Slavic Native Faith in Russia

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Young couple of Russian Rodnovers.

Slavic Native Faith (Rodnovery, Orthodoxy, Vedism) in Russia is widespread, according to some estimates from research organisations which put the number of Russian Rodnovers in the millions. The Rodnover population generally has a high education and many of its exponents are intellectuals, many of whom are politically engaged both in the right and the left wings of the political spectrum. Particular movements that have arisen within Slavic Native Faith in Russia include Ynglism, Peterburgian Vedism, Meryan Rodnovery and Ringing Cedars' Anastasianism. Rodnovery in Russia is also influenced by, and in turn influences, movements which have their roots in Russian cosmism and identify themselves as belonging to the Vedic spectrum, such as Ivanovism and Rerikhism.

Demographics[edit]

Social composition of Russian Rodnovery[edit]

Celebration of Kupala Night.

Aitamurto observed that a "substantial number" of adherents—and in particular those who had been among the earliest—belonged to the "technical intelligentsia".[1] Similarly, Shnirelman noted that the founders of Russian Rodnovery were "well-educated urbanized intellectuals" who had become frustrated with "cosmopolitan urban culture".[2] Physicists were particularly well represented; in this Aitamurto drew comparisons to the high number of computer professionals who were present in the Pagan communities of Western countries.[1] The movement also involved a significant number of people who had a background in the Soviet or Russian Army,[3] or in policing and security.[4] The "vast majority" of Russian Rodnovers were young and there were a greater proportion of men than women.[1] A questionnaire distributed at the Kupala festival in Maloyaroslavets suggested that Native Faith practitioners typically had above-average levels of education, with a substantial portion working as business owners or managers.[5] A high proportion were also involved in specialist professions such as engineering, academia, or information technology, and the majority lived in cities.[6]

Shnirelman informs that Rodnovery in Russia is embraced by many politically engaged philosophers, both of the right- and the left-wing. The former group is represented by Vladimir Andeyev, Anatoly Ivanov, Pavel Tulaev (members of the Moscow Slavic Community and founders of the New Right journal Ateney), Aleksei Trekhlebov from Krasnodar, Valery Demin from Omsk, and the Saint Petersburg journalists Oleg Gusev and Roman Perin, among others.[7] Ivakhiv reports that they have a "surprisingly extensive" influence.[8] The well-known Rodnover leader Velimir (Nikolai Speransky), who is the founder of the politically neutral federation Circle of Pagan Tradition, classifies Valery Yemelyanov, volkhv Dobroslav (Aleksei Dobrovolsky), Vladimir Istarkhov and Igor Sinyavin as representatives of right-wing Rodnovery; according to him, the Union of Slavic Rodnover Communities founded by Vadim Kazakov and the "Church of Nav" (Це́рковь На́ви, Tsérkov' Návi) generally lean towards the right-wing. The left-wing of the spectrum would be represented, instead, by Anton Platov, Aleksandr Asov and Aleksandr Khinevich (founder of Ynglism), though they keep most of their religious activities outside of politics.[9] Since the 1990s, Traditionalist School thinkers—chiefly René Guénon and the Italian fascist philosopher Julius Evola—have been translated and introduced in the very mainstream of Russian thought by the philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, who has an influential position at the heart of contemporary Russian academic and political life.[10]

A number of youth subcultures have been identified as introducing people to Rodnovery, among them heavy metal, historical re-enactment, and the admirers of J. R. R. Tolkien.[11] Rodnovery is also spread through a variety of newspapers and journals.[7] Also popular with Russian Rodnovers has been the martial arts movement known as Slavyano-goritskaya bor'ba.[12] A number of popular celebrities, including singer Maria Arkhipova and professional boxer Aleksandr Povetkin,[13] have publicly embraced Rodnovery.

Growth and estimates of the number of Rodnovers in Russia[edit]

A kolo, ritul circle of Russian Rodnovers.

Writing in 2000, Shnirelman noted that Rodnovery was "growing rapidly" within the Russian Federation.[14] In 2016, Aitamurto noted that there was "no reliable information" on the number of Rodnovers in Russia, but that it was "plausible" that there were "several tens of thousands" of practitioners active in the country.[15] This was partly because there were several Rodnover groups active on the social network VK which had over 10,000 members.[15]

A 2012 survey of religion in Russia estimated that there were 1,700,000 practitioners of "traditional religions of gods and ancestors" in the federation as of that year.[16] Of them, 44% were ethnic Russians and Roman Lunkin, senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences (IERAS)' Institute of Europe, who was among the surveyors, recognised the growing presence of Native Faiths among them.[17] The historian Marlene Laruelle suggested that Rodnovery was likely to remain a marginalised religion in comparison to Russian Orthodoxy, but that its main significance for Russian society had been by diffusing "historical themes"—particularly regarding an ancient Aryan race—to a far wider audience, including many who were Orthodox or non-religious.[18] Rodnovery has been spreading rapidly in the North Caucasus region of Russia, especially among communities of Cossacks and in the Stavropol region, where in some areas it already has a dominant position. It has been reported that even former priests of the Russian Orthodox Church have joined their ranks.[19]

A polemical piece entitled Adversus paganos, published in 2015 by the official journal of the Ascension Cathedral of Astrakhan, cites sociological data saying that Native Faiths are already formally embraced by "more than 2 million Russians", while the number of people affected by Rodnover ideas is several times larger. This is based on data provided in 2012 by Igor Zadorin, the director of the research institute "Tsirkon", who said that in Russia the proportions of atheists, Orthodox Christians and "pagans" are of comparable sizes and their populations overlap: Orthodox Christians are 30% of the total population; people who have some sort of "pagan", non-Christian spirituality, are 40% of the population, while the remaining population is composed of a 20% who are atheists, and a 10% who are believers of other religions (4-7% ethnic minorities professing Islam).[20]

Movements paralleling Rodnovery and mutual influences[edit]

Ringing Cedars' Anastasianism[edit]

Building a house at a Ringing Cedars' kinship settlement.

The Ringing Cedars (Звенящие Кедры) or Anastasianism is a spiritual movement that overlaps with Rodnovery, but is not thoroughly part of it. Many Anastasians are Rodnovers, while others are not. The Ringing Cedars' movement arises from the writings of Vladimir Megre (Puzakov), codified in a series of ten books, whose teachings are attributed to an archetypal Siberian wise woman known as Anastasia.[21] These books teach what Rasa Pranskevičiūtė has defined as a "cosmological pantheism",[22] in which nature is the manifested "thought of God" and human thought has the power to commune with him and to actively participate in his creation.[23]

Anastasians have established rural villages all over Russia, "kinship homesteads" (родовое поместье, rodovoye pomest'ye), where they conduct a harmonious life in at least a hectare of land. The name "Ringing Cedars" derives from the beliefs held by Anastasians about the spiritual qualities of the Siberian cedar. In his writings, Megre identifies the ideal society which the Ringing Cedars' movement aims at establishing as "Vedic", and many of his teachings are identical to those of other movements of Rodnovery.[24]

Russian Zoroastrianism—Blagovery[edit]

Zoroastrianism emerged as a public entity in Russia in the 1990s, created by Russians themselves despite the normally endogamic essence of the traditional Zoroastrian communities existing in Iran and India. The first Zoroastrian organisation, the "Avestan School of Astrology" (shortened "Asha", which, in the oldest texts known as Arta, is the Persian word defining the agency of cosmic harmony), was established by Pavel Globa (1953–) in the early 1990s, and opened dozens of branches in and outside of Russia. Globa had been teaching Avestan astrology since the 1970s, and in the 1990s he had become a nationally acknowledged expert on the subject. Globa presents himself as the heir of a lineage of Zurvanism (the type of Zoroastrianism that regards Zurvan, i.e. "Time" and "Whole", as the supreme God) from north-west Iran, allegedly transmitted through his great grandmother and his maternal grandfather Ivan N. Gantimurov.[25]:449–450 Some of Globa's pupils were initiated by he himself into a priesthood (khorbad).[25]:451

In 1994 the "Zoroastrian Community of Saint Petersburg" was established by Globa's followers and officially registered. The organisation publishes the magazine Mitra and the newsletter Tiri. The Zoroastrianism that they propose is a consciously mimetic appropriation of the religion as it is practised among traditional Zoroastrian communities. This recreation involves significant changes; for instance the cords that are worn by initiates around their waist are not white woollen cords as in the original tradition, but are three-coloured cords—yellow, red and blue—symbolising, according to Globa, the three colours of Zurvan.[25]:452 Since 2001, the priest of Iranian origins Kamran Jamshidi initiated new Avestan astrologers in Minsk, and Russia became a mission field for them. Tensions arose as Jamshidi's initiates challenged the authority of Globa. Under the influence of these new missionaries, another organisation was founded in Moscow in the year 2005, the "Russian Anjoman" (Русский Анджоман; anjoman is a Persian word meaning "assembly"). They use the term of Russian origin "Blagovery" (Благоверие Blagoverie, literally "Good Faith") to define their Zoroastrianism.[25]:453

Russian Zoroastrian communities, whether belonging to the Peterburger or Muscovite movements, emphasise that Zoroastrianism has Russian origins, and traces of it have been preserved in Slavic folklore. This parallels the discourse of Rodnovery, and one of the early Rodnover ideologues, Anatoly Ivanov, defined his views as "Zoroastrian" and "Avestan". In 1981, Ivanov even published the anti-Christian text entitled Zarathustra Did Not Speak Thus: The Basics of the Aryan Worldview, inspired by Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, wherein Ivanov says that Zoroastrianism should be adopted as a new paradigm for humanity and discusses the eschatology of the Saoshyant.[25]:454–455 Zoroastrianism has been described by Stausberg and Tessmann as a "permanent discussion topic" within the Rodnover community.[25]:455 As it is the case for Rodnovers, the site of Arkaim has great importance for Russian Zoroastrians/Blagovers, since it is believed that the "Aryan prophet" Zoroaster lived there.[25]:453 In 2007, during an interview with Iranian state media, Russian president Vladimir Putin himself declared that Zoroastrianism originated in the southern part of the Ural region of Russia, and it is the base of all major world religious systems.[26]

Siberian shamanism—Tengrism[edit]

Many Rodnovers are influenced by Central Asian or Siberian shamanism and its modern organised form, Tengrism, which has become widespread in easternmost regions of Russia. One of the earliest exponents of Rodnovery, Moscow State University-graduated psychologist Grigory Yakutovsky (1955–, known as a shaman by the name Vseslav Svyatozar; his surname reveals a possible Yakut ancestry), asserted that ancient Slavic religion was fundamentally shamanic, and Siberian shamanism plays a central role in his formulations. In Yakutovsky's Rodnovery, Slavic gods are secondary in importance compared to goddesses, and he claims that this was typical of ancient Slavic religion. Yakutovsky's form of Rodnovery has been defined as "tolerant, pluralistic and pacifistic"; his teachings are also representative of the minority of Rodnovers who identify as communists. Yakutovsky is critical of the Soviet type of communism, and rather proposes "social communism" as the ideal form of government for the future. He also espouses a form of elitism, by recognising shamans (poets and mystics) as a minority of people characterised by greater intelligence and power devoted to the realisation of a better future for humanity.[27]

According to the scholar of religion Mircea Eliade, original Proto-Indo-European religion is closer to Central Asian shamanism than to the later Near Eastern and Mediterranean religions, as proven by their shared crucial concepts: the supreme God of Heaven (cf. Indo-European Dyeus, Siberian Tengri, and Mesopotamian Dingir) and the three-layered structure of cosmology (cf. Sanskrit Trailokya).[28]

Rodnover fine arts[edit]

The rise of Rodnovery, and its rapid growth as a multidimensional phenomenon, has brought to the establishment of an artistic scene as part of such multidimensionality. Many professional artists, many of whom are outspokenly Rodnover themselves—some even priests, have emerged with works discussing themes of history, mythology and everyday life. Their works are highly appreciated and celebrated within the Rodnover community. Studies on Rodnover art have found that Svyatoslav I of Kiev is one of the preferred subjects among other historical themes, epic heroes and other human prototypes (even including the appropriation of saints of the Russian Orthodox Church).[29]

Russian artists of Rodnover themes include Aleksandr Borisovich Uglanov, Andrey Alekseyevich Shishkin, Andrey Guselnikov, Andrey Klimenko, Boris Olshansky, Igor Ozhiganov, Leo Khao, Maksim Kuleshov, Maksim Sukharev, Maximilian Presnyakov, Nella Genkina, Nikolay Speransky, Radomir Semochkin, Viktor Korolkov, Vladimir Pingachov, Vsevolod Ivanov.[29] Another artist, whose works are widely appreciated within the Rodnover community, was Konstantin Vasilyev (1942–1976).[30]

Russian Rodnovers' militarisation and involvement in the War in Donbass[edit]

Rodnovery has a significant role in the War in Donbass, with many Rodnovers forming or joining armed forces. Some of them—for example those of the Svarozich Battalion—have been fighting in favour of Russia; other Rodnovers—such as those of the Azov Battalion—have taken the side of Ukraine.[13] The war has stirred different reactions among Rodnovers in Ukraine; those belonging to the Native Ukrainian National Faith viewed Russia as the aggressor, while adherents of other Rodnover organisations like the Ancestral Fire of the Native Orthodox Faith more commonly saw Russians and Ukrainians as brothers and believed that the conflict was caused by the machinations of the United States.[31]

Russian Rodnover military formations in Donbass include the Svarog, Varyag and Rusich formations, and Rodnovers within the Russian Orthodox Army. Observers have highlighted that Russian Rodnovers have been proselytising in the region, with the endorsement of Russia, under the name "Orthodoxy" and preaching the concept of a new "Russian World", and that their beliefs have even permeated the Orthodox Christian church.[32]

Since the outbreak of the war, though not necessarily in connection with it, Rodnover and Orthodox Christian military groups have also sprung up in the Russian capital Moscow, reportedly dividing the capital into respective zones of influence, "cities within the city" with their own armed forces, with support from local security officials. Rodnover soldiers often help the local population in its opposition to the Orthodox Christian hierarchy's plans to build new churches around the city.[33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Aitamurto 2016, p. 64.
  2. ^ Shnirelman 2017, p. 88.
  3. ^ Aitamurto & Gaidukov 2013, p. 147; Shnirelman 2013, p. 73.
  4. ^ Shnirelman 2013, p. 73.
  5. ^ Shizhenskii & Aitamurto 2017, p. 121.
  6. ^ Shizhenskii & Aitamurto 2017, pp. 121–122.
  7. ^ a b Shnirelman 2013, p. 68.
  8. ^ Ivakhiv 2005, p. 216.
  9. ^ Shnirelman 2013, pp. 62–63.
  10. ^ Aitamurto 2016, p. 23.
  11. ^ Aitamurto & Gaidukov 2013, pp. 158–159.
  12. ^ Gaidukov 2013, p. 317.
  13. ^ a b Skrylnikov 2016.
  14. ^ Shnirelman 2000, p. 18.
  15. ^ a b Aitamurto 2016, p. 63.
  16. ^ "Arena: Atlas of Religions and Nationalities in Russia". Sreda, 2012.
  17. ^ Olga Filina. "Mapping Russia’s religious landscape". Ogoniek, August 30, 2012.
  18. ^ Laruelle 2008, p. 298.
  19. ^ Kucherov, Nikolai. "Неоказачество и неоязычество (Neocossackism and neopaganism)". Kavpolit, 16/02/2015. Archived 21/05/2017.
  20. ^ Belov, Maxim; Garanov, Yuri (10 February 2015). "Adversus Paganos". astrsobor.ru. Journal of the Ascension Cathedral of Astrakhan. Archived from the original on 23 May 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  21. ^ Aitamurto 2016, p. 52.
  22. ^ Pranskevičiūtė 2015, p. 446.
  23. ^ Pranskevičiūtė 2015, pp. 450–451.
  24. ^ Aitamurto 2016, pp. 52–53.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g Stausberg, Michael; Tessmann, Anna (2013). "The appropriation of a religion: The case of Zoroastrianism in contemporary Russia" (PDF). Culture and Religion. 14 (4). pp. 445–462. doi:10.1080/14755610.2013.838800. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2017.
  26. ^ "Интервью Иранскому Гостелерадио и информационному агентству "ИРНА"". kremlin.ru. President of Russia (Президент России) official website. 16 October 2007. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007.
  27. ^ Aitamurto 2016, p. 32.
  28. ^ Eliade, Mircea (1958). Patterns in Comparative Religion. p. 64
  29. ^ a b Gizbrekht, Andrey Ivanovich (2016). "Образы деятелей российской истории в дискурсе современного «Языческого искусства» (на материале изобразительного творчества) / The images of public figures of Russian history in the discourse of modern "Pagan art" (based on fine arts material)". Краснодарского государственного института культуры. УДК 298.9:7.044/.046.
  30. ^ Aitamurto 2016, p. 26.
  31. ^ Lesiv 2017, pp. 133–134, 140–141.
  32. ^ Ageyev, Vyacheslav (27 August 2015). Neo-paganism and Russian Orthodoxy – an explosive mix of religion and ideology. XXI World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), 23–29 August 2015. Erfurt, Germany. Archived from the original on 7 July 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2017. Archived pertinent panel of the XXI IAHR conference.
  33. ^ "Neo-Pagan and Orthodox Militants 'Dividing Up' Russian Capital". The Interpreter. 6 April 2016. Archived from the original on 7 July 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2017.

Sources[edit]

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  •  ———  (2013). "Russian Neopaganism: From Ethnic Religion to Racial Violence". In Kaarina Aitamurto; Scott Simpson (eds.). Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe. Durham: Acumen. pp. 62–71. ISBN 9781844656622.
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