Religious Practices in the USSR


The Illness of “the Fund of the Commissioner”: Reflections on the Actual Problems of Research in the Field of Religiosity in the USSR

This article is devoted to the methodology of research in the field of religiosity in the USSR. The author outlines the weaknesses of current scholarship: the lack of knowledge of others’ works, inability to widen the scope of used sources for a more multidimentional analysis, etc. He specifically refers to a problem of a researcher’s being concentrated exclusively on the documents from one particular “favourite” archival fund — usually “the fund of the commissioner for religious affairs” — which turns the research into an uncritical retelling of the documents found there. 

What Can We Know about Soviet-era Religiosity? A Comparison of Archival and Oral Sources from the Postwar Volga Region

Based on materials from archival research and ethnographic fieldwork in the Middle Volga region, this article considers the relationship between archival evidence and oral history in attempts to learn about religious practices in the Soviet Union.

Lived Religion: A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Death Rituals in Soviet Ukrainian Borderlands

This article argues that scholars interested in studying religious practice in the Soviet Union should focus on “lived religion” as a valid form of religiosity. This concept allows for the consideration of the improvised nature of religious practices that were often conducted outside of churches and involved appeals to spirits in addition to an anthropomorphic God.

Ordinary Death in the Soviet Union: the Material and Spiritual in Atheist Cosmology

The paper deals with the problem of death as approached by the Soviet atheist ideologists. In particular, it explores the attempts by Party ideologists to substitute religious death rituals by new “socialist rituals.” The author draws upon the work of a special Commission on the study and introduction of “socialist rituals” created in 1969 under the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

The Soviet Civic Rituals as an Alternative to Religious Rites

The paper explores the history of the invention and introduction of rituals during the so called Khrushchev Thaw period, when the authorities were concerned with the creation and introduction of new socialist rituals and holidays, consonant with Soviet secularized sensibilities of the postwar period. The idea goes back to the 1920s but the systematic policy started in the Khrushchev period when many new rites were created such as wedding ceremonies or registration of the newborn, as well as “popular” and professional holidays.

“From Tradition to Modernity”: Orthodox Rituals and Celebrations during the Antireligious Campaign in Ukraine, 1950-s – 1960-s

The paper explores some transformations in Russian Orthodox ritual practices both during the Khrushchev antireligious campaign and in its aftermath; it draws on the Ukrainian material. The article examines illegal rituals, modifications of traditional life-cycle rituals, “lay services”, and organizational changes introduced into major church celebrations. Drawing on vast archival material, the author traces who initiated these transformations (laity, clergy, hierarchy) and also the attitude towards them on the part of state and ecclesiastical authorities.

Religious Practices, Everyday Religiosity and Western Mass Culture in the Closed City of Dniepropetrovsk in Post-Stalin Era (1960–1984)

Part of a larger research project about Soviet cultural consumption and identity formation, this article explores the connection between religious practices and western mass culture in the industrial city of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, in the late socialist period. The Committee of State Security closed Dnepropetrovsk to foreigners in 1959 when one of the Soviet Union’s biggest missile factories opened there.

Two Types of Religiosity in the Times of the Late Socialism: Eastern Orthodox Believers in Vladimir Region

Using the example of the Vladimir city and surrounding oblast’, the author shows in this paper the real correlation of antireligious policy and lived religiosity in the late Soviet period. There are two opposing modes of such policy: on the one hand, the control over the Church hierarchy and its instrumentalization in promotion of the Russian cultural heritage, and, on the other hand, the persecution of lived spontaneous religiosity, such as the veneration of local “holy places.”

“Female Mullah”? Women’s Roles in Muslim Religious Practices of Middle Volga Region during the War and Postwar Period

The paper deals with role of women in everyday religious practices of the Muslim communities of the Middle Volga region during the war and immediate post-war period. The author explores the combination of traditional and new practices and explains them through the evolution of gender relations in rural society of Tatar Muslims.

“With no Preachers, at the Corner of Barracks…” Protestant “Barrack Communities” in Perm’-Kama Region in 1940–1950-s

This paper looks into the emergence and existence of protestant groups in towns and workers’ settlements of western Urals region in 1940-1960s. The everyday circumstances of local residents and migrants led to the formation of what we can call “barracks communities” of believers. The exiled “special settlers” sent to this area were adapting to the situation and created modes of consolidation in an alien environment. The author believes that these Baptist and Mennonite communities tended to serve as substitution for the lacking established Protestant institutions.