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Slavic Native Faith

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rodnovers gathered at the Temple of Svarozhich's Fire of the Union of Slavic Native Belief Communities, in Krasotinka, Kaluga Oblast, Russia, to celebrate Perun Day.
Rodnovers gathered at the Temple of Svarozhich's Fire of the Union of Slavic Native Belief Communities, in Krasotinka, Kaluga Oblast, Russia, to celebrate Perun Day.
Fire ritual at the Temple of Svarozhich in Krasotinka.
Fire ritual at the Temple of Svarozhich in Krasotinka.

The Slavic Native Faith, commonly known as Rodnovery,[α] and rarely as Slavic Neopaganism,[β] is a modern Pagan religion. Classified as a new religious movement, its practitioners harken back to the historical belief systems of the Slavic peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, though the movement is inclusive of external influences and hosts a variety of currents. "Rodnovery" is a widely accepted self-descriptor within the community, although there are Rodnover organisations which further characterise the religion as Vedism, Orthodoxy, and Old Belief.

Many Rodnovers regard their religion as a faithful continuation of ancient beliefs that survived as folk religion or as conscious "double belief" following the Christianisation of the Slavs in the Middle Ages. Rodnovery draws upon surviving historical and archaeological sources and folk religion, often integrating them with non-Slavic sources such as Hinduism (as they are believed to be coming from the same Proto-Indo-European source). Rodnover theology and cosmology may be described as pantheism and polytheism—worship of the supreme God of the universe and of the multiple gods, ancestors and spirits of nature identified through Slavic culture. Adherents usually meet together in groups to conduct religious ceremonies. These typically entail the invocation of gods, sacrifices and the pouring of libations, dances and a communal meal.

Rodnover ethical thinking emphasises the good of the collective over the rights of the individual. The religion is patriarchal, and attitudes towards sex and gender are generally conservative. Rodnovery has developed distinctive strains of political and identitary philosophy. Rodnover organisations often characterise themselves as ethnic religions, emphasising that the religion is bound to Slavic ethnicity. This often manifests in forms of nationalism, opposition to miscegenation and the belief in the fundamental difference of racial groups. Rodnovers often glorify Slavic history, criticising the impact of Christianity in Slavic countries and arguing that these nations will play a central role in the world's future. Rodnovers share a strong feeling that their religion represents a paradigmatic shift which will overcome the mental constraints imposed through feudalism and the continuation of what they call "mono-ideologies".

The contemporary organised Rodnovery movement arose from a multiplicity of sources and charismatic leaders just at the brink of the collapse of the Soviet Union and spread rapidly by the mid-1990s and the 2000s. Antecedents are to be found in late 18th- and 19th-century Slavic Romanticism, which glorified the pre-Christian beliefs of Slavic societies. Active religious practitioners devoted to establishing Slavic Native Faith appeared in Poland and Ukraine in the 1930s and 1940s, while the Soviet Union under the leadership of Joseph Stalin promoted research into ancient Slavic religion. Following the Second World War and the establishment of communist states throughout the Eastern Bloc, new variants were established by Slavic emigrants living in Western countries, being later introduced in Central and Eastern European countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent times, the movement has been increasingly studied in academic scholarship.

Overview

Russian Rodnover women with child.
Russian Rodnover women with child.
A Polish Rodnover outdoors altar.
A Polish Rodnover outdoors altar.

Scholars of religion regard Slavic Native Faith as a modern Pagan religion.[4] They also characterise it as a new religious movement.[5] The movement has no overarching structure,[6] or accepted religious authority,[7] and contains much diversity in terms of belief and practice.[8] The sociologist of religion Kaarina Aitamurto has suggested that Rodnovery is sufficiently heterogeneous that it could be regarded not as a singular religion but as "an umbrella term that gathers together various forms of religiosity".[8] The historian Marlène Laruelle has described Rodnovery as "more inclusive than just adherence to a pantheon of pre-Christian gods".[9]

The scholar of religion Alexey Gaidukov has described "Slavic Neopaganism" as a term pertaining to "all quasi-religious, political, ideological and philosophical systems which are based on the reconstruction and construction of pre-Christian Slavic traditions".[6] The scholar of religion Adrian Ivakhiv has defined Rodnovery as a movement which "harkens back to the pre-Christian beliefs and practices of ancient Slavic peoples",[10] while according to the historian and ethnologist Victor A. Shnirelman, Rodnovers present themselves as "followers of some genuine pre-Christian Slavic, Russian or Slavic-Aryan Paganism".[11]

Some involved in the movement avoid calling their belief system either "paganism" or "religion".[11] Many Rodnovers refer to their belief system as an "ethnic religion",[12] and Rodnover groups were involved in establishing the European Congress of Ethnic Religions.[13] The usage of this term suggests that the religion is restricted to a particular ethnic group.[14] Some practitioners regard "ethnic religion" as a term synonymous with "Native Faith", but others perceive there as being a distinction between the two terms.[14] Laruelle has emphasised that Rodnovery "cannot necessarily be defined as a religion in the strict sense"; some adherents prefer to define it as a "spirituality" (dukhovnost), "wisdom" (mudrost), or a "philosophy" or "worldview" (mirovozzrenie).[9]

According to Shnirelman, it was the Soviet Union's official scientific atheism, which severely weakened the infrastructure of universalist religions, combined with anti-Westernism and the research of intellectuals into an ancient "Vedic" religion of Russia, that paved the way for the rise of Rodnovery and other modern Paganisms in Eastern Europe.[15] After the Soviet Union, the pursuit of Rodnovery matured into the spiritual cultivation of organic folk communities (ethnoi) in the face of what Rodnovers consider as the alien cosmopolitan forces which drive global assimilation (what they call "mono-ideologies"), chiefly represented by the Abrahamic religions.[16] In the Russian intellectual milieu, Rodnovery usually presents itself as the ideology of "nativism" (narodnichestvo),[17] which in Rodnovers' own historical analysis is destined to supplant the mono-ideologies whose final bankruptcy the world is now witnessing.[18]

Rodnovery as a new synthesis

Shnirelman has stated that Rodnovery does not actually constitute the "restoration of any pre-Christian religion as such". Rather, he describes the movement as having been "built up artificially by urbanised intellectuals who use fragments of early pre-Christian local beliefs and rites in order to restore national spirituality".[19] In this way, Slavic Native Faith has been understood—at least in part—as an invented tradition,[20] or a form of Folklorismus.[21] Simpson has noted, speaking of the specific context of Poland, that unlike historical Slavic beliefs, which were integral to the everyday fabric of their society, modern Slavic Native Faith believers have to develop new forms of social organisation which set them apart from established society.[22] Textual evidence for historical Slavic religion is scant, has been produced by Christian writers hostile to the systems being described and is usually open to multiple interpretations.[23]

In developing Slavic Native Faith, practitioners draw upon the primary sources about the historical religion of Slavic peoples, as well as elements drawn from later Slavic folklore, official and popular Christian belief and from non-Slavic societies.[24] Among these foreign influences have been beliefs and practices drawn from Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Germanic Heathenry,[25] Siberian shamanism,[26] as well as ideas drawn from various forms of esotericism.[27] Other influences include documents like the Book of Veles, which claim to be genuine accounts of historical Slavic religion but which academics recognise as later compositions.[28] According to the folklorist Mariya Lesiv, through this syncretic process, "a new religion is being created on the basis of the synthesis of elements from various traditions".[29]

Some Rodnovers do not acknowledge this practice of syncretism and instead profess an explicitly anti-syncretic attitude, emphasising the need to retain the "purity" of the religion and thus maintain its "authenticity".[30] Other Rodnovers are conscious that the movement represents a synthesis of different sources, that what is known about ancient Slavic religion is very fragmented, and therefore the reconstruction requires innovation. Laruelle has thus defined Rodnovery as an "open-source religion", that is to say a religion which "emphasizes individual participation and doctrinal evolution, and calls for the personal creation of religious belief systems".[31]

Slavic folk religion and double belief

The Fiery Chariot of the Word—19th-century Russian Old Believers' icon of the Theotokos as Ognyena Maria ("Fiery Mary"), fire goddess sister of Perun.[32] Belief in a mother goddess as the receptacle of life, Mat Syra Zemlya ("Damp Mother Earth"), was preserved in Russian folk religion up to the 20th century, often disguised as the Virgin Mary of Christianity.[33] The fiery "six-petaled roses" that umbego the Ognyena are one of the variants of the whirling symbol of the supreme God (Rod) and of its sons.[34]
The Fiery Chariot of the Word—19th-century Russian Old Believers' icon of the Theotokos as Ognyena Maria ("Fiery Mary"), fire goddess sister of Perun.[32] Belief in a mother goddess as the receptacle of life, Mat Syra Zemlya ("Damp Mother Earth"), was preserved in Russian folk religion up to the 20th century, often disguised as the Virgin Mary of Christianity.[33] The fiery "six-petaled roses" that umbego the Ognyena are one of the variants of the whirling symbol of the supreme God (Rod) and of its sons.[34]

A different perspective is offered by the historian Svetlana M. Chervonnaya, who has seen the return to folk beliefs among Slavs as part of a broader phenomenon that is happening to "the mass religious mind" not merely of Slavic or Eastern European peoples, but to peoples all over Asia, and that expresses itself in new mythologemes endorsed by national elites.[35] The notion that modern Rodnovery is closely tied to the historical Slavic religion is a very strong one among practitioners.[36]

In crafting their beliefs and practices, Rodnovers adopt elements from recorded folk culture, including from the ethnographic record of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[37] Practitioners often legitimise the incorporation of elements from folk culture into Slavic Native Faith through the argument that Slavic folk practices have long reflected the so-called "double belief" (dvoeverie), a conscious preservation of pre-Christian beliefs and practices alongside Christianity. This is a concept that was especially popular among nineteenth-century ethnographers who were influenced by Romanticism and retains widespread popularity across Eastern Europe, but has come under criticism in more recent times.[38] Slavic Christianity was influenced by indigenous beliefs and practices as it was established in the Middle Ages and these folk practices changed greatly over the intervening millennia;[39] according to this, Rodnovers claim that they are just continuing living tradition.[40]

The concept of double belief is especially significant in Russia and for the identity of the Russian Orthodox Church[41] and the folk Orthodoxy of the Old Believers;[42] in that country, it is an oft-cited dictum that "although Russia was baptised, it was never Christianised".[41] The movement of the Old Believers is a form of "folk Orthodoxy", a coalescence of Pagan, Gnostic and unofficial Orthodox currents, that by the mid-seventeenth century seceded from the Russian Orthodox Church (the Raskol, "Schism"), channelling the "mass religious dissent" of the Russian common people towards the Church, viewed as the religion of the central state and the aristocracy.[42] Since the collapse of the Soviet Union there has been a new wave of scholarly debate on the subject within Russia itself. A. E. Musin, an academic and deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church published an article about the "problem of double belief" as recently as 1991. In this article he divides scholars between those who say that Russian Orthodoxy adapted to entrenched indigenous faith, continuing the Soviet idea of an "undefeated paganism", and those who say that Russian Orthodoxy is an out-and-out syncretic religion.[43] Slavic Native Faith adherents, as far as they are concerned, believe that they can take traditional folk culture, remove the obviously Christian elements and be left with something that authentically reflects the historical beliefs of the Slavic peoples.[38]

According to Ivakhiv, despite the intense efforts of Christian authorities, the Christianisation of the Slavs, and especially of Russians, was very slow and resulted in a "thorough synthesis of Pagan and Christian elements", reflected for instance in the refashioning of gods as Christian saints (Perun as Saint Elias, Veles as Saint Blasius and Yarilo as Saint George) and in the overlapping of Christian festivals on Pagan ones.[44] The scholar of Russian folk religion Linda J. Ivanits has reported ethnographic studies documenting that even in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Russia there were entire villages maintaining indigenous religious beliefs, whether in pure form or under the cover of a superficial Christianity.[45] According to her, the case of Russia is exceptional compared to western Europe, because Russia neither lived the intellectual upheavals of the Renaissance, nor the Reformation, nor the other movements which severely weakened folk spirituality in Europe.[46]

Symbolism

Media related to Rodnover symbols at Wikimedia Commons
From left to right: Kolovrat, Hands of Svarog, Thundermark, symbol of Veles.
From left to right: Kolovrat, Hands of Svarog, Thundermark, symbol of Veles.

The most commonly used religious symbol within Rodnovery is the kolovrat ("spinning wheel"), a variant of the swastika (Sanskrit: "wellbeing", "wellness").[47] As such, it represents wholeness, the ultimate source of renewal, the cosmic order and the four directions.[48] According to the studies of Boris Rybakov, whirl and wheel symbols, which also include patterns like the "six-petalled rose inside a circle" (e.g.

RozetaSolarSymbol.svg) and the "thunder mark" (gromovoi znak), represent the supreme God (Rod), expressing itself as power of birth and reproduction, in its various forms (whether Triglav, Svetovid, Perun and other gods) and were still carved in folk traditions of north Russia up to the nineteenth century.[49] The contemporary design of the symbol called kolovrat, the eight-spoked wheel, used by Rodnovers was already present in woodcuts produced in the 1920s by the Polish artist Stanisław Jakubowski, under the name słoneczko ("little sun").[50] According to Laruelle, Rodnovers believe that it is a symbol of "accession to the upper world". For some Rodnovers, the Orthodox cross is another Slavic version of the swastika.[51]

Terminology

"Rodnovery" (Native Faith)

The Anglicised term "Rodnovery", and its adjective "Rodnover(s)", have gained widespread usage in English and have been given an entry in the second edition (2019) of the academic Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation.[52] It means "Native Faith" and it is the name used by the majority of the movement's adherents.[53] The term is adapted from Slavic forms, and variations of it are used in different Slavic languages: for instance, in Ukrainian it is Ridnovirstvo or Ridnovirya, in Russian Rodnoverie, in Polish Rodzimowierstwo, and in Czech Rodnovĕří.[53] The term derives from the Proto-Slavic roots *rod, which means anything "indigenous", "ancestral" and "native", also "genus", "generation", "kin", "race" (e.g. Russian rodnaya or rodnoy); and *vera, which means "faith", "religion".[1] Within the movement, it has also been used to define the community of Native Faith practitioners themselves as an elective group.[54] The term has different histories and associations in each of the Slavic languages in which it appears.[53] The suffix "-ism" is usually avoided in favour of others that describe the religion as if it were a practice or craft (which is the meaning of the Ukrainian and Russian suffix -stvo, thus translatable with the English suffix "-ery, -ry").[55]

The Svetoary community of the Union of Slavic Native Belief Communities celebrating Mokosh.
The Svetoary community of the Union of Slavic Native Belief Communities celebrating Mokosh.

Sometimes the term "Rodnovery" has also been interpreted as meaning "faith of Rod", a reference to an eponymous concept of supreme God, Rod, found in ancient Russian and Ukrainian sources.[56] Aitamurto stated that in addition to being the most used term, it is the most appropriate because of its meanings.[57] It has deep senses related to its Slavic etymology, that would be lost through translation, which express the central concepts of the Slavic Native Faith.[57] Rod is conceived as the absolute, primordial God, supreme ancestor of the universe, that begets all things,[57] and at the same time as the kin, the lineage of generation which is the ancestral bond to the supreme source.[57] Rodna or rodnaya is itself a concept which can denote the "nearest and dearest", and such impersonal community as one's native home or land.[57] A variant of "Rodnovery" is "Rodianism" (Rodianstvo), which Laruelle also translates as "Ancestrism".[9]

The earliest known usage of this term was by the Ukrainian emigree Lev Sylenko, who in 1964 established a mimeographed publication in Canada that was titled Ridna Vira ("Native Faith").[1] The portmanteau Ridnovir began to be used by Ukrainians to refer to the broader movement (not restricted to Sylenkoism) by at least 1995.[58] From Ukraine, the term began to spread throughout other Slavic countries.[58] In 1996, it was adopted by a Polish group, the Association of Native Faith (Zrzeszenie Rodzimej Wiary) and in 1997 by the Russian Union of Slavic Native Belief Communities (Союз Славянских Общин Славянской Родной Веры).[58] By the early 2000s, the term was widespread across Slavic language countries.[14] In 2002, six Russian Rodnover organisations issued the "Bittsa Appeal" (Bittsevskoe Obraschchenie), in which, among the many topics discussed, they expressed the view that "Rodnovery" should be regarded as the foremost name of the religion.[59] The spread of the term reflected the degree of solidarity in establishing a broader brand and a sense of international movement despite the disagreements and power struggles that permeated the groups.[59] The term also came to be applied to the modern Pagan religions of non-Slavic groups; for instance, in the Polish language Lithuanian Romuva has been referred to as Rodzimowierstwo litewskie ("Lithuanian Native Faith") and Celtic Paganism has been referred to as Rodzimowierstwo celtyckie ("Celtic Native Faith").[59]

"Orthodoxy", "Old Belief", "Vedism" and other terms

Outdoors shrine (kapishche) at the Temple of Svarozhich's Fire in Krasotinka, Kaluga Oblast, Russia.
Outdoors shrine (kapishche) at the Temple of Svarozhich's Fire in Krasotinka, Kaluga Oblast, Russia.

The appropriate name of the religion is an acute topic of discussion among believers.[60] Many Rodnovers have adopted terms that are already used to refer to other religions, namely "Vedism", referring to the historical Vedic religion and the ancient Iranian religion, and "Orthodoxy", commonly associated to Orthodox Christianity.[61] For instance, one of the earliest branches of Rodnovery is known as "Peterburgian Vedism".[62] They explain that "Vedism" derives from the word "to know" and implies that rather than dogmatically believing (verit), Vedists "know" or "see" (vedat) spiritual truths. The term was first employed by Yuri P. Mirolyubov—the writer or discoverer of the Book of Veles—in the mid-twentieth century, and later adopted by the founder of Peterburgian Vedism, Viktor Bezverkhy.[63]

In Ukraine and Russia many important Rodnover groups advocate the designation of "Orthodoxy" (Russian: Pravoslaviye, Serbian: Pravoslavlje, Ukrainian: Pravoslavya) for themselves.[64] They claim that the term, which refers to the "praise" or "glorification" (slava) of the universal order (Prav, cf. Vedic Ṛta, "Right"), was usurped by the Christians.[65] Another term employed by Rodnovers, but historically associated to the Russian Orthodox Christian movement of the Old Believers, is "Starovery" (Russian: Старове́ры Starovéry, "Old Faith").[66]

Some Slovenian practitioners use the Slovenian language term ajd, which is a loan-word of the Germanic-language heathen.[67] When using English language terms to describe their religion, some Rodnovers favour "Heathen", in part due to a perceived affinity with the contemporary Germanic Heathens who also commonly use that term.[68] Another term employed by some Rodnovers has been "Slavianism" or "Slavism", which appears especially in Polish (Słowiaństwo), in Russian (Slavianstvo), and in Slovak (Slovianstvo).[14] The ethnonym "Slavs" (Polish: Słowianie, South Slavic: Sloveni, Russian: Slavyane), derives from the Proto-Slavic root *slovo, "word", and means "those who speak the same words", and according to Rodnovers it has the religious connotation of "praising one's gods".[69]

General descriptors: Western "pagan" and Slavic yazychnik

Ringing Cedars' Rodnovers gathering on Kupala holiday, at the kinship settlement Silver Forest (Серебряный Бор, Serebrany Bor) in Ustinka, Belgorod Oblast, Russia.
Ringing Cedars' Rodnovers gathering on Kupala holiday, at the kinship settlement Silver Forest (Серебряный Бор, Serebrany Bor) in Ustinka, Belgorod Oblast, Russia.

In Slavic languages the closest equivalent of "paganism" is poganstvo (taking for instance Russian; it itself deriving from Latin paganus), although Rodnovers widely reject this term due to its derogatory connotations.[70] Indeed, many Slavic languages have two terms that are conventionally rendered as "pagan" in Western languages: the aforementioned pogan and yazychnik. The latter, which is a derivation of the near-homophonous yazyk, "tongue", is prevalent and has a less negative acceptation, literally meaning "pertaining to (our own) language".[64] It is often more accurately (though by no means thoroughly) translated as "Gentile" (i.e. pertaining "to the gens", "to the kin"), which in turn it itself renders in Slavic translations of the Bible.[68] Some Russian and Ukrainian Rodnovers employ, respectively, Yazychestvo and Yazychnytstvo (i.e. "our own language craft", "Gentility"), but it is infrequent.[71] Yazychnik has been adopted especially among Rodnovers speaking West Slavic languages, where it has not any connotations related to "paganism".[65] Thus, Czech Rodnover groups have coined Jazyčnictví and Slovak Rodnovers have coined Jazyčníctvo.[65]

By the mid-1930s, the term "Neopagan" had been applied to the Polish Zadrugist movement.[72] It was adopted among Rodnovers in the 1990s—when it appeared in such forms as the Russian Neoyazychestvo and the Polish Neopogaństwo—but had been eclipsed by "Slavic Native Faith" in the 2000s.[73] However, the prefix "neo-" within "Neopaganism" is a divisive issue among Rodnovers.[73] Some practitioners dislike it because it minimises the continuity of indigenous pre-Christian beliefs.[73] They regard themselves as restoring the original belief system rather than creating something new.[74] Others embrace the term as a means of emphasising what they regard as the reformed nature of the religion; the Polish Rodnover Maciej Czarnowski for instance encouraged the term because it distinguished his practices from those of the pre-Christian societies, which he regarded as being hindered by superstition and unnecessary practices like animal sacrifice.[73] Many Rodnovers straightforwardly reject the designator "paganism", whether "neo-", "modern", "contemporary" or without prefixes and further qualificators, asserting that these are "poorly defined" concepts whose use by scholars leads to a situation in which Rodnovery is lumped together with "all kinds of cults and religions" which have nothing to do with it.[75]

Beliefs

Theology and cosmology

The Seven Gods—Russian artist Maxim Sukharev, 2010s. The artwork represents the supreme God (Rod) manifested as a sevenfold hierarchy, according to Slavic theo-cosmology.
The Seven Gods—Russian artist Maxim Sukharev, 2010s. The artwork represents the supreme God (Rod) manifested as a sevenfold hierarchy, according to Slavic theo-cosmology.

Prior to their Christianisation, the Slavic peoples were polytheists, worshipping multiple deities who were regarded as the emanations of a supreme God. According to Helmold's Chronica Slavorum (compiled 1168–1169), "obeying the duties assigned to them, [the deities] have sprung from his [the supreme God's] blood and enjoy distinction in proportion to their nearness to the god of the gods".[76] Belief in these deities varied according to location and through time, and it was common for the Slavs to adopt deities from neighbouring cultures.[23] Both in Russia and in Ukraine, modern Rodnovers are divided among those who are monotheists and those who are polytheists.[77] Some practitioners describe themselves as atheists,[78] believing that gods are not real entities but rather ideal symbols.[79]

Monotheism and polytheism are not regarded as mutually exclusive. The shared underpinning is a pantheistic view that is holistic in its understanding of the universe.[78] Similarly to the ancient Slavic religion, a common theological stance among Rodnovers is that of monism, by which the many different gods (polytheism) are seen as manifestations of the single, universal God—generally identified by the concept of Rod,[8] also known as Sud ("Judge") and Prabog ("Pre-God", "First God") among South Slavs.[80] In the Russian and Ukrainian centres of Rodnover theology, the concept of Rod has been emphasised as particularly important.[81][82]

The root *rod is attested in sources about pre-Christian religion referring to divinity and ancestrality.[83] Mathieu-Colas defines Rod as the "primordial God", but the term also literally means the generative power of family and "kin", "birth", "origin" and "fate" as well.[80] Its negative form, urod, means something wrenched, deformed, degenerated, monstrous.[8] Sometimes, the meaning of the word is left deliberately obscure among Rodnovers, allowing for a variety of different interpretations.[81] Cosmologically speaking, Rod is conceived as the spring of universal emanation, which articulates in a cosmic hierarchy of gods; Rod expresses itself as Prav (literally "Right" or "Order"; cf. Greek Orthotes, Sanskrit Ṛta) in primordial undeterminacy (chaos), through a dual dynamism, represented by Belobog ("White God") and Chernobog ("Black God"), the forces of waxing and waning, and then giving rise to the world in its three qualities, Prav-Yav-Nav.[84] Triglav ("Three-Headed One") and Svetovid ("Worldseer") are concepts representing the axis mundi and, respectively, the three qualities of reality and their realisation in the four dimensions of space.[85]

When emphasising this monism, Rodnovers may define themselves as rodnianin, "believers in God"[86] (or "in nativity", "in genuinity"). Already the pioneering Ukrainian leader Shaian argued that God manifests as a variety of different deities.[87] This theological explanation is called "manifestationism" by some contemporary Rodnovers and implies the idea of a spirit–matter continuum; the different gods, who proceed from the supreme God, generate differing categories of things not as their external creations (as objects), but embodying themselves as these entities. In their view, beings are the progeny of gods; even phenomena such as the thunder are conceived in this way as embodiments of these gods (in this case, Perun).[88] In the wake of this theology, it is common among Slavic Native Faith practitioners to say that "we are not God's slaves, but God's sons".[81] Some Rodnover groups espouse the idea that specific Slavic populations are the sons of peculiar facets of God; for instance, groups who rely upon the tenth-century manuscript The Lay of Igor's Host may affirm the idea that Russians are the grandchildren of Dazhbog (the "Giving God", "Day God").[81]

Statue of Svetovid in Kyiv. The four-faced "Worldseer" represents (according to the Book of Veles) Prav, Yav and Nav in the four directions of space.
Statue of Svetovid in Kyiv. The four-faced "Worldseer" represents (according to the Book of Veles) Prav, Yav and Nav in the four directions of space.

Pantheons of deities are not unified among practitioners of Slavic Native Faith.[89] Different Rodnover groups often have a preference for a particular deity over others.[90] The Union of Russian Rodnover Communities founded and led by Vadim Kazakov recognises a pantheon of over thirty deities emanated by the supreme Rod;[91] these include attested deities from Slavic pre-Christian and folk traditions, Slavicised Hindu deities (such as Vyshen, i.e. Vishnu, and Intra, i.e. Indra), Iranian deities (such as Simargl and Khors), deities from the Book of Veles (such as Pchelich) and figures from Slavic folk tales such as the wizard Koschei.[92] Another Russian Rodnover leader, Nikolay Speransky (volkhv Velimir), emphasises a dualistic eternal struggle between forces of good and evil; the former represented by Belobog, who created the human soul, and the latter by Chernobog, who created the human body.[93] Rodnovers also believe and worship tutelary deities of specific elements, lands and environments,[94] such as waters, forests and the household. Gods may be subject to functional changes among modern Rodnovers; for instance, the traditional god of livestock and poetry Veles is called upon as the god of literature and communication.[88]

In Ukraine, there has been a debate as to whether the religion should be monotheistic or polytheistic.[95] In keeping with the pre-Christian belief systems of the region, the groups who inherit Volodymyr Shaian's tradition, among others, espouse polytheism.[95] Conversely, Sylenko's Native Ukrainian National Faith (RUNVira; also called "Sylenkoism") regards itself as monotheistic and focuses its worship upon a single God who they identify with the name Dazhbog.[96] For members of this group, Dazhbog is regarded as the life-giving energy of the cosmos.[97]

Sylenko characterised Dazhbog as "light, endlessness, gravitation, eternity, movement, action, the energy of unconscious and conscious Being".[97] Based on this description, Ivakhiv argued that Sylenkoite theology might better be regarded as pantheistic or panentheistic rather than monotheistic.[97] Sylenko acknowledged that the ancient Ukrainian-Rus were polytheists but believed that a monotheistic view reflected an evolution in human spiritual development and thus should be adopted.[98] A similar view is espoused by Russian Ynglism.[88] Lesiv recorded one RUNVira member who related that "we cannot believe in various forest, field and water spirits today. Yes, our ancestors believed in these things but we should not any longer".[99] For Native Ukrainian National Faith's members, polytheism is regarded as backward.[99] Some polytheist Rodnovers have regarded the approach adopted by Sylenko's followers as an inauthentic approach to the religion.[100]

Morality and ethics

Rodnover wedding ceremony.
Rodnover wedding ceremony.
Ukrainian Rodnovers worshipping a kapy (pole) of Perun, in Ternopil Oblast, Ukraine.
Ukrainian Rodnovers worshipping a kapy (pole) of Perun, in Ternopil Oblast, Ukraine.

Rodnovery emphasises the "this-worldliness" of morality and moral thinking, seen as a voluntary and thoughtful responsibility towards the others that sprouts from the awareness of the interconnectedness of all things and of the continuity of spirit–matter and not as a strict set of rules. Although some Rodnovers believe in an afterlife, Iriy or Vyriy, they argue that retribution is not deferred to such future; since gods manifest themselves as the natural phenomena, and in people as lineage descendants, Rodnovers believe that actions and their outcomes unfold and are to be dealt with in the present world.[101] People are viewed as having unique responsibilities towards their own contexts: for instance, the duty of parents is to take care of their children and that of children to take care of their parents, the right of ancestors is to be honoured, and the land deserves to be cultivated.[102]

Rodnovers blame Christianity for transferring personal responsibility into a transcendent future, when actions will be judged by God and people either smitten or forgiven for their sins, in fact exempting people from responsibility. According to Rodnovers, justice and truth have to be realised in this life, so that "turning the other cheek", waiving agency and intervention in the things of this world, is considered immoral and equivalent to welcoming wrongness.[103] In other words, fleeing from the commitment towards the forces at play in the present context is the same as denying the gods; it disrupts morality, impairing the individual, society and the world itself.[102]

Rodnovers value individual responsibility as the cornerstone for the further maturation of humanity, equating the conversion to Rodnovery with such maturation.[104] This emphasis on individuality is not at odds with the value of solidarity, since collective responsibility is seen as arising from the union of the right free decisions of reflexive individuals. By using terms of Émile Durkheim, Aitamurto says that what Rodnovers reject is "egoistic individualism", not "moral individualism".[105] Immediately related to the morality of a responsible community is the respect for the natural world in general, or what Aitamurto defines "ecological responsibility".[106] However, have been difficulties with Rodnover involvement in the wider environmentalist movement as a result of many environmentalists' unease with the racial and anti-Christian themes that are prominent in the religion.[107]

Rodnover ethics deal with a wide range of contemporary social issues,[11] and they can be defined as conservative. Aitamurto summarised Rodnover ethics in the concepts of patriarchy, solidarity and homogeneity, with the latter two seen as intrinsically related.[108] Laruelle similarly found an emphasis on patriarchy, heterosexuality, traditional family, fidelity and procreation.[109] Shnirelman observed that Rodnovers' calls for social justice tend to apply only to their own ethnic community.[110]

Within Rodnovery, gender roles are conservative.[66] Rodnovers often subscribe to the view that men and women are fundamentally different and thus their tasks also differ.[66] Men are seen as innately disposed towards "public" life and abstract thought, while women are seen as better realising themselves in the "private" administration of the family and the resources of the house.[111] Rodnovers therefore reinforce traditional values in Slavic countries rather than being countercultural, presenting themselves as a stabilising and responsible social force. They may even view their upholding of social traditionalism as a counterculture in itself, standing in the face of modernism and globalism.[112]

Ideas and practices perceived as coming from Western liberal society—which Rodnovers perceive as degenerate—are denounced as threats to Slavic culture; for instance, alcohol and drug consumption, various sexual behaviours and miscegenation are commonly rejected by Rodnovers, while they emphasise healthy family life in harmonious environments.[113] Many groups in both Russia and Ukraine have demanded the prohibition of mixed-race unions,[114] while the doctrine of the Ynglist Church includes an articulate condemnation of race mixing as unhealthy.[113] Aitamurto and Gaidukov noted that "hardly any women" in Russian Rodnovery would call themselves feminists, partly due to Rodnover beliefs on gender and partly due to the negative associations that the word "feminism" has in Russian culture.[66] In adopting such a conservative stance to sexual ethics, practitioners of Rodnovery can adopt misogynistic and homophobic attitudes.[115] Aitamurto and Gaidukov noted that it would be "difficult to imagine that any Rodnover community would accept members who are openly homosexual".[66]

The Russian-based Circle of Pagan Tradition distinguishes itself for its more accommodating positions—compared to those of other organisations—about the coexistence of different lifestyles, holding that tolerance should be a key value.[116] They reflect their stance in the slogan "unity in diversity".[116] This organisation has also placed greater emphasis on environmentalist issues over nationalist ones, and has called on its members to vote for the Green Russia party.[117]

Identity and political philosophy

Map of countries in Central and Eastern Europe where Slavic languages predominate. Dark green represents East Slavic languages, pale green represents West Slavic languages, and sea green represents South Slavic languages.
Map of countries in Central and Eastern Europe where Slavic languages predominate. Dark green represents East Slavic languages, pale green represents West Slavic languages, and sea green represents South Slavic languages.

There is no evidence that the early Slavs ever conceived of themselves as a unified ethno-cultural group.[118] There is an academic consensus that the Proto-Slavic language developed from about the second half of the first millennium BCE in an area of Central and Eastern Europe bordered by the Dnieper basin to the east, the Vistula basin to the west, the Carpathian Mountains to the south and the forests beyond the Pripet basin to the north.[119] Over the course of several centuries, Slavic populations migrated in northern, eastern and south-western directions.[119] In doing so, they branched out into three sub-linguistic families: the Eastern Slavs (Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians), the Western Slavs (Poles, Czechs, Slovaks) and the Southern Slavs (Slovenes, Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks, Macedonians and Bulgarians).[119]

The belief systems of these Slavic communities had many affinities with those of neighbouring linguistic populations, such as the Balts, Thracians and Indo-Iranians.[119] Vyacheslav Ivanov and Vladimir Toporov studied the origin of ancient Slavic themes in the common substratum represented by Proto-Indo-European religion and what Georges Dumézil studied as the "trifunctional hypothesis". Marija Gimbutas, instead, found Slavic religion to be a clear result of the overlap of Indo-European patriarchism and pre-Indo-European matrifocal beliefs. Boris Rybakov emphasised the continuity and complexification of Slavic religion through the centuries.[119]

Laruelle observed that Rodnovery is in principle a decentralised movement, with hundreds of groups coexisting without submission to a central authority. Therefore, socio-political views can vary greatly from one group to another, from one adherent to another, ranging from extreme pacifism to militarism, from apoliticism and anarchism to left-wing and to right-wing positions. Nevertheless, Laruelle says that the most politicised right-wing groups are the most popularly known, since they are more vocal in spreading their ideas through the media, organise anti-Christian campaigns, and even engage in violent actions.[120] Aitamurto observed that the different wings of the Rodnover movement "attract different kinds of people approaching the religion from quite diverging points of departure".[121]

There are, nonetheless, recurrent themes within the various strains of Rodnovery. The scholar of religion Scott Simpson has stated that Slavic Native Faith is "fundamentally concerned with questions of community and ethnic identity",[122] while the folklorist Nemanja Radulovic has described adherents of the movement as placing "great emphasis on their national or regional identity".[123] They conceive ethnicity and culture as territorial, moulded by the surrounding natural environment (cf. ecology).[124] Rodnovery typically emphasises the rights of the collective over the rights of the individual,[125] and their moral values are the conservative values typical of the right-wing of politics: emphasis on patriarchy, heterosexuality, traditional family, fidelity and procreation.[109] Most Rodnover groups will permit only Slavs as members, although there are a few exceptions.[110] Many Rodnovers espouse socio-political views akin to those of the French Nouvelle Droite,[126] and many of them in Russia have come close to the ideas of Eurasianism.[127] In this vein, they often oppose what they regard as culturally destructive phenomena such as cosmopolitanism, liberalism and globalisation,[100] as well as Americanisation and consumerism.[128]

Nationalism

A Mazovian Temple (Chram Mazowiecki) of the Native Polish Church.
A Mazovian Temple (Chram Mazowiecki) of the Native Polish Church.

The political philosophy of Rodnovery can be defined as "nativism", "nationalism" and "populism", all of which render the Russian word narodnichestvo.[17] This is often right-wing ethnic nationalism.[129] Aitamurto suggested that Russian Rodnovers' conceptions of nationalism encompass three main themes: that "the Russian or Slavic people are a distinct group", that they "have—or their heritage has—some superior qualities", and that "this unique heritage or the existence of this ethnic group is now threatened, and, therefore, it is of vital importance to fight for it".[130] There are Rodnovers with extreme right-wing nationalist views,[131] including those who are Neo-Nazi and openly inspired by Nazi Germany.[132] Some blame many of the world's problems on the mixing of ethnic groups,[133] and emphasise the idea of ethnic purity,[134] promoting ideas of racial segregation,[135] and demanding the legal prohibition of mixed-race marriages.[110] Some regard ethnic minorities living in Slavic countries as a cause of social injustice,[110] and encourage the removal of those regarded as "aliens" from Russia, namely those who are Jewish or have ethnic origins in the Caucasus,[136] an approach which could require ethnic cleansing.[110] Other Rodnovers are openly anti-Semitic,[137] for instance urging fellow Rodnovers not to get involved with Jews,[138] and endorse anti-Semitic conspiracy theories claiming that Jews control the economic-political elite.[136]

Many other Rodnovers deny or downplay the racist and Nazi elements within their community, and claim that extreme right-wingers are not true believers in Slavic Native Faith because their interests in the movement are primarily political rather than religious.[139] There are groups that espouse positions of cultural nationalism and patriotism, rather than extreme ethnic nationalism. For instance, the Russian Circle of Pagan Tradition characterises itself as "patriotic" rather than "nationalist", avoids ethnic nationalist ideas, and recognises Russia as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural state.[140] Moreover, in countries like Poland and Russia there has been an increasing de-politicisation of Rodnovery in the twenty-first century.[141] In Russia too, Aitamurto and Shizhenskii have found that expressions of extreme nationalism were considered socially unacceptable at one of the largest Rodnover events, the Kupala festival outside Maloyaroslavets.[142]

Rodnover themes and symbols have also been adopted by many Russian nationalists—including in the Russian skinhead movement[143]—who do not necessarily embrace Rodnovery as a religion.[144] Some of them merge Rodnover themes with others adopted from Germanic Heathenry and from Russian Orthodox Christianity.[145] A number of young practitioners of Slavic Native Faith have been detained on terrorism charges in Russia;[146] between 2008 and 2009, teenaged Rodnovers forming a group called the Slavic Separatists conducted at least ten murders and planted bombs across Moscow targeting Muslims and non-ethnic Russians.[147]

Laruelle has observed that even in groups which reject extreme nationalism or are apolitical, ethnic identity is still important, and a good Rodnover is considered one who is conscious of ethnic identity, national traditions, and knows the history of the ancestors.[148] Shnirelman similarly noted that there is a loose boundary between the explicitly politicised and less politicised wings of the Russian movement,[125] and that ethnic nationalist and racist views were present even in those Rodnovers who did not identify with precise political ideologies.[146]

Grassroots democracy and samoderzhavie

The socio-political system proposed by Rodnovers is based on their interpretation of the ancient Slavic community model of the veche (popular assembly), similar to the ancient Germanic "thing" and ancient Greek democracy. They propose a political system in which decisional power is entrusted to assemblies of consensually-acknowledged wise men, or to a single wise individual.[149] Western liberal ideas of freedom and democracy are traditionally perceived by Russian eyes as "outer" freedom, contrasting with Slavic "inner" freedom of the mind; in Rodnovers' view, Western liberal democracy is "destined to execute the primitive desires of the masses or to work as a tool in the hands of a ruthless elite", being therefore a mean-spirited "rule of demons".[150]

Some Rodnovers interpret the veche in ethnic terms, thus as a form of "ethnic democracy", in the wake of similar concepts found in the French Nouvelle Droite.[151] Aitamurto has defined the Rodnover idea of the veche as a form of grassroots democracy, or, using the term preferred by the Ynglists, as a samoderzhavie, that is to say a system of "self-power", "people ruling themselves".[149]

Views on history and eschatology

Shnirelman notes that the movement is "obsessed with the idea of origin".[146] Many Rodnovers legitimise their practices by according their Slavic ancestors great cultural achievements.[152] Academics studying the movement have described these views of the past as "extremely imaginative and exaggerated",[153] "rather fantastic",[154] and linked to pseudo-historical ideas.[155] However, Aitamurto and Gaidukov later noted that the "wildly imaginative" ideas typical of the 1980s were in decline, and that—within Russia at least—"a more realistic attitude" to the past was "gaining ground" in the twenty-first century.[156]

New World. Sun City by the Russian artist Lola V. Lonli, 2013.
New World. Sun City by the Russian artist Lola V. Lonli, 2013.

Many within the movement regard the Book of Veles as a holy text,[157] and as a genuine historical document.[158] Some Rodnovers take their cosmology, ethical system, and ritual practices from the Book.[157] The fact that many scholars outspokenly reject the Book as a modern, twentieth-century composition has added to the allure that the text has for many Rodnovers. According to them, such criticism is an attempt to "suppress knowledge" carried forward either by Soviet-style scientism or by "Judaic cosmopolitan" forces.[159] Other modern literary works that have influenced the movement, albeit on a smaller scale, include The Songs of the Bird Gamayon, Koliada's Book of Stars, The Song of the Victory on Jewish Khazaria by Sviatoslav the Brave or The Rigveda of Kiev.[160] Some Rodnovers pejoratively dismiss movements such as that of the Vseyasvetnaya gramota ("Universal alphabet", a discipline which, similarly to Jewish Kabbalah, sees Cyrillic and Glagolitic scripts as mystical and magical ways to communicate with God, and as instruments to see past events and foresee future ones) as "New Age" and claim that reliance on them discredits the Slavic Native Faith movement.[161]

Some Rodnovers believe that the Slavs are a race distinct from other ethnic groups.[130] According to them, the Slavs are the directest descendants of an ancient Aryan race, whom they equate with the Proto-Indo-Europeans.[28] Some Rodnovers believe that the Aryans originated at the North Pole but moved south as a result of declining temperatures,[162] while others claim that the Aryans germinated in Russia's southern steppes.[163] In claiming an Aryan ancestry, Slavic Native Faith practitioners legitimise their cultural borrowing from other ethno-cultural groups who they claim are also Aryan descendants, such as the Germanic peoples or those of the Indian subcontinent.[164]

Some Rodnovers hold eschatological beliefs.[165] For instance, they regard Slavic countries as having a messianic role in humanity's future, for instance with the belief that Ukraine will be the world's future geopolitical centre,[166] or that Russia will be the home of a post-apocalyptic civilisation which will survive the demise of the Western world.[128] Such racial and eschatological beliefs are explicitly rejected by other Rodnovers, like the Circle of Pagan Tradition.[117]

Although their understanding of the past is typically rooted in spiritual conviction rather than in arguments that would be acceptable within the academia, many Rodnovers seek to promote their beliefs about the past among academics.[156] For instance, in 2002 Serbian Rodnovers established Svevlad, a research group devoted to historical Slavic religion which simulated academic discourse but was "highly selective, unsystematic, and distorted" in its examination of the evidence.[167] In several Slavic countries, many archaeologists and historians have been hesitant about giving credence to Rodnover interpretations of the past.[168] In turn, Rodnovers have accused academics of being part of a conspiracy to conceal the truth about the past.[169]

Views on Christianity and mono-ideologies

The initiation of a woman into Rodnovery, in Moscow, Russia.
The initiation of a woman into Rodnovery, in Moscow, Russia.

Many Rodnovers actively reject Christianity or adopt anti-Christian views.[170] They generally regard Abrahamic religions as destructive forces that erode what they view as organic peoples,[16] with Christianity being perceived as a foreign entity within Slavic culture.[171] They consider the Abrahamic religions and their later secular ideological productions (Marxism, capitalism and the general Western rationalism begotten by the Age of Enlightenment) as "mono-ideologies", that is to say ideologies which promote "universal and one-dimensional truths", unable to grasp the complexity of reality and therefore doomed to failure one after the other.[172] Christianity is denounced as a hierarchical and centralised power that throughout history defended the rich and legitimised slave mentality, and as an anthropocentric ideology which distorts the role of mankind in the cosmos by claiming that God could have been incarnated as a single historical entity (Jesus).[173] In Russia, Rodnovers often compare Christianity, for its claim to have a monopoly on truth, to Soviet Marxism.[116] They also criticise capitalism and seek a return to a pre-capitalist society.[174] As an alternative to the "mono-ideologies" and the world of "unipolarity" that they created, the Rodnovers oppose their idea of "multipolarism".[175]

Some Rodnovers also take a hostile stance toward Judaism, which they regard as having spawned Christianity,[100] or believe that Christianity has left Russia under the control of Jews.[163] Rodnovers often reject Christian ideas of humility, regarding them as antithetical to a Rodnover emphasis on courage and fighting spirit.[176] Christianity is also considered as a system that destroys morality by casting human responsibility away from the present world and into a transcendent future,[103] and it is also criticised as being anthropocentric, and thus responsible for ecological disruption.[90]

Rodnovers express their anti-Christian views in various ways. Many Native Faith groups organise formal ceremonies of renunciation of Christianity (raskrestitsia, literally "de-Christianisation"), and initiation into Rodnovery with the adoption of a Slavic name.[177] The folklorist Mariya Lesiv observed Rodnovers marching in Kiev in 2006 chanting "Out with Jehovah! Glory to Dazhboh!"[178] Simpson noted that in Poland, several Rodnovers launched a poster campaign against Valentines Day, which they regarded as not being an authentically Polish celebration.[179] In Russia, Rodnovers have vandalised and torched various churches.[180]

Christians have also been responsible for opposition to Slavic Native Faith, for instance through the establishment of social media groups against the movement.[181] The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed opposition to the growth and spread of Slavic Native Faith across Russia on various occasions.[182] Some Russian Rodnovers have however attempted to improve relations with the Orthodox Church, arguing that Russian Orthodoxy had adopted many elements of historical Slavic belief and rites.[183] In this way they argue that Russian Orthodoxy is distinct from other forms of Christianity,[90] and seek to portray it as the "younger brother" of Slavic Native Faith.[184] The Orthodox Christian Old Believers, a movement that split out from the Russian Orthodox Church during the reform of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow in the seventeenth century, is seen by Rodnovers in a more positive light than the mainstream Russian Orthodox Church, as Old Believers are considered to have elements similar to those of the Slavic Native Faith.[185]

Practices

Russian Rodnover priest drawing a dot on the forehead of believers for the celebrations of Kupala Night festival.
Russian Rodnover priest drawing a dot on the forehead of believers for the celebrations of Kupala Night festival.

Rodnovery is essentially a religion of the community, with most adherents actively joining organisations; only a minority of believers choose solitary practice.[186] Laruelle has observed that most Rodnover groups emphasise the exoteric aspect of the religion, organising large communal, popular celebrations, and spreading exoteric knowledge open to all. However, there are more closed groups that require more stringent commitment from their adherents, and emphasise esoteric teachings and practices, including complex initiation rituals, reference to systems similar to Jewish Kabbalah, prayer and magic.[187] For many Rodnovers, greater importance is given to the construction of "authentic" Slavic rituals rather than psychologically empowering practices.[146] For many others, rituals may include magical practices and are meant at the creation of shared meanings and new community ties.[188] Ceremonial accuracy is often considered essential for the efficacy of a ritual, but at the same time Rodnover rituals have been regarded as flexible frameworks, wherein there is room for elaboration and experimentation. Sources that Rodnovers rely upon include valued scholars like Vladimir Dal and Boris Rybakov.[189]

Most Rodnover groups strongly emphasise the worship of ancestors.[190] An example of ancestor worship is the ritual "Veneration of Ancient Russian Knights" practised by the Russian Rodnover organisation Svarozhichi, centred in Yekaterinburg and widespread in the Ural region, on May 9, in honour of the victory of Sviatoslav I of Kiev against the Khazars.[188] Some Sylenkoite organisations commemorate Ukrainian national heroes such as Ivan Franko, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, and Hryhory Skovoroda, as well as more abstract concepts such as "Ukrainian Ancient Literature" and "New Ukrainian Literature".[191]

Ritual, magic and other techniques

According to Aitamurto, rituals play "a central role in defining, learning and transmitting the religion", and thus they constitute an important complement to Rodnover theology.[189] Ritual practice makes use of mythology, symbolism, codified chants and gestures. Myths and symbols are considered to emerge from the subconscious of humanity, and to be imaginified sacred knowledge which has to be deciphered and reinterpreted since the true meaning is not always apparent. Among the most common myths is that of Belovodye (the esoteric kingdom of "White Waters"), deriving from eighteenth-century Old Believers' culture.[192] Symbols such as the trident, the swastika, and objects representing fire, are prominent features of Rodnover rituals.[193] The swastika (or kolovrat, as the eight-spoked wheel is called in Rodnovery) is considered the main symbol for mystical ascension to the divine world. Other symbols such as animals, geometric shapes, and ancient Slavic runic writing, are considered to be associated to specific gods, and the prayer to their image is considered to intercede with these gods.[51] Also appropriate chants and gestures are believed to allow the participants to enter in communion with the upper world.[124] Some Rodnovers espouse ideas similar to those of the Kabbalah, such as the belief in a connection between language and the cosmos (corroborated by the etymological connection between the word yazychnik, "pagan", and yazyk, "language", which share the same root): the Cyrillic and Glagolitic scripts are considered to have magical usefulness.[194]

Rodnovers engaged in a circle-dance around a bonfire, celebrating the Koliada festival in Naro-Fominsk, Moscow Oblast, Russia.
Rodnovers engaged in a circle-dance around a bonfire, celebrating the Koliada festival in Naro-Fominsk, Moscow Oblast, Russia.

Rituals take place at consecrated places and generally include the lighting of fire (vozzhiganie ognia), invocation of gods, the singing of hymns, sacrifices (prinesenie treby) and the pouring of libations, circle-dances (khorovod or simply kolo, "circle"), and usually end with a communal meal. Some Rodnover organisations require that participants wear traditional Slavic clothes for such occasions, although there is much freedom in interpreting what constitutes "traditional clothes", this definition generally referring to folkloric needlecraft open to a wide range of artistic patterns.[195]

Rituals of initiation include a formal renunciation of Christianity (raskrestitsia)[196] which entails the baptism with a Slavic name (imianarechenie), the ritual of entry into a brotherhood (bratanie), marriage and death.[124] The renaming symbolises the death and rebirth of the individual into the new community. Male brotherhoods practise the cutting of a second "life line" on the palm of the hand of converts, symbolising the new "blood bond" that is formed with other members.[196]

There is much variation between major currents and organisations of Rodnovery. For instance, the Association of Sons and Daughters of Ukraine of the Native Ukrainian National Faith (OSIDU RUNVira), one of the churches of the denomination of Ukrainian Sylenkoism, holds unique weekly "Holy Hour of Self-Realisation", in which practitioners read from Sylenko's Maha Vira, sermons are given, the ancestors are commemorated, and prayers and hymns are given. The meeting ends with the singing of Shche ne vmerla Ukraina, the national anthem of Ukraine.[197] The rival and near homonymous Association of Sons and Daughters of the Native Ukrainian National Faith (OSID RUNVira), also conducts weekly Holy Hours, but incorporates a wider selection of sources—such as readings from the pan-Rodnover Book of Veles or the poetry of Taras Shevchenko—into the proceedings.[198] The structure of these Syenkoite rites is modelled on those of the Eastern Orthodox Church.[24]

Espousing a holistic worldview that does not create a dichotomy between mind and body, many Rodnover groups employ physical techniques, or martial arts (such as the Slavyano-goritskaya borba), as means for cleaning, strengthening and elevating the mind.[199] Some Rodnover groups incorporate practices which are not Slavic in origin.[200] For instance, a group of Polish Rodnovers has been documented to use the fire poi at their Midsummer festivities, a practice that originally developed in Pacific regions during the mid-twentieth century.[201] The Ukrainian organisation Ancestral Fire of the Native Orthodox Faith promotes a healing technique called zhyva that has close similarities to the Japanese practice of reiki.[82] In another instance, Lesiv observed a Ukrainian Rodnover who legitimised the practice of yoga by claiming that this spiritual tradition had originally been developed by the ancestors of modern-day Ukrainians.[152]

Communities, citadels and temples

A building of the Slavic Kremlin Vitaly Sundakov in the Podolsky District, Moscow Oblast, Russia.
A building of the Slavic Kremlin Vitaly Sundakov in the Podolsky District, Moscow Oblast, Russia.

Rodnover organisations have inherited ideas of commonality and social governance from Slavic and Russian history. They recover the pre-Christian social institution of the veche (assembly), which they also see as reflecting the concept of sobornost formulated in twentieth-century Russian philosophy.[202] Veche is used as the name of some Rodnover overarching organisations, as well as international councils. Aitamurto characterises the veche as a model of organisation "from below and to the top", following descriptions given by Rodnovers themselves—that is to say a grassroots form of governance which matures into a consensual authority and/or decision-making. Local Rodnover groups usually call themselves obshchina (the term for traditional peasant communities), while skhod, sobor and mir are used for informal meetings or to refer to traditional Russian ideas of commonality. Another term for a community, though not frequently used, is artel.[108] A form of organisation of Rodnover communities consists in the establishment of places for commonunal living, such as fortresses (kremlin) or citadels (gorodok), in which temples are surrounded by buildings for various social uses. The Slavic Kremlin Vitaly Sundakov is one of such centres, located in the Podolsky District of Moscow Oblast.[203] Some Rodnover networks have established entire villages all over Russia; this is the case, among other examples, of those Rodnovers who are part of Anastasianism.[204]

Rituals and religious meetings are often performed in rural settings, forests and clearings.[205] The basic structure of a temple of the Slavic Native Faith (капище, kapishche; or храм, khram) is constituted by a sacred precinct at the centre of which are placed poles with carved images of the gods enshrined. These poles, or statues, are called rodovoi, stolb, chur,[206] but also kapy ("poles"). There are many such basic temples throughout Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. A large, elaborate temple of this type is projected to be built in Khabarovsk.[207] In 2015, the Temple of Svarozich's Fire, in the form of a simple wooden architecture, was opened by the Union of Slavic Native Belief Communities in Krasotynka, Kaluga.[208] Gaidukov documented that in the 2000s Rodnovers erected a statue of Perun in a park near Kupchino in Saint Petersburg, although they did not obtain official permission first. The statue remained in place for some time until being removed by the authorities in 2007 when a decision was made to construct a church nearby.[209]

Priesthood

Sacrificers officiating at a simple temple (kapishche) in Kaluga, Kaluga Oblast, Russia.
Sacrificers officiating at a simple temple (kapishche) in Kaluga, Kaluga Oblast, Russia.

In Slavic Native Faith, priests are distinguishable into the orders of volkhv (translatable as "wiseman", "wizard", i.e. "shaman", or "mage") and zhrets ("sacrificers"). They are those responsible for holding rites for worshipping the gods and leading communities and religious festivals. Volkhvs are the higher rank of the sacerdotal hierarchy, while zhrets are of a lower authority.[210]

Though the majority of Rodnover priests are males, Rodnover groups do not exclude women from the priesthood, so that a parallel female priesthood is constituted by the two ranks of zhritsa and vedunya ("seeresses"). Prestige is not limited to male priests; a priestess, Halyna Lozko from Ukraine, is an acknowledged authority within the Rodnover movement.[108] In 2012, a number of Rodnover organisations in Russia made an agreement for the mutual recognition of their priesthood and for the uniformisation of ordination policies.[182]

Calendars and holidays

Ukrainian Rodnovers worshipping a goddess' pole on Vodokreš holiday in the countryside.
Ukrainian Rodnovers worshipping a goddess' pole on Vodokreš holiday in the countryside.

The common Rodnover ritual calendar is based on the Slavic folk tradition, whose crucial events are the four solstices and equinoxes set in the four phases of the year.[189] Slavic Native Faith has been described as following "the cycles of nature".[79] A festival that is believed to be the most important by many Rodnovers is that of the summer solstice, the Kupala Night (June 23–24), although also important are the winter solstice festival Karachun and Koliada (December 24–25), and the spring equinox festival Shrovetide—called Komoeditsa or Maslenitsa (March 24). Festivals celebrated in spring include the Day of Yarilo and the Krasnaya Gorka (literally "Red Hill", celebrated between April 30–May 1), the latter dedicated to ancestor worship; while in autumn Rodnovers celebrate the Day of Marzanna and that of Mokosh (November 10). Other festivals include the Days of Veles (multiple, in January and February) and the Day of Perun (August 2), the latter considered to be the most important holiday of the year by some Rodnover organisations.[189]

Usually, the organisation of festivals involves three layers of society: there is a patronising "core" of practitioners, who are often professionally affirmed people, usually belonging to the intellectual class; then there is the population of committed adherents; and then there is a loose "periphery" constituted by sympathisers, generally relatives and friends of the committed followers. Aitmurto notes that festivals are usually set in the evenings, the weekends and on public holidays, in order to allow everyone's participation.[211] Shizhenskii and Aitamurto described one Kupala festival, held over the course of three days outside Maloyaroslavets in Russia; at this event, weddings, purification rituals, and name-giving ceremonies took place, accompanied by musical performances, martial arts, and folkloric plays, while a market sold traditional handicrafts.[7] The interplay with the gods and the cycle of nature which they represent is displayed through large-scale ceremonies which Aitamurto defines as "aesthetically lavish", vectors of a great deal of creativity. For instance, the end of winter is marked by burning straw images of Marzanna, the goddess of winter, while celebrating the victory of Yarilo, the god of the full swing of natural forces; the end of summer, instead, is marked by the burial of an image of Yarilo.[212]

Adherents of Slavic Native Faith often adopt elements from recorded folk culture, giving new meaning and purpose to Christianised or non-Pagan contents.[213] Some Rodnover groups have appropriated or reappropriated Christian festivals.[214] The same Kupala Night is a reappropriation, being the day of the year when Christian churches set the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.[214] The calendar of some Sylenkoite organisations includes holidays that have been de-Christianised, such as a "Christmas of Dazhboh's Light" and an "Easter of the Eternal Resurrection".[198]

Artistic and other pursuits

Russian Rodnovers engaged in a martial arts dare.
Russian Rodnovers engaged in a martial arts dare.

A number of Rodnovers have expressed their religion through visual arts; among practitioners, Svyatoslav I of Kiev is one of the most popular subjects.[215] Rodnover rituals and festivals often include martial arts displays; these sometimes symbolise seasonal change, such as the victory of spring over winter, or can be regarded as manifestations of bravery, strength, and honesty.[216] Slavic-hill wrestling (Славяно-горицкая борьба, Slavyano-goritskaya bor'ba) was established by the Russian Rodnover Aleksandr Belov.[217] Other martial arts styles that are popular among Rodnovers are "bench wrestling" (lavochki) and "wall against wall" (stenka na stenku).[218] Some Rodnovers espouse linguistic purism, proposing the replacement of foreign words with Slavic equivalents (such as svetopisi instead of fotografii, or izvedy instead of interv'iu).[188]

History

1800s–1920s: Romantic and Russian revolutionary precursors

2018 publication of Dołęga-Chodakowski's "About the Slavs before Christianity" by Polish Rodnovers.
2018 publication of Dołęga-Chodakowski's "About the Slavs before Christianity" by Polish Rodnovers.

The origins of Slavic Native Faith have been traced to the Romantic movement of late eighteenth and nineteenth-century Europe, which was a reaction against rationalism and the Age of Enlightenment.[219] This was accompanied by a growth in nationalism across Europe, as intellectuals began to assert their own national heritage.[219] In 1818, the Polish ethnographer Zorian Dołęga-Chodakowski (Adam Czarnocki; 1784–1825) in the work O Sławiańszczyźnie przed chrześcijaństwem ("About the Slavs before Christianity") declared himself a "pagan" and stated that the Christianisation of the Slavic peoples had been a mistake.[220] Therefore, he became a precursor of the return to Slavic religion in Poland and all Slavic countries.[221] Similarly, the Polish philosopher Bronisław Trentowski (1808–1869) saw the historical religion of the Slavs as a true path to understanding the divine creator, arguing that Christianity failed to do so.[222] Another precursor in Poland was Jan Sas Zubrzycki (1860–1935), who elaborated the doctrine of "God-Knowing" (Bogoznawstwo).[223] It was this Romantic rediscovery and revaluing of indigneous pre-Christian religion that prepared the way for the later emergence of Rodnovery.[224]

Whereas calls to re-establish pre-Christian belief systems existed within the German and Austrian far-right nationalist movements during the early twentieth century, in Russia the situation was different.[158] In Russia there was a shared belief among the intellectual circles that Slavic paganism had survived within the "folk Orthodoxy" of the common people (which was regarded as a dvoeverie, a "double faith"), and the Old Believers' movements. The study of this syncretic popular religion and philsophy was the foremost interest for late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Russian intellectuals: early revolutionaries (Alexander Herzen, Nikolay Ogarev, Mikhail Bakunin), Narodniks (Populists), and early Bolsheviks were inspired by the radical forms of society practised wihin folk religious communities, which in many ways were precursors to socialism. Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich was assigned by the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party the task of studying folk religious movements, and in 1908–1910 a faction of the Bolsheviks, represented by Anatoly Lunacharsky, Alexander Bogdanov, Maxim Gorky, and Vladimir Bazarov, formulated the "God-Building" movement (Bogostroitelstvo), whose aim was to create a new religion for the proletariat through a synthesis of socialism with folk religion.[42]

1930s–1940s: Early concrete developments

One of the earliest copies (dated 1955) of one of "Isenbek's Planks" (the n. 16), upon which the Book of Veles was supposedly written.
One of the earliest copies (dated 1955) of one of "Isenbek's Planks" (the n. 16), upon which the Book of Veles was supposedly written.

In Ukraine, the first practitioners of Slavic Native Faith appeared in the 1930s.[225] One of the most influential Ukrainian Rodnover ideologues was Volodymyr Shaian (1908–1974), a linguist and philologist who worked at Lviv University.[225] He claimed that in 1934 he underwent a spiritual revelation atop Mount Grekhit in the Carpathian Mountains.[225] Particularly interested in the idea about an ancient Aryan race that were popular at the time,[226] he subsequently began promoting what he called a "pan-Aryan renaissance".[225] He turned to recorded Ukrainian folklore to find what he regarded as the survivals of the ancient Slavic religion.[226] In 1944, he fled the Soviet government and travelled to refugee camps in Germany and Austria. There, he established the Order of the Knights of the Solar God (Orden Lytsariv Boha Sontsia), a religio-political group that he hoped would affiliate itself to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army during the Second World War.[227]

In Poland, Jan Stachniuk (1905–1963) established the Zadruga magazine in 1937, which gave rise to the movement of Zadrugism.[228] the term Zadruga refers to a South Slavic tribal unit.[229] Continuing on from Dołęga-Chodakowski, Stachniuk's own work criticised Catholicism in Poland, arguing that it had had a negative effect on the country's national character.[230] He did not develop his ideas into a religion, and those who shared his views remained "a very loose and diverse intellectual clique".[22] The magazine and its associated group embraced members with a wide variety of viewpoints, ranging from secularly humanistic to religiously Slavic Native Faith stances.[231] He was nevertheless labelled a neopoganin ("Neopagan") by the Polish popular press, a term that he embraced as a self-descriptor in later life.[232]

Władysław Kołodziej (1897–1978) later claimed to have established, before the Second World War, the Holy Circle of the Worshippers of Svetovid (Święte Koło Czcicieli Światowida), although there is no evidence that they conducted regular meetings until many years later.[22] During the war, Stefan Potrzuski led a unit in the Peasant Battalion which battled the Nazi occupation of Poland. His unit had a shrine to the god Svetovid in their secret forest base and held group rites in which they toasted a wooden image of the deity with mead.[22] Also Jan Stachniuk fought against the Nazi occupation during the Warsaw Uprising. Following the end of the war and the incorporation of Poland under the Stalinist regime, both Stachniuk and Kołodziej were arrested, preventing the establishment of a Slavic Native Faith community.[228] In 1954, a student group known as Klan Ausran was established at the University of Łódź; officially dedicated to a study of Indo-European society, its members provided hymns and prayers.[233]

A key influence on the movement was the circulation of the Book of Veles among Russian and Ukrainian emigrees.[234] This text was brought to the public by the Russian Yuri Mirolyubov (1892–1970), who claimed that it had been discovered by a friend of his, Fodor Arturovich Isenbek, while serving as a White Army officer during the Russian Civil War. Mirolyubov alleged that the original text had been etched on wooden boards, but that these had been lost during the Second World War, leaving only his own copies.[158] It is probable that the Book of Veles was a literary composition produced by Mirolyubov himself.[158] In following decades the work would have caused a sensation,[235] with many emigrees regarding it as a genuine tenth-century text.[158] Another supporter of the book was the Ukrainian entomologist Sergey Paramonov (also known as Sergey Lesnoy; 1898–1968).[9]

1960s–1980s: Soviet Union and Slavic diaspora in the West

One of the disciples of Volodymyr Shaian was Lev Sylenko (1921–2008).[236] He subsequently left Europe and moved first to Canada and then the United States. It was in Chicago that he established the earliest groups of the Native Ukrainian National Faith (Sylenkoism) in 1966.[236] Sylenko presented himself as a prophet of Dazhbog who had been sent to the Ukrainian people.[38] In his view, the Ukrainians were the superior manifestation of the European peoples,[87] and Kyiv the oldest city of the white race.[87] Sylenko was a charismatic leader, whose followers praised his talents and oratorial skills.[237] In 1979 he published the Maha Vira ("mighty Faith"), a book which he claimed chronicled the ancient history of the Ukrainian people.[236] Sylenkoism was influenced by deism and Theosophy.[97] A Sylenkoite centre, the Temple of Mother Ukraine, was established in Spring Glen, New York.[238] Native Ukrainian National Faith congregations were established among Ukrainian emigree communities in other parts of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Germany.[239]

The Temple of Mother Ukraine–Oryana in Spring Glen, New York, United States.
The Temple of Mother Ukraine–Oryana in Spring Glen, New York, United States.

During era of Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union (1920s–1950s), research into prehistoric societies was encouraged, with some scholars arguing that pre-Christian society reflected a form of communitarianism that was damaged by Christianity's promotion of entrenched class divisions. In doing so, pre-Christian belief systems underwent a rehabilitation.[240] Joseph Stalin himself was a supporter of the idea of Slavic Vedism, the shared Indo-European origins of Vedic and Slavic cultures.[241] Boris Rybakov (1908–2001), former head of the Institute of Archaeology, provided the first academic studies about ancient Slavic religion. In the 1960s, the renewal of militant atheism under Nikita Khrushchev also presupposed a recovering of pre-Christian and pre-Islamic traditions.[242]

Russian Rodnovery originated in the Soviet dissidents' circles of the 1970s,[243] as intellectuals became concerned for the eradication of traditional Russian culture and identity.[242] An intellectual circle that cultivated themes of Slavic indigenous religion formed as a wing of the predominantly Orthodox Christian samizdat nationalist journal Veche (1971–1974).[244] The first manifesto of Russian Rodnovery is considered to be the letter "Critical remarks by a Russian man" (Kriticheskie zametki russkogo cheloveka) published on such journal, anonymously in 1973, by Valery Yemelianov (1929–1999), who was then close to Khrushchev. The letter criticised Christianity as a product of Judaism serving the interests of Zionism.[242] The journal attracted various personalities, including Anatoly Ivanov, the artist Konstantin Vasilyev (1942–1974), and Nikolay Bogdanov, among others. Vasilyev's art is widely celebrated within the Rodnover community. Ivanov, who declared himself a Zoroastrian and subscribed to "Arism" or "Slavism", published a fervently anti-Christian pamphlet entitled "The Christian Plague" (Khristianskaya chuma). Throughout the 1970s, the nationalist dissident movement split into two branches, an Orthodox Christian one and another one that developed National Bolshevism, which eventually continued to harbour Pagan traditionalists.[244] Other influential texts in this period were Valery Yemelianov's Desionizatsiya ("De-Sionisation") and later Istarkhov's Udar russkikh bogov ("The Strike of Russian Gods").[153]

In the 1970s, explicitly religious Rodnover groups had still to operate in secret, although a few small groups were known to exist in Moscow and Leningrad (Saint Petersburg), closely linked to the nationalist intellectual circles.[245] In Moscow, an occult circle was established by Yevgeny Golovin and Yuri Mamleyev; although not explicitly Pagan, they were influenced by occult Pagan thinkers like Guido von List and sought a return to a pre-Christian Aryan world.[246] In the early 1980s, the Pamyat movement was established by figures active at the Metropolitan Moscow Palace of Culture, whom similarly looked with fondness on ancient Aryan culture.[246] The Pamyat movement attracted personalities interested in Vedism and welcomed the ideas developed among Russian emigrees, also organising a conference on the Book of Veles led by Valery Skurlatov (b. 1938).[242] From 1985 onwards, Pamyat became affiliated with Orthodox Christianity and the Rodnover component eventually left the movement.[242] Vedism was also explicitly espoused within more official Soviet circles; Apollon Kuzmin (1928–2004), leader of the neo-Slavophile historiography, did so in his 1988 book "The Fall of Perun" (Padenie Peruna), in which he supported indigenous Slavic religion while criticising Christianity as the cause of the Mongol yoke (which led to the incorporation of Kievan Rus' in the Golden Horde from 1237 to 1480).[247] In the 1980s, Boris Rybakov published his last books, including The Paganism of the Ancient Slavs (1981) and The Paganism of Ancient Russia (1988). Meanwhile, literary writings of important figures of village prose (derevenshchiki) promoted Paganism, including Petr Proskurin (1928–2001) and Yury Kuznetsov (1941–2003).[248] In 1986, Viktor Bezverkhy (1930–2000) established the Saint Petersburg-based Society of the Mages (Obshchestvo Volkhvov), an explicitly white supremacist and anti-Semitic organisation; it was followed by the Union of the Veneds, founded in 1990.[249] These organisations gave rise to the stream of Rodnovery known as Peterburgian Vedism.[250]

1990s–2000s: Post-Soviet growth

Ukrainian Rodnovers engaged in public worship.
Ukrainian Rodnovers engaged in public worship.

After Mikhail Gorbachev's Soviet government introduced the policy of perestroika in the 1980s, Slavic Native Faith groups established themselves in Ukraine.[251] The collapse of the Soviet Union and its official policy of state atheism resulted in a resurgence of open religious adherence across the region.[252] Many individuals arrived at Rodnovery after exploring a range of different alternative spiritualities, with Asian religious influences being particularly apparent within Rodnovery at that time.[253]

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine became an independent republic, with many Ukrainians turning to strongly nationalistic agendas; among those to have done so are pseudo-archaeologists like Yuri Shylov, who posits Ukraine as the "cradle of civilisation".[254] It is within this broader milieu of cultural nationalism and interest in alternative spiritualities that Rodnovery re-emerged in Ukraine.[100] The United States-based Native Ukrainian National Faith established itself in Ukraine soon after independence, with the first congregation in Ukraine gaining official recognition in Kyiv in 1991.[255] There had been schisms in the international organisation of Native Ukrainian National Faith.[97] A number of senior followers broke with Sylenko during the 1980s, rejecting the idea that he should be the ultimate authority in the religion; they formed the Association of Sons and Daughters of the Native Ukrainian National Faith (OSID RUNVira) and secured legal control of the temple in Spring Glen.[256] A second group, the Association of Sons and Daughters of Ukraine of the Native Ukrainian National Faith (OSIDU RUNVira), maintained links with Sylenko himself, whom it regards as a prophet, and adopted his Maha Vira as a sacred text.[97] Despite the animosity that existed between these rival Ukrainian groups, there was some collaboration between them.[252] In 2003, the First Forum of Rodnovers was held in Ukraine, resulting in two public proclamations: the first urged the country's government to protect what the Rodnovers regarded as sacred sites and objects, and the second called on the government not to go ahead with the proposed privatisation of agricultural land.[252] That same year, a group called Ancestral Fire of the Native Orthodox Faith was established; in contrast to the anti-Russian slant taken by Sylenkoism, it embraced a pan-Slavic perspective.[257]

The social context of Rodnovery's growth in Russia differed from that in other parts of Central and Eastern Europe.[112] Russian nationalists had welcomed the collapse of the Soviet system but were disappointed with the arrival of capitalism and the dramatic economic downturn that Russia faced in that decade.[258] Many people became unemployed, and many turned to the past, nourishing the study of ethnic roots.[259] In this context, the growth of Rodnovery can be seen as part of the nationalistic drive to regain national pride.[112] Many leaders of early post-Soviet Rodnovery were intellectuals who were already Rodnovers in the late Soviet times; for instance, Grigory Yakutovsky (Vseslav Svyatozar), Aleksei Dobrovolsky (volkhv Dobroslav) and Viktor Bezverkhy.[26] Other leaders who emerged in this period were Aleksandr Asov, author of numerous books on Rodnover philosophy which have sold millions of copies, and Aleksandr Belov, founder of the Rodnover martial arts style known as "Slavic-hill wrestling".[260]

Since the 1990s, Russian Rodnovery has expanded and diversified.[120] Rodnovers started to establish numerous organised groups by the mid of the decade; in 1994 the Moscow Slavic Community was the first Rodnover group to be registered by the government. Concerted efforts by the communities of Moscow and Kaluga led to the establishment of the Union of Slavic Native Belief Communities in 1997, led by Dobroslav and characterised by nationalist views. In 1999, the communities of Moscow and Obninsk left it as they refuted nationalism, and established another umbrella organisation, the Circle of Veles led by Ilya Cherkasov (volkhv Veleslav), which is one of the largest and administers communities also located in the territory of Ukraine. The Ynglist Church too was formally established in the early 1990s, and it is considered one of the most sectarian and authoritarian denominations of Rodnovery.[261] In 2002, groups of Rodnovers that did not share the extreme right-wing views dominant within some of the largest organisations at the time, promulgated the "Bittsa Appeal", which among other things condemned extreme nationalism and was the foundation charter of another umbrella organisation, the Circle of Pagan Tradition headquartered in Moscow.[262] In 2009, the Union of Slavic Native Belief Communities and the Circle of Pagan Tradition issued a joint statement against Ynglism, disapproving what they reckoned as the Ynglists' "pseudo-Pagan teachings, pseudo-linguistics, pseudo-science and outright fiction".[182]

Polish Rodnovers worshipping in the woods.
Polish Rodnovers worshipping in the woods.

In Poland, the Wrocław-based publishing house Toporzeł reissued Stachniuk's works and those of his disciple Antoni Wacyk.[263] The 1940s Zadrugist movement inspired the establishment in 1996 of the Association of Native Faith (Zrzeszenie Rodzimej Wiary; now simply called Rodzima Wiara, "Native Faith"),[264] whose founder Stanisław Potrzebowski wrote his doctoral thesis on the pre-war Zadrugism in German (Zadruga - eine völkische Bewegung in Polen).[265] Another Polish Rodnover group registered by the state in 1995 is the Native Polish Church (Rodzimy Kościół Polski), which represents a tradition that goes back to Władysław Kołodziej's Holy Circle of the Worshippers of Svetovid.[266] In 1998, a Czech Rodnover group called Rahoŝť was founded by an Italian-born academic specialist in Slavic studies, Giuseppe Maiello.[267] In 2000 this group merged with the extreme-right nationalist National Front of the Pures (Národní Fronta Kastitů) to form the Rodná Víra group.[267] This organisation subsequently nurtured strong links with Rodnover groups in Slovakia, Poland, and Russia.[268] The group broke apart following a schism in 2005.[268]

Rodnovery spread to the countries of former Yugoslavia in the early twenty-first century.[269] A Serbian Native Faith group known as the Slavic Circle (Slovenski Krug) existed during the 1990s and 2000s, merging historical Slavic religion with a ritual structure adopted from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.[270] In Slovenia, a group called the Svetovid Parish of the Old Belief (Staroverska Župa Svetovid) was established around 2005 through a union of an older group, Ajda, with the followers of the military historian Matjaž Vratislav Anžur.[271] As of 2013, it had between ten and fifteen members.[272] In 2011, the Circle of Svarog (Svaroži Krug) was founded in Bosnia.[269] During the 1990s and 2000s, a number of groups were established in Bulgaria, namely the Dulo Alliance, the Warriors of Tangra, and the Bulgarian Horde 1938.[273] These groups have strong political motivations, being extremely nationalistic, anti-Western, and anti-Semitic.[154] Rodnover personalities and groups played a prominent role in the 2002 establishment of Ongal, a Bulgarian far-right umbrella organisation.[274]

The 1990s and 2000s also witnessed the development of international contacts between Rodnover groups from all Slavic countries, with the organisation of various All-Slavic Rodnover Councils.[275] The Internet helped the spread of Rodnovery and an uniformisation of ritual practices across the various groups.[253] The first Rodnover website on the Russian Internet (so-called Runet)—was created by a Moscow-based believer in 1996.[276] Many Rodnovers made use of Russian Wikipedia to promote their religion, although many switched to LiveJournal and mail.ru, through which they could promulgate their ideas more directly.[277] From the mid-2000s, Rodnovers made increasing use of social media to communicate with other members of their community.[278]

Russian Rodnovery also attracted the attention of Russian academics, many of whom focused on the political dimensions of the movement, thus neglecting other aspects of the community.[279] The scholar Kaarina Aitamurto later criticised some of these Russian-language studies for reflecting scholars' own religious biases against Rodnovery, over-reliance on the published texts of prominent figures, or for sensationalising the subject to shock or impress their audience.[279] This attitude generated some mutual hostility between academics and practitioners of Rodnovery, rendering subsequent scholarly fieldwork more difficult.[279] Rodnover themes entered the heavy metal subculture, particularly in bands like Sokyra Peruna ("Perun's Axe"), Whites Load, and Komu Vnyz ("Who Will Go Down").[100] In Poland, Rodnovery also influenced various forms of folk and popular music.[280]

2010s: Consolidations and War in Donbass

Priests of the Skhoron ezh Sloven Rodnover organisation.
Priests of the Skhoron ezh Sloven Rodnover organisation.

The early 2010s saw a strengthening of relations between Rodnover groups. In 2012, in Russia, representatives of the Union of Slavic Native Belief Communities, the Circle of Pagan Tradition and the Circle of Veles, signed an "Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Priests" that defined the criteria for the ordination of those wishing to become Slavic priests. On the same occasion, they once again expressed disapproval for some authors and movements, including the large Skhoron ezh Sloven, which is also present in Belarus and Ukraine. In 2014, the Russian government officially registered the Union of Slavic Native Belief Communities as an interregional public organisation for the promotion of Slavic culture.[182]

Rodnovery has a significant role in the War in Donbass, with many Rodnovers forming or joining armed forces. Some of them—for example those of the Svarozich Battalion—have been fighting in favour of Russia; other Rodnovers—such as those of the Azov Battalion—have taken the side of Ukraine.[182] The war has stirred different reactions among Ukrainian Rodnovers; many adherents of the Native Ukrainian National Faith viewed Russia as the aggressor, while adherents of other Rodnover organisations like the Ancestral Fire of the Native Orthodox Faith more commonly saw Russians and Ukrainians as brothers and believed that the conflict was caused by the machinations of the United States.[281]

In August 2015, during the 3rd Polish Nationwide Rodnover Congress, the Rodnover Confederation (Konfederacja Rodzimowiercza) was formally established. Among the members are eleven organisations including the Gontyna Association, the Żertwa Association, the Pomeranian Rodnovers (Rodzimowiercy Pomorscy), the Drzewo Przodków Association, the Circle of Radegast (Krąg Radogost), the Kałdus Association, the Swarga Group (Gromada "Swarga"), the WiD Group, ZW Rodzima Wiara and the Watra Rodnover Community (Wspólnota Rodzimowierców "Watra").[282] In June 2017, during the celebrations of the nationwide holiday called Stado, a new religious organisation was created: the Religious Organisation of Polish Rodnovers "Kin" (Związek Wyznaniowy Rodzimowierców Polskich "Ród").[283]

Branches, interwoven movements and influences

Russian Rodnovers engaged in a ritual with a fiery wheel.
Russian Rodnovers engaged in a ritual with a fiery wheel.

There are many denominations of Rodnovery as it is in general a democratic, free, or "open-source religion", that emphasises the "equality of men in their access to the divine" from different perspectives.[284] Eclecticism and syncretism are accepted by most believers, although there is a "minimal framework in which the idea of national [Slavic] tradition dominates".[285] Because of its "open" nature, Rodnovery also hosts in itself denominations which have developed clear doctrines around an authoritarian charismatic leadership.[284] There are often tensions between nondenominational Rodnovers and followers of well-defined doctrines; it is the case of the doctrine of Ynglism, which is not recognised as true Slavic Native Faith by the major Rodnover organisations of Russia,[286] and of Yagnovery, Ladovery and Sylenkoism, which some Rodnovers opine not to be classifiable as branches of Slavic Native Faith.[287] Other Rodnover movements represent distinct ethnic groups within the broader Slavic family or space (this is the case of Scythian Assianism and Meryan Rodnovery). There are, otherwise, Rodnover groups that intertwine with forms of religion and spirituality which are not immediately related to the Slavic Native Faith (this is the case of Ivanovism, Roerichism and Anastasianism).[288] Other documented movements include the devotees of Berehynia in Ukraine (Orantism), the Koliada Viatichey of Nikolay Speransky, the Russian Religious Church of Viktor Kandyba, and Authentism (Tezaurus), amongst others.[289]

Many of these movements share the assumption to represent expressions of "Vedism".[290] Marlène Laruelle found that there are Rodnover movements which draw inspiration from Indo-Iranian sources, historical Vedism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism; Rodnover movements inspired to the Theosophy of Helena Blavatsky, the Fourth Way of George Gurdjieff and Peter Uspensky, and Roerichism (Nicholas Roerich); Rodnover movements inspired to East Asian religions with their practices of energetic healing and martial arts; Rodnover movements (often the most political ones) inspired to German Ariosophy and the Traditionalist School (studying thinkers such as René Guénon and Julius Evola);[291] Rodnover movements centred on the Russian folk cult of the Mother Earth;[187] and Rodnover movements drawing examples from Siberian shamanism.[292]

Ethnic variations of Rodnovery

Krivich Rodnovery

In Belarus and the neighboring regions of Russia, there is a branch of Rodnovery striving to reconstruct not a pan-Slavic religion, but the faith of the ethnic religion of the Krivichs, of one of the tribal unions of the early East Slavs, aligning with Baltic traditions. It is represented by organisations such as the Centre of Ethnocosmology–Kriya (Belarusian: Цэнтр Этнакасмалогіі "Крыўя"), and the Tver Ethnocultural Association–Tverzha (Russian: Тверское Этнокультурное Объединение "Твержа") founded in 2010.[293][294]

Meryan Rodnovery

Meryan Rodnovery is a movement present in the regions of Ivanovo, Kostroma, Moscow, Vladimir, Vologda, Tver, and Yaroslavl. It consists in the establishment of an ethnoreligious identity among those Russians who have Meryan ancestry; Merya are Volga Finns fully assimilated by East Slavs in the historical process of formation of the Russian ethnicity. It is primarily an urban phenomenon and its adherents are Russian-speakers.[295]

Various organisations have been established in the late 2000s and 2010s, including Merjamaa and Merya Mir (Меря Мир, "Merya World"). In 2012 they presented their official flag. The scholar Pavel A. Skrylnikov notes that a salient feature of the movement is what he defines "ethnofuturism", that is to say, conscious adaptation of Merya heritage to the forms of modernity, in a process of distinction and interaction with Russian Native Faith. He says that Meryan Native Faith is mostly Slavic Native Faith whose concepts, names and iconoraphy are Finnicised. Meryan Rodnovers also rely upon the uninterrupted traditions of the Mari Native Faith; on 27 September 2015, they organised a joint Mari-Merya prayer in the Moscow region. The cult of a Meryan mother goddess is being built upon the festival of the female saint Paraskevi of Iconium, on November 10. Also, Saint Leontius of Rostov is appropriated as a native god.[295]

Scythian Assianism

Ritual of the sword planted into a pile of stones or brushwood, to honour the martial deity (Perun), practised by Russian Ynglists in Omsk, Omsk Oblast. It is a Scythian ritual.[γ]
Ritual of the sword planted into a pile of stones or brushwood, to honour the martial deity (Perun), practised by Russian Ynglists in Omsk, Omsk Oblast. It is a Scythian ritual.[γ]

Assianism (Russian: Ассианство) is essentially Scythian Rodnovery. It is present in Russia and Ukraine, especially, but not exclusively, among Cossacks who claim a Scythian identity to distinguish themselves from Slavs.[296] An organised renewal of Scythian religion started in the 1980s building upon the folk religious beliefs of the Ossetians, who are modern linguistic descendants of the Scythians. They endonymously call the religion Uatsdin (Ossetian Cyrillic: Уацдин, literally "True Faith"), and have embraced it in large numbers.[297] The "North Caucasian Scythian Regional Fire" is a Scythian Rodnover organisation in the North Caucasus region of Russia and eastern Ukraine that operates under the aegis of the Ancestral Fire of the Native Orthodox Faith.[298]

There are various Assian organisations in North Ossetia–Alania, including the Atsætæ organisation led by Daurbek Makeyev. Some Russians have embraced Assianism by virtue of the fact that most of the ancient Scythians were assimilated by the East Slavs, and therefore modern Russians may reclaim Scythian culture. Such idea that Russians may derive, at least in part, from Scythians is popular in many Rodnover circles.[299] Makeyev himself, in a 2007 publication entitled "Assianism and world culture" (Assianstvo i mirovaya kul'tura), presented the religion as a worldwide spiritual heritage.[300] In 2009, on the occasion of a conference specifically dedicated to the subject held at the Moscow State University, the philosopher Alexander Dugin praised the renewal of Scythian culture among Ossetians as an inspiration that will be beneficial to all Indo-Europeans and to the whole world.[301]

Ukrainian Sylenkoism

Sylenkoite clergy in a temple in Ukraine.
Sylenkoite clergy in a temple in Ukraine.

Sylenkoism is the branch of Rodnovery represented by the churches of the Native Ukrainian National Faith (Ukrainian: Рі́дна Украї́нська Націона́льна Ві́ра) established by Lev Sylenko in the 1960s in the Ukrainian diaspora, and introduced in Ukraine only after the fall of the Soviet Union. There are at least four such churches: the Association of Sons and Daughters of Ukraine of the Native Ukrainian National Faith, the Association of Sons and Daughters of the Native Ukrainian National Faith, the fellowship established by Volodymyr Chornyi centred in Lviv, and the more independent Union of the Native Ukrainian Faith.[302] According to the definition of Sylenko himself, his doctrine is that of a solar "absolute monotheism", in which the single God is Dazhbog,[87] that is to say the sky, the Sun, and the self-giving of the world itself.

Sylenko proclaimed himself a prophet, bringing to the Slavs a new understanding of God that, according to him, corresponds to their own and original understanding of God. By his own words: "God's grace came upon me, and following the will of God I have proclaimed a new understanding of God". According to believers, he acquired this knowledge through "breath of his ancestors" being united with them "by divine holiness".[38] The Federation of Ukrainian Rodnovers, which directly inherits Volodymyr Shaian's Orthodoxy, in the person of its leader Halyna Lozko has advanced vehement critiques of Sylenkoism, calling Lev Sylenko a "false prophet" and accusing him of trying to lead Ukrainians in the "quagmire of cosmopolitan monotheism", the "fruit of Judaic religions which aim for global world domination".[303]

Yagnovery, Ladovery, and Orantism

Yagnovery (Ukrainian: Ягновіра), Ladovery (Ладовіра) and Orantism (Орантизм) are branches of Rodnovery that are present in Ukraine.[304] Ladovery is a doctrine articulated by Oleksander Shokalo and other personalities in the magazine Ukrainsky svit ("Ukrainian World").[305] Orantism is a movement centred around the cult of Berehynia, linked to Ukrainian national identity, non-violence and resistance to global assimilation.[306]

Movements often classified as "Vedism"

Peterburgian Vedism

Peterburgian or Russian Vedism (Russian: Петербургский/Русский Ведизм) is one of the earliest Rodnover movements started by the philosopher Viktor Bezverkhy in Saint Petersburg, between the late 1980s and early 1990s, and primarily represented by the Society of the Mages (Общество Волхвов) founded in 1986 and the Union of the Veneds (Союз Венедов) established in 1990, and their various offshoots,[250] including Skhoron ezh Sloven (Схорон еж Словен), established in 1991 by Vladimir Y. Golyakov, which has branches across Russia, and in Belarus and Ukraine.[294] The use of the term "Vedism" to refer to Slavic religion goes back to Yuri Mirolyubov, the writer or discoverer of the Book of Veles.[250]

Ringing Cedars' Anastasianism

Buildings in the Korenskye kinship estate, an Anastasian settlement in the Shebekinsky District of Belgorod Oblast, Russia.
Buildings in the Korenskye kinship estate, an Anastasian settlement in the Shebekinsky District of Belgorod Oblast, Russia.

The Ringing Cedars (Russian: Звенящие Кедры) or Anastasianism (Анастасианство, Анастасиизм) is a spiritual movement that overlaps with Rodnovery. The Anastasian movement arised starting in 1997 from the writings of Vladimir Megre (Puzakov), codified in a series of ten books entitled The Ringing Cedars of Russia, whose teachings are attributed to a beautiful Siberian woman known as Anastasia, often considered a deity or the incarnation of a deity, whom Megre would have met during one of his trade expeditions.[307] These books teach what the scholar Rasa Pranskevičiūtė has defined as a "cosmological pantheism",[308] in which nature is the manifested "thought of God" and human intelligence has the power to commune with him and to actively participate to the creation of the world.[309]

Anastasians have established rural villages all over Russia and in other countries. Their settlements are known as "kinship homesteads" (родовое поместье, rodovoye pomest'ye), where they conduct a harmonious life in at least a hectare of land, owned by a kinship. The name "Ringing Cedars" derives from the beliefs held by Anastasians about the spiritual qualities of the Siberian cedar. In his writings, Megre identifies the ideal society which the Ringing Cedars' movement aims at establishing as "Vedic", and many of his teachings are identical to those of other movements of Rodnovery.[310]

Roerichism, Bazhovism, and Ivanovism

Guests from Overseas—Nicholas Roerich, 1901. The painting represents the coming of Varangian Rosses from Scandinavia to the heart of the Eurasian continent.
Guests from Overseas—Nicholas Roerich, 1901. The painting represents the coming of Varangian Rosses from Scandinavia to the heart of the Eurasian continent.

Roerichism (Russian: Рерихиа́нство) and Ivanovism (Ивановизм) are spiritual movements linked with Russian cosmism, a holistic philosophy emphasising the centrality of the human being within a living environment, in turn related to the God-Building movement. It originated in the early twentieth century and experienced a revival after the collapse of the Soviet Union, relying upon the Russian philosophical tradition, especially that represented by Vladimir Vernadsky and Pavel Florensky.[288]

The Roerichian movement originated from the teachings of Helena and Nicholas Roerich, it inherits elements of Theosophy, and revolves around the practice of Agni Yoga, the union with Agni, the fire enliving the universe. Ivakhiv classifies Roerichians and others movements of Theosophical imprint, such as the Ukrainian Spiritual Republic founded by Oles Berdnyk, together within the broader "Vedic" movement.[311]

Ivanovism is a spiritual discipline based on the teachings of the mystic Porfiry Ivanov, based on the Detka healing system and religious hymns. The movement has its headquarters in eastern Ukraine,[312] the region of origin of Ivanov himself, and it is widespread in Russia.[250] Ivanovite teachings are incorporated by Peterburgian Vedism.[250] Shnirelman reported in 2008 that Ivanovism was estimated to have "a few dozen thousand followers".[313]

Bazhovism (Бажовство) originated as a branch of the Roerichian movement and is centred in the Ural region of Russia, where Arkaim, in Chelyabinsk Oblast, is regarded by the Bazhovites as the world's spiritual centre. The Bazhovites retain most of the Roerichian practices, and worship, as their major deities, the Mistress of the Copper Mountain and the Great Snake.[314]

Tezaurus' Authentism, and the Way of Troyan

Authentism (Russian: Аутентизм), incorporated as the Tezaurus Spiritual Union (Духовный Союз "Тезаурус"), is a Rodnover spiritual philosophy and psychological order created by the psychologist Sergey Petrovich Semenov in 1984, in Saint Petersburg. The movement is based on the teachings of the Russian Veda, considered an expression of Slavic paganism, Russian cosmism and psychoanalysis. The aim of the Authentist philosophical practice is to reveal one's own true spiritual essence, which is identical with God, Rod—which is viewed as the complementary unity of Belobog/Sventovid and Chernobog/Veles—and therefore the unity of mankind and God, which characterises Russia's special mission opposed to Western individualism.[315]

The Way of Troyan (Тропа Троянова, Tropa Troyanova; where "Troyan" is another name of the god Triglav, regarded as the patron god of Russia), incorporated as the Academy of Self-Knowledge (Академия Самопознания) and the All-Russian Association of Russian Folk Culture (Всероссийское Общество Русской Народной Культуры), is a Rodnover psychological movement founded in 1991 by the historian and psychologist Aleksei Andreev (pseudonym of Aleksandr Shevtsov) relying upon a thorough ethnographic fieldwork, especially focused on the Ofeni tribe of Vladimir Oblast. Tropa Troyanova does not identify as a "religion", but rather as a "traditional worldview". The movement promotes traditional Russian healing methods, psychoanalysis and martial arts.[316]

Ynglism

Ynglism (Russian: Инглии́зм), institutionally known as the Ancient Russian Ynglist Church of the Orthodox Old Believers–Ynglings, was established in the early 1990s by the charismatic leader Aleksandr Khinevich from Omsk, in Siberia. According to the movement, which presents itself as the true, Orthodox, olden religion of the Russians and the Slavs, Yngly is the fiery order of reality through which the supreme God—called by the name "Ramha" in Ynglist theology—ongoingly generates the universe. They believe that "Yngling", a name that identifies the earliest royal kins of Scandinavia, means "offspring of Yngly", and that the historical Ynglings migrated to Scandinavia from the region of Omsk, which was a spiritual centre of the early Indo-Europeans. They hold that the Saga ob Ynglingakh, their Russian version of the Germanic Ynglinga saga (itself composed by Snorri Sturluson on the basis of an older Ynglingatal), proves their ideas about the origins of the Ynglings in Omsk, and that the Germanic Eddas are ultimately a more recent, western European and Latinised version of their own sacred books, the Slavo-Aryan Vedas.[317]

Besides their Vedas, the Ynglists instruct their disciples about "Aryan mathematics" and grammar, and techniques for a "healthy way of life", including forms of eugenics.[318] The Church is known for its intensive proselytism,[319] carried out through a "massive selling" of books, journals and other media. Ynglists organise yearly gatherings (veche) in summer.[320]

The Ynglist Church was prosecuted in the early 2000s for ethnic hatred according to Russian laws, and its headquarters in Omsk were liquidated.[320] Despite this, Ynglism continues to operate as an unregistered religious phenomenon represented by a multiplicity of communities. Ynglism meets widespread disapproval within mainstream Rodnovery, and an international veche of important Rodnover organisations has declared it a false religion. Nevertheless, according to Aitamurto, on the basis of the amount of literature that Ynglists publish and the presence of their representatives at various Rodnover conferences, is clear that Ynglism has a "substantial number of followers".[321] The scholar Elena Golovneva described Ynglist ideas as "far from being marginal" within Russian Rodnovery.[322]

Other movements

Worship ceremony led by the priests of the Ukrainian organisation General Fire of Slavic Native Faith.
Worship ceremony led by the priests of the Ukrainian organisation General Fire of Slavic Native Faith.

Koliada Viatichey (Russian: Коляда Вятичей) is a Rodnover faction that emerged in 1998 through the union of the Viatichi group founded by Nikolay Speransky (volkhv Velimir) in 1995, which comprised well-educated Moscow intellectuals, and the Koliada community.[323] Koliada Viatichey refutes any non-Slavic influence in their religion, including the label "Vedic" and Vedic literature, influences from Eastern religions, influences from Roerichism and esotericism, and also the Book of Veles. The movement also rejects extreme right-wing and anti-Semitic ideas.[324] Yet, they espouse Russian nationalism, ancestrality and ecology, and oppose Christianity (but not folk Orthodoxy, which is regarded as a continuation of Russian indigenous religion) and the Western "technocratic civilisation". Koliada Viatichey is theologically dualistic, giving prominence to the complementary principles of Belobog and Chernobog, respectively governing spirit and matter, a polar duality which reflects itself in humanity as the soul and the body. Polytheism is accepted for its ability to "account for the complexity of the world with its multiple good and evil forces", and particularly emphasised is the popular Russian belief in the great goddess of the Earth (Mokosh or Mat Syra Zemlya). Speransky has adopted the concept of Darna from Lithuanian Romuva, explaining it as ordered life "in accordance with the Earth and with the ancestors".[325]

The Way of Great Perfection is an esoteric doctrine of the left-hand path elaborated by Ilya Cherkasov (volkhv Veleslav), offering a perspective which according to him never existed in Slavic religion. He borrows from various traditions, including Tantrism, Neoplatonism, Hermeticism and alchemy, as well as the medieval German mysticism of the Friends of God (Meister Eckhart and Johannes Tauler). The goal of this esoteric system goes beyond that of other left-hand path traditions which stop at the deification of the individual; the goal of Veleslav's way is the union of the individual with the supreme source of all divinity.[326] Veleslav's left-hand path has been criticised by other Rodnover groups and leaders including Nikolay Speransky.[327]

According to Laruelle, the most politicised current of Rodnovery has given rise to organisations including the Church of the Nav (Це́рковь На́ви), founded by Ilya Lazarenko and inspired by German Ariosophy; the Dead Water movement and its parties which participated to the Duma elections in 2003; Aleksandr Sevastianov's National Party of the Russian Great Power, which has had links with politicians close to the former mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov (1936–2019); and the Party of Aryan Socialism led by Vladimir Danilov. The ideas of these Rodnover political groups span from extreme right-wing nationalism and racism, to Stalinism, seen by some of them as the most successful political expression of Paganism.[328]

Demographics

Eastern Slavic nations

Russia

Group of Anastasian believers in Russia.
Group of Anastasian believers in Russia.

Writing in 2000, Shnirelman noted that Rodnovery was growing rapidly within the Russian Federation.[11] In 2016, Aitamurto noted that there was no reliable information on the number of Rodnovers in Russia, but that it was plausible that there were several tens of thousands of practitioners active in the country.[329] This was partly because there were several Rodnover groups active on the social network VK which had over 10,000 members.[329] Estimates from some research institutes, often reported by Russian Orthodox Church organs, put the number of Native Faith practitioners in the few millions.[91] In 2003, the Russian Ministry of Justice had forty registered Rodnover organisations, while there were "probably several hundred of them in existence".[330]

Aitamurto observed that a substantial number of adherents—and in particular those who had been among the earliest—belonged to the "technical intelligentsia".[211] Similarly, Shnirelman noted that the founders of Russian Rodnovery were "well-educated urbanised intellectuals" who had become frustrated with "cosmopolitan urban culture".[331] Physicists were particularly well represented; in this Aitamurto drew comparisons to the high number of computer professionals who were present in the Pagan communities of Western countries.[211] The movement also involved a significant number of people who had a background in the Soviet or Russian Army,[332] or in policing and security.[176] The vast majority of Russian Rodnovers were young and there were a greater proportion of men than women.[211] A questionnaire distributed at the Kupala festival in Maloyaroslavets suggested that Rodnovers typically had above-average levels of education, with a substantial portion working as business owners or managers.[333] A high proportion were also involved in specialist professions such as engineering, academia, or information technology, and the majority lived in cities.[334]

Marlène Laruelle similarly noted that Rodnovery in Russia has spread mostly among the young people and the cultivated middle classes, that portion of Russian society interested in the post-Soviet revival of faith but turned off by Orthodox Christianity, "which is very institutionalized" and "out of tune with the modern world", and "is not appealing [to these people] because it expects its faithful to comply with normative beliefs without room for interpretation". Rodnovery is attractive because of its "paradoxical conjunction" of tradition and modernity, recovery of the past through innovative syntheses, and its values calling for a rediscovery of the true relationship between mankind, nature and the ancestors.[335] Rodnovery has also contributed to the diffusion of "historical themes"—particularly regarding an ancient Aryan race—to the general population, including many who were Orthodox or non-religious.[336] Some strains of Rodnovery have become close supporters and components of Eurasianism (whose most prominent contemporary theorist is the philosopher Alexander Dugin), the currently dominant ideology of the Russian central state.[127] A number of youth subcultures have been identified as introducing people to Rodnovery, among them heavy metal, historical re-enactment, and the admirers of J. R. R. Tolkien.[337] Rodnovery is also spread through a variety of newspapers and journals.[145] Also popular with Russian Rodnovers has been the martial arts movement known as Slavyano-goritskaya bor'ba.[338] A number of popular celebrities, including the singer Maria Arkhipova and the professional boxer Aleksandr Povetkin,[182] have publicly embraced Rodnovery.

Ukraine

People gathered for worship at a temple of the Native Ukrainian National Faith in Ukraine.
People gathered for worship at a temple of the Native Ukrainian National Faith in Ukraine.

Slavic Native Faith underwent dramatic growth in Ukraine during the early and mid 1990s.[10] In 2005, Ivakhiv noted that there were likely between 5000 and 10,000 practitioners in Ukraine.[238] Three years later he reported sociological researches suggesting Ukrainian Rodnovers to be 90,000 or 0.2% of the population.[339] The religion's "main base" consisted of ethnic Ukrainians who were "nationally oriented" and who displayed higher than average levels of education.[238] There is overlap between Slavic Native Faith followers and other sectors of Ukrainian society, such as the folk and traditional music revival groups, Cossack associations, traditional martial arts groups, and nationalist and ultra-nationalist organisations.[138]

Ivakhiv noted that Rodnovery remains "a relatively small niche in Ukrainian religious culture",[340] and that it faces a mixed reception in the country.[341] Established Ukrainian Orthodox and Roman Catholic groups have viewed it with alarm and hostility,[138] while the country's educated and intellectual classes tend to view it as a fringe part of the ultra-conservative movement which was tinged with anti-Semitism and xenophobia.[138]

In the global Ukrainian diaspora, there has been a "great decline" in the numbers practising the Native Ukrainian National Faith branch of Rodnovery.[342] This has been due to branch's inability to attract sufficient numbers of youth in this community.[343] Alternately, the Ukrainian organisation Ancestral Fire of the Native Orthodox Faith has expanded in both Moldova and Germany.[344]

Belarus

Fire ritual of Belarusian Rodnovers.
Fire ritual of Belarusian Rodnovers.

Slavic Native Faith groups are also active in Belarus,[345] the most numerous being the Commonwealth of Rodoviches (Rodnovers), who fully align with Slavic traditions, and the organisation Radzimas, aligning with Baltic traditions instead.[182] Rodnovery in Belarus is popular among some intellectuals active in the pro-Russian political scene, for instance Rodnover leader Uladzimir Sacevič.[346]

Southern Slavic nations

As of 2013, Rodnover groups in Bulgaria were described as having few members and little influence.[347] In Serbia, there is the Association of Rodnovers of Serbia "Staroslavci" (Serbian: Удружење родноверних Србије "Старославци").[348] There is a Slavic Native Faith group called "Circle of Svarog" (Svaroži Krug) in Bosnia and Herzegovina that was created in 2011.[269] The group is associated with the movement of Praskozorje.

Western Slavic nations

Group of Polish Rodnovers celebrating a ritual in winter.
Group of Polish Rodnovers celebrating a ritual in winter.

In 2013, Simpson noted that Slavic Native Faith remains a "very small religion" in Poland, which is otherwise dominated by Roman Catholicism.[179] He suggested that there were under 900 regularly active members of the main four registered Polish Native Faith organisations,[349] and around as many adherents belonging to smaller, unregistered groups.[122] In 2017, he stated that between 2000 and 2500 "actively engaged and regular participants" were likely active in the country.[350] He observed that in the country, Slavic Native Faith's adherents were "still relatively young",[351] and saw an overlap with the community of historical re-enactors.[122] In Poland, Slavic Native Faith outnumbers other Pagan religions, although both are represented in the Pagan Federation International's Polish branch.[352]

Anna-Marie Dostálová stated that the entire Pagan community in the Czech Republic—which includes Heathens, Wiccans, and Druids as well as Slavic Rodnovers—was of a "small size".[353]

Baltic states' Slavic minorities

There are also practising Rodnovers among Lithuania's[354] and Estonia's ethnically Russian minorities. Russians in Estonia have established their own religious organisation, the Fellowship of the Russian People's Faith in Estonia registered in Tartu in 2010.[355] In Lithuania there are also homesteads of the Anastasian movement.[356]

Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States

In Australia there is "Southern Cross Rodnovery", a Rodnover organisation that caters to Australians of Slavic ethnicity. It is officially registered as a charity by the government of Australia.[357] In Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, within the Ukrainian diaspora, there are various congregations of the Native Ukrainian National Faith (RUNVira).[238]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The term derives from the Proto-Slavic roots *rod (род), which means anything "indigenous", "ancestral" and "native", also "genus", "generation", "kin", "race" (e.g. Russian родная rodnaya or родной rodnoy), and is also the name of the universe's supreme God according to Slavic knowledge; and *vera, which means "faith", "religion".[1] The term has many emic variations, all compounds, in different Slavic languages, including: From some variations of the term, the English adaptations "Rodnovery" and its adjective "Rodnover(s)" have taken foothold in English-language literature, supported and used by Rodnovers themselves.[2]
  2. ^ The locution "Slavic Neopaganism" has been used within the academic study of the movement but it is never used by adherents themselves, who reject it for the connotations of both "new" and "pagan".[3]
  3. ^ The scholars Scott Littleton and Linda Malcor trace the origins of the Arthurian legend of the sword in the stone to the Scythian ritual of the sword planted in a pile of stones or bruswood to worship the martial deity, likely brought to Britain by Alan (Sarmatian) regiments settled there by the Romans in the first century CE.

Citations

  1. ^ a b c Simpson & Filip 2013, p. 36.
  2. ^ Petrović 2013, passim; Rountree 2015, p. 217; Saunders 2019.
  3. ^ Laruelle 2012, pp. 293–294.
  4. ^ Lesiv 2013a, pp. 6–7; Shnirelman 2013, p. 62; Skrylnikov 2016, passim; Shizhenskii & Aitamurto 2017, p. 115.
  5. ^ Shnirelman 2002, p. 197; Laruelle 2008, p. 284; Dostálová 2013, p. 165; Gaidukov 2013, p. 315; Shnirelman 2013, pp. 62, 73.
  6. ^ a b Gaidukov 2013, p. 316.
  7. ^ a b Shizhenskii & Aitamurto 2017, p. 120.
  8. ^ a b c d Aitamurto 2016, p. 65.
  9. ^ a b c d Laruelle 2012, p. 294.
  10. ^ a b Ivakhiv 2005c, p. 209.
  11. ^ a b c d Shnirelman 2000, p. 18.
  12. ^ Simpson & Filip 2013, pp. 34–35; Shnirelman 2017, p. 105.
  13. ^ Simpson & Filip 2013, pp. 34–35.
  14. ^ a b c d Simpson & Filip 2013, p. 35.
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  17. ^ a b Aitamurto 2016, p. 141.
  18. ^ Aitamurto 2016, p. 123.
  19. ^ Shnirelman 2000, p. 19.
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  85. ^ Dynda 2014, passim.
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  104. ^ Aitamurto 2016, p. 142.
  105. ^ Aitamurto 2016, p. 116.
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  348. ^ Radulovic 2017, pp. 47–76.
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Primary sources (Rodnover authors)

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  • Stachniuk, Jan (2006) [1941]. Mit sławiański [The Slavic myth] (in Polish). Wrocław: Toporzel. ISBN 8385559299. Written in 1941, but not published until 2006.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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External links

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