Spiritual Warfare: Orthodoxy, Nationalism, and Militarism in Contemporary Russia
(University of Toronto)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the intersections of religion, nationalism, and militarism in contemporary Russia. It takes the anthropology of morality approach to investigate the growing appeal of paramilitary subculture to young men among Orthodox believers.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the intersections of Orthodox Christianity and militarism in contemporary Russia by tracing the growing appeal of paramilitary subculture to young men among Orthodox believers. Drawing on field research with members of a Moscow-based Orthodox military-patriotic brigade Dobrovolets, I analyze the young, conservatively-minded men's discourses on morality and patriotism and investigate their practices of ethical self-cultivation. I argue that the appeal of militant conservative ideology to these young men is best understood in reference to the perceived moral collapse, atomization, and de-spiritualization of society that are often linked discursively to the domination of secular Western liberal ethics. In such a context, religious and nationalistic discourses that build on radical imagery of self-sacrifice, heroism, and communal struggle have emerged as appealing ideological alternatives for young men seeking to demarcate their own transcendent horizons of significance. In the concluding part of my paper, I reflect on the crucial empirical and theoretical contribution the anthropology of morality can make to the study of political radicalism, as it enables the production of a nuanced account of the contemporary conservative and nationalist movements that takes seriously the moral imagination, ideology, and values that animate them. Likewise, the study of radical social and moral imaginaries and practices can bring valuable insights to anthropological debates on morality.
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