Restoration and Revival: Landscapes of Change in Russian Religions since Communism

Authors: Edward Holland*, University of Arkansas
Topics: Religion, Russia
Keywords: Religion, Reconstruction, Buddhism, Russian Orthodoxy, Russia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Galerie 1, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper theorizes the importance of reconstruction and restoration to cultures of religious practice and belief in geographic space. Since 1991, reconstruction has been used to mark Russia’s religious landscape, most notably with the rebuilding of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior on the banks of the Moscow River. I posit restoration of appropriated or disused buildings as a more complex phenomenon, one that involves the reclamation of spaces that served other functions during the Soviet period for the community of believers. To make this case, I draw on two sites of religious practice in contemporary Russia: Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg and Khosheutovsky Khurul in the region of Astrakhan. Appropriated for various uses—including a museum (Kazan Cathedral) and a meeting place and stable (Khosheutovsky Khurul)—these two sites underscore the connection between Russia’s contemporary communities of belief and the pre-Soviet period. Making more tangible the relevance of restoration is the historical link between the Cathedral and the Khurul. Focusing on the latter building—the only Kalmyk Buddhist temple to survive the Soviet period—I document Khosheutovsky Khurul as a space of education and practice in both its pre- and post-Soviet instantiations, with these more recent functions only made possible by its survival and restoration.

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