Confessions in the Soviet Era: Analytical Overview of Historiography

in Russian History
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Confessional scholarship—like the confessions themselves—had a tumultuous experience during the Soviet era. In contrast to burgeoning scholarship on religious history in the West, Soviet historians ignored the religious dimension, at most marginalizing and demonizing religious institutions and believers. Although some Western works sought to fill this gap, the result—quantitatively, not to mention empirically and analytically—could not compensate for the shortfall in the Russia itself. From the mid-1980s, however, that grim picture began to change: politics in the ussr (perestroika) and the “cultural turn” in the West (revalorizing religion and rejecting the theory of “secularization”) generated a revolution in the empirical depth, thematic diversity, and intellectual sophistication of research on confessional history.




S.P. Huntington, “Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72 (1993): 22–49; he expanded that thesis into a full-scale book, but now published his work without the question mark: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order (New York, 1996). The Huntington thesis generated much criticism and has continued be a source debate; see, for example, N. Charron, “Déjà Vu All Over Again: A Post-Cold War Empirical Analysis of Samuel ­Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ Theory,” Cooperation and Conflict 45 (2010): 107–27; S. Vertigans, “British Muslims and the uk Government’s ‘War on Terror’ within: Evidence of a Clash of Civilizations or Emergent De‐Civilizing Processes?” British Journal of Sociology 61 (2010): 26–44. Whatever the merits and limits of Huntington’s general theory, empirical case studies of ethno-confessional conflict have categorically affirmed the interrelationship of the “ethnic” and “confessional,” and historicized the growing correlation in the post-Cold War, post-decolonization world. For an overview of the literature, see P. Gorski and G. Türkmen-Dervişoģlu, “Religion, Nationalism and Violence: An Integrated Approach,” Annual Review of Sociology 39 (2013): 193–210; and R. Brubaker, “Religious Dimensions of Political Conflict and Violence,” Sociological Theory 33 (2015): 1–19. See also J. Fox, “The Rise of Religious Nationalism and Conflict: Ethnic Conflict and Revolutionary Wars, 1945–2001,” Journal of Peace Research 41 (2004): 715–31; idem, “The Religious Wave: Religion and Domestic Conflict from 1960 to 2009,” Civil Wars 14 (2012): 141–58.


A.D. Smith, “The ‘Sacred’ Dimension of Nationalism,” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 29 (2000): 791–814; A.D. Smith, Chosen Peoples (Oxford, 2004). See also: A. Schnabel and F. Grötsch, “Das religiöse Argument in Europa—Zum Erklärungskomplex von Religion and nationalen Identitäten in Europa,” Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 67 (2015): 1–25.


B.R. Bociukiw, “The Rise of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church 1919–1922” in Church, Nation and State in Russia and Ukraine, ed. G. Hosking (New York, 1991), 228–47; R. Vulpius, “Der Kirchenkampf in der Ukraine als Beispiel für Sakralisierung der Nation und ­Nationalisierung der Religion (1917–1921),” in Nationalisierung der Religion und Sakralisierung der Nation im östlichen Europa, ed. Martin Schulze Wessel (Stuttgart, 2006), ­101–18; R. Vulpius, Nationalisierung der Religion: Russifizierungspolitik und ukrainische Nationalbildung 1860–1920 (Wiesbaden, 2005).


Gregory L. Freeze, “All Power to the Parish? The Problem and Politics of Church Reform in Late Imperial Russia,” in Social Identities in Revolutionary Russia, ed. Madhavan Palat (London: Macmillan): 174–208; Iu.I. Belonogova, Prikhodskoe dukhovenstvo i krest’ianskii mir v nachale xx beka: Po materialam Moskovskoi eparkhii (Moscow: Izd-vo pstgu, 2010), 131–49; A.L. Beglov, “Pravoslavnyi prikhod Rossiiskoi imperii kak ob”ekt fiskal’noi politiki svetskikhi tserkovnykh vlastei v kontse xix–nachale xx v.,” Vestnik pstgu ii: Istoriia 57, no. 2 (2014): 56–81.


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Leont’eva, “Dukhovenstvo i sel’skii mir,” 296.


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H. Reißner, “Die Georgische Kirche in den Jahren von 1917 bis 1941,” in Politik und Religion in der Sowjetunion 1917–1941, ed. C. Gassenschmidt and R. Tuchtenhagen (Wiesbaden, 2001), 65–86; E. Melia, “The Georgian Orthodox Church,” in Aspects of Religion in the Soviet Union, 1917–1967, ed. T.F. Bird, A. Blane, and R. Marshall (Chicago, 1971), 227–32; N. Papuašvili, “Antireligiöse Hysterie und Verfolgung,” Glaube in der 2. Welt, no. 3 (1996): 18–22; P. Werth, “Georgian Autocephaly and the Ethnic Fragmentation of Orthodoxy,” Acta Slavica Iaponica 23 (2006): 74–100; G.A. Kasradze, “Sostoianie pravoslavnoi very sredi naseleniia Gruzinskoi ssr i printsipy nauchnoi organizatsii ateisticheskogo vospitaniia (opyt konkretno-sotsiologicheskogo issledovaniia” (Kand. diss., Tbilisi, 1984).


H.R. Gazer, “Die Armenische Apostolische Kirche in Sowjetarmenien in den Jahren 1917–1941,” in Politik und Religion in der Sowjetunion 1917–1941, ed. C. Gassenschmidt and R. Tuchtenhagen (Wiesbaden, 1961), 87–107; F. Corley, “The Armenian Church under the Soviet Regime,” Religion, State, and Society 423 (1996): 9–53 and 289–343; vol. 26 (1998): 291–355; M. Krikorian, “The Armenian Church in the Soviet Union 1917–1967,” in Aspects of Religion in the Soviet Union 1917–1967, ed. R.H. Marshall et al. (Chicago, 1971), 239–56; C. Mouradian, “The Armenian Apostolic Church,” in Eastern Christianity and Politics in the Twentieth Century, ed. P. Ramet, vol. 1 (London, 1988), 353–74; E. Oganessyan, “The Armenian Church in the ussr,” in Religion in Communist Lands 7 (1979): 238–243.


W.J. Hollenweger, “Zur Geschichte der Pfingstbewegung in der Sowjetunion,” in Religion in der Udssr,ed. O. Basse and G. Stricker (Zollikon, 1989), 225–35.


 See the overview in M.M. Balzer, “Shamanic Communities in the Soviet North,” in Politik und Religion in der Sowjetunion 1917–1941, ed. C. Gassenschmidt and R. Tuchtenhagen (Wiesbaden, 2001), 237–56; K.E. Kuoljok, The Revolution in the North: Soviet Ethnography and Nationality Policy (Uppsala, 1985); M. M. Balzer, ed., Shamanism: Soviet Studies of Traditional Religion in Siberia and Central Asia (Armonk, 1990); M.M. Balzer, ed., Shamanic Worlds: Rituals and Lore of Siberia and Central Asia (Armonk, 1997); A.S. Bairov, “Shamanizm v sotsiokul’turnoi traditsii buriat” (Kand. diss., Chita, 2006).


F. Nesemann, “Der Sowjetstaat und der Islam 1917–1941,” in Politik und Religion in der Sowjetunion 1917–1941, ed. C. Gassenschmidt and R. Tuchtenhagen (Wiesbaden, 2001), 207–36.


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