Around the Web

Here are some important news stories involving law and religion from around the web:

Lecture: “An (Un)Orthodox View: Religions and Politics in Russia Today” (Apr. 19)

On April 19, the King’s College McGowan Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility, the King’s Public Policy and Research Institute, and the Wyoming Valley Interfaith Council are co-sponsoring a lecture titled “An (Un)Orthodox View: Religions and Politics in Russia Today” given by Catherine Cosman (retired senior policy analyst for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom) at the William G. McGowan School of Business. A brief description of the event follows:

King's CollegeCatherine Cosman, recently retired senior policy analyst for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, will discuss religious liberty in Russian and its impact on foreign policy at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, in the Burke Auditorium at King’s College.

The free public lecture, titled “An (Un)Orthodox View: Religions and Politics in Russia Today,” is co-sponsored by the KING’S McGowan Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility, the King’s Public Policy and Research Institute, and the Wyoming Valley Interfaith Council.

After 70 years of official Soviet atheism, Russia is now home to a great variety of religions. While the Russian Constitution says that the country is a secular state, the religion law preface claims four religions as “traditional”: Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism. The Russian government, particularly the Kremlin, relies almost solely on the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (MPROC) as its official religious bulwark. Cosman’s talk will examine some of the reasons for the Kremlin’s focus on the Moscow Patriarchate and how this focus both affects other religious communities and plays out in Russian international politics.

Cosman joined the staff of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2003. Her areas of responsibility include the countries of the former Soviet Union and the Organization on Security and Cooperation (OSCE). She previously served on the staff of the U.S. Helsinki Commission as senior analyst on Soviet dissent.

She also worked with emerging independent labor unions for the Free Trade Union Institute, especially in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. In Estonia, she was the Senior Expert of the OSCE Mission, focusing on the integration of the Russian minority. She managed the Central Asian and Caucasus grants program at the National Endowment for Democracy and edited “Media Matters” and “(Un)Civil Societies.”

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in history from Grinnell College, Cosman earned a master’s degree and an ABD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Brown University. She also studied at the Free University of Berlin and the All-Union Institute of Cinematography in Moscow.

The Burke Auditorium is located in the William G. McGowan School of Business on North River Street. Parking will be available in on-campus lots. For more information, please contact Dr. Bernard Prusak, director, McGowan Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility, at (570) 208-5900, ext. 5689.

More information on the lecture can be found here.

Horowitz, “The Russian-Jewish Tradition”

This month, Academic Studies Press releases The Russian-Jewish Tradition: Intellectuals, Historians, Revolutionaries by Brian Horowitz (Tulane University). The publisher’s description follows:

the-russian-jewish-traditionThis book argues that Jews were not a people apart but were culturally integrated in Russian society. In their diasporic cultural creations Russia’s Jews employed the general themes of artists under tsars and Soviets, but they modified these themes to fit their own needs. The result was a hybrid, Russian-Jewish culture, unique and dynamic. Few today consider that Jewish Eastern Europe, the “old world”, was in fact a power incubator of modern Jewish consciousness. Brian Horowitz, a well-known scholar of Russian Jewry, presents essays on Jewish education (the heder), historiography, literature and Jewish philosophy that intersect with contemporary interests on the big questions of Jewish life. The book lets us grasp the meaning of secular Judaism and gives models from the past in order to stimulate ideas for the present.

Vovchenko, “Containing Balkan Nationalism”

In August, the Oxford University Press will release “Containing Balkan Nationalism: Imperial Russia and Ottoman Christians, 1856-1914,” by Denis Vovchenko (Northeastern State University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Containing Balkan Nationalism focuses on the implications of the Bulgarian national movement that developed in the context of Ottoman modernization and of European9780190276676 imperialism in the Near East. The movement aimed to achieve the status of an independent Bulgarian Orthodox church, removing ethnic Bulgarians from the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This independent church status meant legal and cultural autonomy within the Islamic structure of the Ottoman Empire, which recognized religious minorities rather than ethnic ones.

Denis Vovchenko shows how Russian policymakers, intellectuals, and prelates worked together with the Ottoman government, Balkan and other diplomats, and rival churches, to contain and defuse ethnic conflict among Ottoman Christians through the promotion of supraethnic religious institutions and identities. The envisioned arrangements were often inspired by modern visions of a political and cultural union of Orthodox Slavs and Greeks. Whether realized or not, they demonstrated the strength and flexibility of supranational identities and institutions on the eve of the First World War. The book encourages contemporary analysts and policymakers to explore the potential of such traditional loyalties to defuse current ethnic tensions and serve as organic alternatives to generic models of power-sharing and federation.

“The New Russian Nationalism” (Kolstø & Blakkisrud, eds.)

Next month, the Oxford University Press will release “The New Russian Nationalism: Imperialism, Ethnicity and Authoritarianism 2000-2015,” edited by Pål Kolstø (University of Oslo) and Helge Blakkisrud (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs).  The publisher’s description follows:

Russian nationalism, previously dominated by ‘imperial’ tendencies – pride in a large, strong and multi-ethnic state able to project its influence abroad – is increasingly 9781474410427focused on ethnic issues. This new ethno-nationalism has come in various guises, like racism and xenophobia, but also in a new intellectual movement of ‘national democracy’ deliberately seeking to emulate conservative West European nationalism.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the subsequent violent conflict in Eastern Ukraine utterly transformed the nationalist discourse in Russia. This book provides an up-to-date survey of Russian nationalism as a political, social and intellectual phenomenon by leading Western and Russian experts in the field of nationalism studies. It includes case studies on migrantophobia; the relationship between nationalism and religion; nationalism in the media; nationalism and national identity in economic policy; nationalism in the strategy of the Putin regime as well as a survey-based study of nationalism in public opinion.

Flynn, “The Western Christian Presence in the Russias and Qājār Persia, c.1760–c.1870”

In May, Brill Publishing will release “The Western Christian Presence in the Russias and Qājār Persia, c.1760–c.1870,” by Thomas S. R. O Flynn. The publisher’s description follows:

In The Western Christian Presence in the Russias and Qājār Persia, c.1760–c.1870, Thomas O Flynn vividly paints the life and times of missionary enterprises in early nineteenth-logocentury Russia and Persia at a moment of immense change when Tsarist Russia embarked on an expansionist campaign reaching to the Caucasus. Simultaneously he charts the relationship between the new Persian dynasty of the Qājārs and missionary activity on the part of European and American missionaries. This book reconstructs that world from a predominantly religious perspective. It recounts the sustaining ideals as well as the everyday struggles of the western missionaries, Protestant (Scottish, Basel and American Congregationalist) and Catholic (Jesuit and Vincentian). It looks at the reactions of diverse tribal peoples, the Tatars of the North Caucasus, the Kabardians and Circassians. Persia was the ultimate goal of these missionaries, which they eventually reached in the 1820s. Altogether this study throws light on the troubled course of history in West Asia and provides the background to politico-religious conflicts in Chechnya and Persia that persist to the present day.

Marsden, “The Crisis of Religious Toleration in Imperial Russia”

This month, Oxford University Press releases “The Crisis of Religious Toleration in Imperial Russia: Bibikov’s System for the Old Believers, 1841-1855” by Thomas Marsden (University College London). The publisher’s description follows:

This book is about an unprecedented attempt by the government of Russia’s Tsar Nicholas I (1825-1855) to eradicate what was seen as one of the greatest threats to its political security: the religious dissent of the Old Believers. The Old Believers had long been reviled by the ruling Orthodox Church, for they were the largest group of Russian dissenters and claimed to be the guardians of true Orthodoxy; however, their industrious communities and strict morality meant that the civil authorities often regarded them favourably. This changed in the 1840s and 1850s when a series of remarkable cases demonstrated that the existing restrictions upon the dissenters’ religious freedoms could not suppress their capacity for independent organisation. Finding itself at a crossroads between granting full toleration, or returning to the fierce persecution of earlier centuries, the tsarist government increasingly inclined towards the latter course, culminating in a top secret ‘system’ introduced in 1853 by the Minister of Internal Affairs Dmitrii Bibikov.

The operation of this system was the high point of religious persecution in the last 150 years of the tsarist regime: it dissolved the Old Believers’ religious gatherings, denied them civil rights, and repressed their leading figures as state criminals. It also constituted an extraordinary experiment in government, instituted to deal with a temporary emergency. Paradoxically the architects of this system were not churchmen or reactionaries, but representatives of the most progressive factions of Nicholas’s bureaucracy. Their abandonment of religious toleration on grounds of political intolerability reflected their nationalist concerns for the future development of a rapidly changing Russia. The system lasted only until Nicholas’s death in 1855; however, the story of its origins, operation, and collapse, told for the first time in this study, throws new light on the religious and political identity of the autocratic regime and on the complexity of the problems it faced.

Anderson, “Conservative Christian Politics in Russia and the United States”

This October, Routledge Press will release “Conservative Christian Politics in Russia and the United States: Dreaming of Christian Nations” by John Anderson (University of St. Andrews).  The publisher’s description follows:

Conservative Christian PoliticsThis book explores the politics of conservative Christian churches and social movements in Russia and the United States, focusing on their similar concerns but very different modes of political engagement.

Whilst secularisation continues to chip away at religious adherence and practice in Europe, religion is often, quite rightly, seen as an influential force in the politics of the United States, and, more questionably, as a significant influence in contemporary Russia. This book looks at the broad social movement making up the US Christian Right and the profoundly hierarchical leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church as socially conservative actors, and some of the ways they have engaged in contemporary politics. Both are seeking to halt the perceived drift towards a more secular political order; both face significant challenges in handling the consequences of secularism, pluralism and liberal individualism; and both believe that their nations can only be great if they remain true to their religious heritage. In exploring their experience, the book focuses on shared and different elements in their diagnosis of what is wrong with their societies and how this affects their policy intervention over issues such as religious and ethnic belonging, sexual orientation and education.

Drawing on political, sociological and religious studies, this work will be a useful reference for students and scholars of religion and politics, Russian politics and American politics.

“Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion” (Coleman ed.)

This month, Indiana University Press is releasing “Orthodox Christianity in Imperial Russia: A Source Book on Lived Religion” edited by Heather J. Coleman (University of Alberta). The publisher’s description follows:

From sermons and clerical reports to personal stories of faith, this book of translated primary documents reveals the lived experience of Orthodox Christianity in 19th- and early 20th-century Russia. These documents allow us to hear the voices of educated and uneducated writers, of clergy and laity, nobles and merchants, workers and peasants, men and women, Russians and Ukrainians. Orthodoxy emerges here as a multidimensional and dynamic faith. Beyond enhancing our understanding of Orthodox Christianity as practiced in Imperial Russia, this thoughtfully edited volume offers broad insights into the relationship between religious narrative and social experience and reveals religion’s central place in the formation of world views and narrative traditions.

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