Slavic Native Faith

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The Slavic Native Faith, Rodnovery,[note 1] or Slavic Neopaganism 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. "Rodnovery" is a widely accepted self-descriptor within the community, although there are Rodnover organisations which further characterise the religion as Orthodoxy, Old Belief, and Vedism.

Rodnovers typically 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.[note 2] Rodnovery draws upon surviving historical and archaeological sources, folk religion, and even non-Slavic sources such as Hinduism. Rodnover theology and cosmology may be described as pantheism and polytheism—worship of the supreme God of the universe and of the multiple gods and ancestors 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 as ethnic nationalism, opposition to miscegenation, and the belief in the fundamental difference of racial groups. Some—although not all—groups adopt far-right and ultra-nationalistic perspectives and espouse anti-democratic, anti-Western, and anti-Semitic ideas. Rodnovers often glorify Slavic history, criticising the impact of Christianity in Slavic countries, and arguing that these nations will play a central place in the world's future. Rodnovers share a strong feeling that their religion represents a paradigmatic shift which will overcome Western thought and 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. Antecedants 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 already in the 1930s and 1940s. 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 Eastern European countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent times, the movement has been increasingly studied in academic scholarship.

Overview[edit]

An outdoors Rodnover ritual in Russia around the year 2000.

Scholars of religion regard Slavic Native Faith as a modern Pagan religion.[3] They also characterise it as a new religious movement.[4] The movement has no over-arching structure,[5] or accepted religious authority,[6] and contains much diversity in terms of belief and practice,[7] the sociologist of religion Kaarina Aitamurto suggests that Rodnovery is sufficiently heterogeneous that it could be regarded itself not as a singular religion but as "an umbrella term that gathers together various forms of religiosity".[7]

The scholar of religion Alexey Gaidukov 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",[5] the scholar of religion Adrian Ivakhiv describes the religion as a movement which "harkens back to the pre-Christian beliefs and practices of ancient Slavic peoples",[8] 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".[9]

Some involved in the movement avoid calling their belief system either "paganism" or "religion".[9] Many Rodnovers refer to their belief system as an "ethnic religion",[10] and Rodnover groups were involved in establishing the World Congress of Ethnic Religions.[11] The usage of this term suggests that the religion is restricted to a particular ethnic group,[12] some practitioners regard "ethnic religion" as a term synonymous with "Native Faith", but others perceive there as being a distinction between the two terms.[12]

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.[13] 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, chiefly represented by the Abrahamic religions;[14] in the Russian intellectual milieu, Rodnovery also presents itself as the ideology of "nativism" (narodnichestvo),[15] which in Rodnover's own historical analysis is destined to supplant what they call the "mono-ideologies" whose final bankruptcy the world is now witnessing.[16]

Rodnovery as a new synthesis[edit]

Shnirelman states that—contrary to the beliefs of Rodnovers themselves—their religion 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";[17] in this way, Slavic Native Faith has been understood—at least in part—as an invented tradition,[18] or a form of Folklorismus.[19] Simpson notes, studying 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.[20] 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.[21]

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,[22] among these foreign influences have been beliefs and practices drawn from Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Germanic Heathenry,[23] Siberian shamanism,[24] as well as ideas drawn from various forms of esotericism.[25] 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.[26] 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".[27] Many 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".[28]

Slavic folk religion and double belief[edit]

The Fiery Chariot of the Word—19th-century Russian icon of the Theotokos as Ognyena Maria ("Fiery Mary"), fire goddess sister of Perun.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

A different perspective is offered by Svetlana Chervonnaya, who sees 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,[32] the notion that modern Rodnovery is closely tied to the historical Slavic religion is a very strong one among practitioners.[33]

In crafting their beliefs and practices, Rodnovers adopt elements from recorded folk culture, including from the ethnographic record of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[34] 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.[35] Although indigenous beliefs and practices influenced Slavic Christianity as it was established in the Middle Ages, folk practices have changed greatly over the intervening millennia.[36]

The concept of double belief is especially significant in Russia, and for the identity of the Russian Orthodox Church; in that country, it is a oft-cited dictum that "although Russia was baptised, it was never Christianised".[37] 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.[38] 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.[35]

Ivakhiv says that 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.[39] Scholar of Russian folk religion Linda J. Ivanits reports 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.[40] 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.[41]

Symbolism[edit]

From left to right: Kolovrat, Hands of God, Thundermark, symbol of Veles.

The most commonly used religious symbol within Rodnovery is the kolovrat, a swastika-like (Sanskrit: "wellbeing", "wellness") symbol,[42] as such, it represents wholeness, the ultimate source of renewal, the cosmic order and the four directions.[43] According to the studies of Boris Rybakov, whirl and wheel symbols, which also include patterns like the "six-petaled rose inside a circle" 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.[44]

Terminology[edit]

"Rodnovery" (Native Faith)[edit]

Russian Rodnovers engaged in a ritual.

The majority of practitioners of modern Slavic Paganism call their religion "Native Faith",[45] this term appears in slightly different forms depending on the Slavic language in question: in Ukrainian, it is Ridnovirstvo or Ridnovirya, in Russian Rodnoverie, in Polish Rodzimowierstwo, and in Czech Rodnovĕří.[45] The term derives from the Proto-Slavic roots *rod (род), which means anything "indigenous", "ancestral" and "native", also "genus", "generation", "kin", "race" (cf. Russian родная rodnaya or родной rodnoy); and *vera, which means "faith", "religion".[1] Within the community, it has also been used to define an elective community, namely the community of Native Faith practitioners themselves,[46] the term has different histories and associations in each of these languages.[45] 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 Western suffix "-ery, -ry").[47] Sometimes the term "Rodnovery" has also been interpreted as meaning "faith of Rod", a reference to an eponymous concept found in ancient Russian and Ukrainian sources.[48]

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").[49] As an endonym, the term Ridnovir was in use among Ukrainians involved in the movement by at least 1995,[50] from Ukraine, the term began to spread throughout other Slavic countries.[50] 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 Rodnover Communities" (Союз Славянских Общин Славянской Родной Веры).[50] By the early 2000s, the term was widespread across Slavic language countries;[12] in 2002, six Russian Rodnover organisations issued the "Bittsa Agreement" (Bittsevskoe Obraschchenie), in which they expressed the view that "Rodnoverie" should be regarded as the foremost name of the religion.[51] 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,[51] 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").[51]

Aitamurto stated that in addition to being the most used term, it is appropriate because of its meanings.[52] Aside from its immediate acceptation, it has deeper senses related to its Slavic etymology that would be lost through translation, expressing the central concepts of the Slavic Native Faith.[52] Rod is conceived as the absolute, primordial God, supreme ancestor of the universe, that begets all things,[52] and at the same time as the kin, the lineage of generation which is the ancestral bond to the supreme source.[52] 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.[52]

"Orthodoxy", "Old Belief", "Vedism" and other terms[edit]

Russian Rodnovers in a wooden temple.

The appropriate name of the religion is an acute topic of discussion among practitioners active on social media.[53] Many Rodnovers have adopted terms that are already used to refer to other religions, namely the historical Vedic religion and Orthodox Christianity,[54] for instance, the Saint Petersburg-based "Union of the Veneds" (Soyuz Venedov) is one of the major organisations of the branch of Rodnovery known as "Peterburgian Vedism".[55][56] 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.[57]

In Ukraine and Russia many important Rodnover groups advocate the designation of "Orthodoxy" (Russian: Православие Pravoslaviye, Ukrainian: Православ'я Pravoslav'ya) for themselves,[54] they claim that the term, which refers to the universal order (Prav, cf. Vedic Ṛta), was usurped by the Christians.[58] Another term employed by Rodnovers, but historically associated to the Orthodox Christian movement of the Old Believers, is "Starovery" (cf. Russian: Старове́ры Starovéry, "Old Faith").[56]

Some Slovenian practitioners use the Slovenian language term ajd, which is a loan-word of the Germanic-language heathen.[59] 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.[60] Another term employed by some Rodnovers has been "practice of the Slavs", which appears especially in Polish (Słowiaństwo) and in Slovakian (Slovianstvo),[12] some Russians refer to their religion as "Slavism" and claim that the word "Slav" originally meant "he who praises his gods".[55]

General descriptors: Western "pagan" and Slavic yazich[edit]

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.[61] Indeed, many Slavic languages have two terms that are conventionally rendered as "pagan" in Western languages: the aforementioned pogan and языч yazich, the latter, which is a derivation of the near-homophonous язык yazik, "tongue", is prevalent and has a less negative acceptation, literally meaning "pertaining to (our own) language".[54] 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.[60] Some Russian and Ukrainian Rodnovers employ, respectively, Yazychestvo and Yazychnytstvo (i.e. "our own language craft", "Gentility"), but it is infrequent.[62][61] Yazich has been adopted especially among Rodnovers speaking West Slavic languages, where it has not any connotations related to "paganism".[58] Thus, Czech Rodnover groups have coined Jazyčnictví and Slovak Rodnovers have coined Jazyčníctvo.[58]

By the mid-1930s, the term "Neopagan" had been applied to the Polish Zadruga group,[63] 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.[64] However, the prefix "neo-" within "Neopaganism" is a divisive issue among Rodnovers,[64] some practitioners dislike it because it minimises the continuity of indigenous pre-Christian beliefs.[64] They regard themselves as restoring the original belief system rather than creating something new.[65] 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.[64] 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.[66]

Beliefs[edit]

Theology and cosmology[edit]

Statue of Svetovid in Kiev. The "Worldseer" represents Rod incarnated as the interconnection of spatial and temporal dimensions.

Prior to their Christianisation, the Slavic peoples were polytheists, believing in a range of deities. Belief in these deities varied according to location and through time, with Slavs sometimes adopting the worship of deities from the pantheons of other, neighbouring linguistic groups.[21] Both in Russia and in Ukraine, modern Rodnovers are divided among those who are monotheists and those who are polytheists;[67] Some practitioners describe themselves as atheists,[68] believing that gods are not real entities but rather ideal symbols.[69]

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.[68] A rather common theological stance is that of monism, through which the many different gods (polytheism) are seen as manifestations of a single, universal God — generally identified by the concept of Rod,[7] also known as Sud ("Judge") and Prabog ("Pre-God", "First God") among South Slavs.[70] In the Russian and Ukrainian centres of Rodnover theology, the concept of Rod has been emphasised as particularly important,[71][72] the term rod is attested in sources about pre-Christian religion referring to divinity and ancestrality.[71][73] Mathieu-Colas defines it as the "primordial God", but the term also literally means the generative power of family and "kin", "birth", "origin" and "fate" as well,[70] its negative form, urod, means something wrenched, deformed, degenerated, monstruous.[7] Sometimes, the meaning of the word is left deliberately obscure among Rodnovers, allowing for a variety of different interpretations.[71] 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.[74] 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.[75]

When emphasising this monism, Rodnovers may define themselves as rodnianin, "believers in God"[76] (or "in nativity", "in genuinity"). Already the pioneering Ukrainian leader Shaian argued that God manifests as a variety of different deities,[77] 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).[78] 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",[71] 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").[71]

Pantheons of deities are not unified among practitioners of Slavic Native Faith.[79] Different Rodnover groups often have a preference for a particular deity over others,[80] the Union of Russian Rodnover Communities founded and led by Vadim Kazakov recognises a pantheon of over thirty deities emanated by the supreme Rod;[81] 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.[82] Another Russian Rodnover leader, Nikolai 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.[83] Rodnovers also believe and worship tutelary deities of specific elements, lands and environments,[84] 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.[78]

In Ukraine, there has been a debate as to whether the religion should be monotheistic or polytheistic;[85] in keeping with the pre-Christian belief systems of the region, the groups who inherit Volodymyr Shaian's tradition, among others, espouse polytheism.[85] 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.[86] For members of this group, Dazhbog is regarded as the life-giving energy of the cosmos.[87]

Sylenko characterised Dazhbog as "light, endlessness, gravitation, eternity, movement, action, the energy of unconscious and conscious Being".[87] Based on this description, Ivakhiv argued that Sylenkoite theology might better be regarded as pantheistic or panentheistic rather than monotheistic.[87] 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.[88] A similar view is adopted by Russian Ynglism.[78] 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",[89] for Native Ukrainian National Faith's members, polytheism is regarded as backward.[89] Some polytheist Rodnovers have regarded the approach adopted by Sylenko's followers as an inauthentic approach to the religion.[62]

Morality and ethics[edit]

Ukrainian Rodnovers worshiping 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.[90] People are viewed as having unique responsibilities towards their own contexts: for instance, the right of parents is to take care of their children, the right of ancestors is to be honoured, and the land deserves to be recked and cultivated.[91] 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;[92] 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.[91]

Rodnovers value individual responsibility as the cornerstone for the further maturation of humanity, equating the conversion to Rodnovery with such maturation,[93] this emphasis on individuality is not ad 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".[94] Immediately related to the morality of a responsible community is the respect for the umbegoing context and the natural world in general, or what Aitamurto defines "ecological responsibility".[95]

Rodnover ethics deal with a wide range of contemporary social issues.[9] Through the categories of contemporary sociology, Rodnover views are generally defined conservative. Aitamurto summarised these views as: patriarchy, solidarity and homogeneity, with the latter two seen as intrinsically related.[96] Shnirelman observed that Rodnovers' calls for social justice tend to apply only to their own perceived ethnic community.[97] There 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.[98]

Within Rodnovery, gender roles are generally conservative.[56] Rodnovers often subscribe to the view that men and women are fundamentally different and thus their tasks also differ.[56] 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.[99] Rodnovers therefore reinforce traditional values in Slavic countries rather than being countercultural,[100] presenting themselves as a stabilising and responsible social force.[100]

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.[101] 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;[56] in adopting such a conservative stance to sexual ethics, practitioners of Rodnovery can adopt misognyistic and homophobic attitudes.[102] Aitamurto and Gaidukov noted that it would be "difficult to imagine that any Rodnover community would accept members who are openly homosexual".[56] Many groups in both Russia and Ukraine critique mixed-race unions;[103] for instance, the Ynglist Church's doctrine articulates a condemnation of race mixing as unhealthy.[101]

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,[104] they reflect their stance in the slogan "unity in diversity".[104] 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.[105]

Identity and political philosophy[edit]

Map of countries in Central and Eastern Europe where Slavic languages predominate. Wood 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.[106] 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.[107] Over the course of several centuries, Slavic populations migrated in northern, eastern, and south-western directions;[107] in doing so, they branched out into three sub-linguistic families: the Eastern Slavs (Ukrainians, Belarussians, Russians), the Western Slavs (Poles, Czechs, Slovaks), and the Southern Slavs (Slovenes, Serbs, Croats, Macedonians, and Bulgarians).[107] The belief systems of these Slavic communities had many affinities with those of neighbouring linguistic populations, such as the Balts, Thracians, and Indo-Iranians.[107] 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.[107]

The scholar of religion Scott Simpson states that Slavic Native Faith is "fundamentally concerned with questions of community and ethnic identity",[108] while folklorist Nemanja Radulovic described practitioners as placing "great emphasis on their national or regional identity".[109] Rodnovery typically displays greater concern for collective rights than individual rights.[110] Most Rodnover groups will permit only Slavs as members, although there are a few exceptions.[97]

Ethnic nationalism[edit]

Ukrainian Rodnovers wearing traditional costume for their ceremonies.

Slavic Native Faith's world-view is often ethnic nationalist in basis.[111] 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".[112]

Many Rodnovers espouse socio-political views akin to those of the French Nouvelle Droite,[113] some blame many of the world's problems on the mixing of ethno-cultural groups,[114] and emphasise the idea of ethnic purity.[115][62] Some Rodnovers promote racial segregation,[116] and have demanded a prohibition on mixed-race marriages,[97] some Rodnovers regard ethnic minorities living in Slavic countries as a cause of social injustice,[97] and encourage the removal of those regarded as "aliens" from Russia, namely those who are Jewish or have ethnic origins in the Caucasus,[117] an approach that could require ethnic cleansing.[97] Other Rodnovers are openly anti-Semitic,[118] for instance urging fellow Rodnovers not to get involved with Jews,[119] and endorsing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories claiming that Jews control the economic and political elite.[120]

Many Rodnovers oppose what they regard as "culturally destructive" phenomena such as cosmopolitanism, liberalism, and globalisation,[62] as well as Americanisation and consumerism.[121] The political models proposed by Rodnovers as based on their interpretation of the ancient Slavic community model of the veche (assembly), similar to the ancient Germanic "thing".[122] 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".[123] 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.[124]

There are Rodnovers with extreme right-wing nationalist views,[125] including those who are Neo-Nazi and openly inspired by Nazi Germany.[126] Many other Rodnovers deny or downplay the racist and Nazi elements within their community,[127] 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.[127] Shnirelman noted that there was a loose boundary between the explicitly politicised and less politicised wings of the Russian movement,[110] adding that ethnic nationalist and racist views were present even in those Rodnovers who did not identify as explicitly political.[128] Rodnover ideas and symbols have also been adopted by many Russian nationalists—including in the Russian skinhead movement[129]—not all of whom embrace Rodnovery as a religion,[130] some of these far-right groups merge Rodnover elements with others adopted from Germanic Heathenry and from Russian Orthodox Christianity.[131] A number of young practitioners of Slavic Native Faith have been detained on terrorism charges in Russia;[128] 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.[132]

In countries like Poland and Russia there has been an increasing de-politicisation of the Slavic Native Faith community in the 21st century.[133] Aitamurto and Shizhenskii suggested that expressions of ultra-nationalism were considered socially unacceptable at one of the largest Rodnover event in Russia, the Kupala festival outside Maloyaroslavets.[134] Aitarmurto suggested that the different wings of the Rodnover movement "attract different kinds of people approaching the religion from quite diverging points of departure",[135] for instance, the Circle of Pagan Tradition characterise themselves as "patriots" rather than "nationalists", avoid ethnic nationalist ideas, and recognise Russia as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural state.[136]

Views on Slavic and Indo-European history[edit]

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

Shnirelman notes that the movement is "obsessed with the idea of origin".[128] Many Rodnovers legitimise their practices by according their Slavic ancestors great cultural achievements.[137] Academics studying the movement have described these views of the past as "extremely imaginative and exaggerated",[138] "rather fantastic",[139] and linked to pseudo-historical ideas.[140] 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 21st century.[141]

Many within the movement regard the Book of Veles as a holy text,[142] and as a genuine historical document,[143] some Rodnovers take their cosmology, ethical system, and ritual practices from the Book.[142] 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.[144] 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 the Jewish Khazaria of Sviatoslav the Brave or The Rigveda of Kiev.[145] Some Rodnovers pejoratively dismiss movements such as that of the Vseyasvetnaya gramota as "New Age" and claim that reliance on them discredits the Slavic Native Faith movement.[146]

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

Some Rodnovers believe that Slavs constitute a race whose origin is distinct from that of other ethnic groups.[112] According to them, Slavs are the directest descendants of an ancient Aryan race, whom they equate with the Proto-Indo-Europeans,[26] some Rodnovers believe that the Aryans originated at the North Pole but moved south as a result of declining temperatures,[147] while others claim that the Aryans germinated in Russia's southern steppes.[148] 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.[149]

Some Rodnovers 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,[150] or that Russia will be the home of a post-apocalyptic civilisation which will survive the demise of the Western world,[121] such racially eschatological beliefs are explicitly rejected by other Rodnovers, like the Circle of Pagan Tradition.[105]

Although their understanding of the past is typically rooted in spiritual conviction rather than in arguments that would be acceptable within academia, many Rodnovers seek to promote their beliefs about the past among academics,[141] 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.[151] In several Slavic countries, many archaeologists and historians have been hesitant about giving credence to Rodnover interpretations of the past;[152] in turn, practitioners have accused academics of being part of a conspiracy to conceal the truth about the past.[153]

Views on Christianity[edit]

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

Many Rodnovers actively reject Christianity or adopt anti-Christian views.[154] Practitioners generally regard Abrahamic religions as a destructive force that erodes what they view as organic peoples,[14] with Christianity being perceived as a foreign force that is destroying Slavic culture,[155] some Rodnovers also take a hostile stance toward Judaism, which they regard as having spawned Christianity,[62] or believe that Christianity has left Russia under the control of Jews.[148] Rodnovers often reject Christian ideas of humility, regarding them as antithetical to a Rodnover emphasis on courage and fighting spirit.[156] Christianity is considered as a system that destroys morality by casting human responsibility away from the present world and into a transcendent future,[92] and it is also criticised as being anthropocentric, and thus responsible for ecological disruption;[80] in Russia, Rodnovers often criticise Christianity for its claim to have a monopoly on truth; in regarding it as a mono-ideology, they compare it to Soviet Marxism.[104] Some practitioners also regard capitalism as a creation of Abrahamic religions and seek to return to a pre-capitalist society,[157] believing that their ideology will supplant "mono-ideologies" like Christianity in the future.[16]

Rodnovers express their anti-Christian views in various ways. Many Native Faith groups organise formal ceremonies of renunciation of Christianity (raskrestitsia, literally "de-Christianisation"), in which they adopt a new Slavic name,[158] the folklorist Mariya Lesiv observed Rodnovers marching in Kiev in 2006 chanting "Out with Jehovah! Glory to Dazhboh!"[159] Simpson noted that in Poland, several Rodnovers launched a poster campaign against Valentines Day, which they regarded as not being an authentically Polish celebration;[160] in Russia, Rodnovers have vandalised and torched various churches.[161]

Christians have also been responsible for opposition to Slavic Native Faith, for instance through the establishment of social media groups against the movement,[162] the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed opposition to the growth and spread of Slavic Native Faith across Russia on various occasions.[163] 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;[164] in this way they argue that Russian Orthodoxy is distinct from other forms of Christianity,[80] and seek to portray it as the "younger brother" of Slavic Native Faith.[165] 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.[166]

Organisation, rites and practices[edit]

Russian Rodnovers engaged in a circle-dance, celebrating the 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.[167] Sometimes, Slavic Native Faith groups send guests to the religious meetings of other groups, including those in other countries.[168] Most Slavic Native Faith groups strongly emphasise the commemoration of ancestors in their religious practices,[169] for many Rodnovers, greater importance is given to creating what they perceive as "genuine" Slavic rituals rather than those which will be psychologically empowering.[128]

There is much variation in the patterns of organisation and practice between different groups, and depending on the level such groups intend to represent, whether national or local, for instance, the Association of Sons and Daughters of Ukraine of the Native Ukrainian National Faith (OSIDU RUNVira), one of the churches of the Ukrainian Sylenkoite branch of Rodnovery, 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,[170] 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.[169] The structure of these Syenkoite rites is modelled on those of the Eastern Orthodox Church.[22]

Adherents of Slavic Native Faith often adopt elements from recorded folk culture. Lesiv described this process as one of "Paganisation", whereby Christian or otherwise non-Pagan elements are deliberately given a new meaning and purpose;[171] in turn, some of these "Paganised" folk practices have been transmitted through the wider population, who has regarded them as authentic traditional practices.[172] Some Rodnover groups also incorporate non-Slavic practices,[173] 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-20th century.[174] 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;[72] 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.[137] Another example are groups within Peterburgian Vedism which incorporate Ivanovite healing techniques.[57]

Rituals take place at secluded, consecrated spaces, and generally include the invocation of gods, sacrifices and the pouring of libations, circle-dances (horovod or simply kolo, "circle"), and usually end with a communal meal. Some Rodnover organisations require that participants wear traditional Slavic clothes for such gatherings, 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.[175][176] Besides the rites of outgang from Christianity (raskrestitsia), Rodnovers practise rituals of initiation of the new members into the community of Slvic Native Faith. Central to this conversion is the "renaming", that is to say the adoption of a new Slavic name, symbolising the death and rebirth of the convert into the new community, some groups, such as 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.[158]

Communities, citadels and temples[edit]

A building of the Slavic Kremlin Vitalya Sundakova in 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 20th-century Russian philosophy.[177] Veche is used as the name of many Rodnover overarching organisations, including the international "Veche of Slavic Native Faith", an assembly held each summer, to which adherents from Slavic countries take part. Aitamurto (2008) 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.[96] A form of organisation of Rodnover communities consists in the establishment of places for common living, such as fortresses (kremlin) or citadels (gorodok), in which temples are umbegone by buildings for various social uses, the Slavic Kremlin Vitalya Sundakova is one of such centres, located in the Podolsky District of Moscow Oblast.[178] Some Rodnover networks have established thorough villages all over Russia; this is the case, among other examples, of those Rodnovers who are part of the Ringing Cedars' movement.[179]

Rituals and religious meetings are often performed in rural settings, such as clearings in woodland,[174] 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,[180] 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;[181] in 2015, the Temple of the Fire of Svarozich, in the form of a simple wooden architecture, was opened by the Union of Slavic Rodnover Communities in Krasotynka, Kaluga.[182] Gaidukov (2013) 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.[183]

Priesthood[edit]

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").[184] 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.[184]

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.[96] 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.[163]

Calendars and holidays[edit]

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

According to Aitamurto, rituals play "a central role in defining, learning and transmitting the religion", and thus they constitute an important complement to theology within Rodnovery. Ceremonial accuracy is often considered essential for the efficacy of a ritual. Nevertheless, Rodnover rituals may be regarded as flexible frameworks, wherein there is room for elaboration and experimentation, the sources that Rodnovers rely upon are valued scholars like Vladimir Dal and Boris Rybakov.[185]

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.[185] Slavic Native Faith has been described as following "the cycles of nature".[69] 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.[185]

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.[186] 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.[6] 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 goddes 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.[187]

Some Slavic Native Faith organisations have appropriated or reappropriated Christian festivals,[172] the same Kupala Night is a reappropriation, being the day of the year when Christian churches set the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.[172] The calendar of one of the organisations of the Native Ukrainian National Faith includes holidays that have been de-Christianised, such as a "Christmas of Dazhboh's Light" and an "Easter of the Eternal Resurrection".[169] The common Rodnover calendar leaves room for national and regional variations; for instance, the same Native Ukrainian National Faith's organisation observes holidays devoted to Ukrainian national heroes such as Shevchenko, Ivan Franko, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, and Hryhory Skovoroda, as well as those devoted to more abstract concepts such as "Ukrainian Ancient Literature" and "New Ukrainian Literature".[188]

Artistic and other pursuits[edit]

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.[189] 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.[190] Slavic-hill wrestling (Славяно-горицкая борьба, Slavyano-goritskaya bor'ba) was established by the Russian Rodnover Aleksandr Belov.[191][192] Other martial arts styles that are popular among Rodnovers are "bench wrestling" (lavochki) and "wall against wall" (stenka na stenku).[73]

History[edit]

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.[193] This was accompanied by a growth in nationalism across Europe, as intellectuals began to assert their own national heritage.[193] Whereas calls to re-establish pre-Christian belief systems existed within the German and Austrian far-right nationalist movements during the early twentieth century, the same did not happen in its Russian counterpart.[143]

In 1818, the Polish ethnographer Zorian Dołęga-Chodakowski (Adam Czarnocki) in the work O Sławiańszczyźnie przed chrześcijaństwem ("About Slavs before Christianity") declared himself a "pagan" and stated that the Christianisation of the Slavic peoples had been a mistake.[194] Thus he became a precursor of return to Slavic religion in Poland and all Slavic countries.[195] Similarly, the Polish philosopher Bronisław Trentowski saw the historical religion of the Slavs as a true path to understanding the divine creator, arguing that Christianity failed to do so,[196] it was this Romantic rediscovery and revaluing of historical and pre-Christian that prepared the way for the later emergence of Slavic Native Faith.[197]

1930s–1940s: Early developments[edit]

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.[198] One of the most influential Ukrainian Rodnover ideologues was Volodymyr Shayan, a linguist and philologist who worked at Lviv University,[198] he claimed that in 1934 he underwent a spiritual revelation atop Mount Grekhit in the Carpathian Mountains.[198] Particularly interested in the ideas of an ancient Aryan race that were popular at the time,[199] he subsequently began promoting what he called a "pan-Aryan renaissance",[198] he turned to recorded Ukrainian folklore to find what he regarded as the survivals of the ancient Slavic religion.[199] 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.[200]

In Poland, Jan Stachniuk established the Zadruga magazine in 1937;[201] the term "Zadruga" itself was a reference to a South Slavic tribal unit.[202] 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,[203] he did not develop his ideas into a religion, and those who shared his views remained "a very loose and diverse intellectual clique".[20] The magazine and its associated group embraced members with a wide variety of viewpoints, ranging from secularly humanistic to religiously Slavic Native Faith stances,[204] he was nevertheless labelled a neopoganin ("Neopagan") by the Polish popular press, a term that he embraced as a self-descriptor in later life.[205]

Władysław Kołodziej later claimed to have established a pre-war 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.[20] During the Second World War, Stefan Potrzuski led a unit in the Peasant Battalion which battled the Nazi German occupation forces, 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.[20] Stachniuk fought against the Nazi occupation during the Warsaw Uprising. Following the end of the war and the incorporation of Poland under a Stalinist regime, both Stachniuk and Kołodziej were arrested, preventing the establishment of a Slavic Native Faith community;[201] 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.[206]

A key influence on the movement was the circulation of the Book of Veles among Russian and Ukrainian emigrees,[207] this text was brought to the public by Yuri Mirolyubov, 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,[143] it is probable that the Book of Veles was a literary composition produced by Mirolyubov himself.[143] In following decades the work would have caused a sensation,[208] with many emigrees regarding it as a genuine tenth century text.[143]

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

One of those who joined Shayan's group was Lev Sylenko,[209] 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 in 1966.[209] Sylenko presented himself as a prophet of Dazhbog who had been sent to the Ukrainian people;[35] in his view, the Ukrainians were the superior manifestation of the European peoples,[77] and Kyiv the oldest city of the white race.[77] Sylenko was a charismatic leader, whose followers praised his talents and oratorical skills;[210] in 1979 he published Maha Vira, a book which he claimed chronicled the ancient history of the Ukrainian people.[209] The system of Slavic Native Faith that he developed was influenced by deism and Theosophy.[87] A Native Ukrainian National Faith centre, the Temple of Mother Ukraine, was established in Spring Glen, New York.[211] 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.[212]

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

During the Stalin era in the Soviet Union, 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.[213] Russian Native Faith originated in the Soviet dissidents' circles of the 1970s.[214] 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), such group included Anatoly Ivanov, the artist Konstantin Vasilyev (1942–1974), and Nikolai 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.[215] Other influential texts in this perios were Valery Yemelyanov's Desionizatsiya ("De-Sionisation") and later Istarkhov's Udar russkikh bogov ("The Strike of Russian Gods").[138]

In the Soviet Union, Slavic Native Faith groups had to operate in secret, although a few small groups were known to exist in Moscow and Leningrad,[216] these groups were closely linked to the nationalistic circles operating during the 1980s.[216] 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.[217] In the early 1980s, the "Pamyat" movement was established by figures active at the Metropolitan Moscow Palace of Culture, which similarly looked with fondness on ancient Aryan culture.[217] Several Russian nationalists also began to state that pre-Christian belief systems were the true religion of the Russian people; Apollon Kuzmin did so in his 1988 book Padenie Peruna ("The Fall of Perun").[218] In 1986, Viktor Bezverkhy established the Leningrad (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.[219] These organisations gave rise to the stream of Rodnovery known as "Peterburgian Vedism".[57]

1990s–2000s: Post-Soviet growth[edit]

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,[220] the collapse of the Soviet Union and its official policy of state atheism resulted in a resurgence of open religious adherence across the region.[221] Many individuals arrived at Slavic Native Faith after exploring a range of different alternative spiritualities, with Asian religious influences being particularly apparent within Slavic Native Faith at that time.[222]

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".[223] It is within this broader milieu of cultural nationalism and interest in alternative spiritualities that Slavic Native Faith re-emerged in Ukraine,[62] 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 Kiev in 1991.[224] There had been schisms in the international organisation of Native Ukrainian National Faith.[87] 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.[225] 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,[87] despite the animosity that existed between these rival Ukrainian groups, there was some collaboration between them.[221] In 2003, the First Forum of Rodnovers was held in the country, 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,[221] that same year, a group called Ancestral Fire of the Native Orthodox Faith was established; in contrast to the anti-Russian slant taken by Sylenko, it embraced a Pan-Slavic perspective.[226]

The social context of Slavic Native Faith's growth in Russia differed from that in other parts of Central and Eastern Europe.[100] 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.[227] Large numbers became unemployed, and many turned to the past, including in ethnic terms;[228] in this context, the growth of Rodnovery can be seen as a nationalistic project to regain national pride.[100] Many leaders of early post-Soviet Rodnovery were intellectuals that were already practising members of the movement in late Soviet times, for instance, Grigory Yakutovsky (Vseslav Svyatozar), Aleksei Dobrovolsky (Dobroslav), and Viktor Bezverkhy.[24] Other leaders that emerged in this period were Aleksandr Asov, publisher of numerous versions of the Book of Veles, and Aleksei Belov, founder of the martial arts style known as "Slavic-hill wrestling".[229]

Russian Rodnovers started to organise by the mid-1990s; 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 Rodnover Communities in 1997, the communities of Moscow and Obninsk later left the organisation for ideological differences. Another organisation, the Circle of Veles, which is one of the largest and administers communities also located in the territory of Ukraine, was founded in 1999, the Ynglist Church too was formally established in the early 1990s.[163] In 2002, the same year of the Bittsa Agreement, the Circle of Pagan Tradition was established in Moscow,[230] its purpose was to bring together Russian Rodnovers who did not share the extreme right-wing views then dominant in much of the community.[231] In 2009, the Union of Slavic Rodnover Communities and the Circle of Pagan Tradition issued a joint statement against Ynglism, disapproving what they reck as Ynglists' "pseudo-Pagan teachings, pseudo-linguistics, pseudo-science and outright fiction".[163]

Polish Rodnovers worshipping in the woods.

In Poland, the Wrocław-based publishing house Toporzeł has reissued Stachniuk's works and those of his disciple Antoni Wacyk.[232] Zadruga also inspired the registered religious Association of Native Faith (Zrzeszenie Rodzimej Wiary; now called simply Rodzima Wiara [RW], lit. "Native Faith"),[233] whose founder Stanisław Potrzebowski wrote his doctoral thesis on pre-war Zadruga in German (Zadruga - eine völkische Bewegung in Polen).[234]

Another Slavic Native Faith group registered with the Polish authorities 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.[235] In 1998, a Czech Native Faith group called Rahoŝť was founded by an Italian-born academic specialist in Slavic studies, Giuseppe Maiello;[236] in 2000 this group merged with the extreme-right nationalist National Front of the Pures (Národní Fronta Kastitů) to form the Rodná Víra group.[236] This organisation subsequently nurtured strong links with Rodnover groups in Slovakia, Poland, and Russia,[237] the group broke apart following a schism in 2005.[237]

Rodnovery emerged in the former Yugoslav countries in the early 21st century.[238] A Serbian Native Faith group known as Slavic Circle (Slovenski krug) existed during the 1990s and 2000s, merging historical Slavic religion with a ritual structure adopted from that of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.[239] 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 military historian Matjaž Vratislav Anžur,[240] as of 2013, it had between ten and fifteen members.[241] The group organised an "All-Slavic Council" for August 2009, which was held at Struga Castle;[241] in 2011, the Circle of Svarog (Svaroži krug) was founded in Bosnia.[238] 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,[242] these groups had strong political motivations, being extremely nationalistic, anti-Western, and anti-Semitic.[139] Rodnover figures and groups played a prominent role in the 2002 establishment of Ongal, a Bulgarian far-right umbrella organisation.[243]

The Internet helped to bring about the growing uniformisation of ritual practices across the Slavic Native Faith movement,[222] the first Rodnover website on Russian Internet (so-called Runet)—was established by a Moscow-based believer in 1996.[244] Many Rodnovers made use of Russian Wikipedia to promote their religion, although many found the process difficult and switched focus to promulgating Slavic Native Faith through LiveJournal and mail.ru, through which they could express their own views more directly.[245] From the mid-2000s, Rodnovers made increasing use of social media to communicate with other members of their community.[246] Russian Rodnovery also attracted the attention of academics, many of whom focused on the political dimensions of the movement, thus neglecting other aspects of the community.[247] Aitamurto later criticised some of this Russian-language material for reflecting scholars' own religious biases against Rodnovery, over-reliance on the published texts of prominent figure, or for sensationalising the subject to shock or impress their audience,[247] this generated some mutual hostility between academics and practitioners, rendering subsequent scholarly fieldwork more difficult.[247]

Rodnover themes have also been employed in the heavy metal subculture, particularly in bands like Sokyra Perun ("Perun's Axe"), Whites Load, and Komu Vnyz ("Who Will Go Down").[62] In Poland, Rodnovery has influenced various forms of folk and popular music.[248]

2010s: Consolidations and War in Donbass[edit]

Priests of the "Skhoron Ezh Slaven" Rodnover organisation, with Russian army personnel behind them.

The early 2010s saw a strengthening of relations between Rodnover groups; in 2012, in Russia, representatives of the Union of Slavic Rodnover 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 Slaven, which is also present in Belarus and Ukraine; in 2014, the Russian government officially registered the Union of Slavic Rodnover Communities as an interregional public organisation for the promotion of Slavic culture.[163]

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.[163] 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.[249]

In August 2015, during the III Polish Nationwide Rodnover Congress, the Rodnover Confederation (Konfederacja Rodzimowiercza) was formally established, among the members are eleven organisations including Gontyna Association, Żertwa Association, Pomeranian Rodnovers (Rodzimowiercy Pomorscy), Drzewo Przodków Association, Circle of Radegast (Krąg Radogost), Kałdus Association, Swarga Group (Gromada "Swarga"), WiD Group, ZW Rodzima Wiara and the Watra Rodnover Community (Wspólnota Rodzimowierców "Watra").[250] 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").[251]

Branches, interwoven movements and influences[edit]

There are Rodnover groups who develop theories and practices which differ significantly from those of common Rodnovery, represented by the theology and cosmology contained in the Book of Veles and Slavic folklore, some of them have developed into religions that may or may not be regarded as Rodnovery (this is the case of Ynglism, which is not recognised as true Slavic Native Faith by the major Rodnover organisations of Russia,[252] and of Yagnovery, Ladovery and Sylenkoism, which some Rodnovers opine not to be classifiable as branches of Slavic Native Faith[253]). Other Rodnover movements represent distinct ethnic groups within the broader Slavic family or space (this is the case of Scythian Assians and Meryan Rodnovers). There are, otherwise, Rodnover groups that intertwine with forms of religion and spirituality that are not immediately related to the Slavic Native Faith (this is the case of Ivanovism, Rerikhism and the Ringing Cedars[254]).

Other documented movements include the devotees of Berehynia in Ukraine, the Pan-Slavic Khara-Khors Slavic Vedic movement, Koliada Viatichei, the Russian Religious Church of Viktor Kandyba, the Satya-Veda Aryan Gentile Community of Ilya Cherkasov (volkhv Veleslav), the Tezaurus Spiritual Union, amongst others.[255][256]:1186–1187

Ethnic or doctrinal variations of Rodnovery[edit]

Scythian Assianism[edit]

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.[257] 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.[258] 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.[259]

The major organisation among Ossetians is the Atsætæ Church (Ossetian: Ацæтæ; Russian: Асата, Asata) led by Daurbek Makeyev, based in North Ossetia–Alania. 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.[260] Makeyev himself, in a 2007 publication entitled "Assianism and world culture" (Assianstvo i mirovaya kul'tura), presented the religion as a worldwide spiritual heritage;[261] in 2009, on the occasion of a conference specifically dedicated to the subject held at the Moscow State University, 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.[262]

Meryan Rodnovery[edit]

Meryan Rodnovery or Meryan Native Faith is an ethnoreligious 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 a urban phenomenon and its adherents are Russian-speakers.[263]

Various organisations have been established in the late 2000s and 2010s, including Merjamaa and Merya mir (Меря мир); in 2012 they presented their official flag. 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 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.[263]

Ukrainian Sylenkoism[edit]

Sylenkoism is the branch of Rodnovery represented by the churches of the Native Ukrainian National Faith 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.[264] According to the definition of Sylenko himself, his doctrine is that of a solar "absolute monotheism", in which the single God is Dazhbog,[77] 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",[35] 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".[265]

Yagnovery, Ladovery and Orantism[edit]

Yagnovery (Ukrainian: Ягновіра), Ladovery (Ладовіра) and Orantism (Орантизм) are branches of Rodnovery that are present in Ukraine.[266][267] Ladovery is a doctrine articulated by Oleksander Shokalo and other personalities in the magazine Ukrainsky svit ("Ukrainian World").[268] Orantism is a movement centred around the cult of Berehynia, linked to Ukrainian national identity, non-violence and resistance to global assimilation.[269]

Ynglism[edit]

An edition of Ynglists' Slavo-Aryan Vedas.

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, 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 dynasties 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 Ynglinga saga of the Edda (itself composed by Snorri Sturluson on the basis of an older Ynglingatal), proves their ideas about the origins of the Ynglings in Omsk and is ultimately a more recent version of texts contained in their own sacred books, the Slavo-Aryan Vedas.[270]

The spiritual academy of the Ynglist Church teaches their Vedas, "Aryan mathematics" and grammar, and health techniques, the church is known for its intensive proselytism,[271] carried out through a "massive selling" of books, journals and other media. Ynglists organise yearly gatherings (veche) in summer.[252]

The Ynglist Church was prosecuted in the early 2000s for ethnic hatred according to Russian laws, and its headquarters in Omsk were liquidated,[252] despite this, it continues to operate as an unregistered religious phenomenon represented by a multiplicity of communities. Ynglism meets widespread disapproval within mainstream Rodnovery, and the international veche has declared it a false religion. Nevertheless, according to Aitamurto (2016), 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".[252]

Movements belonging to the Vedic spectrum[edit]

Ivanovism, Rerikhism, Peterburgian Vedism[edit]

Guests from Overseas—Nicholas Roerich, 1901. The painting represents the coming of Varangian Rosses from Scandinavia to the heart of the Eurasian continent.
Buildings in the Korenskye kinship estate, an Anastasian settlement in the Shebekinsky District of Belgorod Oblast, Russia.

Ivanovism (Russian: Ивановизм) and Rerikhism (Рерихиа́нство) are spiritual movements linked with Russian cosmism, a holistic philosophy emphasising the centrality of the human being within a living environment and the idea of "God-building". It originated in the early 20th 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.[254]

Rerikhism originates 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 (2005) classifies Rerikhians and others movements of Theosophical imprint, such as the Ukrainian Spiritual Republic, together with the broader "Vedic" movement.[150]

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,[272] the region of origin of Ivanov himself, and it is widespread in Russia. Ivanovite teachings are incorporated by Peterburgian Vedism, the Rodnover movement started by Viktor Bezverkhy and primarily represented by the Society of the Mages founded in 1986 and the Union of the Veneds founded in 1990, and their offshoots.[57]

Ringing Cedars' Anastasianism[edit]

The Ringing Cedars (Russian: Звенящие Кедры) or Anastasianism is a spiritual movement that overlaps with Rodnovery, but is not thoroughly part of it. Many Anastasians are Rodnovers, while others are not, the Ringing Cedars' movement arises from the writings of Vladimir Megre (Puzakov), codified in a series of ten books, whose teachings are attributed to an archetypal Siberian wise woman known as Anastasia.[179] These books teach what Rasa Pranskevičiūtė has defined as a "cosmological pantheism",[273] in which nature is the manifested "thought of God" and human thought has the power to commune with him and to actively participate in his creation.[274]

Anastasians have established rural villages all over Russia, "kinship homesteads" (родовое поместье, rodovoye pomest'ye), where they conduct a harmonious life in at least a hectare of land, 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.[275]

Demographics[edit]

Eastern Slavic nations[edit]

Russia[edit]

Group of Ringing Cedars' Rodnovers in Russia.

Writing in 2000, Shnirelman noted that Rodnovery was "growing rapidly" within the Russian Federation;[9] 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.[276] This was partly because there were several Rodnover groups active on the social network VK which had over 10,000 members.[276] Estimates from some research institutes, often reported by Russian Orthodox Church organs, put the number of Native Faith practitioners in the few millions.[81]

Aitamurto observed that a "substantial number" of adherents—and in particular those who had been among the earliest—belonged to the "technical intelligentsia".[186] Similarly, Shnirelman noted that the founders of Russian Rodnovery were "well-educated urbanized intellectuals" who had become frustrated with "cosmopolitan urban culture".[277] 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.[186] The movement also involved a significant number of people who had a background in the Soviet or Russian Army,[278] or in policing and security,[156] the "vast majority" of Russian Rodnovers were young and there were a greater proportion of men than women.[186] 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.[279] A high proportion were also involved in specialist professions such as engineering, academia, or information technology, and the majority lived in cities.[280]

The historian Marlene Laruelle suggested that Rodnovery was likely to remain a marginalised religion in comparison to Russian Orthodoxy, but that its main significance for Russian society had been by diffusing "historical themes"—particularly regarding an ancient Aryan race—to a far wider audience, including many who were Orthodox or non-religious.[281] 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.[282] Rodnovery is also spread through a variety of newspapers and journals.[131] Also popular with Russian Rodnovers has been the martial arts movement known as Slavyano-goritskaya bor'ba.[283] A number of popular celebrities, including singer Maria Arkhipova and professional boxer Aleksandr Povetkin,[163] have publicly embraced Rodnovery.

Ukraine[edit]

People gathered for worship at a Native Ukrainian National Faith's temple in Ukraine.

Slavic Native Faith underwent dramatic growth in Ukraine during the early and mid 1990s;[8] in 2005, Ivakhiv noted that there were likely between 5000 and 10,000 practitioners in Ukraine.[211] The religion's "main base" consisted of ethnic Ukrainians who were "nationally oriented" and who displayed higher than average levels of education.[211] 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.[119]

Ivakhiv noted that Rodnovery remains "a relatively small niche in Ukrainian religious culture",[284] and that it faces a mixed reception in the country.[285] Established Ukrainian Orthodox and Roman Catholic groups have viewed it with alarm and hostility,[119] 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.[119]

In the global Ukrainian diaspora, there has been a "great decline" in the numbers practising the Native Ukrainian National Faith branch of Rodnovery.[286] This has been due to branch's inability to attract sufficient numbers of youth in this community.[287] Alternately, the Ukrainian organisation Ancestral Fire of the Native Orthodox Faith has expanded in both Moldova and Germany.[288]

Belarus and Baltic states' Slavic minorities[edit]

Fire ritual of Belarusian Rodnovers.

Slavic Native Faith groups are also active in Belarus,[289] the most numerous being the Commonwealth of Rodoviches (Rodnovers), who fully align with Slavic traditions, and the organisation Radzimas, aligning with Baltic traditions instead.[163] Rodnovery in Belarus is popular among some intellectuals active in the pro-Russian political scene, for instance Rodnover leader Uladzimir Sacevič.[290]

There are also practising Rodnovers among Lithuania's[291] 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.[292]

Southern and Western Slavic nations[edit]

As of 2013, Rodnover groups in Bulgaria were described as having few members and little influence,[293] that same year, Simpson noted that Slavic Native Faith remains a "very small religion" in Poland, which is otherwise dominated by Roman Catholicism.[160] He suggested that there were under 900 regularly active members of the main four registered Polish Native Faith organisations,[294] and around as many adherents belonging to smaller, unregistered groups;[108] in 2017, he stated that between 2000 and 2500 "actively engaged and regular participants" were likely active in the country.[295] He observed that in the country, Slavic Native Faith's adherents were "still relatively young",[296] and saw an overlap with the community of historical re-enactors;[108] in Poland, Slavic Native Faith outnumbers other Pagan religions, although both are represented in the Pagan Federation International's Polish branch.[297]

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".[298]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The term derives from the Proto-Slavic roots *rod (род), which means anything "indigenous", "ancestral" and "native", also "genus", "generation", "kin", "race" (cf. 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 idea that indigenous Slavic religion was preserved in a conscious "double belief" following the Christianisation of the Slavs is put into question by some contemporary scholars.

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Simpson & Filip 2014, p. 36.
  2. ^ Petrović 2013, p. passim.
  3. ^ Lesiv 2013a, pp. 6–7; Shnirelman 2013, p. 62; Skrylnikov 2016; Shizhenskii & Aitamurto 2017, p. 115.
  4. ^ Shnirelman 2002, p. 197; Laruelle 2008, p. 284; Dostálová 2013, p. 165; Gaidukov 2013, p. 315; Shnirelman 2013, pp. 62, 73.
  5. ^ a b Gaidukov 2013, p. 316.
  6. ^ a b Shizhenskii & Aitamurto 2017, p. 120.
  7. ^ a b c d Aitamurto 2016, p. 65.
  8. ^ a b Ivakhiv 2005c, p. 209.
  9. ^ a b c d Shnirelman 2000, p. 18.
  10. ^ Simpson & Filip 2013, pp. 34–35; Shnirelman 2017, p. 105.
  11. ^ Simpson & Filip 2013, pp. 34–35.
  12. ^ a b c d Simpson & Filip 2013, p. 35.
  13. ^ Shnirelman 2015, p. passim.
  14. ^ a b Shnirelman 2007, pp. 43–44.
  15. ^ Aitamurto 2016, p. 141.
  16. ^ a b Aitamurto 2016, p. 123.
  17. ^ Shnirelman 2000, p. 19.
  18. ^ Ivakhiv 2005c, p. 236; Laruelle 2008, p. 284; Lesiv 2013b, p. 136.
  19. ^ Radulovic 2017, p. 69.
  20. ^ a b c d Simpson 2013, p. 113.
  21. ^ a b Shnirelman 2017, p. 89.
  22. ^ a b Lesiv 2013b, p. 128.
  23. ^ Laruelle 2008, p. 289; Shnirelman 2017, p. 90.
  24. ^ a b Aitamurto 2016, p. 32.
  25. ^ Shnirelman 2017, p. 88; Radulovic 2017, p. 71.
  26. ^ a b Shnirelman 2017, p. 90.
  27. ^ Lesiv 2013b, p. 14.
  28. ^ Lesiv 2013b, p. 141.
  29. ^ Rouček, Joseph Slabey, ed. (1949). "Ognyena Maria". Slavonic Encyclopedia. New York: Philosophical Library.  p. 905
  30. ^ Ivanits 1989, pp. 15, 16.
  31. ^ Ivanits 1989, p. 17.
  32. ^ Alybyna, Tatiana (2014). "Vernacular Beliefs and Official Traditional Religion" (PDF). Approaching Religion. 4 (1). pp. 89–100. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 July 2017.  Cites: Chervonnaya, Svetlana (1998). Vse nashi bogi s nami i za nas. Etnicheskaya identichnost' i etnicheskaya mobilizatsiya v sovremennom iskusstve narodov Rossii. M. N. Guboglo (ed.), Moscow: Rossijskaya Academiya nauk, Institut etnologii i antropologii imeni N. N. Miklukho-Maklaya, Tsentr po izucheniyu mezhdunarodnykh otnoshenij.
  33. ^ Simpson & Filip 2013, p. 39.
  34. ^ Simpson 2017, p. 78.
  35. ^ a b c d Lesiv 2013b, p. 134.
  36. ^ Lesiv 2013b, pp. 132–133.
  37. ^ Aitamurto 2016, p. 18.
  38. ^ Rock 2007, p. 110.
  39. ^ Ivakhiv 2005c, pp. 212–214.
  40. ^ Ivanits 1989, p. 4.
  41. ^ Ivanits 1989, p. 3.
  42. ^ Pilkington & Popov 2009, p. 282.
  43. ^ Leeming 2005, p. 369: Svastika.
  44. ^ Ivanits 1989, pp. 14, 17.
  45. ^ a b c Simpson & Filip 2013, p. 27.
  46. ^ Shizhenskii & Aitamurto 2017, p. 125.
  47. ^ Simpson & Filip 2013, p. 33.
  48. ^ Simpson & Filip 2013, p. 36; Shizhenskii & Aitamurto 2017, p. 125.
  49. ^ Simpson & Filip 2013, p. 36.
  50. ^ a b c Simpson & Filip 2013, p. 37.
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Primary sources[edit]