Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Religion Matters: Quantifying the Impact of Religious Legacies on Post-Communist Transitional Justice

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Religion Matters: Quantifying the Impact of Religious Legacies on Post-Communist Transitional Justice

Article excerpt

While scholars have suggested several explanations to how and why societies deal with an authoritarian past, to date there has been little discussion about the effect of religious legacies on post-communist transitional justice1. This absence of religious studies in transitional justice research is puzzling for several reasons. The main post-communist mechanism of transitional justice, lustration2, has limited in various degrees the socio-political participation of numerous former authoritarian actors. Its uneven application across the post-communist world has raised important questions about the nature of transition and the role of religion in it. Furthermore, communist regimes massively repressed religious individuals, communities and practice, making religion all the more relevant. Religious hierarchs have memorialized the communist martyrs in the post-communist era. Yet, their position towards transitional justice contains a significant degree of ambiguity3. Finally, there exists extensive variation among the dominant religious institutions across the region in their relationship towards the communist past. While all religious communities acknowledge the high cost they paid during communism, they differ in how they deal with the past.

Despite these variations, relatively few testable theories have explained differences in lustration from a broader comparative perspective and fewer have considered religious legacies and institutions as a plausible argument. Only recently have scholars begun to discuss the impact of religious traditions on transitional justice. Research has shown that historical legacies in general, and religious legacies in particular, constitute the fundamental point for the systematic analysis of lustration4. Legacies affect both the elites and the institutional environment that constrains the elites. While, on the one hand, past legacies can be reconstructed in ways that facilitate the mobilization of the pro-lustration elite, on the other, they are bound within specific contexts and enable multiple pathways of institutional change. Building upon emerging qualitative research, this study breaks ground by providing rigorous statistical analysis of the impact of legacies and institutions on lustration. It examines the degree to which religious legacies affect the likelihood for a particular postcommunist country to lústrate and the intensity of various lustrative phenomena.

This article uses a quantitative perspective to test a recent argument that the persistent effects of institutional legacies of religion affect the scope of current actions and account for lustration in contemporary politics. The analysis is based on an original statistical dataset from thirtyfour postcommunist states from 1990 to 2012. Using random-effects tobit regression models, the article tests to what extent a number of past structural factors could limit or facilitate elite behavior as political actors make decisions in specific historical and institutional environments.

Religion and other inherited legacies create a framework of relations, which defines the range of possibilities within which individuals act. The different types of religious heritage affect lustration through democratic practices as well as through the degree of complicity with the former regime. This article follows the "legacies" literature on postcommunism and introduces the analytical importance of overlapping issues of pathdependency on lustration5. It shows that the inherited social, capital and institutional legacies from the past affect transitional justice in ways that have not been accounted for6. More specifically, Catholic and Protestant legacies facilitate lustration to a much greater extent than Orthodox and Muslim traditions. Finally, the article discusses the theoretical question of how a religious legacy informs decision-making process and it problematizes the essentialist perspective that is used for the understanding of religious legacies in this study. …

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