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Project: Religious expression among Tatars, Chuvash, Komis, and Udmurts in a period of resurgent Russian imperialism

Project information

Project manager
Torsten Löfstedt
Participating organizations
Linnaeus University
Linnaeus University Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies
1 Jan 2018–31 Dec 2019
Religious studies (Department of Cultural Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Humanities)

More about the project

The Russian Federation is the largest remaining European colonial power. According to the 2010 census approximately 81% of the population considers itself ethnically Russian, but circa 100 peoples have their ethnic homelands there, among them Tatars (5 million), Chuvash (1.4 million), Udmurts (600,000) and Komis (250,000). Tatars and Chuvash speak Turkic languages, while Udmurts and Komis speak languages that are distantly related to Finnish.

In Russia today religion is an important aspect of national identification. It is often noted that Tatars have identified themselves as Muslim longer than Russians have identified as Orthodox. Some speakers of Tatar are Orthodox, however, and have asked to be listed in the census as their own nation, the Kryashens. The Komi, Udmurts and Chuvashes are considered to belong to the Russian Orthodox cultural sphere. Their relations to the Orthodox Church differ. The Orthodox tradition among the Komi goes back to St. Stephen of Perm in the late 1300s, and Orthodox Christianity was a central part of Komi culture prior to the Russian revolution. Udmurts largely came under the influence of the ROC through campaigns against paganism in the 1800s, and many feel they were colonized by Russia. Chuvash were also incorporated into the Orthodox world relatively recently, but most have positive views of the Orthodox Church today.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union leaders in the Russian Orthodox Church worked to give it the status it had enjoyed before the revolution, the religion of empire. In addition, missionaries competed in spreading various forms of Christianity and Islam among the various peoples of the Russian Federation. Members of the Orthodox establishment and Muslim officials have reacted especially negatively to the quick spread of Pentecostal forms of Christianity and have tried to influence local and regional governments as well as Moscow to curtail their activities.

Some questions I will be looking at include:
How is religion used in ethnic politics in Russia and its near abroad? (Here I will look especially at the Russian Orthodox Church as a political instrument and at how different archbishoprics in the ROC relate to their titular nationalities)
Who in practice gets to speak for the minority nations of the Russian Federation when it comes to questions of religion?
What is the Russian Federation – an empire, a federation or a nation state?