About the Collaborative Project
Research Team
Collaborative Project Milestones
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New Religious
in the Russian North:
Competing Uses
of Religiosity
After Socialism


About the Collaborative Project

"New Religious Movements in the Russian North: Competing Uses of Religiosity After Socialism"

(NEWREL) is an interdisciplinary, international project investigating the religious landscape of the Russian North today in various cultural and historical contexts. Driven by a humanities and social-science research agenda, the project brings together scholars from Estonia, Finland, France, Russia, Switzerland, and the United States.

Jesus Replaces Lenin in Russian Society

"Jesus Replaces Lenin in Russian Society”
(Swedish magazine, courtesy of David Koester)

Relatively few scholars have given attention to the full variety of religious phenomena that has flourished in the Russian North since glasnost’. The most visible topics have been resurgence of the Russian Orthodox Church and the revival of shamanism, two religious manifestations that have often been perceived in conflict with one another. NEWREL considers these phenomena, but shifts the focus primarily to the interstices of institutionalized religion, studying what we call “in-between” religious phenomena. This includes evangelical protestant groups, new age spiritualities, Mormons, Bahais, “ekstra-sens” practitioners, and any other phenomena that our interlocutors may draw our attention to.

Rather than assuming simplistic one-to-one correspondences, such as the idea that shamanism is practiced by indigenous peoples while Orthodoxy is practiced by Russians, we interrogate what causes a sense of belonging in any religious practice. We are extremely sensitive to the mixed nature of communities in the Russian North, and to the fact that religious practices are similarly mixed.

Moreover, We specifically emphasize religious practices over beliefs, since it is practices that best reveal the social relations that are of interest to us. We see religious practices as creative solutions constructed by local residents who find themselves at the convergence of multiple influences. We are also highly attuned to the various discourses being constructed by participants in religious activity in the Russian North, the ways they represent their religion to themselves on an everyday basis, as well as how they represent it to those outside their practice.

The questions we are seeking to answer are not about religion alone –we are interested in the wider issues concerning lived experience in the context of social, economic, and political change, and how new cultural and social forms come about. We think religion is a fertile ground for this.

(Clockwise, starting at left) Karina Lukin, Oleg Ulyashin, Tatiana Bulgakova, Patrick Plattet, Tatiana Bulgakova, and at center, Virginie Vate (newly-built Russian Orthodox Church in Chukotka's capital city of Anadyr').


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