Working Paper 98

From Postsocialist Religious Revival to a Socialist Seer and Vice Versa: the remaking of religion in postsocialist Bulgaria

Galia I. Valtchinova

Department ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’

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Working Paper 98

Ethnographies of religious revival in postsocialist Bulgaria show that, unlike what was expected – and what is generally held for true – the Orthodox Church as an institution has rarely been active in this process. In this paper, a mix of anthropological case studies and an archival study, I will argue that an actor-oriented perspective on ‘religion’, rather than a church-oriented one, is better to approach the postsocialist religious revival. Taking examples from Bulgaria, I will try to concentrate on the actors’ point of view and take into account the category of ‘popular’ religious and ritual specialists. The story of Vanga, a seer, clairvoyant, and healer, provides a telling illustration of how ‘popular’ religious specialists adapted to socialism and played a role in the subsequent religious revival.

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