The Orthodox Church and Civil Society in Russia

The Orthodox Church and Civil Society in Russia

The Orthodox Church and Civil Society in Russia

The Orthodox Church and Civil Society in Russia


In the void left by the fall of Communism in Russia during the late twentieth century, can that country establish a true civil society? Many scholars have analyzed the political landscape to answer this question, but in The Orthodox Church and Civil Society in Russia, Wallace L. Daniel offers a unique perspective: within the church are individuals who hold the values and institutional models that can be vital in determining the direction of Russia in the twenty-first century.

Daniel tells the stories of a teacher and controversial parish priest, the leader of Russia's most famous women's monastery, a newspaper editor, and a parish priest at Moscow University to explore thoroughly and with a human voice the transformation from Communist country to a new social order. Daniel explores specific religious communities and the way they operate, their efforts to rebuild parish life, and the individuals who have devoted themselves to such goals. This is the level, Daniel shows, at which the reconstruction of Russia and the revitalization of Russian society is taking place.

This book is written for general readers interested in the intersection between politics, religion, and society, as well as for scholars.


This is not the book I started out to write or the chronicle I first tried to understand. I had wanted to focus on the Orthodox Church—how it fit into the larger social setting, how it attempted to address a people then emerging from the Communist state. I had returned to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1991 for a short visit after nearly a decade of absence. Gradually, it became clear to me that the most interesting stories lay not at the top, in the church hierarchy, but at the base of society, in the individuals and parishes struggling to find their way, endeavoring to regain certain aspects of the past and attempting to reconstruct their lives. They provided ways of viewing Russia’s historic transformation that were personal yet also related to a much larger picture.

While primary and secondary materials comprised a substantial part of my research, interviews provided personal sources that were also extremely important. They were indispensable to my attempts to piece together a large and complex story, whose daily rhythms are not captured in the written records of the period under review. Much of this story is preserved in the memory of individuals whose struggles to find a new direction for their lives make up the core of my work.

In nearly all cases of the individuals cited in the text, I went back many times and usually over several years to get their stories, to fill in gaps, and, because these were dynamic times, to observe and try to comprehend the succeeding parts of their lives. Such interviews took various forms: some were brief conversations; others went for many hours; and still others took place over several days. I recorded most of the principal interviews on cassette tapes, and I have gone back to them repeatedly in order to listen to the nuances of speech and refresh my own memory about the emotions underlying their words. It is this sense of immediacy, this face-to-face interaction with one’s primary materials, that often makes interviews such rich sources of information.

I made five extensive visits to Russia: the first in the summer of 1991, two months before the aborted August coup; the next three in 1992, 1994, and 1995; the final, and longest, in the spring and early summer of 1997, when I

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