Back to the future: Popular belief in Russia today

Jeanmarie Rouhier-Willoughby, Tatiana V. Filosofova

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Interest in folklore and popular belief increases as a result of important political changes, especially when a nation needs to re-discover its national identity and find a way to move forward after a crisis. Not unexpectedly, the collapse of the Soviet political system and dramatic social and economic changes in Russia have given rise to a new wave of interest in Russian history, the Orthodox Church, Russian self-perception and identity, and Russian culture, art, literature and folklore. In the last two decades, the system of popular belief in Russian folklore has become one of the most discussed and studied topics among scholars in Russia, Europe and America; it has also experienced a commensurate revival among the populace. We examine the state of popular Orthodoxy in Soviet and post-socialist Russia with a focus on two popular saints, Saint Matrona Moskovskaia and Saint Xenia. Of particular note are attitudes, both within the official Orthodox Church hierarchy and among the laity, toward this folk revival and towards the Soviet era itself. While the laity may view that period with nostalgia and embrace vernacular religion, the Church (officially) cannot. However, it does capitalize (at least on the local level) on these socio-cultural tendencies. There exist multiple strains in the development of the vernacular belief system itself from pre-Christian polytheism to Christian doctrine to non-canonical sources and even socialist tenets, all which intersect at different cultural levels and in coherent ways.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Changing World Religion Map
Subtitle of host publicationSacred Places, Identities, Practices and Politics
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9789401793766
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015.


  • Post-socialist Russia
  • Religious revival
  • Vernacular religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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