This article represents an attempt to characterize the worldview of Russian Freemasons of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Instead of relying on the concept of “Christian mysticism,” which Khalturin finds to be highly problematic, it draws on the theory of “Western esotericism as a form of thought” developed by Antoine Faivre, applying it to the study of archival materials from the Masonic collections in the Russian State Library’s Manuscript Division. The benefits of this new conceptualization are as follows: firstly, it helps to explain contradictions in the Masonic worldview; secondly, through reconstructing this worldview as an integral system, it provides a key to understanding certain enigmatic Masonic texts; thirdly, it can help us to situate Russian Freemasonry historically so that we can understand its role as the “third pillar” of Russian culture along with Orthodox Christianity and Enlightenment rationalism.
Magic in the Post-Soviet Space: Definitions, Sources, Verbal Markers
This article examines definitions of magic in the context of the humanities and shows how many working definitions are inaccurate. It proposes that we view magic as an umbrella term, the use of which depends on cultural context, and that the best way to approach the study of magic in the present is to determine its borders anew with regard to each particular culture, carefully examining whether a particular phenomenon belongs to the occult in that specific context. It then aims to provide a guide for historians and scholars of religion on handling primary sources on magic, both print and oral, illustrating the usefulness of the methodology described above by applying it to the study of magic in the post-Soviet space. In the process, the transition of the post-Soviet magician from a person of knowledge to a person of power, the redefinition of previously negative terms (witch [ved’ma] and inhuman [neliud’] or un-human [ankhuman]) into positive ones, and the use of terms borrowed from Western occulture are examined.
“Without Preachers, in a Corner of the Barracks”: Protestant “Barracks Congregations” in the Perm-Kama Region in the Second Half of the 1940s through the Early 1960s
This article examines the genesis and evolution of Protestant groups in the cities and workers’ settlements of the Perm-Kama Region from the 1940s to the early 1960s. The circumstances of life in the conglomerations of settlements in cities in the Urals led to the formation of “barracks congregations” of believers. Glushaev argues that in these years the barracks communities of Evangelical Christians-Baptists and Mennonites played a unique social role, through which horizontal ties were restored and religious practices, adapted to new conditions, took shape.
“One’s Entire Life among Books”: Soviet Jewry on the Path from Tanakh to Library
The bibliocentrism of traditional Jewish culture is well known, and its various manifestations—the foundational role of the Tanakh for all Jewish literature, the place of Tanakh studies in religious education, the significance of education and bibliophilism in society, and the image and functions of the Torah scroll in ritual practice, among others—are well studied. This article seeks to consider the place of the Tanakh, religious books, and books in general in the culture of Soviet and post-Soviet Jewry from the end of the 1910s to the start of the 2000s. This was the culture of a declining, nearly moribund and then re-emergent Judaism; simultaneously, it was a culture that, even if only in part, formed and established the Soviet intelligentsia; finally, it was the culture of a doleful and proud national minority that, though keeping a low profile, forgot nothing. The sources used here are of personal provenance and include memoirs, and, above all, oral histories: several hundred interviews with Soviet Jews born between 1910 and 1940 (principally Ukrainian, but also Russian, Belarusian, Moldavian, and Baltic), which were recorded in the 1990s and the 2000s. The interviews are drawn from the archive of the Kyiv Judaica Institute, specifically the collections “Witnesses of the Jewish Century” and “Jewish Fates in Ukraine,” as well as portions of other collections. For context, Zelenina has incorporated ethnographic interviews conducted at the end of the 2000s and the start of the 2010s housed in the archive of the Center for Biblical and Judaic Studies of the Russian State University for the Humanities.
Religion, Secularity and Cultural Memory in Brazil
This article is devoted to issues of religion, secularity and cultural memory and the ways they are connected and determined by power relations and power structures. These connections and determinations are illustrated by the colonial history of Brazil and the postcolonial power structures this history gave rise to. The article explores several paradoxes of the contemporary Brazilian religious Gestalt and interprets them in relation to power and status hierarchies of the colonial and postcolonial periods. Special attention is devoted to the rise of Pentecostalism (since the 1970s) and the concomitant breaking of the long-standing “cultural agreement” that the Catholic Church would preside (benignly) over a harmonious religious arena.
Mapping the Imaginaire at the Frontiers of Science: The Quest for Universal Unity at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Review Article)
Drawing upon the latest studies in the history of parascience, this review article examines the key differences between its main branches at the turn of the twentieth century. Razdyakonov cautions us against presentism in the history of science and considers the motivations of both scientists and those that Heather Wolffram has labeled the “stepchildren of science” in the search for universal principles regulating natural phenomena. Razdyakonov concludes that the degree to which personal values influence an investigators’ conclusions may be used as a possible criterion for demarcating the boundary between scientific and parascientific discourses.
Viktor Shnirel’man (2012). Russian Rodnoverie: Neo- Paganism and Nationalism in Today’s Russia. (Russkoe rodnoverie: Neoiazichestvo i natsionalizm v sovremennoi Rossii). Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Bibleiskogo-Bogoslovskogo instituta (in Russian). — 302 pages.
Alexey Sitnikov (2012). Orthodox Christianity and the Institutions of Power and Civil Society in Russia. (Pravoslavie, instituty vlasti i grazhdanskogo obshchestva v Rossii). St. Petersburg: Aleteiia (in Russian). — 248 pages.