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Multiple Nationalisms and Patriotisms Among Russian Rodnovers

Roman Shizhenskii and Kaarina Aitamurto

Rodnoverie is a term used for their religion by a sizable portion of the followers of pre-Christian Slavic spirituality in Russia.1 Reverence for nature and the revival of ancient spiritual practices, reconstructed from historical material and ethnographic studies, are central features of the movement. Rodnoverie rituals follow the cycles of nature; the largest include the summer solstice, Kupala, the winter solstice, Kolyada, and Shrovetide, Maslenitsa. Typically, Rodnovers—the name given to followers of this spirituality—celebrate these festivals in nature, either in city parks or in the countryside. There are no commonly acknowledged religious authorities or organizations in Rodnoverie. Instead, in addition to some bigger umbrella organizations, small informal groups are constantly established. Moreover, many Rodnovers do not belong to any organization, but construct their own religious views from different sources. Due to this lack of dogmatism, it is difficult to define any common beliefs of the community. For example, while some believe in one supreme God, who is manifested in other divinities, others subscribe to polytheistic views, and yet others conceive of gods simply as symbols.

R. Shizhenskii

Minin University, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia K. Aitamurto (*)

Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland © The Author(s) 2017

K. Rountree (ed.), Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, and Modern Paganism, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-56200-5_6

Previous studies of Rodnoverie have routinely noted that nationalism is one of the most characteristic features of this movement. Admittedly, love for one’s country, the uniqueness of the “Russian tradition” and a division between “us” and “them” are frequent themes in Rodnoverie publications (Istarkhov2 2001; Yemelyanov 2005; Ozar 2006). However, as scholars of nationalism have noted, nations are constructed concepts, and therefore under continuous negotiation, especially in such a multiethnic and multiconfessional country as Russia, in which both imperialistic and ethnically based forms of nationalism compete with each other. This chapter begins with an overview of the nationalist tradition in Russia and scholars’ views on Rodnoverie nationalism. These studies are then reflected upon based on a survey conducted during the biggest Russian Pagan festival, Kupala, held in the town of Maloyaroslavets in 2014. Particular attention is given to the question, “What does the motherland (rodina) mean to you?” The data shows a multiplicity of nationalisms and identities among Rodnovers. Surprisingly, a substantial number of Rodnovers identify themselves as Pagans in a very cosmopolitan way, as members of a global community. Another finding of the research is that as representatives of an occasionally discriminated-against minority religion, Rodnovers rarely subscribe to statist nationalism and instead form their identity and loyalties on the basis of locality and land.

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