Working Paper 108

Martyrs and Heroes: the politics of memory in the context of Russian post-Soviet religious revival

Milena Benovska-Sabkova

Abteilung ‚Resilienz und Transformation in Eurasien’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 108

The return to the practices and values of religion in post-Soviet Russia is often described through the metaphorical expression of ‘religious revival’ (religioznoe vozrozhdenie), used both at emic and at etic level. This notion refers to a complicated and often debated process, which is either glorified or denied. Analytically, the ‘religious revival’ could be described as an overarching frame, uniting the heterogeneous manifestations of the revitalisation of religious life in Russia after ‘the long winter’ of Soviet atheism. This paper is based on field research carried out in the city of Kaluga for two weeks in September 2006 and during July and August 2007. Russian examples analysed here eloquently confirm the observation that political and religious movements often involve the same processes, particularly evocations and appeals to the past. I am going to address different manifestations and aspects of the politics of memory as an intersection of religious and secular activities: the proliferation of so called ‘church kraevedenie’ (tserkovnoe kraevedenie) and the worship of the ‘special dead’, respectively, martyrs and heroes.

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