Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Religion in Russia
after the revolution of 1917 /

Η θρησκεία στη Ρωσία
μετά την επανάσταση του 1917

Religion, as a community of faith, is able to forge boundaries of selective inclusion and of exclusion. In the examined case of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), this was reflected in the Church’s efforts to discredit Western spiritual values and its way of life as „immoral”. In the context of Russia one has to also underline, in addition to its inherited Eastern Church’s hostility to Rome and the West, the consequences of Russia’s isolation from Renaissance and Reformation. Thus, on the top of the modernization barriers separating Russia from the West, it may also be necessary to consider the historical borders.

A unique characteristic of Russian Orthodoxy is that after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia its theological, sacramental, and ecclesiastical development was frozen, resulting in a long spiritual and intellectual hibernation. While the religious denominations in the West were embracing the ideas of individual liberty and human rights, and while Catholicism was absorbing the consequences of the Second Vatican Council, the Moscow Metropolitanate was working hand in hand with the Soviet Politburo and KGB, both domestically and internationally. [...]

Orthodox Church had and continues to have a key influence on the nature of political development in Russia. It contradicts the volume of research claiming that Eastern Orthodoxy is favoring democratic development, pointing out to its failure to examine the Church as a social rational actor, instead of a philosophical concept. Cherry-picking specific points or events in time and claiming they prove the democratic character of ROC is a sure recipe for analytic errors. This static method is replaced in the current study by a dynamic approach, which examines the historical interaction between state and church over time, the effects it generated, and the interests behind the actions of the two actors in post-Soviet Russia.

[...] This initial separation in the West, followed by later separations inside Catholic Church itself, created a number of powerful actors, who through competition generated profound social transformations. Building on the literature on democratization and agent based modeling research  on cultural diffusion it claimed that independent and competing actors are able to generate and sustain multiple loyalties and pluralism. This was not the case in Russia, where Church and State merged into a single power center, failing to generate social transformations in the society similar the West.

The historical legacy of the Orthodox Church affected its institutional structure, its modus operandi, and most importantly, the worldviews of its top prelates. Formal modeling research of cultural behavior seems to confirm the claim that cognitive constraints and institutional precedents are a better explanation of community behavior, be it cultural-religious or political. It shows that institutions will often follow a sub-optimal behavior, choosing strategies that performed well in the past, even though they occurred under differing conditions. Thus, after the collapse of USSR, ROC did not choose a path of independence from the State, as it did not possess an institutional memory and knowledge of such a choice having been successful in the past.

* András Mátá-Tóth & Cosima Rughinis,
Spaces and Borders: Current Research on Religion in Central and Eastern Europe (Religion and Society),
De Gruyter  2011,
pp./σσ. 104, 115.

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