides. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, we have seen an ever-growing number of books on Russian religiosity appear, and late last year another such book appeared: Geraldine Fagan, Believing in Russia - Religious Policy after Communism (Routledge, 2012),  320pp.

This book, we are told:
presents a comprehensive overview of religion in Russia since the end of the communist regime, exposing many of the ambiguities and uncertainties about the position of religion in Russian life. It shows how religious freedom in Russia has, contrary to the widely held view, a long tradition, and how the leading religious institutions in Russia today, including especially the Russian Orthodox Church but also Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist establishments, owe a great deal of their special positions to the relationship they had with the former Soviet regime. It discusses the nature of everyday religious life in Russia, contrasting the internal life of faith communities with the public discourse of their leaders. It examines the flowering of religious freedom and the burgeoning of new sects in the years immediately after the end of the Soviet regime, showing how freedoms were subsequently curtailed, but only partially, by the important law of 1997. It discusses how far Russian Orthodox Christianity is related to Russian national culture, demonstrating the unresolved nature of the key question, Is Russia to be an Orthodox country with religious minorities or a multi-confessional state? and concluding that Russian society has so far failed to reach a consensus on the legal status of religion and its role in public life, contrasting the position in Russia on this with the position in other former Soviet republics including Belarus and Ukraine.

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