Russian Postmodernism: New Perspectives on Post-Soviet Culture

By Mikhail Epstein; Alexander Genis et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 12
MINIMAL RELIGION

Mikhail Epstein

"M inimal religion"1 is a phenomenon of post-atheist religiosity, which is perhaps the most unusual outcome of the seventy-year history of Soviet atheism. At first it looked as if the so-called "religious renaissance" of the 1970s in Russia was a return to traditional religions and the ancient covenants. The prodigal son, it seemed, had returned to his father's house. All of this has been observed and described many times.2 It looked as if the religious "returnees" were distinct from traditional believers not by virtue of the essence of their faith, but by the intensity of their religious consciousness, which is typical for neophytes, whose involvement and participation is always more enthusiastic. It thus seemed to be a psychological distinction, not a dogmatic or ritualistic one. And in fact it required enormous effort just to return to religion at all, to overcome the inertia of the preceding atheistic decades.

But the process of spiritual revival could not be frozen at this merely "reconstructive" stage. Like the European Renaissance of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, which brought something completely new to European civilization while appearing to be a return to antiquity, the Russian post-atheist renaissance revealed new aspects irreducible to the restoration of prerevolutionary religious traditions. This development did not take place inside the churches, in

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