Accepted Paper:

Transformed rituals and changes of participation among the Russian Orthodox (Moscow region)  


Tünde Komáromi (Károli Gáspár University, Budapest)

Paper short abstract:

There are few noticeable changes in rituals of the Russian Orthodox Church, but participation in those rituals changed after perestroika. This paper focuses on several important changes that have occurred in the rituals and in the act of faith, as well as on the social meaning behind these changes.

Paper long abstract:

After the decline of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church regained the support of the state and its previous social status. A considerable number of churches and monasteries were renovated with the support of believers. Religious life underwent a renaissance which resulted in a larger number of people attending church rituals and converting to Orthodoxy. Most of the newly converted had to learn about rituals and their meaning.

The Orthodox Churches have, for the most part, maintained their rituals, but exceptional circumstances have resulted in changes. Since the beginning of the 1990's, a continuous flow of people, from all over Russia, has come to one of the elders of Lavra, where exorcisms are performed. Not all of these people are considered possessed nor do all seek exorcism, but all agree on the benefits of exorcism. Some have discovered they are possessed during the actual ritual.

Today, most of the children are baptised and many couples decide to have a religious marriage ceremony, in a church. Not all of these people regard church rules seriously, but most of them try to fast, confess periodically, and go to pilgrimages, etc. The Great Blessing of Waters is perhaps the ritual attended by the largest number of believers. Vast amounts of water are collected for the whole year, to defend family members from all evil.

The great popularity of the blessed waters and the large crowds attending the exorcisms have a common social background.

Panel Reli005
The transformation of traditional rituals: imposed change or natural evolution? (Ritual Year SIEF Working Group panel)