Subcultures and New Religious Movements in Russia and East-Central Europe 3039119214, 9783039119219

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Subcultures and New Religious Movements in Russia and East-Central Europe
 3039119214, 9783039119219

Table of contents :
Preface • Egidija Ramanauskaitė
Part 1: Subcultures
Introduction(Post-)subculture Theory, and Practice in East-Central Europe • George McKay and Michael Godd
1 From Local to Glocal: The Transformation of Delinquent and Radical Communities in the Tatarstan Republic of Russia • Alexander Salagaev, Alexander Shashkin, Alexander Makarov and Rustem Safin
2 Skinheads as Defenders of Russia? Power versus Friendship in Xenophobic Youth Subcultures • Elena Omel’chenko and Al’bina Garifzianova
3 Lithuanian Nationalist Skinhead Subculture: The Features of Identity • Tadas Kavolis
4 Hip-Hop in Rakvere: The Importance of the Local inGlobal Subculture • Maarja Kobin and Airi-Alina Allaste
5 Textually Constructing Identity and Otherness: Mediating the Romanian Hip-Hop Message • Isabela Merila and Michaela Praisler
6 On Linguistic Politics: The Stylistic Testimonies of Romanian Hip-Hop • Daniela Şorcaru and Floriana Popescu
7 Lessons from a Lithuanian Hippie Paradise Glimpsed through a Keyhole • Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys
8 Euro-Indians in the Framework of Slovak Society • Radoslav Hlúšek
9 The Formation of the Záježovŵá Community: Ideals and Reality in a Slovak Eco-Village • Martin Priečko
Part 2: New Religious Movements
Introduction: New Religious Movements in Post-communist Russia and East-Central Europe – a Threat to Stability andNational Identity? • Neil Foxlee and Christopher Williams
10 The Fight for Religious Freedom and Pluralism in Post-communist Russia • Christopher Williams
11 Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia: Religion? Ideology?Philosophy? Fantasy? • Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popo
12 Spirituality in the Post-communist Religious Marketplace: Indian-inspired New Religious Movements in Slovakia and their Conceptual Framework • Dušan Deák
13 Spirituality and Religiosity in the Art of Living Foundation in Lithuania and Denmark: Meanings, Contexts and Relationships • Milda Ališauskienė
14 The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs: A Study of Contemporary Theosophy in Latvia • Anita Stašulāne and Janis Priede
15 A Content Analysis of the Representation of Islam and Islamic Culture in the Slovak Media • Silvia Letavajová
Notes on Contributors

Citation preview

George McKay is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Salford. He has written or edited many books on popular music, and the cultural politics of alternative life­styles. He is also co-editor of Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest. Christopher Williams is Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Central Lancashire. He is a member of the Russian Academy of Political Science and was Secre­­tary of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies from 1998 to 2001. Michael Goddard is a Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Salford. His current research centres on East European cinema, visual culture and popular culture, particularly in Poland. Neil Foxlee is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of European Languages and Cultures at Lancaster University. He is a specialist in French intellectual history and the political writings of Albert Camus. He has also worked as a journalist and editor in the field of popular music, including hip-hop, punk, reggae and world music.

ISBN 978-3-03911-921-9

CIS 15

Subcultures and New Religious Movements in Russia and East-Central Europe

George McKay, Christopher Williams, Michael Goddard, Neil Foxlee and Egidija Ramanauskaite· (eds)


Cultural Identity Studies

Peter Lang

Egidija Ramanauskaite· is Head of the Centre for Cultural Studies at Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania, and has worked extensively on youth subcultural topics over the last fifteen years.

Subcultures and New Religious Movements in Russia and East-Central Europe

The studies in this collection present selected findings from the three-year EU-funded project ‘Society and Lifestyles: Towards Enhancing Social Harmonization through Knowledge of Subcultural Communities’ (2006–2008), which included partners from a wide range of post-communist countries in Eastern Europe and from the UK.

McKay, Williams, Goddard, Foxlee and Ramanauskaite· (eds)

The collapse of communism has opened up Russia and East-Central Europe to outside influences and enabled new lifestyle choices and forms of religious expression. Based on extensive ethnographic research, this collection uses a variety of theoretical perspectives and methodologies to examine some of the many subcultures and new religious movements that have emerged as part of this process, from members of utopian eco-communities, native-language hip-hoppers and nationalistic skinheads to various forms of Indian-inspired spirituality, neo-paganism and theosophy. Whether they reflect a growing sense of national or ethnic identity, the influence of globalization or a combination of the two, such groups highlight the challenge of creating a free, open and tolerant society in both Russia and new or prospective EU member states. The book seeks to contribute to academic and policy debates in this area by increasing understanding of the groups in question.

Peter Lang


Subcultures and New Religious Movements in Russia and East-Central Europe

Cultural Identity Studies Volume 15 Edited by Helen Chambers

PETER LANG Oxford • Bern • Berlin • Bruxelles • Frankfurt am Main • New York • Wien

George McKay, Christopher Williams, Michael Goddard, Neil Foxlee and Egidija Ramanauskaite· (eds)

Subcultures and New Religious Movements in Russia and East-Central Europe

PETER LANG Oxford • Bern • Berlin • Bruxelles • Frankfurt am Main • New York • Wien

Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Bibliothek Die Deutsche Bibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbiblio­grafie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at ‹›. A catalogue record for this book is available from The British Library. Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data: Subcultures and new religious movements in Russia and East-Central Europe / George McKay ... [et al.]. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-3-03911-921-9 (alk. paper) 1. Subculture--Russia (Federation) 2. Subculture--Europe, Eastern. 3. Cults--Russia (Federation) 4. Cults--Europe (Eastern) I. McKay, George, 1960HM646.S828 2009 306‘.1094709049--dc22 2009023960 The publication has received research funding from the European Community‘s Sixth Framework Programme. This publication reflects only the authors‘ views and the Community is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

ISSN 1661-3252

ISBN 978‐3‐03911‐921‐9 (paperback) ISBN 978‐3‐0353‐0292‐9(eBook)

© Peter Lang AG, International Academic Publishers, Bern 2009 Hochfeldstrasse 32, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland [email protected],, All rights reserved. All parts of this publication are protected by copyright. Any utilisation outside the strict limits of the copyright law, without the permission of the publisher, is forbidden and liable to prosecution. This applies in particular to reproductions, translations, microfilming, and storage and processing in electronic retrieval systems. Printed in Germany



Egidija Ramanauskaitė


Part 1: Subcultures Introduction

(Post-)subculture Theory, and Practice in East-Central Europe George McKay and Michael Goddard


Chapter one

From Local to Glocal: The Transformation of Delinquent and Radical Communities in the Tatarstan Republic of Russia Alexander Salagaev, Alexander Shashkin, Alexander Makarov and Rustem Safin


Chapter two

Skinheads as Defenders of Russia? Power versus Friendship in Xenophobic Youth Subcultures Elena Omel’chenko and Al’bina Garifzianova


Chapter three

Lithuanian Nationalist Skinhead Subculture: The Features of Identity Tadas Kavolis


Chapter four

Hip-Hop in Rakvere: The Importance of the Local in Global Subculture Maarja Kobin and Airi-Alina Allaste


Chapter five

Textually Constructing Identity and Otherness: Mediating the Romanian Hip-Hop Message Isabela Merila and Michaela Praisler


Chapter six

On Linguistic Politics: The Stylistic Testimonies of Romanian Hip-Hop Daniela Şorcaru and Floriana Popescu


Chapter seven

Lessons from a Lithuanian Hippie Paradise Glimpsed through a Keyhole Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys Chapter eight

Euro-Indians in the Framework of Slovak Society Radoslav Hlúšek



Chapter nine

The Formation of the Záježovŵá Community: Ideals and Reality in a Slovak Eco-Village Martin Priečko


Part 2: New Religious Movements Introduction

New Religious Movements in Post-communist Russia and East-Central Europe – a Threat to Stability and National Identity? Neil Foxlee and Christopher Williams


Chapter ten

The Fight for Religious Freedom and Pluralism in Post-communist Russia Christopher Williams


Chapter eleven

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia: Religion? Ideology? Philosophy? Fantasy? Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov


Chapter twelve

Spirituality in the Post-communist Religious Marketplace: Indian-inspired New Religious Movements in Slovakia and their Conceptual Framework Dušan Deák


Chapter thirteen

Spirituality and Religiosity in the Art of Living Foundation in Lithuania and Denmark: Meanings, Contexts and Relationships Milda Ališauskienė


Chapter fourteen

The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs: A Study of Contemporary Theosophy in Latvia Anita Stašulāne and Janis Priede


Chapter fifteen

A Content Analysis of the Representation of Islam and Islamic Culture in the Slovak Media


Notes on Contributors




Silvia Letavajová

Preface Egidija Ramanauskaitė

This volume originates from a three-year EU FP6 research project entitled Society and Lifestyles: Towards Enhancing Social Harmonization through Knowledge of Sub-cultural Communities, which started in 2006; see the project website at The overall aim of the project was to extend knowledge about values and religions in Europe through the investigation of the communities which represent a variety of values and religious beliefs in the countries of Europe where radical political changes occurred following the collapse of the communist regime. These changes, which were oriented toward the development of democratic societies, led to social and cultural renewal in these societies. The project is based on an in-depth analysis of a significant number of subcultural communities which disseminate their values and beliefs. The project intended to analyse the challenges to contemporary European society arising from these different communities, to study their dominant values, beliefs, world-views and patterns of communication and to discuss the meanings of freedom and lifestyle as they are understood among the different groups. Another intention was to study the manifestations 1

Contract No: STREP-CT-CIT5–029013. Start date: 1 January 2006. Project coordinator: Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania. Project management: Europarama, Lithuania. Project partners: University of Central Lancashire, UK; University of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Trnava, Slovakia; Tallinn University, Estonia; Daugavpils University, Latvia; University of Pécs, Hungary; Warsaw Agricultural University, Poland; Dunarea de Jos University of Galati, Romania; University of Warwick, UK; University of Salford, UK; Centre for Analytic Studies and Development, Russia; Scientific Research Centre Region, Russia; Centre of Sociological, Political and Psychological Analysis and Investigations, Moldova; Institute of Lithuanian Scientific Society, Lithuania.


Egidija Ramanauskaitė

of tolerance and intolerance in subcultural communities, as well as the attitudes towards them among institutional spheres of society such as the media, leisure organizations, workplaces and schools (and to disseminate such knowledge to these institutions). Across the project as a whole, partners employed an interdisciplinary approach based on the methodologies of cultural/social anthropology, sociology, linguistics, and to a lesser extent statistical methods. This approach was implemented through fieldwork emphasizing an in-depth integration of researchers into the groups under investigation. The purpose of such integration was to more fully understand the meanings of the values, lifestyles and religious beliefs emerging from these groups and spreading into the society-at-large.

Plate 1. Launching the Society and Lifestyles project in 2006, project members participating in a fire ritual together with the members of the Old Balts religious community Romuva on Gediminas’ Grave Hill, Vilnius, Lithuania. © Photographer Gintaras Jaronis



The scope of the research extended to the investigation of small social groups representing a variety of types of subculture. These include new religious and philosophical movements, style or youth subcultures and ethnic minority cultures. Their origins are related to important values which appeared in post-Soviet countries, such as individuality, originality and the authenticity of individuals and groups. Consequently, the investigation of such subcultural communities helped researchers to identify significant socio-cultural demands arising in post-communist societies. The results of the research show that post-communist societies are composed of a variety of cultural groups and communities with diverse values and beliefs which have been manifested from 1989 onwards following the collapse of the communist regimes. The researchers made every endeavour to study the dominant processes leading to the division of the contemporary post-Soviet societies into separate social groups with different socio-cultural identities. In addition to studying different cultural groups and movements, the main forms of social powers (involving ability, authority and constraint) stimulating the rise of new cultural groups in the region were analyzed. The project also aimed at enhancing tolerance and at facilitating the joint efforts of diverse social groups with regard to factors such as human values, cultural tastes, religious beliefs, age, gender and ethnicity. Furthermore, the project expected to initiate discussions about emerging social problems. This increased mutual understanding should facilitate the integration of the new countries into the social and cultural sphere of the EU by simultaneously preserving their authenticity. During the three years of the project, an extensive dissemination of activities was undertaken by the researchers. This collection of some of the essays from the project is a key part of that dissemination. Within the scope of the project an electronic data archive was created for the distribution of the research results. The archive contains audio and video recordings, interviews, photographs, group documents, ethnographic descriptions and scholarly articles. The archive secures the privacy of the respondents’ personal data and safeguards intellectual property rights. The project has also undertaken the dissemination of knowledge through academic conferences,


Egidija Ramanauskaitė

workshops and the joint work by scholars and community members during the workshops and the cultural events of subcultural communities. A unique feature of the project was the establishment of an experimental environment for communication among the groups, the researchers and the members of the society-at-large. Two academic cultural forums (that is, laboratories for communication between academics, subcultural and new religious movement group members and the wider public) were organized in Lithuania both at Vytautas Magnus University and in a series of tents at the Black Horned Moon festival on the island of Lake Zaraso (see Plate 2 in George McKay and Michael Goddard’s Subcultures introduction). At these sites, subcultural as well as religious communities (goths, hippies, heavy metal enthusiasts, bikers, punks, devotees of Hare Krishna, neo-pagans, members of the Anastasija religious movement and others) shared their values, subcultural practices and religious beliefs with each other. Also in these experimental public/academic/practitioner spaces, project researchers from different countries delivered academic readings on the findings from their fieldwork. The questions of how groups arise, function and disappear have been the main research questions of this project. These questions relate to topics of high practical concern and applicability as long as they can contribute to solving such crucial problems as social cohesion, inter-group tensions, discord and violence. The present volume presents the results of the first stage of the project where the researchers aimed at revealing the specific features of the behaviour of the different groups under investigation. It is hoped and expected that future collaborative publications will appear that will present a systematic comparative analysis of the various groups.

Part 1 Subcultures


(Post-)subculture Theory, and Practice in East-Central Europe George McKay and Michael Goddard

This section of the book contains chapters which explore recent and current subcultural and related practices and formations in a geographical spread across Eastern Europe, the Baltic states and Russia. We are concerned with presenting material that forms new studies in empirical case form as well as that which considers contemporary theorizations, across areas of style (fashion), popular music and post-socialist lifestyle. Our aims are that these chapters contribute to the further understanding of a continued fascination on the part of some young and some not-so-young people with aspects of subcultural identity, that the case studies themselves help to inform current debates on the scholarship of post-subcultures in a post-socialist context and that the outstanding dynamic between national identity and transnational cultural exchange in a global context is further explored. In this brief introduction we also want to outline theoretical and contextual questions that underpin much of the material that follows.

Theorizing (Post-)subculture Post-subcultural theory is a recent development in the study of subcultures that followed the dissolution of the previously dominant Gramscian approach to subcultures as resistance to hegemonic forms of social domination that was developed in particular by Birmingham University’s Centre for


George McKay and Michael Goddard

Contemporary Cultural Studies in Britain in the 1970s. Running effectively parallel with the development of subcultural groups from 1950s Teddy Boys to 1970s punk rockers (or perhaps more accurately, running a few years behind each subculture’s emergence and dominance), the Birmingham school’s series of classic books from Richard Hoggart’s The Uses of Literacy (1957) to Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson’s collection Resistance Through Rituals (1976) and Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style (1979) constructed an influential range of critical and theoretical approaches towards the understanding of new youth groupings. The collective identities of some British youth were understood within a class (and to a much lesser extent gender and race) framework, but with a strong focus too on what might be thought of as the decorative features of identity formation and expression – what Hebdige describes as ‘the profoundly superficial level of appearances’ (1979: 17). So the clothing, language, preferred music, even the different ways of moving of the subculturalist’s presented body itself (whether walking or dancing) all signified and were worthy of analysis. Lest this be thought of as too frivolous, much attention was also paid to the resistant possibilities of these groups. Resistance was identified in the context of the ‘moral panics’ subcultures fomented in majority culture (to do with perceived excess in terms of sexual behaviour or narcotic consumption or violence, or other forms of behaviour and cultural consumption and production outside the normative – particularly where questions of taste also overlapped). Resistance was also inscribed in the way some subcultural theorists employed the notion of ‘homology’ – ‘the symbolic fit between the values and lifestyles of a group, its subjective experience and the musical forms it uses to express or reinforce its focal concerns’ (Hebdige 1979: 113) – since here a link could be made or emphasized between the semiotic and the ideological: what subculture members wore or listened to could be a part of their political worldview, their fashion or pop articulated and confirmed a socially critical position. Subcultural studies were, if not exactly a cultural revolution, at least in George Melly’s view, a ‘revolt into style’ (see Melly 1972) – seeking to show that ‘the politics of youth since the [1950s] have been principally enacted through a spectacle of style and body’ (Antonio Melechi, quoted in McKay 1996: 115).

(Post-)subculture Theory, and Practice in East-Central Europe


The development of post-subcultural theory was not just arbitrary but expressive of shifts in both class composition and new developments in social theory and analysis. In the 1990s, the idea of subcultures as proletarian ‘guerrilla’ recodings of the signs of consumer society – as the ‘symbolic threat’ to dominant values of classic subcultural studies ( John Clarke et al 1976: 9) – no longer had the same explanatory power. While postsubcultural theory has taken and continues to take multiple forms there are certain key tendencies within it that can be identified. Overall this can be summed up as a pragmatic engagement with subcultures rather than the assumption of their transgressive relations with mainstream society, a position that has been critiqued as an idealization or romanticizing of subcultural others. According to David Muggleton and Rupert Weinzierl (2003: 7), postsubcultural approaches follow two major tendencies. The first approach maintains the concept of subcultures as identifiable youth groupings defined in distinction to mainstream society but analyzes these groups in different ways. Theories such as Bourdieu’s concepts of taste, distinction and cultural capital (1994), or Judith Butler’s theories of performativity (1990) have been especially productive in this strand of post-subcultural studies, without any one theoretical approach assuming a hegemonic position. A second tendency in post-subcultural studies goes even further and rejects the concept of subculture itself, preferring to talk of youth groupings in terms of channels, networks or ‘neo-tribes.’ This is not merely a shift in terminology but the attempt to adequately account for new forms of youth culture that are relatively fluid, hybrid or temporary. Both these tendencies are relevant to this section of the volume but the first is more prevalent. While a variety of theoretical approaches are at work in these essays, there is a relatively stable concept of subculture for specific social and historical reasons. In the context of Eastern Europe, the relatively recent repression of all forms of subcultural difference has meant that subcultures operate in different ways than their Western European counterparts. This makes the theoretical pragmatism of the first tendency within post-subcultural studies particularly applicable rather than the second entirely post-subcultural approaches. Indeed in some cases, such as that of Romanian hip-hop, subcultural expression seems to be quite resonant with ‘classical’ Gramscian


George McKay and Michael Goddard

approaches to subcultures as counter-hegemonic formations. In brief, this is due to the specificity of post-socialism as distinct from Western accounts of postmodernism as the key ‘post’ that characterizes contemporary Eastern European societies. What may be considered striking about the examples in the chapters below is the extent to which they suggest that subcultural expression in Eastern Europe is predicated on a cultural strategy of imitation, appropriation, reinscription of extant Western (indeed, Anglocentric) models. To take the masculine youth style of the 1960s or 1970s white British skinhead and shapeshift only slightly, or to take the 1980s African-American sonicity of hip-hop as the music of social change, is to confirm a certain hierarchy of cultural value in which Western models remain dominant, because primary. But arguably it can also, in the very act of reinscription, illustrate the flexibility of (sub)culture, its capacity to refresh, even to communicate across languages. The detail and nuancing in the essays that follow function to challenge such a monolithic approach. The pessimistic model of passive consumption (at its starkest, a lumpen post-Cold War cultural imperialism) is inadequate as a description of the operations of transnational popular culture, which need to be considered in terms of intercultural exchange, ‘to be contextualized with respect to the power relations which exist both between and within national boundaries’ (Campbell et al 2004: 15).

Post-Socialism and Subculture in Eastern Europe Since 1989 there has been a concerted attempt in both the East and the West to forget or even to annihilate the specificity of the historical experience of ‘real and existing socialism’ in Eastern Europe. This is especially expressed in the myth of Eastern European primitivism or cultural underdevelopment as a pretext for practices of Euro-colonization and the savage implantation of a neo-liberal economy. As critics such as Marina Gržinić have pointed out this mythologization of Eastern Europe is not limited

(Post-)subculture Theory, and Practice in East-Central Europe


to the West and in fact is part of what enabled the emergence of totalitarian socialist regimes in Eastern Europe in the first place (2008: 71). This mythology of ‘New Europe’ as primitive other is especially destructive today and generally responded to by gestures of self-assimilation of being just as if not more European than the West. In contrast, Gržinić argues for an affirmation of a specific Eastern European based on an historical rather than mythological reading of Eastern Europe as inherently political: ‘For the East there is one constant concern: history and its re-appropriation’ (72). After all one of the key functions of the Soviet system was the neutralization, covering up and effacing of history. Therefore it is essential in the present not to simply repeat these gestures in the name of neo-liberal capitalism but to insist on the historical specificities of East European societies and especially on histories of creativity, resistance and difference which, however much repressed, nevertheless took place throughout the Eastern Bloc. It is in this context that projects such as the NSK-initiated East Art Map that Gržinić was a key participant in, which maps the modern artistic practices that have taken place throughout Eastern Europe take on a special significance as the naming of formerly invisible, marginalized histories. The same could also be said of the attention being paid to subcultures in this volume, even if the focus is mainly contemporary rather than historical, since all the subcultures included in this section are the product of locally specific post-socialist histories. In terms of subcultural studies, there has been an undeniable Anglocentrism in this area of social research, based largely on the greater recognition of the importance of popular cultural practices in countries such as the UK, the USA and Australia. Despite attempts within post-subcultural studies to go beyond this tendency there are still relatively few studies of subcultures even in Western continental Europe – and this itself despite widespread acknowledgement in cultural studies of what one theorist has identified as ‘the increasingly transnational character of culture and information’ (Strinati 1992: 50). However one promising tendency that has emerged recently is the importance of geography and space in subcultural studies as evidenced in collections such as Cool Places (Skelton and Valentine 1998). This latter collection significantly contained essays dealing with youth cultures both historically in the GDR (Smith 289–304) as


George McKay and Michael Goddard

well as the contemporary German techno subculture (Richard and Kruger 161–174). Nevertheless the specific histories and the actuality of youth subcultures in Russia and Eastern Europe still remain virtually unknown outside of this region and even the research taking place within this area is only just beginning to develop and certainly to circulate beyond a purely national context. Again this is in part the legacy of the historical experience of ‘real socialism’ in which subcultural and other differences were subject to both social and political repression and officially sanctioned academic disinterest. Therefore the double significance of the Societies and Lifestyles project out of which the essays collected in this volume have emerged is in generating contacts and sharing knowledge both between East and West and between different regions within Eastern Europe itself.

The Glocalization of Subcultures in Eastern Europe The essays that comprise the subcultures section of this volume reflect these aims of presenting Eastern European subcultural research to both a global as well as an Eastern European readership. The essays not only cover subcultures as diverse as hip-hop and the Euro-Indian movement but extend geographically from the Baltic states and northern Russia to Romania. While most of the global subcultures that are represented within this section are familiar, the historical conditions out of which they have emerged are both different from those of ‘the West’ and also differ amongst themselves. Skinhead groups in Lithuania present different issues to those in Kazan in central Russia and the same is true of the hip-hop cultures of Estonia as compared with those in Romania. These differences have also given rise to different research methodologies and the use of different theoretical approaches. While most of the chapters were based on participant observation, in all cases this was supplemented by the use of both Eastern and Western, local and global theoretical resources, giving rise to a rich variety of fresh approaches to subculture.

(Post-)subculture Theory, and Practice in East-Central Europe


The essays in this section are grouped around three main subcultural formations, namely skinhead groups, hip-hop and intentional communities. The first three essays which deal with skinhead groups in Kazan in central Russia, Lithuania and northern Russia show a considerable diversity not only in the groups that are the object of study but also in the ways of approaching these groups. The first chapter by the Kazan research group led by Alexander Salagaev presents the most historically situated account of the rise of the skinhead subculture in Russia, using Kazan skinhead groups as emblematic examples. The authors argue that the emergence of the skinhead subculture in Russia is intimately linked to the history of criminal youth gangs and that the dynamics of both these groups express the shifting relations of Russia to globalization and especially glocalization. In essence, the authors are arguing that skinhead groups took the place of criminal gangs at the particular historical moment of the 1990s and that this reflected broader shifts in Russian relations with the outside world, internal ethnic relations and historical events such as the war in Chechnya. In contrast, Kavolis’s essay on Lithuanian skinheads argues that nationalism is the key rubric for understanding their ideology and group ethos and that the skinhead resort to Nazi iconography is nothing more than a symbol of transgression. Drawing on both his own fieldwork and studies of both nationalist and fascist ideologies, Kavolis points to the overwhelming importance of nationalism for Lithuanian skinheads and argues this is the key framework for understanding the skinhead groups being researched. Finally, Omel’chenko and Garifzianova emphasize the need to challenge already formed assumptions when approaching subcultural groups and this also explains their more intimate approach to the northern Russian skinhead group they were researching, zeroing in on internal group dynamics, patterns of leadership, internal conflicts and gender relations within the group. This chapter raises explicitly ethical questions that are implicit in the other two chapters as well as in international research on subcultures, namely of how to conduct oneself ethically as a researcher within a subculture that is both potentially dangerous and based on values that may well be repugnant to the researcher. In this regard, the authors insist on maintaining a high level of trust and openness and not entering the field


George McKay and Michael Goddard

with pre-formed conclusions about the behaviours and attitudes of the group being researched. The studies of hip-hop cultures while perhaps not showing such a range of methodological diversity as those on skinheads, nevertheless show that there are considerable differences between hip-hop in Romania and in Estonia. Allaste and Kobin’s essay on hip-hop in the small Estonian town of Rakvere again takes up questions of glocalization, showing the importance of local understandings and associations in order for this global subculture to become meaningful in a local context. Crucial to this is the way the hip-hop culture takes up some of the prevailing values and attitudes, not only of Estonia but also particularly associated with Rakvere. While the authors point out the political aspects of hip-hop music they focus more on the dynamics of the hip-hop scene which they characterize as both having a strong sense of place and as expressing a strong division of gender roles again related to gender roles in the local context. The chapter by Şorcaru and Popescu, in contrast, focuses on the textuality of Romanian hip-hop lyrics arguing that contemporary hip-hop in Romania fulfils a similar critical function in relation to Romanian politics as African-American hip-hop did in the USA in the 1980s. While Merila and Praisler’s essay addresses the same hip-hop scene and even refers to the same group, Parazitii, it makes quite a different argument abut Romanian hip-hop, situating it as a key site for the negotiation of identity and otherness in Romanian society, contrasting its self-presentation with the way it is represented in the national media. Each of the final three essays in this section addresses what is in some ways the countercultural legacy of the 1960s project – in Ramanauskaitė and Vaišnys’s case this refers specifically to the ‘hippie’ counterculture of that period and as remembered afterwards in Lithuania and the Baltic states more widely. It considers two questions: how far did the 1960s Western countercultural project impact on the political thoughts, social behaviour and cultural practices of Soviet European youth and to what extent can analysis of these practices using systems theory help us in our understanding of the formation of groups and subculture? The other chapters consider two subcultures each located in Slovakia, namely the Záježová eco-village in the Slovakian mountains and the Slovakian ‘Euro-Indian’ movement. To

(Post-)subculture Theory, and Practice in East-Central Europe


Plate 2. Society and Lifestyles project shares its findings with subcultural communities at Black Horned Moon festival, Zarasai, Lithuania, 2007. © Photographer Gintaras Jaronis

an extent, both of these subcultures are intentional, utopian communities whose histories go back to the communist era and which seek in different ways to generate ecologically based forms of community life, albeit in very different ways. The Záježová community of ‘back-to-the-landers,’ as analyzed by Priečko, has been a very successful eco-village that has managed to survive for over twenty years. However, Priečko points out the difficulties that this community has faced in living up to its ideals of environmental sustainability and collectivism, particularly analyzing the ways in which ecological ideals became submitted to more pragmatic concerns when the community was increasingly dominated by inhabitants with families. In Hlúšek’s study of Slovakian Euro-Indians, a subculture based on the adoption of the cultural practices of North American Indians, a similar


George McKay and Michael Goddard

process can be observed in that the enthusiasm for this movement which reached a peak in the 1990s now seems to be declining and this decline is related to the loss of former participants often due to forming relationships with partners who are not interested in this lifestyle. Each of these studies brings up the question of the ageing of cultural identities and how youthful practices and idealisms are negotiated, transformed, rejected as generations age (see for instance Bennett 2006). They can also be seen as embodying the distinction between ‘being’ and ‘doing’ subculture, ‘between “being” a member, or having the correct grounds for affiliation and merely “doing” or performing, aspects of the subculture’ (Widdicombe and Wooffitt 1990, 257) – rather soberly in the case of Lithuanian hippie Alex, who was incarcerated in a mental asylum by the socialist authorities because of his deviant beliefs. In the other chapters, such a device is one of ‘authenticity,’ but also of social and political commitment – the difference perhaps between living permanently in the alternative cultural community of Záježová (effectively ‘being’ the subculture) and embracing dressing up as Native Americans at weekends (‘doing’ the subculture). These two chapters also raise the issue of the relations of these communities to the outside world including the media; these relations seem to have been managed more successfully by Záježová with its various outreach programmes and evolving organization whereas these links have been harder to maintain for the Euro-Indian movement for structural reasons. Nevertheless both chapters present fascinating studies of these intentional communities, which again raise interesting questions for subcultural methodologies in an Eastern European context.

(Post-)subculture Theory, and Practice in East-Central Europe


References Bennett, A. (2006). ‘Punk’s not dead: the significance of punk rock for an older generation of fans’, Sociology, vol. 40 (1): 219–235. Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (trans. R. Nice). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London: Routledge. Campbell, N., J. Davies and G. McKay (eds) (2004). Issues in Americanisation and Culture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Clarke, J., S. Hall, T. Jefferson, and B. Roberts (1976). ‘Subcultures, cultures and class: a theoretical overview’. In S. Hall and T. Jefferson (eds) Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-war Britain. London: Routledge. 9–74. Gržinić, M. (2008). Re-Politicizing Art, Theory, Representation and New Media Technology. Vienna: Schlebrügge. Hall, S. and T. Jefferson (eds) (1976). Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-war Britain. London: Routledge. Hebdige, D. (1979). Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Methuen. Hoggart, R. (1957). The Uses of Literacy. Harmondsworth: Penguin [1962]. McKay, G. (1996). Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance since the Sixties. London: Verso. Melly, G. (1972). Revolt into Style: The Pop Arts in Britain. London: Allen Lane. Muggleton, D. and R. Weinzierl (eds) (2003). The Post-Subcultures Reader. Oxford: Berg. Richard, B. and H.H. Kruger (1998). ‘Ravers’ paradise? German youth cultures in the 1990s’. In T. Skelton and G. Valentine (eds) Cool Places: Geographies of Youth Cultures. London: Routledge. 161–174. Skelton, T. and G. Valentine (eds) (1998). Cool Places: Geographies of Youth Cultures. London: Routledge.


George McKay and Michael Goddard

Smith, F.M. (1998). ‘Between East and West: sites of resistance in East German youth cultures’. In T. Skelton and G. Valentine (eds) Cool Places: Geographies of Youth Cultures. London: Routledge. 289–304. Strinati, D. (1992). ‘The taste of America: Americanisation and popular culture in Britain’. In D. Strinati and S. Wagg (eds) Come on Down: Popular Media and Culture in Post-War Britain. London: Routledge. 47–79. Widdicombe, S. and R. Wooffitt (1990). ‘“Being” versus “doing” punk: on achieving authenticity as a member.’ Journal of Language and Social Psychology, vol. 9 (4): 257–277.


From Local to Glocal: The Transformation of Delinquent and Radical Communities in the Tatarstan Republic of Russia Alexander Salagaev, Alexander Shashkin, Alexander Makarov and Rustem Safin

Global vs. Local: Theoretical and Methodological Issues The end of the the twentieth and the beginning of the the twenty-first centuries have been marked by rising tendencies towards globalization. Gradual changes throughout the world made globalization one of the key issues of social scientific discussion, although as Hinkelammert (1998: 92) notes, this was originally more a matter of the mere admiration of globalization processes than any scientific analysis. There are several ‘faces’ of globalization which led to the availability of at least five different approaches to it. J.A. Scholte (2000: 15–17) argues that there are different perceptions of globalization as 1) internationalization, 2) liberalization, 3) universalization, 4) Westernization or modernization and 5) deterritorialization. With respect to the theme being explored in this chapter, globalization can be considered both as universalization and as Westernization. The first approach defines the situation of the spreading of values and ideas, whereas the second approach explains the direction in which cross-cultural communication takes place: it mainly comes from Western countries. We should, however, also take into account the last approach to globalization, which can be best defined according to Gidden’s definition, which states that globalization is ‘the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by


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events occurring many miles away and vice versa’ (Giddens 1990: 64). This understanding of the term is quite close to approaches we mentioned above but it suggests that locales are not just passive recipients of norms and values and that they can even fight back. As several authors suggest, cross-cultural communication in the context of globalization is ambivalent, its dynamics are diversely directed and cultural interaction is hybrid (see Featherstone 1995; Featherstone and Lash 1999). This finding has led to the appearance of the concept of ‘glocalization’ in cultural globalization discourse. So what does glocalization mean? The term itself originally appeared in economic discourse in the 1980s and was later developed by Rolland Robertson, who noticed that in the gradually globalizing world, global and local contexts were tending to supplement one another and interact (Robertson 1995: 25–44). Wayne Gabardi suggests that glocalization is marked by the development of diverse, overlapping fields of global-local linkages and that in the context of glocalization, cultural forms and practices become separated from geographical, institutional, and ascriptive embeddedness (see Gabardi 2000). Arjun Appadurai prefers to perceive glocalization as a set of deterritorialized, global spatial ‘scapes’; ethnoscapes, technoscapes, financescapes, mediascapes, and ideoscapes (Appadurai 1996). Practically, glocalization stands for a mixture which appears as the result of interaction between the global and the local, whether it be a commodity, a culture or something else. Keeping in mind that the term ‘glocalization’ is originally an economic one and is connected to brand-building, it is possible to conclude that it also encompasses the cultural brands that have become common nowadays. Due to ‘cultural imperialism’ (Kuklick 2000: 503–508), traditional cultural and subcultural structures undergo changes which on the one hand unify them, but on the other hand help them not to become totally dissolved in global culture but to preserve some unique features of their own. As Roberson puts it, ‘the universal ideas and processes involved in globalization are necessarily interpreted and absorbed differently according to the vantage point and history of particular groups. In some cases, this is done strategically, for example when global marketers create local traditions on the assumption that difference sells’ (1995: 29).

From Local to Glocal


Glocalization cannot but leave traces on a societal level – and these traces are best seen in the phenomenon of moral panic. Moral panics arise when a ‘condition, episode, person or group emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values’ (Cohen 1973: 9). The unintended generation of moral panics takes place through individual communication (mainly rumours), which Jeffrey Victor calls ‘contemporary (urban) legend’ (1998). They are used as a means of reinforcement by the mass media and expert opinions. Goode and Ben-Yehuda (1994) suggest that there are three models explaining the appearance of moral panics: 1) the grassroots model; 2) the elite-engineered model; 3) the interest group model. The grassroots model considers moral panic to be a reaction of society towards social stress. Deviants or deviant groups become the object of social aggression and play the role of collective scapegoats. According to the grassroots model, moral panic cannot be artificially constructed but can be initiated by some expressive event. This model explains quite well different ethnic conflicts which seem to burst out very suddenly though in fact they are based on both deep historical or cultural hostility and ‘urban legends’. The elite-engineered model proposes that elite members of society can initiate moral panics in order to draw attention away from real problems, the actualization of which may damage elite interests. In this sense, ‘urban legends’ do not have anything to do with the real state of affairs, although they may have real consequences for certain groups who become the object of moral panic. The interest group model suggests that the generation of moral panics is caused by the unintentional clash of the interests of different social groups, which quite often takes place in the mass-media. Hence this model draws attention to the fact that there is a competition among different notions (different moral values) and ‘urban legends’ are used as an instrument in such a competition. This last model we deem to be the most appropriate as it explains quite well the moral panics that are connected to youth criminal gangs and other deviant groups. In our opinion, the gradual change of the non-institutional ‘scape’ of the former USSR and contemporary Russia fits very well with the theory of glocalization. We argue that the changing shape of non-institutional activities and the fashion for being a member of a gang, which gradually changed and acquired new forms and peculiarities, were effects of


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glocalization. Social groups which become the objects of moral panic are labelled as ‘folk devils’ (see Cohen 1973) and the changing image of the latter can be viewed as a marker for cultural changes. Cultural globalization brings change not only to cultural patterns but also changes the moral panics surrounding certain social groups. Hence the rise of moral panics means that cultural transformation takes place in society and ‘folk devils’ become more widespread. The research into criminal gangs and xenophobic communities in the Tatarstan Republic of the Russian Federation is based on the evaluation of a significant amount of empirical material on Kazan criminal gangs gathered by a team of researchers led by Alexander Salagaev, from the end of the 1980s. It is also based on the results of the research into xenophobic and radical communities, which was carried out by the same research team from 2004 to 2007. The research methods mainly consisted of in-depth interviews and mass-media analysis. The ‘snow-ball’ method was used to find informants among criminal and xenophobic groups. Mass-media analysis was applied to determine the turning point when the moral panics surrounding criminal gangs decreased and the moral panics about xenophobic groups started to appear.

‘The Good Old Days’: Criminal Gangs as Traditional Excluded Groups The history of contemporary Russian gangs starts back in the 1960s, or to be more precise, from the economic reform of 1965. This reform gave a certain level of independence from the state to a substantial number of enterprises and led to the appearance of the production of unregistered goods in illegal (or even legal) shops in the early 1970s. Such activity became a substantial source of profit in many regions of the country. A special social group called cekhoviki (illegal shop managers) was formed. These criminals had a wide economic network, corrupt connections and special security groups,

From Local to Glocal


for which they needed trained young people in good physical form. Our assumption is that it was a kind of demand formulated by a whole social group for juvenile gangs. By the end of the 1980s, this situation occurred in approximately forty cities of the former Soviet Union. Along with the economic reform of 1965, the possible explanation for the appearance of Russian gangs in particular cities is connected with the rapid industrialization processes, which occurred in Russia between the 1950s and the 1970s (see also Salagaev 2001; Klein 1995). Kazan, Na­­ berezhnie Chelny, Lyubertsy, Ulyanovsk and many other cities and towns were among those where huge plants and factories were constructed (for example, the KAMAZ tracks plant in Naberezhniye Chelny, a number of military plants in Kazan and Ulyanovsk). These processes were characterized by a massive migration of people from rural areas to the big cities that needed a bigger working force. The rural populations that participated in the greatest constructions of the twentieth century preserved their norms, values and traditions and brought them into the urban environment. Among these traditions were village-to-village fights in which the majority of the male population took part. The second generation of newcomers transformed this tradition into fights over turf between inhabitants of the different quarters and streets of the cities. The peak of such fights was in the beginning of the 1980s and every young man who lived in a tower block apartment was pressured into participating in such fights. Those who did not participate were symbolically excluded from local youth communities, similar to the way that, in rural areas, those who were unable or did not want to fight were considered as weak and non-masculine. The second half of the 1980s was the period of economic liberalization, which could also have influenced the development of gangs. The aim of liberalization was to stir up business initiatives among Soviet people, broaden the possibilities of improving the people’s well-being and thus to stimulate economic growth in our country. The period of economic liberalization in Russia is contemporary with the particularly rapid growth in crime rates: in 1989–1990 the rates of all crimes increased 20–25 per cent. This rise in the quantity of crimes lasted until 1996 but with lower rates of growth and was relatively stable after that period. On a cultural level the process of transition in Russia is characterized by the contradictory values


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of different social groups. On the one hand, the values of democracy and the market economy have been popularized, especially amongst youth but on the other hand a lot of young people have been choosing alternative criminal careers. Gangs were and remain not only economically effective illegal groups, but also cultural arenas, where young Russian men are socialized and develop their attitudes towards other people. Along with the economic transformation, Russian gangs have passed through several stages in their development: before the 1980s there were only isolated cases of such youth groups; from the beginning of the 1980s till the mid-1990s there was a massive participation of youth in gang activities, characterized by high levels of street violence and group fights over territory. During this period many gang members were imprisoned for short terms for holding weapons, or for hooliganism. The next stage started from the mid-1990s, when former gang members returned from prisons, had prestige among their friends and introduced prison norms and values. This was different, for example, from the American situation, where gangs were organized in prison and brought gang ideology and practices with them to the community after release (Curry and Decker 2003: 15). The economic situation shifted gang activities from territorial fights to gaining money and controlling various businesses, so they became organized and divided into small brigades or became a Mafia. Those youth groups that were not involved in organized crime preserved the majority of the norms of the first gangs, but also started getting money by racketeering small enterprises in the districts where their members lived. At the same time these new gangs served as a reserve for organized crime and the most gifted gangsters become professional criminals or even Mafia members. As was already mentioned, the culture of street gangs of the Kazan type is rooted in prisoner or criminal culture. This culture does not have a clearcut class profile; it is closely incorporated into the activities of many legal, social institutions (for instance, the government and all levels of administration), presented in public media discourses, is widespread among different social groups and not limited to young people. This culture includes a whole variety of cultural representations: a well-defined system of norms and values, a specific lifestyle and life goals, the way its bearer walks, looks, dresses and what kind of music he likes. In terms of social structure, the

From Local to Glocal


acceptance of criminal culture gives its bearers new possibilities for social mobility; in terms of gender – the ability to construct a specific type of masculinity that is dominant in different social contexts; in terms of style – broad possibilities for self-actualization and finding cultural allies. Moreover, criminal culture is not only an urban phenomenon; it has spread its influence among the rural population. At the same time the members of delinquent youth communities (gruppirovki or gangs) have slightly transformed the norms of criminal culture, so the dynamics of the cultural representation of gangs is rather flexible. The rapid growth of criminal gangs and their activities started to decline at the beginning of the 2000s, although according to criminal records the number of criminal gangs is still quite significant. According to the estimates of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, at the beginning of 2006 the number of organized criminal gangs amounted to 400. It should be noted, however, that this number includes not only gangs of the Kazan type but other types of gang as well.

‘New Wave’ and ‘Folk Devils’: Skinheads and Xenophobic Movements The beginning of the 1990s was marked by another process: the appearance and growth of various Neo-Nazi groups, including skinheads. According to Russian skinhead researcher A. Tarasov, the first Russian skinhead groups appeared in Moscow in 1992. The first Russian skinheads were mostly oriented towards the skinhead subculture (music and style) and were not initially racist. The paths leading to this particular form of cultural participation were to a degree similar to those leading to punk, rock or hippie cultures: the flow of information about the subcultural styles of Western youth after the fall of the iron curtain led to copying and imitation (Tarasov 2000). At the same time scholars who have studied Russian skinheads tend to believe that it is a subcultural phenomenon but not a political grouping or movement. There is ample evidence that groups of skinheads lack the


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organizational structure, management, and discipline essential for political structure (Tarasov 2000). According to one of the leaders of the Russian anti-Fascist movement, Petr Kaznacheev, even in their most political manifestations the skinhead movement in Russia can not be called political. It is rather a non-conformist trend or group based around a particular style, but not a political power (see Kaznacheev 1998). According to Tarasov (2000), there are several structural reasons responsible for the appearance and development of skinheads in the Russian Federation. One of the major reasons is the economic crisis of the early 1990s and the collapse of the Soviet system of education and upbringing. The economic recession that began in 1991 had a strong impact on both the economic and psychological state of the Russian people. Millions of people suddenly became unemployed and those who were formerly employed by the state, for instance, in the defence industry or in the public sector in general, did not receive any payment for several months or even years. During Soviet times the majority of people were not wealthy but they had a stable income; in the 1990s they simply became destitute. All these factors led to a psychological catastrophe, as people had got used to guaranteed employment, state paternalism in education and health services and the other welfare programmes of the Soviet state such as subsidized prices for basic provisions, goods for children, community services and public transport. This economic disaster led to the situation where more and more parents were forced to do several jobs and thus had no time for their children. The collapse of the education system went hand in hand with the economic crisis. The whole school system in the USSR was public; therefore it started failing when state funding was substantially decreased. Due to these financial reasons 400 to 450 schools were closed annually in Russia. There is no information about the number of young people who are not going to school now (Tarasov 2000). In the name of what was called the struggle against totalitarianism, the upbringing or fostering of young people by the state was banned and in the eyes of experts this was a very serious factor in youth crime and delinquency. In the USSR, the idea of youth fostering was connected with the Komsomol and Pioneer organizations that dealt not only with ideological matters but were also responsible for youth hobbies and activities such as art, music, sport and tourism. These

From Local to Glocal


organizations were disbanded but nothing was created to replace them. In the framework of what was known as the school de-ideologization campaign, the Russian Ministry of Education has prohibited the word ‘fostering’ even in documents, and as a consequence pedagogy was reduced to didactics. In this campaign teachers received instructions that they were responsible for the educational process but not for the appearance and behaviour of their students. A second set of factors in the appearance of skinhead subculture was state violence, everyday racism and mass migration. One of the first dramatic cases of violence used by the state in recent history was the storming of the Russian Parliament (the White House) in October 1993. The discord between the supporters of President Boris Yeltsin and the Supreme Soviet, the former legislative body, as represented by Ruslan Khazbulatov and Alexander Rutskoy, led to the bloody collision in the centre of Moscow in which many innocent people were killed. In this particular case Yeltsin successfully showed that violence is a conclusive proof in any discussion. Another key violent event in Russian history was the war in Chechnya. The war officially started in December 1994 and continues, though not in terms of active military action, up to the present day. According to Tarasov (2000), the first Chechen war that was accompanied by super-power imperialist and nationalist propaganda (especially in Moscow) had an obvious impact on the quantity of skinheads and their ideological orientations. The events of October 1993 mentioned above were followed by the xenophobic campaigns in Moscow. Moscow was declared a territory of ‘special rule’ in which the police were obliged to stop suspicious people and check their documents, registration (non-residents who stay in Moscow must be registered in the local police office) and residence permits. This situation gave rise to what some saw as ethnic cleansing, when people who looked like foreigners (primarily those originating from Caucasia) were checked most of all. Tarasov (2000) wrote that lawfulness was absent during the time of special rule. Constitutional guarantees were not observed and human rights were violated; illegal searches, arrests, robberies and beatings by the police took place. Thousands of people with a non-Slavic appearance were deported from Moscow. The police robbed the small kiosks owned by the deported people, took their money and so forth. Caucasians and


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Chechens were deliberately proclaimed outlawed. The situation continued during the Chechen war and was fuelled by terrorist acts in Moscow: public fears around people from Caucasia were created in a very short period of time. Nowadays the situation continues; every day one can see how police stop and check people with a Caucasian appearance on Moscow streets and in the underground. Violent and xenophobic actions performed by the state go hand in hand with everyday racism. Everyday racism can be defined as a set of practices, which position people unequally according to the colour of their skin or culture (see Essed 1991). Everyday racism as a phenomenon is not usually recognized by the dominant ethnic groups as problematic or racist because practices, ways of speaking, thinking and acting are learned during the early stages of socialization and are taken for granted in dominant cultures. The reproduction of everyday racism is connected to culture and ideology: such components as the mass media, literature, school books, symbols and everyday interactions constantly reproduce a structure of everyday racism which constitutes the so called ‘triangle of domination’: problematization – marginalization – oppression (see Essed 1991). Everyday racism includes various manifestations of inter-ethnic intolerance such as ethnic name calling, insulting looks and gestures and ethnic jokes, which reconstruct ethnic stereotypes and ethnic hierarchy in society. All these groups of phenomena can result in the exclusion and isolation of members of ethnic minorities in educational institutions, leisure time activities and public and private spaces, associations and workplaces. Exclusion and isolation can lead to the further self-isolation and self-exclusion of ethnic minorities from mainstream society. Hence, the spread of everyday racism led to some unintentional backing for those who openly propagate ethnic and racial hatred. Everyday racism was especially enforced by the marked increase in migration to Russia from the former USSR republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. The notion of migration being the catalyst for skinhead activities is quite a popular discourse among both various experts and skinheads themselves but one has to be very careful when dealing with these discourses. This is because they tend to racialize inter-ethnic relations and cause the further spread of everyday racism and ethnophobias (see Osipov 2002; Karpenko 2000, 2002). In the Tatarstan Republic, skinheads appeared much later.

From Local to Glocal


Several reasons can be cited as possible explanations for this, although in our opinion there are two major ones. The first one is related to the multiethnic composition of Tatarstan Republic: it is inhabited by two major ethnic groups – Tatars and Russians – which represent different language groups, religions and cultures. Thus in such circumstances the pro-Russian or pro-Slavic slogans of skinhead movements would not be popular among the general public. Another reason is that criminal gangs, which were very active throughout the 1990s, show an explicit hatred towards any subcultural movements, especially skinheads. Therefore the latter would not be very likely to appear in such a violent and unfriendly environment. However since the beginning of the 2000s, as the criminal gangs started to lose their grip, subcultural communities, including skinhead groups, started to develop quite rapidly. Nevertheless, such groups were quite different from similar groups in Moscow. The wider research in the Centre for Analytic Studies and Development suggests that skinhead groups in Tatarstan include not only Russians or Slavic people but also Tatars who are of Turkish origin. It is very hard to become a member of the skinhead community in Tatarstan but quite easy to quit. Skinhead community members in Tatarstan more often observe the traditional skinhead dress code, compared to skinheads in Moscow and St Petersburg, who prefer to look like ordinary folk since skinhead-style appearance means more police attention. Tatarstan skinheads are less organized, their groups have less formal structure, they lack ideology and prefer symbolic to real violence and when the latter occurs it more resembles banal hooliganism than planned and ideologically motivated crime.


salagaev, shashkin, makarov and safin

Once a Gangster, Now a Skin: Using the Glocalization Model to Explain Cultural Mutations The comparison of the two subcultural movements – criminal gangs and skinheads – leads to the discovery of quite interesting similarities. Criminal gangs first started to appear in the 1980s, they became the common ‘folk devils’ of the 1990s, but in the 2000s their activities started to decline. Skinhead groups appeared in the 1990s, started some time later to cause moral panics and became quite active and common in the 2000s. Thus, it can be noted that the peak of gang subculture coincides with the development of the skinhead subculture and the decrease of gang subculture coincides with the rise of skinhead subculture. Both subcultures while rising are marked by moral panics – moral panic therefore becomes a marker of the social transformation from local to glocal. Comparison of the development of the two subcultures is presented in Table 1 below: Table 1. Comparison of the development of gang and skinhead subcultures.






Rising youth subculture, which starts to emerge in many towns; it is surrounded by moral panic in the late 1980s.

The subculture is commonplace, ‘fashionable’ and characterized by massive participation; moral panic decreases by the mid-1990s.

The subculture declines, it is not very ‘fashionable’ and is characterized by decreasing participation.

No skinheads in the USSR.

The subculture emerges gradually, starts to rise in the mid-1990s; the first traces of moral panic in the late 1990s.

The subculture becomes active, ‘fashionable’; it is surrounded by moral panic.

From Local to Glocal


At the same time, analysis of the three periods (the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s) makes it possible to conclude that the first period of the 1980s was characterized by the predominance of ‘the local’: there was almost no Western influence on the general public, the USSR was living in its own way, trying to resist the growing pressure of the capitalist West and mainly local goods, including cultural commodities, were consumed. After perestroika started in 1985, the Western impact on Soviet society increased. In the second period of the 1990s, after the collapse of the USSR, global culture started to impact on Russian society quite drastically. After the cultural vacuum of the 1980s, Russia started to consume culture from the West. Whatever came from the West was viewed as superb and no one really cared to examine carefully what was coming into Russian cultural arenas. This situation changed in the 2000s, when national sentiments became popular once again. Russian society was fed up with only consuming Western-style culture and the discourse and practice of returning to local traditions became quite common. Nevertheless, rather than a radical return towards the pre-perestroika system, society needed instead the sense of security and stability that many people had in the USSR, along with the economic well-being of the present. In other words, many Russians were dreaming about living in the USSR but with their current incomes, properties and ideological freedom. Hence one can see the transformation of Russian society which passed through the stages of the local (1980s), the global (1990s) and finally came the stage of the glocal (2000s) as shown in Table 2 on p. 28.


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Table 2. The transformation of Russian society from the stage of the local (1980s), the global (1990s) and the stage of the glocal (2000s). 1980s



The Iron Curtain, the USSR is closed to Westernization except to a very limited extent. There was almost no effect of global culture in the early 1980s, which was transformed into a certain level of cultural influence from the West in the late 1980s.

The collapse of the USSR, the large scale effects of global culture, the rise of subcultures, Westernization.

Decrease of Westernization, popularization of nationalism, the return to local traditions without complete rejection of Western culture.

Age of the Local

Age of the Global

Age of the Glocal

The comparison of criminal gangs and skinhead groups in Tatarstan reveals many similarities between them: • Both criminal gangs and skinheads are socially excluded subcultures, viewed as monsters and public enemies. • They are hierarchical groups led by a leader and there is a distribution of functions inside the groups. • The behaviour of members of the subculture is regulated by a code of rules. • They are mainly composed of young people from the lower classes. • Both criminal gangs and skinheads value physical strength. • Contacts of group members with the police are strongly prohibited. • Both criminal gangs and skinhead groups represent non-institutional activities.

From Local to Glocal


Nevertheless, there are certain differences between criminal gangs and skinhead groups, which are summarized below: Table 3. Differences between criminal gangs and skinhead groups. Gangs


Mainly male groups, sexism

Mainly mixed groups

Norms and values (Ponyatiya)

A sort of ideological mixture and norms

Generally not racist, a mixed ethnic composition

Verbally racist, a multi-ethnic composition

They keep distant from political actions

They keep distant from almost any real action

Actions aimed at control of economic resources

Actions are motivated by a racist ideological mixture and boredom

Territory as the basis for the group

Devotion to the same cause as the basis for the group

Gangs fight with one another

Groups mainly fight verbally with the Other

Analyzing Table 3 here one can easily see that the main difference between members of gangs and skinheads lies on an ideological level and that the different ideologies explain differences in other aspects of the community. Hence, the differences between criminal gangs and skinhead groups are determined by cultural globalization. The research on skinheads in Tatarstan shows that there are too many similarities between the two groups for these to be accidental. Therefore one may conclude that skinheads are a contemporary manifestation of gangster culture and lifestyle, or in other words the products of globalization and the results of the glocalization process. In the cultural arena of non-institutional activities, gangs are gradually being replaced by skinheads, with the associated subcultural paraphernalia of fashion, hairstyles, and so on. We suggest that the local subculture of gangsters was partly transformed in the 1990s


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into various radical movements, especially the skinhead movement. The glocalization model can be applied to explain this transformation. Just as in any transformation process, both gangster and skinhead subculture existed together in the 1990s and nowadays the latter is driving out the former. The process of transformation was caused by the Westernization of the Russian cultural landscape of the 1990s which interacted with the local context to give birth to radical movements. The peculiarities of the Russian cultural context (state violence, migration and the economic crisis) caused the appearance of the skinhead subculture which started to replace the gangster subculture. The gradual replacement of the gangster subculture by the skinhead subculture was caused by changes in local conditions, which damaged the efficiency of the gangs’ money-making activities. For this reason, socially excluded (delinquent) youngsters started to change non-institutional niches, preferring the one which is more fashionable. It is possible to predict on the basis of our research that gang subculture will become even less popular in the near future, whereas skinhead subculture will become even more popular. The notion of gradual change from the age of the gangsters to the age of the skinheads is further reinforced by the current peculiarities of Tatarstan skinhead groups. They are quite different from their counterparts in other Russian cities let alone in Western countries. The skinhead groups of contemporary Tatarstan are constituted by the same people among whom criminal gangs used to recruit their new members. Hence there is a mixture of local (gang) subcultural features with global (skinhead) subcultural features, which result in the glocal communities of Tatarstan skinheads.

From Local to Glocal


References Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Cohen, S. (1973). Folk Devils and Moral Panics. London: Paladin. Curry, D. and S. Decker (2003). Confronting Gangs: Crime and Community. Los Angeles: Roxbury Publishing Company. Essed, P. (1991). Understanding Everyday Racism: An Interdisciplinary Theory. Newbury Park: Sage. Featherstone, M. (1995). Undoing Culture: Globalization, Postmodernism and Identity. London: Sage. Featherstone, M. and S. Lash (1999). Spaces of Culture: City, Nation, World. London: Sage. Gabardi, W. (2000). Negotiating Postmodernism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Giddens, A. (1990). The Consequences of Modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Goode, E. and N.Ben-Yehuda (1994). Moral Panics: The Social Construction of Deviance. Oxford: Blackwell. Hinkelammert, F. (1998). ‘����������������������������������������� Globalisierung und Ausschluss aus lateinamerikanischer Sicht’. In R. Fornet-Betancourt (ed.) Armut im Spannungsfeld zwischen Globalisierung und dem Recht auf eigene. Kultur: Frankfurt. Karpenko, O. (2000). ‘Eti gosti, pohoje, kontroliruyut segodnya vsyu rynochnuyu torgovlyu’: kontsepciya ‘etnicheskoi ekonomiki’ cherez prizmu rossiiskii pressy’ (These guests seem to exercise control over all current market trade: The concept of Ethnic Economy in the light of the Russian press). In O. Brednikova, V. Voronkov, E. Chikadze (eds) Etnichnost’ I ekonomika (Ethnicity and Economy), St Petersburg: CISR. 1201–1226. Karpenko, O. (2002). Kak ekperty provodyat ‘etnofobiyu’. In V. Voronkov, O. Karpenko and A. Osipov (eds) Rasizm v Yazyke Socialnyh Nauk


salagaev, shashkin, makarov and safin

(Racism in the Language of Social Sciences). St Petersburg: Aleteya. 23–38. Kaznacheev, P. (1998). ‘Billiardniye Shary. Skinkhedy – Novoe Pokolenie Naci?’ (Billiard balls. Skinheads – a new generation of Nazis?), Novoe Vremya 32: 36–39. Kuklick, B. (2000). ‘The Future of Cultural Imperialism,’ Diplomatic History 24 (3): 503–508. Osipov, A (2002). ‘Konstruirovanie etnicheskogo konflikta I rasistskii diskurs’ (Construction of ethnic conflict and racist discourse). In V. Voronkov, O. Karpenko and A. Osipov ed. Rasizm v Yazyke Socialnyh Nauk (Racism in the Language of Social Sciences), St Petersburg: Aleteya. 45–68. Robertson, R. (1995). ‘Glocalization: Time-Space and HomogeneityHeterogeneity’. In M. Featherstone, S. Lash, and R. Robertson (eds) Global Modernities. London: Sage. 25–44. Scholte, J.A. (2000). Globalization: A Critical Introduction. London: Palgrave. Tarasov, A. (2000). ‘Porozhdenie Reform: Britogolovie, oni zhe Skinkhedy’ (The Result of reforms: boldheads aka skinheads), Svobodnaya Mysl (Free Thought). 4–5. Victor, J.S. (1998). ‘Moral Panics and the Social Construction of Deviant Behavior: A Theory and Application to the Case of Ritual Child Abuse’. Sociological Perspectives 3.


Skinheads as Defenders of Russia? Power versus Friendship in Xenophobic Youth Subcultures Elena Omel’chenko and Al’bina Garifzianova

Introduction This chapter considers friendship and trust in a group of skinheads in a northern Russian city. It explores how these concepts are understood within the group, the norms and sanctions which underpin them and the practices through which they are enacted. This approach differs from existing academic literature on aggressive youth groups in Russia, in which attention is paid primarily to the degree of penetration of such groups across the youth sphere and their ideological basis. Such research tends to describe and analyse the influence of both environment and upbringing on personal character development and employs explanatory models that classify individuals as xenophobic nationalists (Gudkov 2005a, 2005b, 2006; Gudkov and Dubin 2005; Kozhevnikova 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008; Kozlov 2006; Likhachev 2002; Panova 2006; Puanov 2002; Sokolov 2005, 2006; Umland 2001, 2006; Shenfield 2001). While such research undoubtedly has its merits, it fails to address why xenophobic feelings emerge, the different ways in which they are reproduced and transmitted, the degree to which such feelings feature in interpersonal communication or their role in the maintenance of group identity. In contrast, the current chapter draws on qualitative sociological research which included researcher involvement in the everyday practices of young people and reflects on the characteristics of the intra-group regime. This prolonged engagement in the ‘field’ led us to the conclusion that interpersonal relations, including particular readings


Elena Omel’chenko and Al’bina Garifzianova

of ‘trust’ and ‘friendship,’ are central to the demarcation and maintenance of both external and internal group boundaries.

Studying ‘Xenophobic’ Groups: The Challenge of Operationalizing ‘Inexact’ Concepts ‘Xenophobia’ is used in this chapter as a conceptual shorthand. It does not, however, wholly satisfactorily describe the feelings, attitudes and practices circulating within the group described here; indeed, as with other terms borrowed from psychology, its use in social research may even hinder understanding. A phobia is an unregulated, usually irrational, feeling of fear and insecurity, the causes of which lie beyond the level of consciousness. The most general definition of ‘xenophobia’ links it to the fear of ‘others’, or ‘aliens’. As Igor Kon puts it: ‘xenophobia (from the Greek xenos meaning alien and phobos meaning fear) is a negative notion – an irrational fear and hatred towards others that is always associated with “related” concepts such as racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and sexism. The object of xenophobia can be specific social groups as well as “a generalized Other”’ (Kon 2006). The concept of xenophobia, as well as the feelings and practices that it signifies, have been interpreted in many different ways. One understanding of xenophobia posits it as the manifestation of a fundamental human need to identify oneself with a peer-group and to demarcate this group from ‘others’. This, it is argued, is the main mechanism of social orientation and the basis of all systems of hierarchy and power. Thus, xenophobia ‘helps’ define and mark boundaries between ‘our’ physical, cultural and social space and that of the ‘other’. An alternative reading of xenophobia associates it with intolerance and open aggression targeted at people who are positioned within certain ideological frameworks as the source of threat and the explanation for one’s own failure (see, for example, Kozhevnikova 2007; Gudkov and Dubin 2005).

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Xenophobia is a socio-psychological phenomenon which is manifest in both social and individual consciousness as people reproduce the traditions and values of their own peer group and establish them as the ‘norm’. Thus, regardless of historical or spatial context, the basic rules of ethnocentrism – that ‘we’ are better, than ‘them’ – are transmitted across generations. However, the degree of ethnocentrism prevalent in society varies in accordance with the extension, intensification or increasingly complex nature of inter-group relations. Under certain socio-economic conditions, cultural regimes or ruling discourses, certain groups of people may induce a higher or lower level of abhorrence and this may take on a particular cultural articulation. As Kon (2006) notes, xenophobia is essentially irrational such that ‘an individual may explain his/her enmity to a group (X) by reference to its bad customs (Y), while explaining his/her negative attitude to the customs (Y) as a consequence of their connection to the group (X). Moreover, this individual may be familiar with neither group (X) nor its customs (Y).’ Thus, it follows that while the particular ethnic groups targeted may vary across time and space, according to Russian sociologist Lev Gudkov (2006) in approximately 75–80 per cent of cases hatred is transferred from one object of hatred to a generalised range of ‘others’ (be it blacks, Jews, Chinese, gays or representatives of youth subcultures). Gudkov and Dubin (2005: 12) argue further that xenophobia cannot be completely eradicated because its root causes are central to systems of both ethno-national and social identification and the maintenance of social order. A positive image of the collective group requires negativity, hostility or ethnic enmity towards others, as part of the mechanism of collective self-identification. Since no society can eradicate these distinctions, countries vary only in the degree to which open aggression, ethnic phobias, antipathies or fears are tolerated or sanctioned. Notwithstanding this point, it is clear from social research that a fundamental shift in self-identification, the markers of self and others, friends and enemies, has taken place in Russia. Sociological monitoring by the Levada Centre over the last decade indicates a steady rise in tension, widespread xenophobic attitudes and the intensification of a range of interlocking social phobias including migrant-phobia, homophobia and Islamophobia (Golov 2005). Russia is also currently experiencing a shift in the dominant


Elena Omel’chenko and Al’bina Garifzianova

portrayal of the traditional enemy which is increasingly being formed in the image of the ‘people from the Caucasus’ (Panova 2006: 384). Information from the leading human rights information portal ‘Sova-centre’ shows a notable rise in racially and ethnically motivated crime – including murder. As Galina Kozhevnikova (2007) noted during an interview for Radio Ekho Mosvky ( January 2007): Our statistics show that 53 people were killed and 460 people injured last year as a result of national and ethnic hatred. Without doubt these statistics conceal an even higher level of ethnic violence. The actual number of such crimes is likely to be 2–3 times greater. Despite this, article 282 of the Criminal Code ‘On incitement of hatred and enmity based on race or religious factors’ remains rarely used and inconsistently applied in Russian courts.

In addition to the objective reasons for the growth of all kinds of social inequality and prejudice, this process is facilitated by the inconsistency of state youth policy as it seeks to shape a new patriotic consciousness and to advance a doctrine of ‘moderate’ or ‘civilised’ nationalism (Omel’chenko and Pilkington 2006). Thus, on the one hand, concerns are repeatedly expressed about the potential for the rise of spontaneous, extreme, xenophobic and even pro-fascist attitudes, whilst, on the other, the state pursues youth projects such as the creation of the pseudo-patriotic puppet youth movement ‘Nashi’ (‘Ours’) as a reserve army to be mobilized against any attempt at a Russian version of the ‘orange revolution’ (Hemment 2007; Wilson 2005).1 Outside observers, meanwhile, have criticized any such attempt to 1

Young people became the focus of political attention following a series of political protests which were named ‘coloured revolutions’ (‘rose’ in Georgia in 2003, ‘orange’ in Ukraine in 2004 and ‘pink’ in Kyrgyzstan in 2005) in post-socialist states which led to a change of political regime. Whilst in the West these ‘coloured revolutions’ have been understood as democratic movements (Manning 2007: 171), government sources in Russia portray them as examples of Western intervention in the zone of Russia’s strategic interests and thus as a threat to the regime. Following the successful election of Putin’s chosen presidential candidate – Dmitrii Medvedev – in March 2008, however, interest in, and the financing of, state sponsored youth movements has declined. As a statement by a member of the presidential administration (widely cited on internet blogs) put it, ‘We no longer need a cheering mob.’

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manipulate youth attitudes for political aims as ‘hooray-patriotism’ (Brubaker 2006: 60) which, as Brubaker suggests, ‘is always associated with intolerance and xenophobia.’ (ibid.) Bearing in mind the conceptual and methodological problems outlined above, our research did not set out with a pre-formed understanding of xenophobia. Rather, our premise was that in ‘extreme’ youth subcultures, xenophobic attitudes are only a particularly vivid manifestation of the everyday xenophobia that is found amongst the majority of the population. This led us to set our objective as being to uncover and observe the kind of routine, everyday manifestations of aggressive prejudices about ‘others’ (or ‘enemies’) circulating within the group of young people being researched as well as to distinguish, and explore the relationships, between everyday (actual), public (proclaimed) and demonstrative (performative) xenophobic practices.

A Methodological Note: The Hidden Dangers of Fieldwork The ethnographic research on which this chapter is based was conducted in a northern Russian city with a group of young people who self-identified as skinheads. Participant observation with the group was conducted in two phases: September–November 2006; and October–November 2007. Two researchers studied the day-to-day practices of the group and their observations (recorded in field diaries) were accompanied by a set of in-depth, narrative interviews and the gathering of group artefacts and photographs.2 The key fieldwork sites for both researchers and the group included a basement gym to which the group had exclusive access; the 2

The principal researchers were Al’bina Garifzianova and El’vira Sharifullina (‘Region’, Ul’ianovsk). Hilary Pilkington (University of Warwick) and Elena Omel’chenko (‘Region’) also participated in fieldwork in both years.


Elena Omel’chenko and Al’bina Garifzianova

researchers’ flat; other gyms and clubs where the researchers and the research subjects went together; and public spaces including derelict houses, streets, courtyards and parks. As part of the project a documentary film was made; this element of the research proved particularly challenging as it required particularly high levels of trust to be developed between the researchers and the group members. Participant observation is one of the most satisfying but at the same time challenging methods of sociological research since its success is heavily dependent on the personal as well as the professional qualities of both the researcher and the research subjects. In this particular study a capacity not only for rational understanding of the project but also empathy and emotional, cultural, environmental and psychological adaptability were central to the success of the research (Il’in 2006; Goncharova 2004; Omel’chenko 2004b). Moreover the nature of the group studied in this case made both entrance to, and exit from, the group a particularly challenging and emotional experience. This was because access to the group was difficult (and potentially dangerous) and the high degree of inclusion required to work successfully with such a group meant conventional boundaries were sometimes overstepped which, in turn, heightened the significance of resolving ethical issues encountered in a way which did harm to neither the researchers nor the researched (see also Dobroshtan 2004; Garifzianova 2008; Omel’chenko 2008; and Pilkington 2008).

The Group: Key Figures, Group Regime and Conflict The meaning of power and the structures through which it is enacted (the group’s ‘regime’) can only be uncovered by directly observing the group and the practices that structure time spent together (Omel’chenko 2004a). Such observation suggested that the group regime was underpinned by an internal ‘code of honour’ shared by the majority of the group but that the right to authority within the group had to be earned. Given the current

Skinheads as Defenders of Russia?


ideological crisis in the skinhead movement, not only in Russia but around the world,3 a particular burden fell upon group leaders to ensure the maintenance of a strong core to the group and the reproduction of its fundamental (ideological and broader cultural) values. The importance of this special mission was illustrated starkly in the course of our research when a decisive split within the group occurred following a conflict over who had the right to determine these values. Before describing this conflict, however, the key figures in the group will be briefly introduced. At the time our research was conducted there were two recognized leaders in the group: Andrei, 21 years of age, in the movement since 2003 and widely recognized as the group’s leader; and Slava, 22 years old, in the movement for almost the same length of time as Andrei and playing a more informal leadership role in the group.4 Andrei and Slava were former classmates and had been close friends. The length of time in the movement of Andrei and Slava is central to the question of leadership status since it indicates not only time spent together but experience of participation in street actions. Another key figure was Zhenia, who was 19 years of age and had been in the movement for three years. He was the leader of a sub-section of the broader group and thus acted as a kind of ‘loyal opposition’ or alternative for new recruits to the movement. Sergei, 21, was also active in all joint gatherings and trained rigorously in the basement gym, although he did not identify himself as a skinhead. Valera, who was also 21 years of age, had been in the movement for three years having previously been a rapper. At the time of the first phase of research he had just been released from prison having served time for drug dealing. Roman – aged 20 – had been in the movement for about two years and had entered the group via his younger brother. There were two young women with ‘skin girl’ credentials: Lida, 21, had been in the movement for three years and



By this we mean the skinhead movement in its classic sense. The crisis is evident in the increasingly absolute divisions within skin scenes between two diametrically opposed camps; in Russia this split is becoming increasingly significant as the antifascist movement develops and diversifies. In the interests of preserving anonymity pseudonyms are used for all respondents.


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was closer to Zhenia’s group; and Lera, 20 years old, had been in the group for two years. A major conflict between the two leaders of the group – Andrei and Slava – became a key turning point in the group’s development and thus our analysis of it.5 The apparent reason for the fight between the two leaders was a long-standing argument over how people using the basement should behave. Particularly contentious was whether the gym should be used not only for physical training but also for general ‘hanging out’ (parties, drinking sessions, smoking, sleeping through the night, celebrating birthdays and other special events). Andrei sought to dictate the rules of behaviour in the basement on the grounds that it was he who had earned the money (through a holiday job on a construction site) to buy for the gym a punch bag and mat for boxing and wrestling. Moreover, he claimed to have struck the agreement with the local administration for the free use of the basement and had carefully monitored access, kept the place clean and helped new lads coming to train. This control ensured that anyone seeking access to the basement to train had to have the backing of one of the established users. Slava, whilst accepting these general rules, was against excessive formalism in their application and considered it unnecessary to enforce strict rules of behaviour. Moreover, he did not like the increasingly obvious ‘absolute’ authority and unquestioning subordination being imposed by Andrei. On the evening that the fight took place some of the lads had been enjoying a routine drinking session after which Slava had lain down on the gym mat. Andrei insisted he get up. Slava responded, ‘Who are you to order me about here?!’ A serious fight occurred – leaving both bloodied – as is captured in this excerpt from the field diary: From the room I heard only Andrei’s voice – he was suggesting they should vote on whether the basement should only be used for sport. Then I heard Sergei’s voice who shouted that, ‘Yes, it’s just for working out.’ Periodically I heard Slava’s voice, shouting


Al’bina Garifzianova was present as the conflict developed. When the argument dissolved into a physical fight, and at the request of one of the protagonists, she left the gym, however. Thus details of what subsequently transpired are reconstructed through the accounts of the fight by its participants.

Skinheads as Defenders of Russia?


that Andrei was totally fucked up and thought he was God. From time to time people emerged from the other room to ask what was going on. Then Andrei peered out from the room and asked everyone to leave and not to hang around the door. I went out on to the street from where I heard Andrei shouting that everyone should leave. The fight went on. (Al’bina Garifzianova’s field diary, 22nd October 2006)

After the conflict, the group hanging out in the basement split into two groups. Initially both Andrei and Slava continued to use the gym but tried to avoid encountering each other there. Gradually, however, Slava and his ‘supporters’ began to turn up at the basement less and less frequently and by our second phase of research (October–November 2007), it was only Andrei and his ‘team’ that were using the place. The basement also changed during this time; almost all items associated with its use as a place to hang out gradually disappeared. It became a site for training. Moreover, Andrei and Slava had not overcome their differences. This appeared to confirm our hypothesis that behind this event lay a deeper schism over dominant values not only within this group of friends but within the skinhead movement more generally. From our perspective, it appeared that the argument between its leaders indicated the group was undergoing a crisis of solidarity which concerned the most important, fundamental values – the bases of power, status, authority, friendship and trust – within the skin community. For Slava the basement had become primarily a place to hang out; a place where friendship and trust was expressed through classically youthful everyday practices (relaxing, flirting, joking, having a drink). In other words, close friendship was the guarantor of trust. Andrei, in contrast, insisted that the basis of trust amongst real skinheads could only be discipline, subordination to a leader, the observation of rules of secrecy and the maintenance of an image that they were strong men, always ready to defend Russia. However, maintaining his leadership status had become increasingly difficult for Andrei since by this time the regular street action which had characterized earlier stages of the skin movement had become increasingly rare and a source first and foremost of nostalgic reminiscence; this made it difficult to mobilize as evidence of his continued right to leadership.


Elena Omel’chenko and Al’bina Garifzianova

The development of the situation into open conflict was certainly also facilitated by the presence of the researchers. We were not only included in the everyday interactions of the group but were also conducting interviews and filming. Consequently our interest in particular members of the group evoked contradictory emotions among the others; distrust and uncertainty about whether we could be trusted (to protect confidentiality and anonymity) but also a certain jealousy over attention paid to any particular individual. Such attention was regarded as confirmation by us of the individual’s status as ‘expert’ on the group.6 Thus Andrei often asked, ‘What can they tell you? How much do they really understand?’ This was indicative of the source of the conflict which lay in competing claims over who determined the group’s binding ‘idea,’ who could and should explain the ‘truth’ about the skinhead movement, who should impress the researcher most and who she/they should most trust, like or be attached to.

Resources, Status and Hierarchy in the Group Cultural and personal capital earned in the group directly influences one’s status in it. This capital is accrued as a result of individual biographies but also through the control of resources (ideological, communicative, personal, social). Our research revealed a set of key resources, some of which were widely recognized as central to the group but some of which were disputed suggesting the group was undergoing a restructuring of its internal regime.


The attention of a young female researcher was also read within the group as confirmation of masculine status within the group.

Skinheads as Defenders of Russia?


Ideological Resources: Information, Networks, Conviction and Charisma Ideological expertise is a resource rooted in the control of knowledge and the ability to re-articulate it in a convincing and authoritative way. This requires a degree of acquaintance with key texts which are distributed via personal contacts and specialized Internet sites.7 It also involves inclusion in extended networks and being informed about the movement, its extent and activities both in Russia and abroad. Andrei was the most informed in the group and this was central to his leadership pretensions. He was an active participant in Internet forum discussions. He was also extremely knowledgeable about all kinds of boxing and wrestling styles and had the largest specialist fight video collection in the city.8 Andrei, in comparison to other active members of the skinhead group, travelled relatively frequently to the regional centre and to Moscow and St Petersburg to consult with other movement members. He was able to articulate the core principles of skinhead ideology convincingly and charismatically, frequently citing key works. Indeed it was via Andrei that other members of the group accessed important information about skinhead ideas. In the course of participant observation, Andrei and others mentioned a number of what they considered to be key sources including: Istarkhov’s (2006) Udar Russkikh Bogov9 (the most frequently cited 7



Key sites referred to include:; which carries videos of skinhead music and fighting; a site featuring the skinhead group ‘Ul’timatum’ at http://;; and www. There are also a number of international sites where Russian skinheads communicate with those abroad e.g.,,,,, http://,,, Many of our informants were interested in ‘Fighting without rules’ or pankration. Andrei in particular was a frequent visitor to sites related to these sports including where he was listed as one of the site’s most active participants. This book has been periodically both republished and banned but can be accessed electronically via the web portal


Elena Omel’chenko and Al’bina Garifzianova

book in group discussions); works by Ian Stuart;10 citations from works by Nietzsche and Hitler as well as books on the Third Reich; Nesterov’s (2004) Skiny: Rus’ probuzhdaetsia and Limonov’s (2004) Drugaia Rossiia. Andrei’s opinion was considered authoritative not only because of his experience in the movement but because he was widely recognized as well-read and well-informed. It was also Andrei who voiced collectively held views on the Russian government, and in particular its failure in the sphere of patriotic education, through his contacts with other leaders and authors and by writing reviews of key texts on specialist sites. He boasted that his name had appeared among the list of authors in the journal ‘Russkaia volia’11 to which he had contributed. However, as indicated in this diary extract, he chose not to reveal the content of what he had written: Andrei said this had been said for a long time on the RNE site.12 He went on, ‘I used to use it a lot and I liked the way they commented on the Channel 1 news.13 … As Limonov said in his book Drugaia Rossiia, the state in our country has squeezed people into cages, rooms, and determines how they should live. If they tell you to shift to the left, you move to the left, if they tell you to shift to the right, you change and move to the right. But why should this corrupt state dictate how I live?!!’ (Al’bina Garifzianova’s field diary, 13th October 2006)

The ability to argue and substantiate one’s argument convincingly is valued in the group. The group’s main conviction was that Russia was in trouble – in crisis– and that skinheads were the only people able to comprehend 10

11 12 13

Ian Stuart Donaldson – better known as Ian Stuart – was a British musician, neoNazi and founder of the rock band Skrewdriver. Skrewdriver initially played punk music but gradually moved on to National Socialist and skinhead themes (see http:// This national chauvinist journal emerged in 1999 but its web address changes frequently. The last active address was The full official name of this organization is the Vserossiiskoe Obshchestvennoe Patrioticheskoe Dvizhenie Russkoe Natsional’noe Edinstvo (All-Russian Social Patriotic Movement Russian National Unity). See Channel 1 is the main Russian television channel and presents a strictly pro-presidential line.

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the full depth of this crisis, to explain it and to speak and write about it without fear of persecution. Indeed, it was often claimed that many people tacitly supported skinhead ideas but were nervous of voicing them: … the majority of Russians think the same way we do, they are just too embarrassed to admit it. That’s why support for our struggle against the blacks is much broader than it might seem, than people might think, that’s my opinion… If something really kicks off, then a lot of people will support us, you’ll see… (Lida, interview, 2006)

However, prolonged contact with the group revealed some rather profound contradictions between the stated aims of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and everyday lives, which were so often taken up by resolving problems of a much lower order. Nevertheless their belief in this ‘idea’ was somehow engaging; in a post-fieldwork interview one of the researchers admitted that after intense interaction with the skinhead group she had found herself struggling with her own xenophobic prejudices. It is important to recognize here that despite the fact that the skins’ ideological system is built upon a simplified universal division between ‘us’ and ‘them’, its distinctiveness, lucidity and capacity to unite the group around core notions held its own appeal. One of the core elements of this belief system is the cult of strength. But strength, in our respondents’ opinion, should be shown through real actions, in the way one conducted oneself on a daily basis and should guide personal choices. Any expression of excessive sensitivity – let alone weakness – was considered unworthy of a ‘real man’ and fighter. Thus Andrei fiercely defended his understanding of how a real skinhead (like him) could be distinguished from others (whom he referred to as sheep): I live in order to change the world and for the sake of the survival of the species… Ian Stuart wrote that if a person does not know what he is prepared to die for, then what does he live for? In actual fact there are millions who are against the authorities, there are more dissatisfied than satisfied. And the more dissatisfied there are in Russia the more skinheads there are. For example in Germany there are only 2000 skinheads but in Russia there are 15,000. (Andrei cited in Al’bina Garifzianova’s field diary, 13th October 2006)


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The idea of ‘cleansing Russia’ of non-Russians and ensuring a ‘bright future for our children,’14 permeated all the ideological narratives of our informants and was used to differentiate themselves from the mass of young people. In response to a question about the significance of a tattoo on Sasha’s neck, Lera enthusiastically explained the meaning of the 14 words15 that formed the ideological core of skinhead identity: It refers to the 14 words – that is the abbreviation for the 14 words about how we should protect a bright future for white children. It means we should do everything in our power to make sure our children have a bright future, to make sure there won’t be wars or terrorists, there won’t be kidnappers. So what if we sacrifice our life, something of ours, if it guarantees that Russia is free and great again, like she was – pure, pure in terms of race?… No, we don’t get less involved in actions, that’s just the same as always. But our thoughts are more serious now, more global. Whereas before we thought only about how to find and beat up people, now we think about some kind of organization, how to get power, to print newspapers, that kind of thing (Lera, interview, 2006).

Despite their obvious opposition to the authorities, the ability to deploy social connections and ‘get to the right people’ in order to resolve a problem was highly valued in the group. And in this respect Andrei was the most effective. During the first phase of research he was a member of the party Rodina (Motherland) and during the elections he actively encouraged others to join the party. However he explained his party political activity as being driven by his own ‘selfish interests’; it generated useful connections for the future and free access to training facilities. By the time we returned to the field, Andrei had already left the party because of its lack of success and prospects as well as, according to him, because the local leaders had tried to exploit both him personally and the whole group as an ‘active, aggressive youth resource’ for the party.

14 15

The Russian original ‘svetloe budushchee detei’ uses the adjective ‘svetloe’ meaning both ‘bright’ and ‘light coloured’ and thus better carries the racial implication of the statement. These are ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children’ (see

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Cultural and Stylistic Resources: Music, Dress and Gender Norms The group appeared less concerned with projecting an externally recognizable skinhead (boots and braces) image than with maintaining their own cultural space. In this space, shared cultural tastes and preferences produced common codes, symbols and values. A widely shared musical preference was for heavy metal music with pagan overtones.16 The importance of music to the group was indicated in Andrei’s statement in the chat forum of one of his favourite internet sites: ‘I love music. Music stimulates me, releases loads of energy. I like sympho, atmospheric and black metal best. There is a group called Estatic [sic] Fear… I really like pagan…’ (Andrei, internet site VOLE TUDO.RU) Another shared value was keeping in good physical shape and looking after one’s body. This meant developing muscles, participating in fights, displaying scars and wounds from past fights and decorating oneself with tattoos and piercings. The basement gym in which they hung out had initially been used exclusively for training (‘body and spirit’). Smoking had been banned and drinking, although permitted, was frowned upon. Those who assiduously trained were respected and achievements – such as muscle mass, chest size, weights lifted.– were routinely shared. Thus, during filming in the basement, Sergei willingly demonstrated his physical prowess while Andrei advised Al’bina on a personal training regime and explained the significance to ‘real skinheads’ of hygiene, muscle development and a genuinely healthy lifestyle. At this time – during our first period of research – another branch of the group were actively engaged in decorating the body through home tattoos and piercings.


Examples include the group Pagan Reign, Estatic [sic] Fear, Butterfly Temple and Atoll Nerat. Local punk-rock bands such as Epitaphiia and Mazut were also popular but attitudes towards them were more cautious. Some of the young men listened to a broad range of music including the well known Soviet era rock bands Nautilius and DDT. During our evenings together we also witnessed them listening to Russian bards (Vysotsky, for example), so-called ‘criminal music’ (for example Mikhail Krug), or pop music.


Elena Omel’chenko and Al’bina Garifzianova

No less important than taking care of one’s body was the observance of group dress codes which meant being informed about ‘correct’ brands, style, and where and what to buy. Dressing as a skinhead (for example for a street action or for a national holiday) meant wearing the proper (branded) jeans, shirts and jackets. Clothes had to be assembled with forethought and to emphasise your identity. However, this was for special occasions only and to wear skinhead clothes in everyday life was considered stupid and an unnecessary provocation. Another important cultural resource was one’s contribution to the maintenance of the patriarchal gender regime of the group. On a number of occasions the researchers were obliged to join in discussion of the inherent characteristics of women and men, their relative roles in the family, and the necessary qualities of a ‘real man.’ These debates emerged spontaneously but always on the initiative of one of the group leaders. The main proposition was that men were rational, logical and consistent while women were weak, emotional and inconsistent. Thus, Lera, for example, recounted a conflict with one lad who had told her that the movement was no place for girls since it was ‘fighters’ that were needed. However, there was evidence of some ambiguity within this position. Zhenia – the leader of a sub-section of the group, for example – positively evaluated the participation of ‘skin girls’ in the movement. Moreover, there was an apparent contradiction between the young men’s declared positions and their actual behaviour. The girlfriends of all members of the group were treated in a caring way and the researchers (all of whom were women) were warmly accepted into the group. Indeed our observation revealed gendered rules within the group but no overtly sexist behaviour; while one cannot assume that attitudes towards researchers are naturally extended to others, our informants certainly would not have bothered to conceal such practices from us. A further interesting ambiguity relates to the declared homophobia of the group, which was accompanied by evidence of homoerotic behaviour. To the outsider, interaction between the lads appeared physical and intimate. They engaged in specific ritual practices of masculine intimacy such as collective showers, games, the imitation of homosexual relations, and

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striptease demonstrations.17 This observation confirms suggestions from feminist and queer theories about the complex and ambiguous connections and oppositions between homosocial practices, accepted within closed male communities, particularly aggressive and criminally oriented ones, and homophobic feelings, whose demonstration is very important to the maintenance of models of ‘real’/‘hard’ and ‘weak’ men. Within this closed environment of protest and secrecy, it is suggested, the meaning of intimacy and tactility between men is rearticulated, becoming evidence of trust and power rather than weakness and subordination. This kind of sensitivity, particularly characteristic of the criminal world, is expressed in songs, oral narratives and traditions and becomes a kind of mythology which compensates for the harsh reality. The conflict between the two leaders described above provided further evidence of the gendered rules of the group. When the two main leaders of the group clashed, Slava’s girlfriend stood up for him after he had been hit by Andrei. The reaction of both lads, however, was negative; despite their relations having deteriorated to the point of physical conflict, they were united in the opinion that girls ‘should not interfere in such matters.’ The young woman thought she had acted correctly by standing up for her boyfriend; Andrei’s response was that ‘she would also be in trouble’ if she continued to interfere. One might compare here a similarly ambiguous response to the emotional reaction of one of the researchers when she was subjected to an openly xenophobic remark by one of the leaders of the group; he called her ‘virtually black.’18 These, and other, provocative



The forms of male bonding in this group were discussed in greater detail in E. Omel’chenko ‘The paradoxes of “straight” masculinity: homoerotica + homophobia = masculine solidarity?’ Paper presented at the British Sociological Association conference, University of Warwick, March 2008. Al’bina is ethnically Tatar. Skinhead ideology does not allow close contact with ‘blacks’ but since she was not from the Caucasus and Tatarstan was part of the Russian Federation, then, according to Andrei, she might be considered ‘virtually black.’ This incident is described in detail in the researcher’s diary and is of particular interest because it represents an incident in which the researcher experienced herself what it means to be the subject of ethnic intolerance.


Elena Omel’chenko and Al’bina Garifzianova

incidents indicated to us the way in which Andrei marked out his sphere of power, let us know that he was in control and made clear that one’s position in the group depended on his personal disposition. Intersubjective Resources: Trust and Distrust Finally we turn to the discussion of trust as a resource within the group. The verbal and physical demonstration of trust or distrust in one another is one of the most important dimensions of everyday life in the group. An important linguistic indicator of trust and distrust was the distinction between what was acceptable and what was ‘palevo’ (dodgy).19 In the language of the group we observed palevo indicated a range of actions, words, suggestions or observations that could be used by ‘others’ (‘outsiders’) as proof of criminal activity resulting in dangerous consequences for a particular member, or the whole, of the group. Within the group itself, however, palevo referred to the contravention of the accepted, albeit tacit, rules of secrecy within the group. All members of the group should know what was considered acceptable to recount in public (for example to us as researchers) and what should not be recited under any circumstances. Serious information (tales of skinhead actions, criminal or prison experiences, links to the police or official authorities) should only be shared with those you trust. If a group member started to recount something that overstepped the boundary of acceptable trust it could (and did) evoke an extremely negative reaction on the part of the more disciplined members of the group. For informants, overstepping the boundary of controlled communication with the researchers carried the risk of endangering not only themselves but also other members of the group. Thus overt and latent arguments emerged around the acceptable limits of information, feelings


The word ‘palevo’ stems from the verb ‘zapalit’ meaning literally ‘to set on fire’ or ‘burn’ but in a metaphorical sense to reveal, open, betray or report to the police or other authorities. The word is mainly used within criminal circles but it can be used in everyday talk.

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and artefacts shared with the researchers. This came to a head when one of the informants gave a very candid, and emotional, video interview, which caused confusion and consternation among other members of the group. This interview acted as a kind of litmus test for identifying those who had started to trust us and those who continued to see our presence as a potential source of danger (as palevo). Andrei held a particular role in policing the boundaries of acceptable trust and thus of safety. He talked about himself as the indisputable leader of the group and considered it to be his right to determine the boundaries of openness and disclosure to the researchers of skinhead artefacts (such as xenophobic and racist posters and leaflets), tattoos depicting swastikas and other pro-Nazi symbols, memories of participation in fights and attacks on ‘enemies’. After the conflict in the basement his position hardened still further; the conflict had, in his words, made him stop believing in friendship and come to the conclusion that ‘you should trust nobody but yourself ’ (Al’bina Garifzianova’s field diary, 16th September 2007). After this, communication with researchers seemed nothing but a risk – pointless, stupid and threatening to his safety – and his interaction with us was governed by constant self-control over his actions and words in order not to betray himself or others.

From Comrades-in-Arms to Other Lives: Reflections on Group Hierarchy and Dynamics The regime of the group we studied was rooted in the authority of two of its leaders who, at the start of our research, were friends but by the end of it had become open enemies. The participation of both in the construction and maintenance of the group hierarchy was important since they reinforced one another. Both were charismatic, had a hard image and were able to maintain internal group discipline and to command respect. However, despite Andrei’s apparent greater control of leadership resources, by the


Elena Omel’chenko and Al’bina Garifzianova

end of the first stage of research, he had begun to sense a certain competition emerging from his closest friends and comrades-in-arms. This was because his authority was being perceived increasingly as arrogance. The challenges came from a range of divergent sources in the group: from Slava, who was more culturally open and wanted to experience new things; from the sensitive and honest Valera who, in his deeply personal interview, had clearly overstepped the boundary of acceptable trust and entered the zone of palevo; and from the cheerful and talkative Roman who happily set out on camera his deeply anti-Christian world-view. At a certain moment it became clear that the leadership of Andrei had reached a critical point, and the effect of our presence in the group on this did not escape him. Thus, he sought to exert what he saw as his own intellectual superiority over us too, commenting that, ‘Do you think you’ve learned something about me? It’s not you who are researching me but me who is researching you…’ (Andrei, informal conversation with Elena Omel’chenko, 2006). He claimed, moreover, that: You haven’t got any information from us, found out nothing of the truth. In fact I’m glad that we have been talking to you because, thanks to you, I’ve learned to control what I say even better, constantly turn over and see the real meaning of your questions… (Аndrei, interview, 2007.)

He constantly sought to turn the tables on us, provoke offence, humiliate, infuriate or irritate us, for he deeply resented the fact that group members other than him might be of interest to us. Perhaps, therefore, at its heart, the conflict in the group arose because the regime he strived for (based on his personal power and designed to best meet the declared aims of the Russian skinhead movement) came to contradict one of the basic values within the group – friendship. This emerges from conversations other members of the group began to have, as indicated in the following diary extract: Sergei himself began to tell me about Andrei. He said, ‘Do you remember when you told Andrei to his face that you felt…?’ [I replied] ‘You mean when I said that I felt inadequate when he had said that his philosophy didn’t allow him to talk to people like me – virtual blacks?’ [Sergei replied] ‘Yes!!!. Then. Well we all feel like

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that around him. We always feel like that. I do, and Roman and even Slava. Once we even told Andrei. He plays the fucking God and we are nobodies! Even if we have a meet, and we go, the four of us together, it’s still Andrei who does the talking, and we stand behind, waiting while he sorts it all. Just like when we come to the basement and he tells us that he has done everything, that without us, it would have been just the same, that he didn’t need us. But in fact, without us, he is nobody either, despite his strength…’ (Al’bina Garifzianova’s field diary, 20th October 2006)

This recognition of other ways of seeing is mirrored by the general crisis in skinhead ideology. The diminishing of the value of skinhead subcultural capital as everyday xenophobia becomes more widespread, the appropriation of skinhead image by semi-criminal youth, and the growth in popularity of ‘red’ skinheads and the anti-fascist movement have all noticeably weakened the ‘classic’ argument for solidarity. In this context, group members began to seek other, more humane, bases for the construction of a space of safety and trust. For many this space was one of genuine intimacy, openness and ‘other’ lives. Reflecting on the conflict we witnessed within the group, therefore, we suggest that in fact there were not one but two substantive conflicts both of which determined the development of intra-group relations. The first was the more visible conflict over leadership, its bases and resources. The second was a more profound divergence in conviction about one’s chosen path. The consequence of these two conflicts was that the two leaders began to implement different life strategies: one pursued a path that sought new experiences but was full of risk; the other opted for a more solitary but ideologically correct path in which any experience would only confirm the correctness of the choice. In both cases, however, it was being true to one’s own life strategy, rather than to past friendships, that dominated their choices.


Elena Omel’chenko and Al’bina Garifzianova

Conclusion In Russia skinheads are generally classified as a subculture whose behaviour is openly xenophobic and/or racist and whose ideology is national-socialist. However, contemporary youth subcultural scenes are characterized by significant diversity, mobility and fluidity of cultural boundaries leading to the constant emergence of new formations, as styles and ideological models are borrowed or new ones created. Youth cultural scenes, moreover, are influenced by the workings of global cultural and consumer markets. The research drawn on here has considered just one such group which, on the one hand, lends our analysis a relatively local, personal and concrete character, whilst on the other, reveals some contradictions and tensions which might be said to be characteristic of the wider Russian skinhead movement. The group we studied has collapsed and to talk of the existence of a skinhead movement in this northern city today is difficult. However, our continued conversations with informants suggest that the general xenophobic background to our previous conversations, interviews and written exchanges, has not changed. This backdrop is important since our research showed that for many of the young people choosing a skinhead subcultural identity, their xenophobic attitudes had been shaped by authoritative adults – parents who frequently spoke negatively about ‘non-Russians’ – or by friends who had come into the movement earlier. The influence of dominant state discourse on their views was also noticeable, albeit somewhat ironic given their declared opposition to the political system and the state regime. This was evident in shifts in the proclaimed priorities of the struggle as well in the prime targets of hatred, which changed alongside the exacerbation or improvement of diplomatic relations with various countries. The strengthening of national patriotic attitudes as politicians search for a new national idea, calls for the revival of the former power of Russia and the construction of a centralized system of political power also cannot but encourage the development of xenophobic attitudes especially among socially deprived young people. Moreover, the general crisis of trust

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in contemporary Russia provides sustenance to aggressively and nationalistically oriented youth solidarities; when the only recognized guarantee of trust is the president of the country, the potential sources of threat are immediately multiplied. In addition to these general conclusions, the case study presented here allows us to comment on the human implications of the rise of xenophobic youth subcultures. The conflict we observed and its impact on both the regime within the group and the subsequent life strategies of its members demonstrated how incompatible a tough ideological stance can be with everyday manifestations of human ‘being’ (emotions, feelings, empathies). The common space shared by members of the group – a place to hang out and to train – was the joy and pride of the group but became the source of conflict invoking a crisis in the ideology of strength and authoritarian friendship embedded in this kind of tough, xenophobically oriented youth group. We would conclude from this that in order to overcome xenophobic and aggressively nationalistic attitudes it is necessary not only to combat their public manifestations (criminal acts or displays of offensive symbols) but, through broader social programmes and actions, to challenge the ideas behind them themselves. Central to these programmes must be the notion of ‘trust’. The case study outlined here indicates that trust that is built on fear and the denial of the right to honesty and sensitivity is not a viable form of trust, or at least can only be short-lived. Yet the relations between the young men in the group – manifested primarily through the desire for bodily closeness and the physical manifestation of friendship, comfort and support – clearly demonstrated both their feelings of vulnerability and their longing for a basis for mutual trust viable for the long-term.


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References Brubaker, R. (2006). ‘Imenem natsii: razmyshleniia o natsionalizme i patriotizme’ (In the name of the nation: Reflections on nationalism and patriotism), Ab imperia 2: 59–79. Dobroshtan, O. (2004). ‘Stat’ skinkhedom i ostat’sia sotsiologom: Opyt pogruzheniia v druguiu kul’turuiu sredu’ (Becoming a skinhead but remaining a sociologist: The experience of immersion in another cultural environment) in Goncharova (2004), 109–119. Garifzianova, A. (2008). ‘Pozitsiia antropologa pri issledovanii problem ksenofobii’ (The challenges of researching xenophobia), Antropologicheskii Forum, 8: 36–42. Golov, A. (2005). ‘Massovoe vospriiatie natsional’nikh men’shinstv: peremeny za god’ (Public perceptions of ethnic minorities: annual update), Levada Centre, 14 December, accessed electronically at: http://levada. ru/press/2005121400.html Goncharova, N. (ed.) (2004). Polevaia Kukhnia: Kak Provezti Issledovanie, (Cooking in the Field: How to do Research), Ul’ianovsk: Simbirskaia Kniga. Gudkov, L. (2005a). ‘Ideologema “vraga”: Vragi kak massovii sindrom i mekhanizm setsiokul’turnoi integratsii’ (The ideologeme of the ‘enemy’: enemies as a mass syndrome and mechanism of socio-cultural integration). In L. Gudkov and N. Konradova (eds) Obraz vraga (The image of the enemy), Moscow: OGI. 7–80. Gudkov, L. (2005b). ‘Ksenofobiia kak problema, vchera i segodnia’ (The problem of xenophobia, past and present), Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 26 December. Gudkov, L. (2006). ‘Predpogromnoe sostoianie’ (Pre-pogrom conditions), Kommersant, no. 167 (3498), 8 September. Gudkov, L. and B. Dubin (2005). ‘Svoebrazie russkogo “nationalizma”: Pochemu v nem otsutstvuet mobiliziushchee, modernizatsionnoe nachalo’ (The distinctiveness of Russian nationalism: why it lacks a mobilizing, modernizing principle), Pro et Contra, 9 (2): 6–24.

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Hemment, J. (2007). ‘Nashi, youth voluntarism and Potemkin NGOs: Making sense of civil society in post-Soviet Russia’. Paper prepared for the Kennan Institute workshop, International Development Assistance in Post-Soviet Space, May/December 2007. Il’in, V. (2006). Dramaturgiia kachestvennogo polevogo issledovaniia (The Dramatic Art of Qualitative Field Research). St Petersburg: Intersotsis. Istarkhov, V. (2006). Udar Russkikh Bogov (The Russian Gods Strike). Moscow: Russkaia Pravda. Kon, I.S. (2006). ‘Gomofobiia kak forma ksenofobii’. (Homophobia as a form of xenophobia), from Kon’s personal website: http://www. Kozhevnikova, G. (2005). ‘Radikal’nii natsionalizm iprotivodeistvie emu v 2004 godu’ (Radical nationalism and opposition to it in 2004). In A. Verkhovskii (ed.) Tsena Nenavisti: Natsionalizm v Rossii i protivodeistvie rasistkim prestupleniam (The price of hatred: nationalism in Russia and opposition to racist crime), Moscow: SOVA Centre. 11–74. Kozhevnikova, G. (2006). ‘Skinkhed televizionnii’ (The television skinhead) SOVA Centre, 15 May, website: http://xeno.sovacenter. ru/213716E/21728E3/7502623 Kozhevnikova, G. (2007). ‘Rost kolichestva prestuplenii na pochve ksenofobii’ (The rise in xenophobic crime) accessed online at: http://www. Kozhevnikova, G. (2008). ‘Radikal’nii natsionalizm I protivodeistvie emu v 2007 godu’ (Radical nationalism and opposition to it in 2007), accessed online at: A91EC67Kozhevnikova Kozlov, A. (2006). ‘Ul’trapravie tendentsii v futbol’nikh fanatskikh gruppirovkakh v Rossii’ (Ultra-right tendencies among football fan gangs in Russia). In A. Verkhovskii (ed.) Russkii natsionalizm: ideologiia i nastroenie (Russian nationalism: ideology and mood). Moscow: SOVA Centre. 94–102. Likhachev, V. (2002). Natsizm v Rossii (Nazism in Russia). Moscow: Panorama Centre.


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Limonov, E. (2004). Drugaia Rossiia (The Other Russia), Moscow: Presskom/Iauza. Manning, P. (2007). ‘Rose-colored glasses? Color revolutions and cartoon chaos in postsocialist Georgia,’ Cultural Anthropology, 22 (2): 171–213. Nesterov, D. (2004). Skiny: Rus’ probuzhdaetsia (Skins: Rus’ awakes). Moscow: Ul’tra Kul’tura. Omel’chenko, E. (2004a). Molodezh’: Otkrytii Vopros (Youth: An Open Question), Ul’ianovsk: Simbirskaia Kniga. Omel’chenko, E. (2004b). ‘Kak izmerit’ poverkhnost’ Zemli, ili k voprosu o tekhnikakh trianguliatsi’ (How to measure the surface of the earth: on the question of methods of triangulation). In N. Goncharova (ed.) Polevaia Kukhnia: Kak Provezti Issledovanie, Cooking in the Field: How to do Research), Ul’ianovsk: Simbirskaia Kniga. 157–173. Omel’chenko, E. (2008). ‘Pozitsiia antropologa pri issledovanii problem ksenofobii’ (The challenges of researching xenophobia), Antropologicheskii Forum, 8. Omel’chenko E. and Pilkington, H. (2006). ‘Youth Activism in Russia’. In L.R. Sherrod, R. Kassimir, & C. Flanagan (eds) Youth Activism: An International Encyclopedia, vol. 2. Westport, CT: Greenwood. 542–550. Panova, E. (2006). ‘Neterpimost’ v Rossii: Starie i novie fobii’ (Intolerance in Russia: old and new phobias), Ab imperia, 3: 355–388. Pilkington, H. (2008). ‘Pozitsiia antropologa pri issledovanii problem ksenofobii’ (The challenges of researching xenophobia), Antropologicheskii Forum, 8: 97–106. Punanov, G. (2002). ‘Skinkhedy’ (Skinheads), Izvestiia, 20 April. Shenfield, S. (2001). Russian Fascism: Traditions, Tendencies, Movements. New York: Sharpe. Sokolov, M. (2005). ‘Klassovoe kak etnicheskoe: Ritorika russkogo radikal’no-natsionalisticheskogo dvizheniia’ (Class becomes ethnic: the rhetoric of the Russian radical-nationalist movement), Politicheskie Issledovaniia (POLIS), 2. Sokolov, M. (2006). ‘Natsional-bol’shevistskaia partiia: ideologicheskaia evoliutsiia i politicheskii stil’ (The National-Bolshevik party: ideological

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evolution and political style). In A. Verkhovskii (ed.) Russkii natsionalizm ideologiia i nastroenie (Russian nationalism: Ideology and Mood), Moscow: SOVA Centre. 139–165. Umland, A. (2001). ‘Pravii ekstremizm v postsovetskoi Rossii’ (Right-wing extremism in post-Soviet Russia), Obshchestvennie nauki i sovremennost’, 4: 71–84. Umland, A. (2006). ‘Tri raznovidnosti postsovetskogo fashizma’ (Three types of post-Soviet fascism) in A. Verkhovskii (ed.) Russkii natsionalizm: ideologiia i nastroenie (Russian nationalism: Ideology and Mood), Moscow: SOVA Centre. 223–263. Wilson, A. (2005). Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World. New Haven: Yale University Press.


Lithuanian Nationalist Skinhead Subculture: The Features of Identity Tadas Kavolis

Introduction In the era of late modernity, an individual faces a multitude of possibilities to choose from in order to form his or her identity. According to the English sociologist Anthony Giddens (2000: 109), to act, to get involved in the world of multiple choices, means to choose between alternatives when the road signs left by tradition no longer show the direction. The issue of the search for identity is especially visible amongst youth. What or who to be? What to choose? How to express oneself ? The formation of various subcultures – hippies, punks, skinheads, and so on – is associated with youth’s response to various social changes, and this can be seen through the fact that the breakdown of the Soviet regime in Lithuania – and especially the restoration of independence – has been followed by the wide development of new subcultural youth communities in that country. One of these is the skinhead subculture, the template of which was adopted from the West. The empirical data show that Great Britain and the youth subculture movements within it, in this particular case, skinhead subculture, are most frequently indicated by Lithuanian skinhead subcultural members when answering the question about the influences and origins of skinheads in Lithuania. Lithuanian skinheads emphasize the roots of their movement in Great Britain and indicate their own trips to Great Britain and refer to British skinhead films such as Made in Britain and Romper Stomper. In contrast, they do not have contacts with skinheads from Germany and


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did not mention this country or its history in the interviews. Therefore Germany is not mentioned in the chapter as a possible country of origin for skinheads in Lithuania. Has this subculture reached Lithuania in the same state as it was formed in the West? Why, although Lithuanian skinheads are not very numerous, has the subculture become one of the forms of youth self-expression? Answers to these questions necessitate the analysis of Lithuanian skinhead identity, its formation and its most characteristic features. With this in mind, this chapter analyzes one specific strand of skinhead subculture, namely nationalist skinheads.

Methods and Findings of the Fieldwork The analysis of the skinhead subculture was performed using the integrated observation method, that is, through participation in events, actions and meetings, which were recorded and described in the author’s diary. An indepth interview method was also used to interview 24 male respondents aged 14–29 years in the cities of Vilnius and Kaunas (16 respondents in Vilnius and 8 in Kaunas). The selection of the respondents was carried out using the ‘snowball’ technique. The author conducted a group interview of the skinhead music group Diktatūra, filmed the concert of Diktatūra in 2005 in Vilnius, filmed conversations with skinheads in the cities of Kaunas and Klaipėda photographed the activities of the group, took pictures of skinheads during their events and meetings (in total, 135 digital photos were made), and analyzed media documents of the group such as fanzines and websites. Field studies of the nationalist skinhead subculture were performed between Autumn 2004 and Spring 2007. The chapter was written using interpretative, comparative, and descriptive methods.

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Main Concepts Identity, in one sense, reveals uniqueness, individuality and essential differences, separating a person from others or distancing him or her from the rest (self-identity, according to Giddens; see Giddens 2005: 44, Byron 1996: 292). In another sense, it defines the sameness by means of which an individual is attributed or attributes him/herself to a group or category according to clear common characteristics and so indicates that an individual is the same as the others (social identity, according to Giddens). Thus, the two main values of identity are differentiated into individual identity and collective group identity. This chapter focuses on the second concept of identity because it will try to find the ‘common features’ characteristic of the skinhead subcultural group and therefore its collective identity. Subcultural group, subculture. A subcultural group/community is seen as a cultural group existing within a wider culture (Ramanauskaitė 2004: 10). Following Epstein’s summary of theoretical scholarship in the area (1998: 11), one can state that subcultures focus on three levels – the main historical ideas, values, and the material expression. In the widest sense and when generalizing the insights provided by the authors mentioned in this chapter, a subculture could be called a collective formation unified for the solution of a certain problem and characterized by not only a specific ideology (in most cases opposed to the dominant culture), but also by style, values, interests, and activity/practice.

Literature The analysis of the subcultural phenomena that emerged after the restoration of Lithuania’s independence was undertaken using the social scientific writings of Western researchers, analyzing the nature and formation processes of subcultures. Such writings emerged in the second half of the


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twentieth century and analyzed European (mainly post-war British) and American youth subcultures. In one of the key texts in the field, Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain (1975), John Clarke et al discussed important social, economic, and political circumstances in the formation of various subcultures including skinheads. In relation to the analysis of subcultural style and the formation of skinhead subculture, Mike Brake’s The Sociology of Youth Culture and Youth Subcultures (1980) is a valuable source. Jonathon Epstein (1998) examines the formation processes of the identity and style of youth subcultures. A detailed study of Australian skinheads by David Moore, Lads in Action (1994), provides valuable insights into this subculture and looks at the associations between the working class and ethnicity, as well as their hierarchization in the life of skinheads who emigrated from England. A further valuable study by Youra Petrova (2006) analyzes French skinhead subculture and discusses its activity and intersections with other groups of the society. An important study in the field of subcultural identity was produced by Hilary Pilkington (1996), in which she explored the subcultures of today’s Russia in relation to sex, generations and identity. It is important to note that discussion of the concept of nationalism was based on A.D.Smith’s monograph Nationalism in the 20th Century (1994). This choice was conditioned by the fact that the author not only provides a detailed description of nationalism as an ideology in this study, but also compares it with the ideologies of Nazism, fascism, and racism – ideologies that are frequently associated with the skinhead subculture. The discussion of the processes of formation, organization and development of subcultures analyzed by the above is aimed at comparing these theoretical insights with the case of the Lithuanian nationalist skinhead subculture. While this subculture was touched upon by Aušra Gavėnaitė in her article ‘The expression of delinquency in informal youth groups’ (Gavėnaitė, 2003), there have also been several attempts to analyze this subculture in papers by students, overall there is virtually no social scientific literature on Lithuanian skinhead subculture.

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Ideology in Lithuanian Skinhead Subculture Fascism, Nazism, and racism are frequently directly associated with skinhead subculture. Western social scientific literature frequently states that the ideology of right-wing skinheads is racist and/or Nazi. Such sources, however, do not provide reasons for such an opinion, nor do they provide a more profound analysis of the concepts of the aforementioned ideologies. Mass media and Internet sites also readily use the terms ‘Nazi’ and ‘racist’ when speaking about skinheads. Sometimes skinheads are blamed for using nationalism as a disguise to mask fascist, racist and Nazi ideologies. Skinheads themselves do not provide a unanimous answer concerning the orientation of their movement, yet the ideas they advocate are nearly identical in all cases. The ideology that is reflected in the ideas of skinheads is probably best understood by means of the analysis of the theoretical definitions of nationalism, Nazism, fascism, and racism presented by A.D. Smith.

The Main Objects of Nationalism and its Reflections in the Skinhead Subculture According to Smith (1994: 73), nationalism is an ideological movement within a certain social group, which is perceived as a real and potential nation by some of its members, and the gaining and sustaining of unity and identity. So there are three main objectives, which inspire nationalist movements: civic autonomy, territorial integrity and historical identity. The ideal of ‘civic autonomy’ is very important in the movement of nationalist skinheads, because it is connected with the idea that Lithuania should be ruled by Lithuanians. It may be for this reason that they resist the European Union, understanding the country’s membership as creating obligations that are not determined by Lithuanians and thus that by joining the


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European Union Lithuania would risk losing a part of its sovereignty. As one skinhead articulated to me: Q.: What do you think about the European Union? A.: The same as what I think about the Soviet Union – I don’t need it. … We are dependent now. … Because they will do as Brussels wants, but not as the Lithuanian nation needs… (interview with Kf. VMU MCA 26)

The form of territorial integrity and indivisibility is the request that all members of an ethnic group should be in one territorially integral ‘land of the parents’ (Smith, 1994: 70). This is the second aim of nationalism, which is obvious in skinhead ideology. Skinheads emphasize that every nation should have its own state and live within it. Migration is evaluated negatively. According to skinheads, this applies not only to foreigners, but to Lithuanians as well. Q.: What is your opinion about those Lithuanians who live abroad? A.: […] People say – American Lithuanians, English Lithuanians… There are no such Lithuanians – there are only Lithuanian Lithuanians, in my opinion. […]. To me, Lithuanians are only those who live in Lithuania. (interview with Ch. VMU MCA C26)

The third aim of nationalist ideology is to discover or construct and instil historical identity in citizens. This aim is more connected to the recreation of a lost ‘personality’ through researching the community’s past, customs, language, religion and folklore (Smith, 1994: 71). This aim is also reflected in the skinhead subculture. It may be this particular aim that stimulated the majority of skinheads to turn towards the pagan times that symbolize the freedom and autonomy of Lithuania. Some skinheads participate in the activities of various historical warfare clubs and are interested in Lithuanian ethnic culture. The historical moments that saw heroic fights over the nation’s freedom and independence are very important to skinheads. When they organize what they call ‘skincamps,’ they visit the places where Lithuanian partisans have fallen; when they publish their ‘zines’, they also pay attention to historical figures (for example, the leaders of the partisans) and note them. Skinheads also arrange events to mark

Lithuanian Nationalist Skinhead Subculture


important State dates. From the analysis of skinhead ideology, it can be seen that it covers the three main aims of nationalism that A.D. Smith singled out. These aims are helpful for describing the ideas of the group.

Nazi and Fascist Ideologies in Skinhead Subculture Skinheads are sometimes called neo-Nazis. Probably such a name is usually acquired with the help of the skinheads themselves, who use certain Nazi attributes and gestures. Quite often skinheads are also linked to Adolf Hitler. However when asked about their attitude to this historical figure, most skinheads say that ‘Uncle Adolf ’ (as some term him) is not their friend. On the contrary, what is emphasized is that Nazi Germany occupied Lithuania. In Smith’s view (1994: 104), Nazism ‘reverses’ the main aims of nationalism. In Nazi ideology, a nationalist striving for civic autonomy becomes the enslaving of the citizens to the will of the Fuhrer and the State, striving for territorial integrity becomes imperialistic expansion and the march for lebensraum, eliminating ethnically non-homogeneous elements, and the search for national identity is replaced by the selection and breeding of a racial elite. However, this Nazi-type ‘reframing’ of nationalist aims is not characteristic of the ideas of Lithuanian skinheads. In Nazi doctrine, the world is divided not into theoretically equal coexisting nations but rather into racial castes comprising a layered pyramid (Smith, 1994: 104). Skinheads do not make a distinction between ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ nations and emphasize that each nation has its own territory: ‘I think that in reality all nations are equal, but each nation has its own land; this is our land and thus we have to cherish it and care for it’ (interview with D.VMU MCA C26). Skinheads’ opinions about each concrete nation are mostly conditioned by historical facts and Lithuania’s international relationships. Moreover, some skinheads who see themselves as Lithuanian patriots are sometimes of Russian origin or from ethnically


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mixed families, yet this does not prevent them from participating in the skinhead movement. Skinheads do not have the leadership cult that is so significant for fascism. For Smith (1994: 89–90), the emergence of the leader’s mysticism is one of the main elements signifying the transformation of nationalism into fascism. But the skinhead movement in Lithuania does not have a single leader. Several leaders may exist within the same city, and those leaders may have different opinions concerning particular issues and they may indeed be competing among themselves. This can be observed especially in Vilnius and Klaipėda, cities where skinheads are more numerous than elsewhere. Skinheads more closely resemble masculinist youth groups based on common physical activity than fascist organizations characterized by strict order, clear-cut structure and absolute obedience to the leader. Although Nazi symbolism is not popular among Lithuanian skinheads, some solitary instances can be found here as well. Why do Lithuanian skinheads still use Nazi symbolism in their style? When trying to answer this question, we discussed it widely with skinheads. Their answers were nearly identical. They saw the usage of Nazi symbols as a protest and political opposition to the left wing. One of the skinhead leaders generalized this tendency particularly well in an email in which he explained the meaning of Nazi and fascist symbols among Lithuanian skinheads: Generally, all national-socialistic symbolism is like a symbol of rebellion and, as for Lithuanian skinheads, at the beginning it also meant resistance to communism. … Raising the right hand in salute is not avoided either. However, this is done in order to show a certain resistance, and not as a ritual act. … All in all, while talking about fascist ideology among Lithuanian skinheads, it is more visible in the symbolism, or to put it more correctly – on the outside, but not in the inward ideology. (extract from email correspondence)

It can be said that Nazi symbolism gains a whole new content among skinheads and becomes more a sign of a protest or an attribute of a style than the propagation of Nazi ideology.

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Plate 3. Lithuanian skinheads with fascist symbolism ‘on the outside, but not in the inward ideology’.

Racism or Racial Nationalism? Smith notes that racism may be defined as a doctrine that divides the world into racial castes continuously fighting for domination, where the strongest race – the racial elite – is meant to dominate the weaker ones (1994, 118). Skinheads sometimes belittle immigrants of other races, sneering at their cultural peculiarities or their appearance. This seems to be a manifestation of the ‘best’ and the ‘lower’ race principle characteristic of racism. However, when speaking about their attitudes towards immigrants of other races, skinheads state that each race – like each nation – has its own territory, its


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‘true’ home. They also frequently negate the elite race principle characteristic of racist ideology: I do not approve of an ungrounded negative approach towards another nation or even another race – just because they are different. For instance, I may have a negative opinion about blacks or people of other nations living here, but not because they are black or of a different nation. This does not mean that I lift my nation or race above others […] I’m just saying that everyone should live in his or her land. This is what is most important. (interview with De. VMU MCA C26)

The hostility of skinheads towards immigrants (including but not restricted to those of other races) arises from the violation of the territorial principle, since the study showed that skinheads perceive such immigrants as potential colonists. Skinheads understand hostility towards immigrants as a preventive measure for the preservation of the principles of nationalism, whose basis is the preservation of the cultural and ethnic integrity of the ‘land of the fathers.’ The website of the Lithuanian National Front, a key site of information exchange for Lithuanian skinheads, contains articles about the increasing numbers of immigrants in Western countries, about cultural clashes and conflicts and about problems related to immigrants (see LNF). Skinheads perceive the tide of multiculturalism as a threat and thus feel a need to stop it. It is this feeling of threat rather than considering a certain race or nation to be superior to the others that stimulates hostility towards immigrants. Smith identifies ‘racial nationalism’ as a variety of nationalism (1994: 132). Here the idea of the superiority of one’s nation is complemented by a racial component in support of the stricter differentiation of the nation from its neighbours. The ‘racism’ of skinheads does not support the idea of one race’s global domination but rather has the same aims as nationalism, only complemented by a racial element. Thus, skinhead ideology more closely resembles the definition of racial nationalism developed by Smith than pure racism.

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Masculinity in the Skinhead Subculture Researchers consider masculinity to be one of the features of the skinhead subculture – male teenagers of the working class manifest their values through emphasizing manliness and strength. What does the very concept of masculinity mean? According to the sociologist Artūras Tereškinas ‘the analytic tradition that studies manliness is called masculinity or studies of masculinity’ (2004: 10). Masculinity may also be described as a collection of fictions that men are trying to turn into reality (Tereškinas 2004: 12), so becoming a gendered performativity, or socially-constructed form of acting. Men construct masculine identities through normative socially accepted standards of behaviour, appearance, and posture, as well as through popular figures and images circulating in culture. Tereškinas also states that in a separate society there usually exist several models of masculinity, but one of them is always privileged and accepted as the norm – this is hegemonic or normative masculinity: The hegemonic – that is the most accepted in the society – form of manliness is usually characterized by heterosexuality, economic independence, the ability to support one’s family, physical power, rationality, the suppression of painful emotions, domination over women and other men, attention to sexual ‘victories’ and – most importantly – not doing anything that is considered ‘feminine’. The norms of hegemonic manliness emphasize such values as bravery, aggressiveness, and strength of mind and body. (Tereškinas 2004: 15)

Masculine values (hegemonic manliness) and skinheads’ physical activeness are mentioned in all the writings of Western researchers analyzing skinhead identity. David Moore (1994: 66) especially emphasizes the physical activeness of skinheads, stating, for example, that a skinhead cannot call himself a real skinhead if he does not fight. Moore defines skinheads as physically expressing their activity. Values that are attributed to hegemonic manliness are also prominent in Lithuanian skinhead subculture and are reflected in the specific concept of the skinhead lifestyle. Being a skinhead means being ready to fight for one’s ideas, the honour of one’s subculture and for one’s friends, anytime and


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Plate 4. Being a skinhead means being ready to fight: the gendered aggression of skinhead culture.

anywhere. This also means always standing shoulder to shoulder with one’s friends in cases of conflicts and supporting one’s friends not only psychologically, but physically as well. Perhaps because of these requirements of skinhead group members, girls are nearly absent from this subculture. The following interview indicated uncertainty about whether a girl could be considered a real member of the group (a skingirl): Q.: Are there any girls in the group? A.: Girls? They … well, they are not our group members – more like fans, so to speak. We do not consider them as skinheads. There was one in Klaipėda before … but now in Vilnius there are none. Q.: Does this mean that practically there are no skingirls? A.: Well, how to describe them. … Of course, they dress in a way similar to how we do, but … they don’t participate in the same way. … There are girls. … Although

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basically they are skinheads’ girlfriends, and therefore they dress similarly. … There are also soccer fans – they also have a similar style. … Well, one can say there are girls… as we say – there are girls, but one can also say that there are none… (interview with Dv. VMU MCA C26)

Indeed, skingirls among skinheads are evaluated and understood differently. For some, this may be associated with general appearance, such as the Chelsea-type haircut characteristic of skingirls: the hair is cut very short or even shaved, leaving a short fringe at the front and longer strands at the ears, while for others it is associated with common activity. It should be noted that ‘skingirls’ adopt features attributed to manliness – the image of a physically active and strong personality, which is reflected in clothing, communication, and activity. The same can be said about female soccer fans. However, in the context of both the skinhead and the soccer fans – ultras – subcultural girls are rarely thought of as ‘real’ members, the basis for this dismissal being their inability to support friends and at the same time the ideas of the group physically during street fights. When speaking about the transformations of post-socialist youth culture in Moscow, Hilary Pilkington has stated that groupings of youth reflect ‘the gendered nature of cultural practices of youth, described as the tendency of boys to form hierarchical groups or gangs based on common physical activity and competition, while girls usually create private zones in public places or within a concrete subculture on the basis of close relationships with friends’ (1996: 248). These tendencies are also characteristic of Lithuanian skinheads. Their relationships are based on common physical activity and mutual support, which defines a group member’s status and value: Q.: What actions and behaviour are valued among skinheads? A.: Not running from a fight, reliability – simply when you can rely on the person day or night – you just give him a call when you need him, and he comes. Simply reliability and respect for each other. This is more characteristic of older skinheads – they are practically one family, they stand up for each other. … This is what I value most. (interview with CH. VMU MCA C26)


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During a fight, a skinhead cannot flee the fight and leave his friends, even if the adversary has a significant superiority in force – otherwise he would be ejected from the skinhead group. Thus, street fighting serves as a test, an initiation that reveals whether a person can really be a skinhead. A person who is able to stand up for himself, his friends and his ideas acquires respect and a good reputation among skinheads. Mutual support is based not only on physical force, but also on the ability to take care of a group member, for example, skinheads visiting from other cities are always provided with food and a place to stay. The physical activeness characteristic of the skinhead subculture requires the group members to stay in good physical shape. For this reason, many skinheads are engaged in sports – this is one form of common activity among skinheads. Although physical strength is valued within this subculture, skinheads emphasize that what is inside a person is just as important, since physical strength without courage is worthless. A person’s thinking is important as well. According to Pilkington, ‘fighting is not the only factor determining the internal hierarchy. One’s position is fortified by a combination of martial arts, intelligence and other “manly qualities”’ (1996: 254). Courage, force, and intelligence – a sum of these values determines the value of a group member and his status among others. The fact that heterosexuality is one of the features characterizing hegemonic masculinity is most probably related to the negative attitude of skinheads towards sexual minorities. A family is understood as the hetero­ sexual union of a man and a woman: Q.: What is your attitude to sexual minorities? A.: Gays, for instance? Negative. – There should be … for a family there should be a man and a woman. This is what a family is about. A family, then a child… (interview with Dv. VMU MCA C26)

For skinheads it is important not to do what is considered unmanly, in other words what is associated with femininity. Such an approach is well illustrated by skinhead attitudes to males of the Goth subculture, whose image and behaviour sometimes do not correspond to the requirements of hegemonic masculinity and thus are perceived as inappropriate:

Lithuanian Nationalist Skinhead Subculture


Q.: How do you get along with other subcultures? A.: Goths are a good thing because sometimes one can have much fun ridiculing their clothing and everything else. Q.: Do you have any conflicts with them? A.: Sometimes … but just because some male Goths are wearing skirts. (interview with Kf. VMU MCA C26)

Thus the relationships of skinheads with certain groups in the society are conditioned not only by the skinhead ideology that in broad terms can be described as a radical right-wing position, but also by the very understanding of manliness and strongly expressed masculine values. In general, it can be stated that the values that are emphasized by the norms of hegemonic masculinity (courage, aggressiveness and strength of body and mind) are prominent in the nationalist skinhead subculture. Masculine group values most probably conditioned the fact that it is very difficult to find a girl who would be seen as a ‘skingirl,’ that is, an authentic and fully accepted member of this subculture. Notwithstanding Pilkington’s point above, the activity of fighting has a special significance in the background of the aforementioned values. It is in the fight that a group member proves his value and gains the right to call himself a ‘real’ member of the group. Street fighting is an essential element that characterizes the specific lifestyle of skinheads. It is important to note that skinhead subcultural style is not simply about the adoption of masculinist values, but rather about their emphasis through a specific understanding of the skinhead lifestyle. Such a process would hardly be possible if the concept, already discussed, of hegemonic masculinity did not exist in the society whose members choose the skinhead subculture for the expression of their identity.


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The Significance of Image for the Formation of Skinhead Identity According to Dick Hebdige, each subculture creates its own style or ‘vocabulary’ which can be both visual and verbal: (1997: 131), while in Clarke’s view, ‘style incarnates the group’s self-image’ (Clarke 1975: 151). How do skinheads create their style? Western researchers associate skinhead style with the working class and the emphasis on masculinity – the adoption of boots, short jeans and shaved heads was important to the subculture of skinheads, since these external manifestations reflected the significance of masculinity, ‘toughness’ and the working class (Clarke et al 1997: 110–111). Thus, style served for the external manifestation of group values. The concept of ‘style’ is not limited to descriptions of clothing. Phil Cohen (cited in Clarke 1975: 42) states that four things are necessary for the creation of the subcultural style: clothing, music, rituals, and jargon. The subcultural style expresses a certain degree of belonging to the subculture and indicates membership. According to Brake (1980: 12), a style consists of three elements: the image (clothing, accessories, haircut, etc.), behaviour (expression, posture, gait), and jargon (specific language, vocabulary). In short, this means what people wear, how they wear it, and how they talk. In researching Australian skinheads, Moore (1994) paid significant attention to their style. In his analysis, style is at the centre of the skinhead subculture and identity, and it is through style that relationships are organized, other members are recognized and belonging to the group is manifested. The visual style is more than merely clothing – it is more an approach to life and a manifestation of behaviour. ‘Skinheads’ visual style serves as a sign of opposition to the mainstream world’ (1994: 36). Moore describes skinhead style as loud and aggressive, which conditions the viability of the image of skinheads as a violent group in the consciousness of society (1994: 67). According to Moore, in the skinhead subculture, individuality is emphasized as well: ‘Becoming a skinhead does not mean entering a closed system where the newcomer is made to accept certain views and clothing.

Lithuanian Nationalist Skinhead Subculture


On the contrary, individuality is strongly emphasized. […] Every newcomer has to create/define his own position in the group and this position would not be adopted by other group members if this person withdrew from the subculture’ (1994: 54–55). There also exists a certain expropriation of skinhead style. For instance, he presents as an example, an Australian skinhead’s conflict with one young man whose clothing clearly demonstrated a favouring of the Oi! musical style. This conflict shows hostility expressed towards a non-skinhead who expressed his liking of skinhead music (Moore 1994: 55). Undoubtedly, visual style is also important for Lithuanian skinheads – a member of the subculture is firstly recognized by the clothing style and the details of an external image. Therefore this is externally the clearest aspect of identity. The image of Lithuanian nationalist skinheads consists of shaved or short hair, rolled-up jeans or military trousers displaying military-type boots (sometimes with white laces). Braces are another detail of the image. They can be worn either functionally, up over the shoulders, or loosely hanging down. Skinheads wear short flight jackets (bomber jackets) with various sewn-on symbols, such as the national flag of Lithuania, the Gediminaičiai sign (a national symbol), the Vytis Cross, as well as various symbols of the international skinhead movement – the inscriptions ‘Skinhead,’ ‘White Power’ and so on. Of all the above image details, the skinhead movement tags are those that allow for the clearest identification of a skinhead, since army boots, bomber jackets, jeans or army pants, and the Lithuanian tricolour flag are also worn by representatives of other subcultures. Short hair or shaved heads are also not exclusive attributes of skinheads. A skinhead’s image is best reflected by the sum of the details mentioned above. However, even in this case a nationalist skinhead resembles a representative of other similar skinhead movements such as Oi! or sharps or soccer fans like the ultras. This is conditioned by the common roots of all skinhead movements and the resultant similar clothing style. For this reason, sewn-on symbols indicating belonging to the nationalist skinhead subculture are the main identifiers from the skinheads’ point of view. The importance of sewn-on symbols is also confirmed by the fact that skinheads who bring dishonour to the movement or prove to be unsuitable for the movement may have the national tricolour torn away upon being


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ejected to prevent the further dishonouring of the movement: ‘if you come without knowing anything – just with the national flag sewn on, it will be torn off, and all your “skinheadism” will be over’ (interview with F. VMU MCA C26). Thus, upon leaving the group, all identification signs indicating belonging to the group are taken away. Moore’s example of an Australian skinhead’s conflict with a non-member who was using skinhead-specific symbols shows that skinheads strive to visually define group borders. This is also confirmed by Lithuanian skinheads’ attitude to wearing symbols characteristic of the skinhead subculture. Other signs of identification, also expressing the political views and ideas of the group, such as negative attitudes towards the immigration of people of different races, extend even to the micro-detail of the image, such as bootlaces. White bootlaces symbolize for skinheads the white race and what they perceive as its struggle for survival. However, such details may show not only the ideas but also a member’s status in the group: A.: […] Well, it was before, when things were better organized. Then this was an identification sign of a young skinhead. Up to 18 years of age they wore yellow shoelaces as a sign that they were young. Yes, yellow. This was earlier, many years ago – when there was an organization. […] Q.: Did older skinheads wear white shoelaces? A.: Yes, white or black. If a guy was young – then yellow. But it only continued for maybe a year. Q.: And now – can any skinhead wear white shoelaces or do they have to achieve something for that? A.: Earlier, a guy should have achieved something to wear white shoelaces. Nowadays, anybody can do that. Of course, if we had a stricter organization, a guy who is not worthy of wearing white shoelaces would have them taken away. […] But now … everybody wears what they want. (interview with Dv. VMU MCA C26)

The above excerpt from an interview reflects another meaning of the external image details – more to show the hierarchical rank within the subculture rather than merely indicating belonging to this subculture. However, this tendency – the differentiation of group members according to the external signs of their hierarchical rank – was already absent at the time of the study. Although skinhead style is associated with the working class, Moore indicates that the ethnic category is becoming more important

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to Australian skinheads. Working class identity is losing its significance among Lithuanian nationalist skinheads as well. This may be because in Lithuania (as, incidentally, in Australia or France), the subculture no longer represents this social class. Lithuanian skinheads have various educational levels and occupations. In Lithuania, the skinhead style is associated with the expression of right-wing views, at the same time recreating the skinheads’ specific lifestyle which is characterized by emphasizing masculinity. It is for this reason that the nationalism of skinheads sometimes acquires the forms of chauvinism and aggression, which is due not so much to the ideology itself but rather to its mode of expression. In general, it can be stated that skinheads tend to express their identity and belonging to the group externally as well. The selected image obliges the group member to behave according to the rules of the group and if he fails, he may be separated from the group and even have the external signs of group membership taken away. In practice, this may mean that the group member who is dropped did not perform the masculine values of the group (he fled from a fight) or that his personal, ideological views did not conform to those of the group (his actions compromised the ideological position of the group). The skinhead style for the nationalist skinheads first of all expresses their ideological position. This is externally manifested through their ample use of national Lithuanian symbols.

The Construction of Identity I have discussed the most important features of the Lithuanian nationalist skinhead subculture – ideology (mainly nationalist), values (masculinist), and image (the skinhead visual style). I have touched upon the interrelationships between these features, but this merits further discussion – namely, how these features interconnect and create the identity of an individual as a group member. In his 1955 ‘General theory of subcultures’, Albert K. Cohen (1997) discussed the origins and the development of


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subcultures: ‘Every choice is an act, and every act is a choice. Not every act is a successful decision, since our choice may leave unsolved tensions or result in new unexpected consequences’ (44). In his view, what makes members of the community refuse adaptation and gather into groups is ‘a considerable number of individuals with similar adaptation problems’ (Cohen 1997: 48). Thus, the formation of subcultural groups is stimulated by attempts to solve the same problems. In Clarke’s view, ‘[group] identity is created not only through the internal processes of the group, but also through the relationship of the group with the situation in which other important groups participate. “Negative” reactions to other groups, events, ideas, etc. become highly important in the process of the formation of group identity, whereas positive reactions are also important in some respects. The drawing of the border between group membership and other groups is one of the main functions of an idiosyncratic subcultural style’ (1975: 151–152). Subcultural identity in a group may be perceived and described through the comparison of one’s own group with other groups. For example, Lithuanian nationalist skinheads perceive themselves as those standing against immigration, drug addiction, and so on. The identity of a skinhead as a group member is strengthened by the understanding of what his subculture is fighting for and against. The Lithuanian National Front’s website provides the self-presentation of the Lithuanian skinheads, with a skinhead manifesto which states: ‘First of all, a skinhead is a person – a person who disobeys popular stereotypes, cosmopolitanism, identity loss and the refusal of the concept of honour’ (see LNF). A skinhead’s identity is manifested through opposition to the modern global phenomena that are evaluated negatively by skinheads. Such an evaluation stems directly from the sense of a threat to national identity (which is strongly emphasized by the members of the skinhead subculture). Conflict arising from the everyday social situation is one of the factors that stimulates the activeness of the skinhead movement: Q.: How did you get interested in the skinhead movement? A.: Well, it was all after Independence… All the anti-Russian attitudes, all the wrong we suffered and held against them for a long time, and in general – who likes being

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approached by some Russian-speaking rowdies in the street who threaten to beat you up and tell you ‘gavary pa normalnamu jazyku’ [speak normally], i.e. in Russian. It’s our country after all… (interview with M. VMU MCA C26)

Everyday ethnic humiliation-related impulses stimulate the wish to defend national dignity and thus stimulate group members toward common activity, strengthening group member identities: Q.: There should be something that brings you all together […] A.: It’s that you can resist – you know – not to allow various Chinese, Gypsies, and others to feel at home here, to show that you’re not afraid to be Lithuanian … to certain individuals… to various punks and such. (interview with G. VMU MCA C26)

In Lithuania, nationalist skinheads are united by the idea of fighting everything that, according to them, is alien to the Lithuanian culture and is a threat to the existence of the Lithuanian nation. Thus, a two-way relationship of the group with the external world is created, which on the one hand is conditioned by the ideology of the skinheads, and on the other, by external factors. Perhaps for this reason skinheads are most numerous in the cities with the most cosmopolitan and international populations, such as Vilnius and Klaipėda. Examples of the relationship between the number of foreign-born inhabitants and the skinhead movement are also found in Russia. In discussing the skinhead movement in Moscow, Pilkington (1996: 251) has stated that the movement is territorially strongest in the districts that have the most foreigners. Thus, the skinhead movement is affected by external conditions – the conflict with the environment is highly significant for the creation and strengthening of the subcultural identity. The examples provided show that members of the nationalist skinhead subculture in Lithuania gathered together in a common group in order to solve what they identify as the following emergent problems. Firstly, defending what they view as their national dignity, and secondly, preserving their cultural, ethnic/racial identity in the ‘land of the fathers’ in the presence of the growing immigration of representatives of other races and cultures. Skinhead subcultural style is formed because of a specific lifestyle – the emphasis on masculine values and the firm solidarity of the community


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– which is chosen as a means of solving the above-mentioned problems. Such a lifestyle becomes especially effective in defending one’s national identity by ‘playing’ according to the masculinist rules common among young males. Here one can bring the previously mentioned example where on the street, a person is approached by a Russian-speaking youth who orders him to speak ‘normally’, that is, in Russian, or face the consequences. He can start speaking Russian in order to avoid physical violence, he can try running or calling the police – yet this would be considered unmanly and thus not only national but also ‘masculine’ dignity would be undefended. The only ‘manly’ thing to do would be to resist physically. The example of the skinhead subculture in Western countries, the emphasis on the strength of body and mind, militancy and firm solidarity in the face of conflict become attractive to Lithuanian youth who experience similar situations. Another factor, the protest against immigration, becomes something like the defence of one’s own territory through clearly manifested hostility – sometimes in the form of violence – to immigrants, in order to show that these others are not welcome and ‘should not be here’. As mentioned before, Brake (1980: 78) has stated that defence of a local territory may turn into a certain prejudice and racism. However, he has also noted that anti-immigration attitudes predominated in the larger society – such racism was widespread in Great Britain at that time and reflected the attitude of the British society towards immigrants (Brake 1980: 77–78). Thus, hostility towards immigrants or the ‘hegemonic’ concept of manliness are not exclusive to the skinhead subculture. The characteristic feature is their expression, emphasizing ‘manly’ aggressiveness and force. The members of the nationalist skinhead subculture feel a need to defend their ideological position against hostile subcultures and the propagation of such ideas as cosmopolitanism, tolerance of sexual minorities and so on, which are negatively evaluated by skinheads. Thus, the choice of the subculture not only provides the means for solving certain problems, but also creates tensions for new members. Due to a certain cult of physical manly force existing within this subculture, skinheads are frequently feared. Sometimes this characteristic of the subculture is even seen as a feature of Nazism or fascism due to the skinhead concepts of ‘a nation as the residence of power’ and the cult of

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violence that are also of importance for these ideologies (see Smith 1994). However, skinheads lack the concomitant ideological content necessary to become ‘fascist.’ The emphasis on force and firm solidarity is not exclusive to skinheads. It also exists among soccer fans – whose political views may be left-wing as well as right-wing – as well as among skinhead movements that call themselves ‘anti-fascist’. Considering the fact that neither of the discussed features are exclusively characteristic of the skinhead subculture (with the possible exception of specific sewn-on symbols), one can conclude, that only all of the above-mentioned features taken collectively define the identity of the group member (see Table 4 below). These features condition relationships with other subcultures and define the borders of the nationalist skinhead subculture. Table 4. The construction of a nationalist skinhead’s identity.


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Conclusion In Lithuania, nationalist skinhead ideas emphasize the main aims of nationalist ideology – civic autonomy, territorial integrity and historical identity. Meanwhile, neither Nazi, nor fascist ideology is characteristic of this subculture. The ‘racism’ of skinheads has features typical of nationalism and thus is more similar to the ideology of racial nationalism described by Smith rather than to pure racism. Nationalist skinheads typically emphasize values attributed to hegemonic masculinity, such as courage, aggressiveness, intelligence, and physical strength. The group is characterized by a strong communal solidarity that is mostly based on common physical activity. The activity of fighting is highly prominent in the concept of the skinhead lifestyle – one cannot call oneself a skinhead if one does not fight. For this reason, skinhead nationalism sometimes acquires the form of chauvinism and aggression. However, the reason for this is the mode of the expression of the ideology rather than the ideology itself. Nationalist skinheads also make use of an external expression of their identity and belonging to the group. Style for this subculture first of all manifests their ideological position – it is through the specific sewn-on symbols with national attributes (the national flag, the Gediminaičiai sign, the Vytis Cross) that nationalist skinheads externally dissociate themselves from other skinhead groups. The nationalist skinhead subculture may be seen as a reaction to such phenomena of globalization as immigration and multiculturalism, as well as a reaction to multi-ethnicity that is conditioned by historical factors. Skinhead identity is consolidated by the need to defend national dignity, to preserve ethnic, racial and cultural integrity and to defend their position against hostile subcultures. The choice of the skinhead subcultural style reflects their specific lifestyle and becomes a means for solving emerging problems.

Lithuanian Nationalist Skinhead Subculture


Note on Interviews The interviews were collected and coded in co-operation with my colleague Virginija Ožeraitytė. Explanation of references: Kf. VMU MCA C26 (Kf – the abbreviated and anonymised name identity of interviewee; VMU MCA – Modern culture archives of the Culture research centre of Vytautas Magnus University; C26 – registration number of the data record).

References Brake, M. (1980). The Sociology of Youth Culture and Youth Subcultures: Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll? London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Byron, R. (1996). Identity: Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology. London: Routledge. Clarke, J. (1975). ‘Style.’ In Hall, S. and T. Jefferson (ed.) Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Clarke, J., S. Hall, T. Jefferson, and B. Roberts (1997). ‘Subcultures, cultures and class.’ In Gelder K. and Thornton S. (eds). The Subcultures Reader. London: Routledge. Cohen, A.K. (1997). ‘A general theory of subcultures.’ In Gelder K. and Thornton S. (eds). The Subcultures Reader. London: Routledge. Epstein, S.J.. (ed.) (1998). Youth Culture: Identity in a Postmodern World. Oxford: Blackwell. Gavėnaitė, A. (2003). Delinkvencijos raiška neformaliose jaunimo grupėse. (The Expression of Delinquency in Informal Youth Groups). Sociologija. Mintis ir veiksmas Nr. 2. Klaipėda: KU Sociologijos katedra. Giddens, A. (2000). Modernybė ir asmens tapatumas. (Modernity and SelfIdentity – Lithuanian edition). Vilnius: Pradai.


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Giddens, A. (2005). Sociologija. (Sociology – Lithuanian edition). Kaunas: Poligrafija ir informatika. Hebdige, D. (1997). ‘Subculture: the meaning of style.’ In Gelder K. and Thornton S. (eds). The Subcultures Reader. London: Routledge. LNF. ‘Lietuvos nacionalinis frontas’ (Lithuanian National Front) Website. Moore, D. (1994). Lads in Action. Great Britain: Athenaeum Press. Petrova, Y. (2006). ‘Global? Local? Multi-level identifications among contemporary skinheads in France.’ In P. Nilan and C. Feixa (eds) Global Youth? Hybrid Identities, Plural Worlds. London: Routledge. Pilkington, H. (1996). Gender, Generation and Identity in Contemporary Russia. London: Routledge. Ramanauskaitė, E. (2004). Subkultūra. Fenomenas ir modernumas. (Subculture: The Phenomenon and Modernity). Kaunas: Vytauto Didžiojo Universitetas. Smith, A.D. (1994). Nacionalizmas XX a nžiuje. (Nationalism in the 20th Century – Lithuanian edition). Vilnius: Pradai. Tereškinas, A. (2004). Vyrai, vyriškumo formos ir maskulinizmo politika šiuolaikinėje Lietuvoje. (Men, Forms of Manliness, and the Masculinity Policy in Modern Lithuania). Vilnius, Vilniaus Universiteto Lyčių Studijų Centras.


Hip-Hop in Rakvere: The Importance of the Local in Global Subculture Maarja Kobin and Airi-Alina Allaste

Introduction Hip-hop started as a form of story-telling of the personal experiences of black ghetto youth in marginalized conditions in 1970s New York (see Light 1999; Maxwell 2003; Bennett 2001: 88–103). Young people from different ethnic backgrounds in other cities and regions have reworked rap and hip-hop so that it incorporates local knowledge and sensibilities, transforming rap into a means of communication that works in the context of specific localities (Bennett 2001: 93–94). Lull speaks about the cultural mobility of rap through the concept of cultural reterritorialization which recasts cultural forms as malleable resources that can be inscribed with new meanings relating the particular local context within with such products are appropriated (cited in Bennett 2001: 94). Krims (2000) points to two cases of localized (and globalized) rap music. In each case – rap music in the Netherlands and Cree rap in Canada – he points out the need, in order to understand the music, not to focus solely on the influences from American rap. Instead it is necessary to see how the global is mediated by the local and therefore to pay more attention to local determinations. The aim of this chapter is to explain how a widespread global youth hip-hop culture has manifested itself in a small provincial town, Rakvere in Estonia which is far away from major cultural centres. What kind of impact is there from the global subculture and how has the local context – the prevailing norms in Estonian society and the cultural conditions in


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Rakvere – impacted on it? The foundational elements of hip-hop culture, DJs, MCs, break dancing and graffiti are manifested in youth cultures across the globe (Peterson 2006: 357), including Estonia and Rakvere. This chapter mostly focuses on the music scene of hip-hop culture in Rakvere and does not analyse break dancing and graffiti. The chapter will analyse the most characteristic aspects of hip-hop in Rakvere: the strong emphasis on authenticity; the strong focus on neighbourhood and the importance of locality; the subculture as the basis for constructing gender and as a protest and criticism towards established society.

Theoretical Framework Subcultures are generally recognized as being sub-groups of the larger society. The Birmingham School defined subcultures as homogeneous groups resistant to the values and norms embraced by the dominant culture and as young people’s imaginary solutions to conflicts between the culture of their working class parents and the dominant mass culture. The latter definition has been found unsuitable for analysing young people in post-modern societies (Bennett 1999). Post-subcultural theory takes into account modern theories of individualization, the fragmentation of previous forms of society and the expansion of consumer culture. It argues that in the contemporary world, subculture is rather a distinctive form of consumption, which gives to the individual a more extensive freedom of choice (Hodkinson 2006). Young people belong to networks based on similar tastes and values and navigate between them (Muggleton 2000). As the borders between insiders and outsiders are rather unclear, the concept of subcultural capital (Thornton 1995) becomes useful for explaining the logic of subcultural norms and values. Thornton conceives ‘hipness’ as a form of subcultural capital, a notion derived from Bourdieu’s ‘cultural capital’ (Bourdieu 1984). Subcultural capital confers status on its owner in the eyes of the relevant beholder (Thornton 1995: 11). Holders of subcultural

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capital are also known by those they do not know, have the greatest impact on the creation of subcultural knowledge and have a role as trend-setters. Subcultural knowledge is important as a means for distinction. The logic of subcultural capital works more through the values that its holders do not like and through what subcultural members are not. They define themselves through opposition to the mainstream, rather than defining themselves in their own terms. Thornton describes how some subcultures are ‘hip’ in the beginning and then become mainstream and therefore the subcultural capital loses its primary value. As youth subcultures today are international, the question remains about the different impacts they have on young people’s lives. Globalization has been perceived as a form of Western, ethnocentric and patronizing cultural imperialism, which invades local cultures and lifestyles and contributes to the erosion of national cultures and historical traditions (Beck 1997, cited in Lemish et al 1998: 1–2). Roland Robertson, on the other hand, emphasizes that the global and the local mutually constitute each other and mesh to form the glocal. We live in a world of local assertions against globalizing trends. Glocalization is defined as the consumption of global products by locally contextualized audiences, who create their own meanings and process them to serve their own social and cultural needs (cited in Lemish et al 1998: 1–2, see also Robertson 1995: 24–44).

The Social Context: Estonia and Rakvere The early 1990s, after the restoration of independence, marked the beginning of a deep social transformation in Estonia – the re-introduction of political democracy and a capitalist economy. Economically, culturally and with reference to media influence, Estonia once again became part of a world order centred in the West (Allaste and Lagerspetz 2002). These changes in society were accompanied by a switch in value orientations. Achievement and material success became extremely important especially


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to the younger generation. As the younger generation, now in their forties, took up a crucial position in society at a time of societal change, it initiated a discourse of young people as successful winners. Early achievements and success became an obligation for young people, in contrast to Western Europe where it is common that people in their thirties still study, young people are expected to already have a successful career in their twenties. This pressure has initiated the ‘show off ’ mentality (Allaste 2006), which means that young people who may not be successful enough, at least try to appear as if they were, showing themselves to be materially better off and paying particular attention to those parts of their lifestyles which are visible to others. Rakvere is the county town of Lääne-Viru (West-Viru) County, a small town situated in Northern Estonia with about 17,000 inhabitants. It presents an image of itself as a crazy city, powerful and with brave and original ideas. The concept of the crazy city was introduced widely in 2007 when Rakvere applied (unsuccessfully, as it transpired) for the status of European Capital of Culture for 2011. However, it attained the status of partner city to Tallinn, which did receive capital of culture status. For a city of its size, Rakvere has a rich cultural life, with a professional theatre and international drama and arts festivals. The city council has initiated many interesting events such as the celebration of the 200th birthday of Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, the author of the Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg (Sikk 2005), and European Day with the public reading of the Treaty of Rome (Marko 2007). Recently there was a punk music festival which was seen as a rather bold initiative that caused widespread public discussion about high and popular culture. The official slogan of Rakvere – Full of Power – supports the image discussed above. Rakvere is believed to have a wealth of economic, intellectual and demographic resources (Rakvere official website).

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Outlining Hip-Hop Subculture in Rakvere Hip-hop in Rakvere is strongly connected to the wider non-mainstream local music scene. Participants listen to and artists produce music which is not solely hip-hop but rather a mix of different styles. They also listen to house, drum n’ bass, jazz, reggae (dub), UK garage or grime, almost all of which are also produced in Rakvere. The representatives of all of these different styles, including hip-hop, communicate with each other. All the genres which are shared and listened to in the music scene of Rakvere are distinct from general mainstream musical taste. In accordance with postsubcultural theory, it is not possible to clearly define who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ in the Rakvere hip-hop scene and membership depends on the feeling of belonging and group acceptance. There is a difference within the group between the inner circle – respected artists and trendsetters – who cultivate a distance from the wannabes.

Elitism Rather than confronting society through rebellion, collective identity in Rakvere hip-hop is based on elitism. People involved in the hip-hop scene tend to consider themselves better than ‘others,’ in the mainstream, since they believe themselves to be more authentic and honest compared to average mainstream people who are believed to be phoney. Musical taste in hip-hop, becomes an indicator of sophistication in the eyes of rappers. The quotation below explains the basis of the formation of a friendship group of rappers: Male, 28b, central figure: Listening to good music means good taste. Good club music. It [the friendship group] means a friendship circle, common interests, values and the respect of good


Maarja Kobin and Airi-Alina Allaste music; you should have a certain level of intelligence. Lowbrows will feel themselves at some point that they don’t fit in with the circle.

This elitism denotes boundaries, asserts authenticity and also builds community among the subculture (see Clay 2003: 1348–1350).

Defining ‘Us’ against Abstract ‘Others’ ‘Us,’ the subcultural group, is defined against abstract, tasteless ‘subcultural others’ (Muggleton 2000). The most important distinction is definitely against mainstream popular culture and music, which is seen as empty and pointless: Male, 25a, central figure: I spoke about how things are. Let’s take songs, from an arbitrary radio station, like Radio 2, most of the Estonian songs which are played there are popular hits and things… What do they sing about? They sing how beautiful you are and what we had between us… this whole topic is so overdone and well-known but the big hits are still this relationship thing. But why don’t they speak about bad things such as the problems of society? Simply because these problems will not become popular.

The attitude towards mainstream popular music and its icons is expressed by public irony as exemplified below: Male, 18: I have seen here in Rakvere, some stickers where it says ‘Rest in peace, Mikk Saar,’ ‘Rest in peace, Vanilla Ninja’ and ‘Rest in peace, Nexus.’ I think it means something like this, that their time is over. That somebody else still thinks the same way as me, I think.

Mikk Saar, Vanilla Ninja and Nexus are all very popular mainstream artists in Estonia and most of the rappers do not appreciate them. On the other hand, true rappers in Rakvere also define themselves against the popular forms of hip-hop which reach the mainstream media.

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When hip-hop is believed to have lost its authenticity, then it is perceived similarly to mainstream popular music: Male, 18: What you hear on the radio, is relatively commercial. I don’t like it, perhaps women like it more or those who don’t know what the real thing is. Like this concert of 50 Cent [famous US hip-hop artist] which there was; I wouldn’t have gone there for money, this is not the right thing…. When you listen to those words and what he sings and speaks about, then you understand that this is crap, this is not the right thing. It is like commercial music, made for money.

As hip-hop has been quite popular in Estonia for at least one decade, it has attracted many followers. Rappers in Rakvere who believe themselves to be true and authentic, distinguish themselves from wannabes, who do not know much about hip-hop culture and music but are trying to copy popular hip-hop artists in their appearance and style. For many rappers in Rakvere the term hip-hopper has a negative image as it is mostly connected to wannabes. Male, 20c: Q.: Do you use the word hip-hopper? A.: In my opinion it is not a good word. It has the bad taste of being popular. People who wear large clothes are right away hip-hoppers, they listen a little bit to 50 Cent [etc ] – they are referred to like this, that’s why I don’t like the word myself.

Wannabes are more often seen as young teenagers who want to feel and look like cool rappers (not to mention hip-hoppers). Female, 23: For me [a hip-hopper] is a young stripling who imagines things about himself.

Because the term hip-hopper mostly has a negative image in Rakvere, we use the term (male) rappers in this chapter, a term that has been used by informants and which refers to MCs, DJs, graffiti artists, break dancers and simply to those who listen to rap music.


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Authenticity and Subcultural Capital The most important attribute in the subculture is to be authentic and that means that you have to rap about your own experience – your life, your actions and the environment of Estonia or Rakvere. It is important to be straightforward and honest towards society in rap messages. The latter, however, have to be combined with talent and skills in order to be able to influence people: Male, 28a, central figure: Lord… You hear his train of thought about something then… He has all these essential thoughts, that show you that for some kind of phenomenon in society, you can look at it like this. Some kind of unsubstantiated phenomenon in society, he simply pulls the plug on it, showing it from another corner as another thing. Then you understand that, Oh yeah, things really are like that.

Being convincing is also very important – there should be no doubt that what is being told is true: Male, 27, central figure: Q: What is a real or true hip-hop artist like in your opinion? A: Gang Starr… The guy who sings, raps, his lyrics are like this; that you can’t doubt them. Even when you are here in Estonia, when you listen to what he is doing there in NY, then you can’t have doubts about that.

As in hip-hop in general, it is one’s own style and identity which should be revealed in hip-hop and which affords status and respect (MacDonald 2002: 94–150, Rose 2006). Dedication is also important (see also MacDonald 2002: 94–150), to do the thing because one is really interested in it rather than doing it for the money. Dedication might also be connected to stressing one’s origins and being faithful to them: Male, 28c: Q: But who are the most popular or leaders of the rap scene? A: I think Hash and Stupid F. They are the most respected. … Their album is highly anticipated, as far as I can see it from outside.

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Q: But why is it like this? Why do people like them? A: It’s how they have pushed really hard this Rakvere thing, the name of RLV Massive and Rakvere…. Musically they have made a certain place for themselves a long time ago, not only in the hip-hop music scene but also elsewhere.

Being authentic, talented, with your own style and dedicated becomes part of subcultural capital and confers status in the eyes of its beholders. On the other hand, the same people are trend-setters and influence the subculture the most. The inner circle, mostly artists with high subcultural capital, represent the important values of the group, whereas their followers are connected to hip-hop culture to a different degree and who is ‘us’ and who is not, is unclear. In contrast with general post-subcultural explanations that stress similar taste in formation of groups the place of residence is a rather important factor of distinction among Rakvere rappers – although the possibility of becoming part of the group is not excluded for people from other areas, it might be complicated.

The Importance of Locality When the tag TAKI183 started to spread in the streets of the Bronx, New York, in the early 1970s, it consisted of an artist’s free choice about his name but also referred to his home turf (183rd Street). Where you are from is important in hip-hop. Rapping in songs about space and place are important factors which influence identity formation as they relate to localized practices of the self. It would hardly be possible to comprehend Snoop Dogg without acknowledging his Long Beach roots (Forman 2004: 155–157) or Ice Cube without referring to Los Angeles. Where these people are from is an essential element of who they are and what they project, whether in the broader regional sense of space or in the more finely nuanced and closely delineated scale of place. Emphasis on the broader regional space (West Viru county and also Estonia in general) and more enclosed place (Rakvere) are present in


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Rakvere hip-hop songs and also in its members’ lifestyle. Almost all of the artists who do hip-hop in Rakvere have lived there since their childhood and it is home for them: the place where they played, had fun and grew up, the place where they went to school, where their parents and friends are living or lived at one time. Although some of them have moved away for example to Tallinn, the capital city, in order to go to university or for work, they frequently come to Rakvere for almost every weekend in order to attend or organize a party. You could also call this local patriotism. Rakvere is something that unifies different artists. Identity in hip-hop is deeply rooted in the specific, the local experience and one’s attachment to and status in the local group or alternative family (Rose 2005: 401–414; Rose 2006). Male, 28c: Q.: Why rap about Rakvere? Most of you are in Tallinn by now, why not rap about Tallinn? A.: Well you still come here so often, for most of us it is still home … Stupid F still has words like this, which are about the life of Rakvere. When we are in Tallinn usually we move around like a small Rakvere … We are together at parties, before the parties, [very close at parties]. We stick together a lot. I don’t know why it is like this. But it is still home and what goes on here is where the heart is.

Rakvere is positively represented in many ways in hip-hop lyrics as the the song RLV exemplifies (RLV Massive – Mõistatuslikud tegelased): If you want to get rich, go to Tallinn. If you want to become clever, go to Tartu. But there is a happy medium – Rakvere.

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Hoodlum Rap The specific local rap genre, named hoodlum rap, characterizes Rakvere rap and is unique in both style and the topics of the lyrics. Hoodlum rap is described in interviews as strong, aggressive and powerful, with the focus on parties, women, fights and toughness. It was a local MC from Rakvere who introduced the term hoodlum rap, as there is no ghetto and there are no gangsters in Estonia, but there are hoodlums hanging around, that is young teenage boys spoiling for fights and engaging in anti-social behaviour. Male, 28a, central figure: That’s why this term [hoodlum rap] is in use as gangsta-rap would be inappropriate in Estonia and not very real, but hoodlum rap sounds correct and is real.

It was perhaps the peaceful and boring life of Rakvere and the lack of excitement in young people’s lives which influenced them to take on the dangerous, American, inner city streets lifestyle from MTV music videos or as described in rap lyrics – it was the wish for a ghetto of their own – which gave birth to hoodlum rap from Rakvere.

RLV Massive In hip-hop there have always been crews, posses or gangs acting both as local sources of identity and as a support system. Rakvere has the famous friendship circle named RLV Massive – a term that is widely used in the Rakvere music scene. It is connected both with making and listening to music and Rakvere itself, as place of origin and as lyrical content, it is stressed in performances, in lifestyle and it shares a strong feeling of community. RLV refers to both the town of Rakvere and the broader regional space of Lääne-Virumaa (West-Viru county):


Maarja Kobin and Airi-Alina Allaste Male, 25a, central figure: Q.: How does Rakvere differ in style compared to other hip-hop styles in Estonia? A.: It’s powerful, unified, stronger. A bit more aggressive. There is a sense of community in Rakvere, you can go and ask anybody in a Rakvere hip-hop party, about Rakvere hip-hop and what distinguishes it… everyone will tell you.

The posse’s name has appeared continuously in interviews, in lyrics, in the names of albums, on T-shirts and in performances. Female, 20: They mention it [Rakvere] in Tallinn or anywhere else, they always mention it on the stage – Rakvere.

There are also basketball and football groups with the same name. Again the borders are unclear, of who is in and who is out of RLV Massive. There are different opinions about who or what is combined under RLV Massive – sometimes belonging to the posse is connected to the non-mainstream music scene, sometimes graffiti artists and break dancers are also included. For others, RLV Massive is more tightly linked to the hip-hop scene alone. The members of RLV Massive are closely connected with each other. It is rather unclear in which circumstances one can be a part of RLV Massive, though it is clear that one has to prove oneself in order to be accepted and respected. To gain status in the group takes time and effort – a rapper must prove his mental and verbal skills, have a strong character and be full of power. On the album RLV Massive: Mõistatuslikud tegelased (Cryptic Figures) on which numerous artists of the Rakvere music scene appear, the topic of many songs is Rakvere itself. The second song on the album focuses on RLV Massive. The powerful nature of belonging is explained by the spirit of Rakvere: Male, 28b, central figure: Q.: Why rap about Rakvere? A.: It is this Viru thing. It is in its nature. Look at our mayor, he is also like this … In Rakvere’s [hip-hop] you have this power which drives you along. It is this Tarva [symbol of Rakvere] thing. It is the peculiarity of Rakvere. Look how many big

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enterprises we have here. Rakvere is a small town but has great power in an Estonian context. It has this of the Viru people in it.

The album cover depicts a bull (Tarvas) as well as small images of the cryptic figures – the latter symbolizes the rappers themselves who are full of power as the Tarvas is – an ancient feature in the town logo of Rakvere. There is also a statue of Tarvas that stands on the edge of Vallimägi hill representing power, confident resistance to pressure, movement and aspiration (see Rakvere website). The inclusion in RLV Massive is related to Rakvere; everybody (including locals) has to prove himself in order to be accepted and people from other areas have to prove their commitment to Rakvere in addition to that. Male, 20c: Q.: So if a man from Paide [another town] comes and wants to be part of the RLV Massive, what does he have to do ? A.: For a start he has to come and start living in Rakvere. When a man from Paide moves to Rakvere, lives here for many years, and does rap, then he could become a part of the Massive. But I’m not sure.

Acceptance into the Massive is enacted through the sharing of the same values and is open to those who value the same things.

Hip-hop Parties in Rakvere The hip-hop parties in Rakvere are attended by the same circle of people that everybody knows and supports. The parties of Rakvere are distinctive as they are attended by people who are dedicated to and interested in the music and know what they are coming to listen to, while in bigger towns you may find people who are just going to another party. Male, 28b, central figure: What you can say is this that in Rakvere parties the number of earnest/serious people is higher than in Tallinn.


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The borders between producers and consumers are unclear. An artist can be both an artist and the audience at a party. As was stated before, the feeling of community in both the general friendship circle and between the artists and the audience is very strong: Male, 28a, central figure: Q.: But what about this feeling of belonging … Is it for artists or the audience? A.: Actually the line defining where the artists end and the audience begins is relatively fine. In an average live gig, for example when Stupid F and Hash are on the stage, then there are more than ten guys on the stage hanging around. Everybody is on the stage and everybody is an artist all of a sudden. When they come down from the stage then they are the audience again for someone else.

Generally, the places where hip-hop parties are held are not only visited by those people who listen to hip-hop but also by those who are connected to the wider non-mainstream music scene of Rakvere and rarely by random visitors from the streets. As Rakvere is a small place and rappers are tightly connected to the wider non-mainstream music scene, the representatives of the latter are not considered outsiders.

Gender in Rakvere Hip-Hop: Tough Guys and Babes Hip-hop has always been a very masculine culture. It emphasizes being tough and aggressive, being strong in the face of life, its paths and the challenges it provides. Rakvere is quite often perceived as being more violent than other towns in Estonia. Aggressiveness is most often revealed in fights in local clubs where people from smaller places around Rakvere spend time during weekends. They come to a party, often use drugs and alcohol and can easily become involved in fights. As being tough and aggressive is supported both by hip-hop culture and the local context, it becomes the norm and masculinity is practised through expressing this toughness.

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Male, 25b: We walked around in the streets looking for a fight. Q.: What caused this intention? A.: Simply this. It is so cool to fight. It is like in a boxing ring! But there is always a certain circle of people who simply want to fight.

Activities which appear illegal, or brave, aggressive or dangerous are seen as very masculine (MacDonald 2002: 94–150). Through these actions one can earn respect from others and thereby construct one’s own masculinity. That might be an explanation for the birth of hoodlum rap, as well as explaining why teenagers were looking for fights on street corners, which was later also reflected in lyrics: Male, 28c: But the way this RLV Massive album describes everything is like the truth… There is this hanging around with women, there are fights, there are times when music is made in studios, there is sport. And there are songs about all of these.

Besides being involved in fights, many artists and their friends from the Rakvere hip-hop scene have been involved in different sporting activities, which are also an important part of the lifestyle as the quotations above exemplify. Participation in sport is seen as the expression of a young man’s masculinity (ibid.). The tough persona attitude can be expressed in dangerous and daring activities both in fights and in sport. Mainstream rap videos present hip-hop as a strongly masculine culture. The range of positions women can inhabit in audiovisual hip-hop representations is very limited. In US mainstream hip-hop videos the main role for a woman is to be an impersonal sex object and the possession of the rapper (Reinikainen 2005: 22). The hip-hop culture in general is very sexist towards women and considered to be very deprecating. Hip-hop producers in Rakvere are almost all male. Most DJs, MCs and graffiti artists in Rakvere are male. There is only one female who is active in the Rakvere non-mainstream music scene and only in the dance scene might you find other active women. Women are treated as beautiful, decorative sex objects. Men stress in interviews that women should be beautiful and remain women, to allow men to remain men (see also MacDonald


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2002: 94–150). The female position in hip-hop is encouraged by the babe culture common in mainstream society in Estonia. Not only do boys see girls as beautiful sex objects, girls see and present themselves in the same way. The attitude is partly promoted by the media – on Internet sites and in women’s magazines – with advice on how to be sexy, seduce men and make them happy. In various forms of popular culture, it is possible to find role models for this attitude. Female, 23: They look at MTV music videos and then think … ooh … I will also put on some high heels, brown tan and a fur coat and then I will be the coolest chick.

Attitudes towards girls express a double-standard; even though they are expected to be beautiful and sexy, they are criticized if they put too much emphasis on their appearance: Male, 26: I don’t see anything in this girl who has dressed up very sexy for men’s eyes, provoking, teasing and acting in a mean and bitchy way, I cannot see the mother of my children in this. For me she is just an arbitrary product or good. Of course, as a man, I will stop and look at her décolletage but for what – I don’t see anything in her. I see only her body.

Women are believed to be more liable to show off and are criticized for that as will be shown in the next section. Most of the rappers despise women who appear without character, empty inside, overly sexy and easily available. When a girl exceeds certain limits in her behaviour and appearance she might be considered as a mere sex object. This can happen easily in the hip-hop scene because of the double-standard norms for girls. Female, 23: What kind of a man does not want to have a woman like this who is a total blingbling [a concept that will be defined in the next section]. Everybody fusses over them and then it is like this … A women’s aim in Estonia is to be the babe of the rapper, possibly with big silicone breasts and ‘solarium chicken skin’ [meaning here that a woman has tanned extensively in a solarium]. In the Estonian hip-hop scene there are a lot of these artificial babes.

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As girls involved in hip-hop culture are mostly babes, they are generally someone’s girlfriend rather than being an active participant in hip-hop. They gain status through relations to men with a high subcultural capital rather than being active themselves in the hip-hop scene. Female, 23: I know this particular girl who dated a guy but actually wanted to fuck another guy – an artist. Then she finally reached her goal, she fucked the artist and then she got his friend, who is also a little bit an artist. … she thinks that it is cool if you are an artist’s chick.

Although in most of the interviews it is stated that female rappers are welcomed and expected to appear, the lack of experience and courage is believed to prevent girls from having a career as a rapper. The actual reason might be that the girls who are around in hip-hop, at least in Rakvere, are mere babes and not particularly interested in active roles in a field which is dominated by the masculine attitude of hip-hop. It is hard for a woman to enter the circle other than in the role of a babe and be respected by others, as is pointed out by the girls. Female, 20: I think, firstly, that it is hard to succeed as you don’t get that much credit. Everybody will see that you are as a blond babe mostly. You have to try really hard to extend yourself; you have to really want to.

A girl must be very talented in order to be accepted and it requires more effort from a female than from a male to become an artist.

Criticizing and Ironizing Society Hip-hop is the only genre of music that allows us to talk about almost anything, says Grandmaster Flash (cited in Light 1999: foreword) who is one of the pioneers of hip-hop DJing, sampling and mixing. Rap is an opportunity to speak for oneself, to represent one’s own interests at all


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costs (Dyson 1996, cited in Bennett 2001: 91). Hip-hop started as a protest culture among marginalized Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American youth who saw in hip-hop an opportunity to express themselves through different means artistically and creatively and to criticize the injustices which they experienced. It was a tool for them for both creativity and resistance (see Rose 2006, Bennett 2001). Rather than criticizing injustice, Rakvere hip-hop ironizes the successoriented society of Estonia. This attitude is exemplified by the term ‘succiety,’ a combination of the words society and success, created by Rakvere hip-hop artists and which is also the name of one of their albums that criticizes the worship of success and money (Def Räädu & J.O.C). The term is useful in describing a society in which success has become the normative goal for young people who pay too much attention to money, as well as to the success which should be achieved in terms which society, or succiety, prescribes. Succiety puts great pressure on young people who have to fulfil certain expectations. The easiest way to satisfy these expectations is through material possessions and visual appearance. The other concept widely used by Rakvere hip-hoppers, which ironizes society, is the word ‘bling-bling’ (or simply bling). In hip-hop it refers to elaborate jewellery and other accoutrements which display wealth and success through ostentatious spending habits. The term bling came into use in late 1990s. The American rapper B.I.G. is often given credit for creating the term and has also ‘wished that he’d trademarked it’ so that he could have profited from its use (Wikipedia). Bling-bling in the Rakvere hip-hop scene has a multi-dimensional meaning. Firstly, similarly to the original meaning, it means both large quantities of fancy jewellery and also a lifestyle which involves fancy, apparently expensive brand clothes designed to be noticed. Through expensive clothes, being dressy and having a very good visual appearance it is easy to sell oneself in a capitalist society – to give the impression of being young and successful. The term bling also carries within itself irony against this show-off mentality, which means showing yourself as better than you really are, decorating yourself meaninglessly and flaunting yourself by means of various expensive logos. Bling criticizes expensive brands because it refers to a situation in which goods

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are bought that people can’t really afford, in order to present themselves as being rich and glamorous. Male, 26: These people cannot realistically earn that much money! First they get drunk on cheap vodka at home and then show up at a bar buying a rum and coke [glamorous drink] Then they look around to see if the girls have seen them? They have paid half of their salary for a shirt, the main point being to have a brand on it! They pretend to be glamorous but their everyday life is not! On Monday they will go to the shop to buy a packet of the cheapest macaroni.

Bling culture in the eyes of the rap community of Rakvere is everything that can be bought for money, and is intended for showing off. Mostly it is associated with females both in Estonia in general and also in the Rakvere music scene. There are quite a few songs in which women who only care about their appearance and about looking ‘beautiful and hot,’ who appear glamorous for the eyes of men but are empty inside, are criticized. In some circles the word bling may also refer to these naïve, hot girls themselves. The show-off mentality, self-marketing and presentation through visual appearance describes Estonian society in general. A hip-hop song entitled ‘What’s the thing?’ (Def Räädu feat. J.O.C) speaks about wanting to know what is really going on: how many women have silicone implants or how does Paris Hilton look in the morning, all shown as just an illusion.

Conclusion Hip-hop culture in Rakvere is an example of how global culture has come together with local culture. The hip-hop subculture is influenced by the prevailing norms in success-oriented Estonian society and by the spirit of Rakvere as a ‘crazy city’ full of power. In order to understand hip-hop in Rakvere one needs to pay closer attention to the local influences on it. As with the results of previous studies (Krims 2000), understanding Rakvere


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hoodlum rap would be difficult without detailed knowledge of the local conditions. An important factor for inclusion in the community is the place of residence. The centrality of Rakvere in music and in lifestyle is a local example of a global feature of hip-hop – the importance of origins. Rakvere is stressed in songs, in the name of the posse (RLV Massive) and the lifestyle of rappers who have moved away from Rakvere and come back at weekends to perform or organize a party. Hip-hop subculture in Rakvere is believed to be especially powerful and it is connected to both to rap and hip-hop as a style as well as the strength of the crazy city – Rakvere. In the same way, gender roles are influenced both by hip-hop culture as well as by the prevailing gender roles in Estonia and Rakvere. Among men the tough guy attitude prevails, supported both by the local behavioural norms in Rakvere, as well as by international subcultural norms in hiphop. Females mostly have the roles of babes and girlfriends of rappers, roles which are accepted by both sexes. However, there are double standards for women who are expected to be feminine and sexy, while at the same time this gives them a lower status in the subculture, since it associates them with the show-off mentality which is ridiculed by male rappers. Females rather than males are believed to be representative of mainstream culture and the show-off mentality which prevails in Estonian society. Ironizing the latter as well as the success-orientated society is characteristic of Rakvere hip-hop as the main form of social critique characteristic of hip-hop in general. Attitudes are exemplified by terms used by hip-hoppers such as ‘succiety’ and ‘bling’. The latter originates from American hip-hop but has slightly changed its meaning in Estonia – it refers to self-decoration, but carries in itself an ironic attitude towards the show-off mentality in a success-orientated society. This chapter shows an example of glocalization – how the style of a global subculture is contextualized by a local audience. Even though rappers in Rakvere have adopted the style of hip-hop, the analysis shows that in the context of Rakvere, Estonia is crucial for the development of both local hip-hop music as well as of subcultural norms and attitudes. The culture of American black ghetto youth has been adopted by white middle-class youth in this small provincial town and gangsta rap has been

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transformed into hoodlum rap. Since Rakvere is a small place, members of the subcultural group are strongly connected to one another, the power of the group can be explained by insiders in terms of the spirit of the town, and criticism of society is expressed in songs through irony aimed at the success-orientated mentality of Estonian society in transition.

References Allaste, A.-A. (2006). Show off: Olla edukas, rikas ja tugev. (Show off: to be succesful, rich and powerful] [Online]. Available: http://www. Allaste, A.-A. and M. Lagerspetz (2002). ‘Recreational drug use in Estonia: the context of club culture.’ Contemporary Drug Problems, 29: 183–200. Bennett, A. (1999). ‘Subcultures or neo-tribes? Rethinking the relationship between youth, style andmusical taste.’ Sociology, August 1999. Bennett, A. (2001). Cultures of Popular Music. Philadelphia: Open University Press. Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Clay, A. (2003). ‘Keepin’ it real: black youth, hip-hop culture and black identity.’ American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 46, no. 10, June: 1346–1358. Forman, M. 2004. ‘Ain’t no love in the heart of the city: hip-hop, space and place.’ In M. Forman and M.A. Neal (eds). That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York; London: Routledge. 155–157. Hodkinson, P. (2006). ‘Post-subcultural theory on the basis of the study of Goth culture,’ presentation at SAL Methodological and Theoretical Workshop. Kaunas: 22–23 June 2006. Krims, A. (2000). Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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Lemish, D., K. Drotner, T. Liebes, E. Maigret and G. Stald (1998). Global Culture in Practice. [Online]. Available: content/abstract/13/4/539 Light, A. (ed.) (1999). The Vibe History of Hip-Hop. London: Plexus. MacDonald, N. (2002). The Graffiti Subculture: Youth, Masculinity and Identity in London and New York. Houndmills: Palgrave. Marko, M. (2007). Loetakse ette Rooma lepingud. [Online]. Available: Maxwell, I. (2003). Phat Beats, Dope Rhymes: Hip-hop Down Under Comin’ Upper. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press. Muggleton, D. (2000). Inside Subculture: The Postmodern Meaning of Style. Oxford: Berg. Peterson, J. (2006). ‘The elements and eras of hip-hop culture.’ In S. Steinberg, P. Parmar, B. Richard and C. Quail (eds). Contemporary Youth Culture: An International Encyclopedia. Westport, CT ; London: Greenwood Press. 357–365. Reinikainen, S. 2005. Representations of Women and Wealth in Hip-hop Videos. [Online] Available: pdf. Robertson, R. (1995). ‘Glocalization: time-space and homogenity-hetero­ genity.’ In Featherstone, M., S. Lash and R. Robertson (eds). Global Modernities. London: Sage. 24–44. Rose, T. (2005). ‘A style nobody can deal with: politics, style and the postindustrial city in hip-hop.’ In R. Guins and O.Z. Cruz. Popular Culture. London: Sage. 401–414. Rose, T. (2006). ‘Voices from the margins: rap music and contemporary cultural production.’ In A. Bennett, B. Shank and J. Toynbee (eds). The Popular Music Studies Reader. London; New York: Routledge. Sikk, R. (2005). Rakvere – 700 aastat väge ja hullust. [Online]. Available: Thornton, S. (1995). Club-Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Cambridge: Polity Press.

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Websites Rakvere Offical Website, Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia, Albums RLV Massive. Mõistatuslikud tegelased. Various Artists. June 2007. Lejal Genes. Def Räädu feat. J.O.C. Mis värk on? December 2005. Lejal Genes. Def Räädu & J.O.C. Succiety. October 2006. Lejal Genes. Def Räädu & J.O.C. Succiety². May 2007. Lejal Genes.


Textually Constructing Identity and Otherness: Mediating the Romanian Hip-Hop Message Isabela Merila and Michaela Praisler

The word ‘Westernization’ exists in dictionaries; the word ‘Easternization’ does not. However, this is what seems to be happening with the already Westernized in the Eastern European cultural context. In Romania, until 1989, it had been very much a question of having the West blocked out. This had as an immediate result the obsession with that formerly forbidden Western other, following the year 1990. From politics, economy, the arts, right down to behavioural patterns and mode of address, Romanianness witnessed changes, growing into a cosmopolitan mixture of mainly Western cultural models. In time, from the early 1990s to the present day, these were to undergo changes in the direction we have chosen to call ‘Easternization’ for the simple reason that what has been readily adopted from the west is now carefully adapted to Romanian (therefore, eastern) realities. At the level of subcultural communities, the adaptation is clearly in evidence. One such case is that of the hip-hop subculture, whose discourse and iconicity show, on the one hand, the contamination by the West and, on the other, the reaction against it; or, in short, the reaction against the reaction against the East. Contemporary Romanian hip-hop adds a refreshing voice to the existing ones in music, formulating statements about itself and others, about itself as other. Its lyrics and its captions in the media are the perfect starting point for an analysis of the hows and whys of its status and central preoccupations, and this chapter aims to use them in moving backwards to the broader frame of ‘Easternization’ within which they have been ‘translated.’ The framework needs to be approached from the perspective of an otherwise debatable term, identity, which we shall further develop in


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order to introduce our discussion on and illustrations of the text(ing) and media(ting) of hip-hop in present day Romania. Questions of identity, self and other are not recent ones, perhaps rather ones that have come to be more explicit, with the formation of societies like that of the United States. It is enough to read studies like Edward Said’s Orientalism or Tzvetan Todorov’s The Problem of the Other: The Conquest of America, to find, for example, that textual representations of the colonized by the colonizer have mostly followed two major tendencies: to idealize and to demonize. The texts falling under the former category tended to present the colonized space either as a replica of the lost Paradise, with its population sharing the simple life of Adam and Eve, or as a place of mystery, sensuality, fragrance and exoticism. The latter tendency involves the portrayal of the colony as a dangerous and savage place, with its inhabitants lacking education, morals, honour, or sensitivity. As Said remarks: ‘when one uses categories like Oriental and Western as both the starting and the end points of analysis, research, public policy […] the result is usually to polarize the distinction – the Oriental becomes more Oriental, the Westerner more Western – and limit the human encounter between different cultures, traditions, and societies’ (2003: 46). Leaving aside the political uses to which such descriptions could have been put, we shall focus instead in our study on one of the features that both categories of discourse have in common: the tendency to generalize and to write about multitudes of people as if they were one unified whole and each individual was only a reiteration of the characteristics of that whole. Such myths of perfectly determined national identity still exist today. We speak full of conviction about Indians, Germans, Americans, about their specific ways of doing this and that, forgetting sometimes that maybe we have never met an Indian, a German or an American, and that behind this mask of nationality there may be an individual who has nothing to do with the array of stereotypes we thrust upon them. As Pnina Werbner has noted: Nation is itself a negotiated and highly contested social order, marked by intense conflicts between classes, lifestyles, political ideologies, religious affiliations, regional loyalties, town and country, men and women. There is a good deal of critical debate

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within democratic nation-states even before migrants, ethnics, or religious minorities enter the picture (Werbner 2001: 142).

We used nationality as an example because it has been persuasively analyzed in the works of the above-mentioned authors. Any other community affiliation can work in a similar manner. In the words of Jeffery Scott Mio et al, ‘identities are not unidimensional. All of us have multiple identities. […] Psychologists attempt to understand how personal, social, political and cultural factors interact to shape one’s identity’ (2006: 196). Therefore the concept of identity stands for a complex and unique combination of traits characterizing an individual, all the more complex since each of the factors involved, be it cultural, social, political or personal, has multiple ramifications of its own. Let us consider Taylor’s definition of culture, for example: ‘Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, arts, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society’ (cited in Kottak 1996: 21). This definition may be enough to make us understand the variety of aspects that may be considered when discussing cultural identity. It is in each of these particularities that the possibility of otherness resides. A particular importance can be given to recent developments in anthropology, for anthropologists teach us that otherness is not necessarily connected with obvious differences but may also reside in what we take as familiar and can surprise us in the most common of situations. Therefore we may speak on the one hand of perceiving the other as strange or different and, on the other hand, of a process of making the other strange. Education, cultural background, environment and everything one considers familiar make up one’s micro-universe. A sense of an other inhabiting that very same space and of a more distant other imagined to inhabit the space beyond the limits of familiarity is always there. The encounter with a person coming from another space, outside the frontiers of the familiar world is expected to be strange and so the shock of otherness is often anticipated. The intensity of the shock may also be increased if one either has a preconceived idea about the insurmountable differences that are believed to exist between the two, or starts from the universalizing assumption that people are the same everywhere only to realize this is a


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problematic statement. One way of imagining far away spaces as other is to exoticize them, which need not be seen as a negative process: ‘to exoticize is to exercise the human imagination in a certain way. I contend that it is important to maintain a clear distinction between imaginative ideas on one hand and the possible political abuses to which imaginative ideas can be put on the other’ (Shapiro 2000: 43). Shapiro is referring here to the very same ideas which are, as mentioned above, exposed by Said and Todorov. Alternatively, the perception of the close ‘other’ is seen as a basic requirement for dialogue and is, therefore, not perceived as a great source of anxiety or shock. Gurevitch describes this process as involving: The disengagement of the other’s presence from his/her familiar, taken-for-granted identity. The other is thereby rendered ‘other’, that is, opaque and irreducible in his individuality. This suspension of the taken-for-granted understanding opens up the possibility of a creative and critical search to understand the other and allows distinguishing among selves. Without this possibility, the picture of interpersonal communication remains incomplete (1988: 1179).

While the confrontation with the impossibility of eliminating the shock of otherness may give rise to frustration and anger, we would like to think that it is also a source of mystery, intrigue and curiosity which may stimulate processes of learning, discovery and re-conceptualization. After all, ‘if all were the same, we would, in fact, be not much different from a throng of egos engaged only in the pursuit of food, mates, safety and power but devoid of selves’ (Gurevitch 1988: 1180). If there is no talk of identity without otherness, in other words, if this is such a natural circumstance in the existence of the human psyche, it must be particularly interesting to examine why strong reactions to the perception of otherness still exist. The hip-hop ‘other’, both constructed as shocking and received as such, is increasingly delineating its own territory at the fringes of mainstream culture, alongside taste subcultures like those of punk, heavy metal or, particularly in the case of Romania, manele. Rejected at first, partially accepted of late, hip-hop continues to arouse interest, paradoxically noticeable in the efforts that go into its marginalization (and which eventually show hip-hop’s undeniable presence or influence in the charts, or in its growing number of fans). The textual construction of the hip-hop identity and

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otherness may be observed basically at the level of two types of writing, whose clash in tone, mode, diction, style and attitude is, in itself, proof of the dynamics at work in the process of (sub)cultural glocalization, that is, Easternisation. Our corpus consists of a number of Romanian hip-hop lyrics and newspaper articles dealing with the metamorphosis of the hip-hop phenomenon. In the interviews with our respondents we noticed that the Romanian musical group that seems to be regarded as setting the hip-hop tone, both for the community of listeners and for that of artists, is Parazitii. For this reason we selected their lyrics as a source of textual representation of identity. As for the media, we chose two of the most widely read dailies: Adevarul (The Truth) – a conservative publication, and Evenimentul Zilei (The Event of the Day) – a more liberal one. The thematic scope of Parazitii’s lyrics is quite wide. Moving from matters of politics to social problems and to psychological issues, they deal with censorship, corruption, violence, value systems, emigration, social stratification, escapism, abuse, the struggle for survival and so on. Besides the fact that all these topics are of a highly sensitive nature, their variety and number also point to the complexity of the hip-hop message. What Tricia Rose stated in an article about American hip-hop seems to hold true for the Romanian scene as well. It ‘emerges from complex cultural exchanges and larger social conditions of disillusionment and alienation’ (2006: 222). Let us consider, for instance, some of the titles of the albums and songs by Parazitii. In relation to Poems for the Walls1 (Poezii pentru pereti, 1995), the word ‘poems’ confers artistic value to the hip-hop message, while the second part of the title is a reminder of the connection between graffiti and hip-hop music, namely that the practitioners of each choose a direct way to transmit their message and one that is outside control and supervision, as well as flaunting a disinterest in being accepted or judged. The Right to Answer Back (Dreptul la replica, 2002) points to matters of communication and censorship, affirming the right to have an opinion and defend 1

All translations ours.


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it; Free Expression (Exprimare libera, 2002) is self-explanatory, but it also associates free expression with the hip-hop message giving it the value of a manifesto; From the Heart of the Street (Din inima strazii, 1999) establishes the coordinates of a space for the origin of the hip-hop message; Be Prepared (Fii pregatit, 2005) is a word of warning that is meant to teach you to see the world either as a space of competition or as a dangerous place; Like Running on Ice (Ca fuga pe gheata, 2005) again lays the stress on the hardships of life, and living is compared with being on slippery ground; on You Don’t Change Me (Nu ma schimbi, 1999) the message confers a certain identity on the addresser and implies the intention of someone else to change it; it is a reference to a conflict of viewpoints, a common theme not only for hip-hop. The social pressure on the individual to limit personal gratification in accordance with the rules of collective existence is a reality that has been analysed by Sigmund Freud and many other researchers. Other similar titles are: No More Censorship (Jos cenzura, 2004), Violent (Violent, 2005), The Middle Finger (Degetul mijlociu, 2002), My Way of Being (Felul meu de a fi, 2005), Verbal Abortion (Avort verbal, 2001), Money Doesn’t Bring Happiness (Banii n-aduc fericirea, 1997), The Next Degeneration (Degeneratia urmatoare, 2000), Sweet Self-Destruction (Dulce autodistrugere, 2002), all connoting the tendencies already mentioned above. As far as the actual lyrics are concerned, the picture is even more complex. As already pointed out by one of the examples above, life tends to be seen in a pessimistic way, as a slippery ground on which all you can do is try to keep your balance in your own way. Am invatat ca daca stai in spate/ O sa ramai in spate/ De la sursa in direct spun ca viata e o cursa,/ Te-atinge, te-mpinge, te strange,/ Poate n-ai in tine sange,/ Fii doar ce vrei sa fii,/ Singur intre toti,/ Calca peste toti,/ Daca poti. I’ve learned that if you stay behind/ You remain behind/ Right from the source I’m telling you life’s a trap/ It touches you, pushes you, presses you/ Maybe you don’t have cold blood in you,/ Step on everybody/ If you can. (‘Nr 1’, Nici o problema, 1999)

Accordingly, the prevailing attitude is to live each day as it comes and not worry about tomorrow, since tomorrow may never come, or if it does, it will not be very different from today:

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Iubim viata,/ Fara retete,/ Fara regrete,/ Nu exista zile perfecte,/ Calitatile noi le numim defecte,/ E felu’ nostru de-a fi,/ Si tine loc de intrebari,/ ‘Ce-ai face tu peste 2 zile,/ Daca maine mori?’/ Vreau sa stiu ca n-am trait degeaba o secunda de ideile mele,/ Altii sa raspunda,/ N-am un raspuns/ Mi-a spus../ Duc o viata de caine…/ De lux… We love life/ without recipes,/ without regrets,/ there are no perfect days,/ qualities we call defects,/ it’s our way,/ and it’s better than questions,/ ‘What would you do in two days,/ if you were dead tomorrow?’/ I want to know I haven’t lived in vain one second of my ideas,/ let others answer,/ I don’t have one/ he told me…/ mine is a dog’s life/ a luxury… (‘Acordeonu’ la maxim, Categoria grea’, 2001)

It is a carpe diem invitation flirting with self-destruction. When life is associated with hell, escapism is present as well, whether via alcohol or drugs: Cand soarele rasare am ochii injectati/ Sunt ultimul care mai bea, toti raman blocati/ Viata-i mult prea scurta si mai stiu ceva/ Frate din viata scapa cine poate. When the sun rises my eyes are bloodshot/ I am the last man drinking, everybody’s stunned/ Life’s too short and there’s something else I know/ Out of life, brother, those who can. (‘Degeneratia urmatoare’, Iarta-ma, 2000)

In such circumstances friends are those who share the bottle with you, therefore sharing living conditions and contributing to keeping the rest of the world at a distance: Singurii in care am incredere/ Sunt prietenii mei cu care imi beau mintile/ Ei m-ajuta sa gasesc, cand nu gasesc vena/ Cu ei seara de seara se repeta scena The only ones I trust/ Are my friends with whom I drink my mind away/ They help me find my vein, when I don’t find it/ With them night after night the scene repeats itself. (‘Nu ma schimbi’, Nici o problema, 1999).

Drug abuse is also connected to the impossibility to follow your dreams. The general atmosphere is one of hopelessness in which the lack of means may very well determine the lack of opportunity: Iarba, heroina, pun sticla plina,/ Frate zi-mi daca stii, cum vrei sa fii,/ Zi-mi unde esti! Unde ai sa fii?/ Zi-mi unde vrei sa ajungi si ce vrei sa devii! Pot, heroin, I fill the bottle,/ Brother, tell me if you know how you want to be,/ Tell me where you are! Where are you going to be?/ Tell me where you want to get and what you want to become. (‘Din inima strazii’, Nici o problema, 1999).


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However, escapism does not go as far as suicide. The recommendation is to take out of life as much as you can in the time you have, since it is perceived that the way of life is suicide in slow motion anyway: Bagi has nu vrei sa te lasi bagi marijuana,/ le-ascunzi pe unde poa’ sa nu le vada mama/ Hai hai, hai sa-ti zic direct:/ decat sa-mi tai venele, prefer sa mi-le-ntep. You pump in hash, you don’t want to quit, you pump in marijuana,/ you hide them where they can’t be found by your mum/ come on, come on, let me tell you straight:/ rather than slitting my wrists I prefer to pierce them. (‘Emotii’, Iarta-ma, 2000)

The pessimism and the helplessness that pervades many of the hip-hop lyrics by Parazitii may be said to be determined by the society and the values it upholds as well as by the political system. The denunciation of a crooked ideology governing the state of affairs is perhaps the most frequent element in the songs. One example is the anti-censorship campaign started by the group after several music channels were fined for broadcasting their songs without editing. In one of the tracks included in the album Irefutabil, the group reveal the reason behind the use of slang, not only in their songs but in life too and they try to point out that there are far more important matters to be corrected than foul language: Nu va mai opriti in aparente. Pur si simplu, ca in cazul nostru, unele mesaje devin mai pertinente imbracate intr-o forma lingvistica neconventionala. De ce nu recunoasteti ca printre altele legea CNA sufera de sindromul Larry Flint. Pana la urmatorul album poate lamuriti mass-mediei si noua ce intelegeti dumneavoastra prin indecent, imoral, obscen sau bune moravuri. Stop sticking to appearances. In our case, some messages simply become more relevant dressed in an unconventional linguistic format. Why don’t you admit that, among other things, the NCA2 law suffers from the Larry Flint syndrome. Before our next album comes out, maybe you can enlighten the mass-media and us as to what you understand by indecent, immoral, obscene or good manners. (‘Articolul 39’, 2002)

The stress laid on the fact that the songs are not an instigation to violence is common to a number of lyrics: ‘My message is not violent, but in a violent way/ I make myself heard in a violent environment today’ (‘Bad 2

The National Council for the Audiovisual.

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joke’, 2002; English in original). Hip-hop is seen as the most appropriate means to reach the ears of both those who have to suffer and those considered guilty of causing suffering. The neighbourhood becomes a topos with different rules from the society at large, a space where truths can come out and in which ‘illegal’ decreases in importance. ‘Muzica e prima voce’ (Music is the first voice) (‘Jos cenzura’, 2004) and the street is the scene. From here the hip-hop group preaches in favour of assertion of one’s own identity, free of the restrictions imposed by a governing class more interested in its own survival and preoccupied by its own interests, rather than caring for the population they try to control (not necessarily a feature of Romanianness). As mentioned above, freedom of expression is also something Parazitii sing in favour of (the desire for which may be found rooted in the country’s communist heritage). Another concern is Romania’s increased number of emigrants, which is related to the lack of possibilities for making a decent living at home. However, emigration is not seen as the answer: ‘Oare emigrand in masa gasim vreo rezolvare?’ (Do we really find a solution in mass emigration?) (‘Jos cenzura’, 2004), but rather as the easy way out. The criticism becomes sarcasm when the lines address those ‘made of money,’ who know or respect no other value in the world (the ‘nouveau-riche’ who set the trend being frequently targeted for criticism in present-day Romanian society). Perhaps the most surprising of Parazitii’s songs for someone expecting certain attitudes from hip-hop is the one entitled ‘Instigare la cultura’ (Instigation to Culture) which opens with the lines: ‘Daca sa-nveti n-ai sete, O sa speli closete,/ Privind aceste aspecte/ Nimeni nu o sa te respecte’ (If you don’t feel like learning, you’ll wash toilets/ Considering these aspects/ No one’s going to respect you) and it has the following refrain: Mesaju’ e clar si nu se indreapta catre Marte/ De dragu’ diversitatii, citeste-o carte/ Daca vrei sa faci lumina cand e pentru tine noapte/ Educa-te singur frate, citeste-o carte! The message is clear and it’s not aimed at Mars/ For the sake of diversity, read a book/ If you want to shed light when it’s night for you/ Educate yourself, brother, read a book!


Isabela Merila and Michaela Praisler

This ironically encapsulates a philosophy of life turned upside down by the simple fact that it is promoted by the subcultural other and highlights a general tendency among Romanians today.

Hip-hop in the Romanian Press As far as the presence of hip-hop in the media is concerned, we must begin by saying that we examined issues published by Evenimentul zilei and Adevarul over the past seven years and found only approximately 50 articles. Many of these articles announce the release of a new album. There are a few, however, focusing on other aspects connected to hip-hop. We will mostly focus on those related to Parazitii, but not exclusively. We previously mentioned the anti-censorship campaign initiated by the group. It is interesting to see how Evenimentul zilei mostly gave voice to the hip-hop group, while Adevarul only cites the comments of the NCA, practically making communication between what seem to be opposing parties impossible. One of the articles (10 March 2003) in the former newspaper has the title: ‘Parazitii: “Nu vom face jocul CAN”’ (Parazitii: We won’t dance to NCA’s tune) and is almost entirely the statement of the group’s manager. On the other hand, Adevarul has another article, published five days later, entitled ‘CNA nu va“martiriza” hip-hop-ul’ (NCA will not ‘make a martyr’ of hip-hop) which consists almost entirely of Ralu Filip’s view of the matter in his role as head of the NCA. Other articles from Evenimentul zilei report on concerts given by Parazitii. Besides stating whether the event was successful or not, the authors make regular reference to the following aspects: drinking: ‘Cheloo nu s-a putut abtine de la gestul care il caracterizeaza pe scena, cel putin atunci cind este in provincie, acela de a-si trage sufletul dintr-o sticla cu bere’ ([Rapper] Cheloo couldn’t restrain himself from the gesture that characterizes him on stage, at least when he is in the provinces, that is to draw his breath from a bottle of beer) (20 May 2002); political comments, ‘Parazitii au

Textually Constructing Identity and Otherness


intrat in forta “complimentind” guvernul, pe Nastase si partidul la putere, in stilul lor bine cunoscut, imposibil de reprodus pe hartie.’ (Parazitii made a powerful entrance ‘complimenting’ the government, [Prime Minister Adrian] Nastase and the governing political party, in their well known style, impossible to render on paper) (21 September 2004); and perceptions of the public, ‘Un tanar avea tatuat pe spate chipurile celor trei, alaturi de inscrisul Parazitii’ (A young man had a tattoo on his back with the faces of the three members of the band next to the word Parazitii) (20 May 2002). These are the only three aspects that we were able to find mentioned in the articles about the group’s concerts. Other articles do not stray far from this line, one extra aspect approached being Parazitii’s rejection of the absurd mimicry during concerts and shows, the vulgarity of the language or of the attitude (which are regarded rather as delightful eccentricities), the fact that one of the members of the group, Ombladon, decided to go back to college and learn to be a cameraman. The general tone of the articles seems to range somewhere in between admiration and amusement, Parazitii being regarded mostly as a voice against the government or as naughty schoolboys. Although it can be considered a favourable position, it is not one calculated to bring a greater understanding of the hip-hop community. All it does is readily label rather than thoroughly analyze. On the other hand, and as might be expected from a more conservative newspaper, the articles on hip-hop from Adevarul are far from favourable. The attitude towards this type of music is perhaps best defined by the article ‘Hip-Hop la Opera Romana’ (Hip-Hop at the Romanian Opera House) which states the following: Institutul Francez din Bucuresti va popula, in aceasta seara, Opera Nationala cu un public ‘mai altfel’. Sau, pentru melomanii conservatori, va aduce un spectacol neobisnuit. Oricum ai lua-o, ceea ce se va petrece pe scena ONB este un experiment pentru venerabila institutie: un show de dans contemporan si… hip-hop. The French Institute in Bucharest will populate the National Opera House tonight with a ‘slightly different’ public. Or, for conservatory music lovers, the evening will come with an unusual show. However you want to put it, what will happen on the stage of the NOH in Bucharest is an experiment for the venerable institution: a show of contemporary dance and… hip-hop. (5 October 2002)


Isabela Merila and Michaela Praisler

The use of ‘populate,’ ‘experiment,’ ‘slightly different’ public, ‘unusual’ on the one hand and ‘National Opera’ or ‘venerable’ on the other creates a gap between hip-hop and what is considered real music. The quotation marks in the report further underline the unusualness of the situation. On a similar note, an article from the 24 May, 2006 announces a puppet show of Little Red Riding Hood in which each of the characters is to have a musical theme to announce their entrance. Hip-hop was chosen for the wolf, states the musical director, since ‘lupul este şmecherul de cartier al pădurii şi de aceea i se potriveşte stilul’ (‘the wolf is the hooded slyboots in the forest and that’s why the style suits him’). It is one more example of hip-hop being represented stereotypically. Other articles from the same newspaper deal with instances of young men or children abusing old ladies, behaviour which the author relates to a taste for hip-hop music (23 August 2005). The intention to connect hip-hop with violence is obvious, as is the intention to associate it with a lower level of education from parodies like the one entitled ‘Paste hip-hop’ (Hip-Hop Easter) from 3 May, 2005. It is written in the first person, assuming the perspective of a young man interested only in gadgets, fashion and music of bad quality, who is not much of a master of grammar and flaunts disrespect for religion and elderly people. What is remarkable is the fact that besides the title, no other reference is made to hip-hop. We would like to end our review of articles with a reference we found to an event called ‘Kartier 2006’ taking place in Bucharest and which was meant to bring together independent groups of hip-hop, break-dance, folk and rock, as well as graffiti artists. Besides the details concerning the program and the participants we have the words of the co-ordinator of the project: ‘Poliţia spune că sunt înregistrate în jur de 400 de grupuri cu tentă infracţională, aceştia sunt mai zbuciumaţi, mai gălăgioşi, dealeri de droguri. Există în fiecare cartier grupuleţe. Mai liniştite, de hip-hop, sunt cu zecile.’ (The police say that there are about 400 groups with criminal tendencies; these are the more restless, noisier, drug dealers. There are little groups in every neighbourhood. There are dozens of quieter hip-hop groups) (5 April 2006). The statement is not connected with the previous or the following sentence, which makes its presence in the text surprising but its occurrence (as an unpardonable slip of the tongue) discloses either

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the cowardice of the speaker/organizer, who is not necessarily a fan of the genre and his refusal to oppose prejudice, or an overt message carried by Adevarul taking his affirmation out of context. Both cases are consistent with the wider tendency to associate hip-hop with violent behaviour and criminality. Considering the fact that the two newspapers selected are among the most widely distributed and read in Romania, the perspectives for the affirmation of a hip-hop identity free of stereotypes are not encouraging. Out of the several issues addressed by the songs and which make up the co-ordinates of a hip-hop identity, only a very limited number are reflected in the articles of the two periodicals. Instead, the stress is laid on otherness, either presented as eccentricity or as deviation. The hip-hop fan is ‘the other’: the intruder lacking respect and intelligence but possessed of a strong temper and a criminal inclination, in the pages of Adevarul, or the intoxicated protester delighting in irreverent behaviour, in the pages of Evenimentul Zilei. Media(ted) or not, all of the above mentioned symptoms of the Romanian hip-hop subculture are illustrative of the import of western ‘goods’ which, once naturalized (or Easternized in our particular case), have assumed local colour and come to redefine an identity whose contamination by plural othernesses, in the years following the landmark events of 1989 is still assumed reluctantly (previously, any influence from the outside had carefully been denied, refused, or censored if not prevented).


Isabela Merila and Michaela Praisler

References Gurevitch, Z.D. (1988). ‘The Other side of dialogue: on making the Other strange and the experience of Otherness.’ The American Journal of Sociology, vol. 93, no. 5 (March 1988): 1179–1199. Kottak, C.P. (1996). Mirror for Humanity: A Concise Introduction to Cultural Antropology. Boston: McGraw Hill. Mio, J.S., L. Barker-Hackett, and J. Tumambing (2006). Multicultural Psychology: Understanding Our Diverse Communities. Boston: McGraw-Hill. Rose, T. (2006). ‘Rap music and contemporary cultural production.’ In A. Bennett, B. Shank and J. Toynbee (eds) The Popular Music Studies Reader. London: Routledge. 216–226. Said, E.W. (2003). Orientalism. London: Penguin. Shapiro, R. (2000). ‘In defence of exoticism: rescuing the literary imagination.’ In Isabel Santaolalla (ed.) New Exoticisms: Changing Patterns in the Construction of Otherness. Amsterdam, Atlanta: Rodopi. 41–49. Todorov, T. (1994). Cucerirea Americii: Problema Celuilalt. Iasi: Institutul European. Werbner, P. (2001). ‘The limits of cultural hybridity: on ritual monsters, poetic licence and contested post-colonial purifications.’ The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 7, no. 1 (March 2001): 133–152. Newspapers Adevarul, Adrian Halpert (ed. Dir.), 2001–2005. Evenimentul zilei, Marius Hagger (gen. Dir.), 2001–2005.


On Linguistic Politics: The Stylistic Testimonies of Romanian Hip-Hop Daniela Şorcaru and Floriana Popescu

În fiecare zi pentru tine / O să vorbim întotdeauna despre rău pentru bine (B.U.G. Mafia, Outro) [Everyday, for you / We’ll always talk about the worst for the better]

The need to understand cultures has never been greater than at present, as cross-cultural and cross-subcultural contacts have become an everyday event. In Kenrick Thompson’s words, ‘culture is a design for living: the shared understanding that people use to coordinate their activities’ (1994: 39). Subcultures have achieved various types of cultural status, whether as ‘islands of identity’ fiercely defended by community members, or as ‘open enclaves’ that want to share their ‘reality’ with the rest of the world. Furthermore, since no culture, regarded either as a set of beliefs, customs, practices, patterns of behaviour, or as a multitude of sub-divisions, is static, the concept of subculture gains a particular importance. In its simplest description, we may say that ‘a subculture exists when a group of people has developed a set of variations on cultural norms and values that set these people apart from other members of their society’ (Thomson 1994: 42). The very sets and subsets of dissimilarities that a particular subculture displays in contrast with mainstream society and/or other social groups or subcultures, are of the utmost importance to the researcher, as they enrich the perception of the group’s cultural identity. Moreover, culture has communication at its core and today communication has attained the status of a global phenomenon. Hence, from


Daniela Şorcaru and Floriana Popescu

a media-related perspective, we discover that, in a time of great cultural confusion, marked by fear, insecurity and instability, media culture has undermined political energies. Entertainment constitutes a great part of what the mass-media offer to the public, thereby stifling rebellion. Caught in between globalization and atomization, the individual undergoes a transfer of anxiety, while the media culture, beyond its socialization effects, is the dominant culture. It rapidly generates types and identities. Nevertheless, such a ‘factory of identities’ requires efficient critical approaches in order to properly distinguish and analyze subcultures. Media culture (sometimes) reveals conflicts that trouble society, conveying ordinary people’s fears and sufferings and, at the same time, providing the necessary material for the creation of new identities and the establishment of new perspectives and understandings of the world. The moment members of marginal groups manage to gain access to media culture, their media manifestations often imply alternative approaches to society, sometimes voicing radical perspectives. Until Romanian hip-hop found its own way into the mainstream of the Romanian media culture, it only existed as a very marginal group; all that changed the moment the media culture came into play and hip-hop burst into a nation-wide phenomenon, inflaming the country with its extreme linguistic violence. When tackling the issue of subcultures in relation to media culture and ‘taste,’ the concept of popular culture is of particular interest for the present analysis. Concerning popular culture, John Fiske regards each individual’s use of it as a creative act, an original decoding of a text. As he puts it, ‘the meanings I make from a text are pleasurable when I feel they are my meanings and that they relate to my everyday life in a practical, direct way’ (1989: 57). Indeed, all of us have our own creative decodings of various popular cultural products, such as music, television, celebrities, magazines and books. Considering the fact that Romanian hip-hop mainly relies on music as a tool for conveying its message, creative decodings are at their best, since members of the subculture interpret both the music and the linguistic message proper according to their own life experiences and their need to identify with what hip-hop ‘preaches.’ Another function of popular culture, according to Conrad Phillip Kottak, is the fact that ‘individuals also draw on popular culture to express

On Linguistic Politics


resistance. Through their use of popular culture, people can symbolically resist the unequal power relations they face each day. […] Forms and readings of popular culture (from rap music to sitcoms) can express discontent and resistance by groups that are or feel oppressed’ (1996: 264). By means of Romanian hip-hop, members of the subcultural community address, most of the time in an extremely aggressive frame of cultural practice, social and political issues that have scarred the country for a long period. Romanian society and politics, both of which are widely understood domestically as corrupt and prejudiced, are the product of unequal power relations that members of the subculture face everyday and which they feel they have to fight against in order to alter society for the better. This can be seen in such linguistic examples as seen in this chapter’s epigraph. Everyday, for you În fiecare zi pentru tine We’ll always talk about the worst for the O să vorbim întotdeauna despre rău better. pentru bine. (B.U.G. Mafia, Outro, our translation) (B.U.G. Mafia, Outro)

To understand cultural change, it is important to recognize that meaning is not inherent or imposed but locally manufactured. People assign their own meanings and value to the texts, messages and products they receive. Those meanings reflect their cultural backgrounds and experiences. When forces from First World centres enter new societies, they are indigenized – modified to fit the local culture. This is true of cultural forces as different as fast food, music, housing styles, science, terrorism, celebrations, and political ideas and institutions. Indeed, ‘many new forms of popular expression have emerged from the interplay of local, regional, national, and international cultural forces’ (Kottak 1996: 264). This is also the case of Romanian hip-hop that benefited from the influence of American hip-hop, but adapted the message to Romanian realities, be they political, social or ideological. Public life has become an important aspect of both the media and popular culture and they seem to turn reality into a discursive phenomenon.


Daniela Şorcaru and Floriana Popescu

Creating a unique ‘show’ of its own, political life draws a great deal of attention, both from the media and from various subcultures. The latter at times chooses the former as adequate means of manifestation, a reference system to react against. Criticism from the Romanian hip-hop community did not take too long to reach its audience, as this rap from one of the leading bands, Parazitii, illustrates:

[Chorus] Parlamentul a votat aseară o lege care interzice posturilor TV difuzarea ştirilor nejustificate. Vă reamintim că în această categorie intră acele ştiri prezentate exclusiv de dragul rating-ului, care afectează dezvoltarea psihică şi morală a societăţii, prejudiciază demnitatea umană, aduc o ofensă convingerilor sexuale, religioase sau politice ale telespectatorilor, sau cele care stimuleaza comportamente dăunătoare siguranţei populaţiei şi mediului. Ştirile continuă! (Paraziţii, Ultimul buletin de stiri, Irefutabil, 2002)

[Chorus] Last night, the Parliament voted on a law that prohibits TV stations from broadcasting unjustified news. We remind you that this category includes news presented exclusively to increase ratings, which affects the psychological and moral development of society, tarnishes human dignity, offends viewers’ sexual, religious or political convictions, or which stimulates behaviour that endangers the safety of the population and of the environment. The news continues! (Paraziţii, ‘The last news bulletin’, Irrefutable, 2002, our translation)

As we can easily see, in Parazitii’s opinion, the task of imposing sanctions on the media for being prone to the spectacular rather than the facts falls among the prerogatives of the political power of the state. This is yet another task that they fail to complete, the consequences of which they are regarded as inflicting upon the population of the country. Furthermore, music may be regarded as resistance to social and political oppression – for example, African-Americans made use of gospel and blues music to react against slavery and institutional discrimination respectively. Such music types later evolved into ragtime, jazz, R&B, rock’n’roll, rap and hip-hop, to mention only a few of the most successful styles that sprang from these original roots. The evolution of Romanian hip-hop, though occurring decades later, parallels this aspect of American hip-hop, if we consider

On Linguistic Politics


the fact that some 70s African-American rappers such as Gil Scott-Heron and Grandmaster Flash developed new forms of political music, revealing experiences of oppression and the struggle for urban survival. The same occurred in Romanian hip-hop: Paraziţii and later Anonim, Spike and other groups introduced an aggressive reaction against the Romanian political system and its representatives. The trend had huge success among fans and hip-hop subcultural communities around the country and some lyrics are revered as ‘proverbs’ or ‘life truths.’ As we can see in their political ‘manifesto,’ the best-known Romanian hip-hop band, Paraziţii, made up of three young men, Ombladon, Cheloo and Freakadadisk, scourge the Romanian political scene in a language whose violence touched many people. Their reaction was ‘finally someone is telling the truth,’ but the manifesto also earned them significant obstruction from the authorities, including censorship.

[Ombladon] Cât timp tre’ să treacă, politicienii noştri să-nţeleagă Căci ştim cu toţii în ce căcat se scaldă, Aştept de mult răspunsul la o întrebare… (să vină!) Câţi dintre politicieni prizează cocaină? Acuzaţi poporul că nu-i civilizat, păi cum căcat să fie? E deprimat cu adevărat, se ştie, Când omu’ n-are ce să pună-n farfurie Cu siguranţă-l doare fix în pulă undearunc-o hârtie N-am habar, domnul prim ministru, dar spune tu, dacă nu se fură Cum v-aţi ridicat vile din salariu de-o mie de parai pe lună? Îţi sună cunoscut? Vă pişaţi pe noi continuu, ia zi-mi

[Ombladon] How much longer [must it be], for our politicians to understand That we all know the shit they’re livin’ in, I’ve long been waitin’ for the answer to a question… (let’s hear it!) How many of the politicians sniff cocaine? You accuse the people of not being civilized, how the fuck can they be? They are depressed, it’s a fact, When you don’t have shit to eat, You surely don’t give a shit where you throw a piece of paper. I have no idea, prime minister, but you tell me, if nobody’s stealing, How did you have villas built for yourselves out of a thousand grand wages a month? Sounds familiar? You piss on us everyday, but tell me


Daniela Şorcaru and Floriana Popescu

Fi-tu se bucură la alocaţie ca fi-miu? (Nu cred). În multe ţări ţi-ai dus familia pe banii noştri, Iar noi ca proştii plângem după foştii (era altceva…) Furau cu mai mult bun simţ cei dinaintea ta. [Cheloo] […] Dreptul meu la replică nu e un dar pe care voi mi-l faceţi, Nu mai votez pe nimeni nici dacă mă bateţi Vă retrageţi mereu în umbră, ascunşi de propagandă, Faceţi contrabandă, pe bandă rulantă, Încep să fierb dar nu mă pierd Alege ultimul episod, te rog… alegeri Conferinţe de guvern sau grătare la Snagov? Bă, târfa sub acoperire nu se-mbracă-n mov! [Andrei Gheorghe] (Ombladon) (Ia zi gogule, a ieşit marfă?) Da… s-ar putea să te calce vreo maşină neagră după piesa asta. […] Oricine ştie că se ia şpagă, oricine ştie şi numele ălora cărora li s-a dat Şi nimeni niciodată nu o să recunoască şi n-o să spună, şi-o să moară cu cugetumpăcat. Clasa politică din România împărţită între Stolojan, vreme de-un an, Roman, Iliescu zâmbeşte măiestru şi Nastase, care cu patru case Avansează înainte înspre Nistorescu, Care îşi pune ochelari de soare cumpăraţi cu dolari şi parale Şi pe urmă alunecă mai jos înspre Tinu, care o face cu afaceristu’ Babuinu’

Is your son happy when he gets his allocation like my son? (I don’t think so). You took your family to too many countries on our money, And we regret ex-rulers like fools (it was somethin’ else…) The ones before you stole with more common sense. [Cheloo] […] My right to answer back is not a gift you give me, I won’t vote for anybody even if you beat me up You always go back to the shadows, hidden by propaganda, You make illegal deals all the time, My blood starts to boil, but I don’t lose my cool Please, choose the last episode … elections Government conferences or barbecues in Snagov? Idiot! Undercover hoes don’t wear purple! [Andrei Gheorghe] (Ombladon) (Tell me, dude, was it cool?) Yeah … but you may get run over by a black car after this song. […] Everybody knows they are on the take, everybody knows their names And nobody will ever admit and tell, and they’ll die at peace with themselves. The Romanian political class is divided among Stolojan, for a year, Roman, Iliescu smiles wonderfully and Nastase who, with his four houses Advances towards Nistorescu Who puts on his sunglasses bought with dollars and dough’ And then slides down to Tinu who’s doin’ it with business man Babuinu’

On Linguistic Politics […] România e cea mai bună idee care s-a întâmplat vreodată românilor… La revedere, dom’ prim ministru, mergem mai departe… Este ţara în care niciodată nimic nu se termină. (Paraziţii cu Andrei Gheorghe, Dreptul la replică, Irefutabil, 2002)

131 […] Romania is the best idea that has ever happened to Romanians… Good bye, prime minister, we’re movin’ on… This is the country where nothing ever gets carried out. (Paraziţii feat. Andrei Gheorghe, ‘The right to answer back’, Irrefutable, 2002, our translation)

The political issues addressed by such ‘manifesto’ songs were considered social taboos before the emergence of hip-hop in Romania; hence they were not referred to directly, and bitter criticism was out of the question. All that changed once hip-hop got to be heard and the messages became ever angrier, adding social pressure and contributing to the initiation of lawsuits against top politicians, an outcome that nobody had ever thought possible. These were cases of bribery and all the other aspects of high-level corruption, starting with ‘displays’ of unjustified wealth and the abuse of political influence in matters of state or in private business. See, for example, the already international debate on the former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase’s trial for bribery, the more recent such trials against Decebal Traian Remes, the former Minister of Agriculture and rural development, or the alleged attempt of the Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu to influence the President Traian Basescu by intervening on behalf of a wealthy businessman who was on trial at the time. The linguistic violence in the song may be regarded as being double layered: on the one hand, the audience first gets the more obvious impact of pejorative words while, on the other hand, this linguistic stylistic effect is supported and enhanced by semantically insulting collocations depicting what the rappers perceive as the truth about Romanian political life and its representatives. One of music’s main functions is to convey socially relevant images of affective behaviour, states and processes in the form of (non)-verbal sound. This means studying music in society. The harsh, nonconventional sound of Romanian hip-hop, combined with its original and


Daniela Şorcaru and Floriana Popescu

non-traditional blending of music and lyrics, are another indication of its use by members of the subculture as a form of resistance. It is a means of criticizing both society in general and especially the political class who have a great accountability in this respect:

Shut, shut, shut, shut the fuck up! If you say another word, my head will explode! You’re a senator, you give hope on TV, When you just want to steal in the future. I accuse you of abuse, you steal my future And that of another million Romanians. And I’ll fuck you up, I neither accept nor put up with Someone who’s lookin’ for the cherry to put on the cake. What are you tellin’ us, you’re killin’ us, Every four years you give us pills, Like a drug dealer, but wearing a suit, white shirt and tie, You’re just a spot on that map Made for us all Out of the hopes for the better of some dead people. In the Romanian way I’m tellin’ you, if I had to decide? Ar trebui eliberaţi toţi cei din penitenciar. All people in prison should be freed. (B.U.G. Mafia, ‘In the Romanian way’, (B.U.G. Mafia, Româneşte, Good Guys, 2003, our translation) Băieţii buni, 2003) Taci, taci, taci, taci dracu’! Dacă mai scoţi un cuvânt cred că-mi explodează capu’! Eşti senator, dai speranţă pe la televizor, Când tu de fapt vrei doar să furi în viitor. Te acuz de abuz, furi viitorul meu Şi-al altor câtorva milioane de români. Şi eu ţi-o dau la muie, nu accept şi nu suport Pe unu’ care caută cireaşa ca s-o-nfigă-n tort. Ce ne mai povesteşti tu, ne-omori cu zile, La fiecare 4 ani oferi pastile, Ca un traficant de bile, da’ cu costum, cămaşă albă şi cravată, Nu reprezinţi decât o pată pe acea hartă Făcută pentru noi toţi Din gânduri de mai bine ale unor oameni morţi. Româneşte îţi spun, dacă este să compar,

Attention must, then, be drawn to the way in which Romanian hiphop is seen as oppositional to established, ‘serious’ values in the broadest sense. The development of hip-hop may, therefore, be regarded as some sort of liberation from the dullness of the musical styles emerging after the revolution against the communist regime and a movement against the lack

On Linguistic Politics


of political involvement on the part of the music industry. The following song illustrates this, with its accusations of corruption addressed to members of state institutions, as we can see in the excerpt below.

2004, pura ficţiune, te transport în timp, 2004, pure fiction, I’ll take you back in time, You’ll have travelled free of charge to a Vei călători gratuit spre un nou regim. new regime. We already know cases of corruption Ştim deja cazuri de corupţie In the senate, government, army and Din senat, guvern, armata şi poliţie. police. Oare nimeni n-a dat atentie în atâţia ani, Should nobody have paid attention to these for so many years, Or d’you just enjoy being led by Sau aveţi plăcerea să fiţi duşi de kleptomaniacs? cleptomani? I wasn’t born yesterday, N-am coborât ieri din bananier, Momentan sunt în audienţă la premier. I’m now meeting the prime minister. (Paraziţii feat. Andrei Gheorghe, (Paraziţii cu Andrei Gheorghe, ‘The right to answer back’, Dreptul la replică, Irefutabil, 2002) Irrefutable, 2002, our translation)

The same idea of the theft of a better future, of financial well-being and of a hope for a better life in general is to be found in other hip-hop texts, enhancing the image of the Romanian political class as being corrupt and self-centred, rather than fulfilling their responsibilities to the nation:


Daniela Şorcaru and Floriana Popescu

Nu cumva tu mi-ai furat o vilă, o maşină, O urmă de speranţă să mai ies la lumină? Nu mai spune tu ce e bine şi ce nu, Nu vorbi tu de dreptate, că nu ştii ce-nseamnă, frate! Nu e nici o vrăjeală, nu e nici o caterincă, Fur de la tine, înţelegi de ce? Fiindcă Un copil fură dintr-un magazin ia patru ani, Un ministru corupt (ce face el?) doarme pe bani. Îl fut în gât, îi iau tot, şi trăiesc ca el Şi să trăiască el ca mine, fără bani, în cartier. La acelaşi nivel cu toată lumea din stradă, Să se gândească la ce căcat să pună pe masă. Că dacă eu sunt criminal, tu ce eşti, unu’ legal? A, da, tu eşti doar un criminal legal. Româneşte îţi spun, dacă este să compar,

Haven’t you stolen a villa, a car from me, A ray of hope to help me live? Stop telling me what’s right and wrong, Stop talking about justice, you don’t have a fuckin’ idea what that means, bro! No bullshit, no kiddin’, I steal from you, got it? Cause A kid stealing from a shop gets four years, A corrupt minister (What’s he doin’?) sleeps in his money. I’ll fuck him up, I’ll take everything from him, and I’ll live like him And let him live like me, with no dough, in the ’hood. At the same level with all in the streets, Let him think of what shit to eat.

Cause, if I’m a criminal, what are you, a legit. guy ? Oh, yeah, you’re just a legal criminal. In the Romanian way I’m tellin’ you, if I had to compare it, Ar trebui eliberaţi toţi cei din penitenciar. All people in prison should be freed. (B.U.G. Mafia, ‘In the Romanian way’, (B.U.G. Mafia, Româneşte, Good Guys, 2003, our translation) Băieţii buni, 2003)

Among subcultural members, hip-hop is seen as having opened up new possibilities for self-expression and having broken down the conventions and stuffiness of everyday life with all that it implies. As a result, hip-hop is both something vibrant and something that various types of authority have not liked since the beginning, which accounts for the extreme censorship that has been enforced for a long time:

On Linguistic Politics


[Cheloo] Bury yourselves slowly, foot by foot, I observe my right to do what I want to, I don’t wanna gain your respect, Don’t you see the effect? Immunity seriously affects the intellect. The modified NCA* law binds you legally, I’m not allowed to say anything of N-am voie să spun nimic de interes national interest, naţional, The free press despises you, destroying Presa liberă vă desconsideră demontând your moves by the letter. manevrele literă cu literă. […] […] [Andrei Gheorghe] (Ombladon) [Andrei Gheorghe] (Ombladon) If I broadcast this text on the radio the Dacă eu dau textul ăsta pe radio a doua zi next day, I’ll be convicted, voi fi condamnat, But if I steal 500 billion lei, I’ll never be Dar dacă fur 500 de miliarde de lei legally assassinated. niciodată nu voi fi penal asasinat. (Paraziţii feat. Andrei Gheorghe, (Paraziţii cu Andrei Gheorghe, ‘The right to answer back’, Dreptul la replică, Irefutabil, 2002) Irrefutable, 2002, our translation) [Cheloo] Băga-v-aţi în pământ încet metru cu metru Îmi respect dreptul de-a face ce vreau, Nu vreau să vă câştig respectul Nu vedeţi efectul? Imunitatea afectează grav intelectul. Legea CNA modificată te leagă legal,

* NCA – The National Council for the Audiovisual

Thus, as broadcasting space on radio and TV is very limited, concerts, record selling and meetings with community members are the only means available to hip-hop artists to get their message across to fans and to society. Such performances have provided a clear space for political debate and the authorities rushed to interpret more lyrics than necessary as being politically charged. In their turn, audiences interpreted the songs as well, finding their own politically disruptive messages in them. By means of such processes, we discover that hip-hop music has become politicized in a multi-layered process by the state, the performers and the audiences, as Parazitii articulate:


Daniela Şorcaru and Floriana Popescu

[Chorus] Muzica e prima voce! Ne aude oare cineva? Ne ştim bine drepturile! Jos cenzura! Acţiunile voastre ne alimentează ura! [Cheloo] Exprimarea liberă e câştigată-n revoluţie, E dreptul nostru şi e garantat de constituţie. Instituţiile buruiază undele, România intră-n Europa doar cu numele. Promisiuni… minciuni, Omisiuni… presiuni, Televiziuni… sancţiuni, Showtime la români. Noi nu dăm bani la buget să ne cenzuraţi, Jurnaliştii sunt bătuţi, bruscaţi, ameninţaţi. Ţara asta începe să-mi provoace silă. Copii! Părinţii voştri doar îşi plâng de milă, Politizând cultura arătaţi lumii Marile slăbiciuni ale naţiunii. Exact ca Inchiziţia aţi închis OTV, Urmeaz-Atomic, MTV, Prima sau ProTV? Asta nu e o politică, e direct teroare, Oare emigrând în masă găsim o rezolvare?

[Chorus] Music is the first voice! Anybody hears us? We know our rights well! Abolish censorship! You actions fuel our hate! [Cheloo] The freedom of expression was won in the revolution, It’s our right and it’s granted by the constitution. The institutions jam radio waves, Romania enters Europe just in name. Promises… lies, Omissions… pressures, TV stations… sanctions, Showtime for Romanians. We don’t put money in the budget for you to censor us, Journalists are beaten up, bullied, threatened. This country makes me sick. Kids! Your parents just feel sorry for themselves, By politicizing culture, you show the world The nation’s great weaknesses. Just like the Inquisition, you shut down OTV, Are Atomic, MTV, Prima or ProTv next? This is not politics, it’s plain terror, Should we find a solution in mass emigration?

On Linguistic Politics


[Larry Flynt] Freedom of speech is not freedom for the thought you love, but rather for the thought you hate, the thought you hate the most. Freedom is not lost in one fell swoop; its always one book at a time, one magazine at a time, or one CD at a time. Censorship goes against the very grain of our basic freedoms, primarily the freedom of expression, which should be available to all individuals. I can’t believe that Romania, being a country that should have learned from the past, is still exercising censorship. (Paraziţii cu Larry Flynt, Jos cenzura!, Jos cenzura!, 2004)

(Paraziţii feat. Larry Flynt, Abolish Censorship! Abolish Censorship!, 2004, our translation)

Music as a form of resistance comes out clearly in such texts as the one cited above, which also displays what powerful instruments of struggle the combination of music and text can be. The reference to the TV station OTV, which was shut down by government decree, inflamed both the population and the media, and a lawsuit was initiated against this closure of a free TV station. As a consequence, the TV station was re-opened and it still broadcasts today. Moreover, the collaboration with Larry Flynt, famous for his battle in court against censorship, increased the constraints on the censorship being fought against. Most often defined as suggesting violent solutions to problems, presenting a gang world-view on life, and with an embedded denigration of women, ‘hip-hop has been particularly successful in articulating a political message within the context of a mass-circulated form’ (Longhurst, 2007:147). Despite obstacles set by various types of authorities, Romanian hip-hop has reached more people than initially expected by either side, and community members today vary markedly in terms of cultural background, education and social status, with a surprising majority of members having a higher education, well-paid jobs and a respected social status:


Daniela Şorcaru and Floriana Popescu

[Chorus] Vreau să dau bani falşi de pomană, Să fac trafic legal când staţi geană, Vreau să fac politică, mă cheamă datoria, Sloganul meu electoral e Fuck You România! [Cheloo] (Ombladon) […] La Parlament iei masa cu 60.000, porţii duble (Aveţi reduceri şi când mergeţi la curve)

[Chorus] I wanna give fake money away, Deal drugs legally when you watch me, I wanna be in politics, duty calls me, My election logo is Fuck You România!

[Cheloo] (Ombladon) […] At the Parliament, you can have a meal for 60,000 lei, double portions, (You get a discount even when you go to hoes) […] Vote for corruption, advertising […] Votaţi corupţia, publicitatea decide decides Cine încă patru ani de-acum ucide minţi Who, for four more years from now, kills sharp minds. lucide. [Ombladon] (Cheloo) [Ombladon] (Cheloo) […] The mayor’s office, (the police), the […] Înnebuneşte primăria, (poliţia), presidency go crazy preşedenţia When ever more people yell Fuck You Când tot mai mulţi strigă “Fuck You România! România” […] We didn’t take the herald off the flag […] N-am dat jos de pe steag stema To be led by minds enlightened by the Să fim conduşi de minţi luminate cu flashlight. lanterna. The government again forgot, with no Guvernu-a omis nepermis ce-a promis excuse, what they had promised, din nou, They still don’t know, even today, how Nici azi nu ştie cât costă o cartelă de much a subway ticket costs. metrou. (Paraziţii, Fuck You România!, (Paraziţii, Fuck You România!, Primii 10 ani, 2004) The First 10 Years, 2004, our translation)

This particular text had an impressive mass impact, as 2004 was indeed an election year for Romanians who had to choose both the president and their representatives among the political class. Members of the subculture and even the public at large still associate this hip-hop text with the 2004 elections and the hope they had placed in the political class that things would change. Such a powerful linguistic symbol of the elections had already been anticipated by another hip-hop text, mainly addressed to less

On Linguistic Politics


educated members of the subcultural community. With a suggestive title, Româneşte / In the Romanian way by B.U.G. Mafia also touches upon the need for political figures worthy of being elected to run the country:

[Caddy] (Tataee) E din ce în ce mai rău, însă tu vorbeşti de bine, Promiţi de fiecare dată zile mai senine, Lumea e sătulă de atâta căcat Pe care tu l-ai mâncat, la fiecare mandate, Adică tu eşti ăla care ne îngroapă de vii, Care ne fură şi ultima şansa de-a trăi. Eşti doar un amator de viaţă bună, pula mea! În rest, pula ta, te doare-n pulă! Copiii se nasc fără nici un viitor, Deci domnule ministru, deputat sau senator Când tu apari mereu cu masca ta,

[Caddy] (Tataee) It’s always getting worse, but you speak of the better, You always promise brighter days, People are sick of so much shit That you eat with each mandate, Meaning you’re the one who buries us alive, Who steals our last chance to live. You’re just in this for the good life, fuck you! You don’t give a fuck about the rest! Children are born with no future, So, minister, deputy or senator,

When you always show up with your mask, La fel şi tot de-atâtea ori îţi doresc eu ţie The same number of times I wish you were dead. moartea. Lăcomia ta e mare pentru o ţară-n care… Your greed is too great for a country in which… (You must steal to get somethin’ to eat). (Trebuie să furi ca să îţi iei mâncare). (B.U.G. Mafia, ‘In the Romanian way’, (B.U.G. Mafia, Româneşte, Good Guys, 2003, our translation) Băieţii buni, 2003)

Nevertheless, political attitudes and issues transcend social barriers and demand solutions in any society that is constantly trying to evolve. People who take it upon themselves to ‘preach’ any type of solution have always been exposed to great risks from both the authorities, society at large and their peers, all the more so if the solutions proposed are of a more violent and radical nature. The message that change is absolutely needed is the most important aspect to be decoded, as the linguistic violence accompanying


Daniela Şorcaru and Floriana Popescu

the message may be interpreted as either subjective, or inadequate to the complexities of the political situation in Romania, not to mention the fact that violent solutions are inadequate no matter what situation one is in.

References Fiske, J. (1989). Understanding Popular Culture. Boston: Unwin Hyman. Kottak, C.P. (1996). Mirror for Humanity; A Concise Introduction to Cultural Anthropology.Boston: McGraw-Hill. Longhurst, B. (2007). Popular Music and Society, Second Edition. Cambridge: Polity Press. Mio, J.S., L. Barker-Hackett, and J. Tumambing (2006). Multicultural Psychology: Understanding Our Diverse Communities.Boston: McGraw-Hill. Thompson, K. (1994). Sociology: An Introduction. Boston: McGrawHill.


Lessons from a Lithuanian Hippie Paradise Glimpsed through a Keyhole Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys

Introduction Sociology combines the particular and the general: on the one hand there is ethnography, much concerned with the faithful description of societal phenomena. On the other hand there is theoretical sociology, generating concepts which attempt to capture the meanings and values underlying social processes. Often there is a disconnection between the empirical and the theoretical arising not only from the inherent complexity of sociological phenomena but also from conceptual incompatibilities between these different modes of understanding. In this chapter we detail some progress, even if limited, in unifying empirical and theoretical modes of understanding when addressing one of the arguably most important problems in sociology: how groups arise, behave and disappear. Preliminary results of a study, involving an ethnographic description of the Lithuanian hippies of Kaunas in the 1960s and 1970s, are presented here within the framework of a dynamic systems approach. (For other work on Soviet-era countercultural activities in the Baltic states see Ramanauskaitė 2003, Svede 2003.) It is both fortuitous and ironic that this group should contribute to the understanding of subcultural groups: this group was formed in an environment which made strenuous efforts to prevent its appearance; once the group did appear, every effort was made to suppress it; and had a study of the group been attempted when it


Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys

originated and in a sense even flourished, that scientific undertaking itself would have been suppressed.

Individuals as Systems The information we present spans the period from 1967, when the group can be said to have originated, until 1972, when in the sense of meaningful group activities it was suppressed by external societal forces. What made the study at all possible was the fact that the group members in effect reconstituted themselves as a group after Lithuanian independence in 1990, having maintained close communication in the intervening years despite being scattered geographically. The report is based on extensive interviews with nine members in the group, carried out during the period 2000 –2008, in which the interviewees presented extensive information about how the group began and developed during its formative years. The period covered is sufficiently long so that substantial changes in both the environment and the state of the group occurred, thus making it possible to clarify certain cause and effect relationships. While certain details can be expected to have been blurred by the passage of time, such a retrospective study made it possible to appreciate more clearly the overall context. In this report we will be presenting detailed information about two of the group members and their interactions both amongst themselves and with important features of their environment. The information obtained in these studies could be organized in various ways but we chose the setting provided by systems theory, more particularly, in terms of dynamic systems (Luenberger 1979). Perhaps the best known example of a systems approach in sociology is that of Parsons (1951), but Durkheim in Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1915) already exploits the conceptual partitioning of the universe of discourse into systems to great advantage. Homans (1950), Burt (1982), and more recently Coleman (1990) in more mathematical terms than the others, all bring this

Lessons from a Lithuanian Hippie Paradise Glimpsed through a Keyhole


approach to bear on the investigation of group behaviour, including that of relatively small groups. Homans’s (1974) consideration of the relationship between internalized personal variables and group norms and practices is particularly relevant to our concerns. Our own approach, while in the above tradition, does introduce several novel features. First is a different characterization, compared to the previous work, of the notion of System. This conceptual (not physical) partitioning of the universe of discourse we do in terms of a basic structural triad: The System, The Interactions, and the Environment. The System is whatever is convenient for the investigator, and may be chosen freely, in contrast to the predetermined specification of a system, as used by previous investigators. Everything else becomes the Environment (by construction), and the Interactions are required to be such that logical consistency and fidelity between symbolic and empirical descriptions is maintained. Second, we introduce and systematically use, when relating observations to dynamical theory, a triad of variable classes: Inputs, States, and Outputs (to use the traditional names in systems theory) but in the ethnographic context this triad is better named Influences, States, and Expressions. These variables are related to each other by functions and make possible the systematic exploration of causal processes – a formal representation of the mathematical structure is shown in Table 5, accompanied by a graphical representation of the same relationships but applied concretely to one of our respondents (one of our systems/actors, the term actor being introduced when the system is an individual) in Table 6. These structures guide the way empirical information about our group is to be organized because, in our view, the variables and functions must be induced from the observed behaviour, whereas in prior work these were usually introduced on prior theoretical grounds. Finally, in an innovation due more to fortuitous circumstances than to design, namely the access to information about a group from its very inception when the key actors first begin to interact, we approach the genesis of the group.


Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys Table 5. System – environment – interactions. Universe is made up of System, Environment, and Interactions y – system self-expression (to environment) u – system influence (from environment) s – state of system System behaviour is given by y = g[s] s' = f[s,u] f[.] and g[.] are functions (correspondences between values of one variable and the values of other variables)

(Luenberger 1979)

The key individuals for the inception of the hippie subculture in Kaunas were Alex and Chris.1 The group under discussion, called ‘Company’2, can be said to have its origins in the association of a small circle of friends who usually used to meet after school and to spend their free time listening to music, talking or seeking relaxation. Chris used to keep company with Alex. To structure the analysis of the observations about them we introduce two key actors, named appropriately enough, ‘Alex’ and ‘Chris.’ Associated with each of these actors there will then be a set of state variables (designated by s, which reflect the inner life of an actor), a set of selfexpression or output variables (designated by y, which describe how the actor expresses herself/himself to the external environment), and a set of environmental influence variables (designated by u, which describe how the components of the surrounding society affect the actor).

1 2

To ensure confidentiality, the names of the respondents were changed. Company was the name by which the group of friends referred to themselves.

Lessons from a Lithuanian Hippie Paradise Glimpsed through a Keyhole


To illustrate how the approach is used in practice we now present specific examples of important steps. We introduce a description of the two founding actors, first ‘Alex’, and then ‘Chris’. In specifying the environment of each actor it must be noted that that is to be done from the viewpoint of the system/actor being considered: when discussing ‘Alex’ as a system, a component of his environment is ‘Chris’, and when discussing the system ‘Chris,’ part of this system’s environment is ‘Alex.’ For each of these actors we will need to describe not only their state (specifying s) but also the way each relates to the corresponding environment, both how the actor expresses himself to his surroundings (giving y) and also how the environment impacts on the actor (through u). It will be convenient to group detailed interactions into more general categories whose names reflect commonsense usage. In the context of a subcultural group living in Soviet society it is convenient to use terms ‘friendly,’ ‘Soviet’ and ‘anti-Soviet’ to designate categories of influences arising in the actor’s environment and affecting its behaviours and attitudes. Friendly environmental interactions are those which come from those parts of society, for example from like-minded friends, which on the whole support and encourage the natural interests of Alex or Chris even if there are transient disagreements. One might say that they represent that part of society which is deemed friendly to the reference actor. The term ‘Soviet’ designates that part of the environment that reflects the practices and goals of the Soviet government and of Soviet society. This environment often forces the actor to behave against its own inherent interests. There are also influences which arise in the environment in opposition to the Soviet society, and these types of interactions will be labelled ‘anti-Soviet’. The various interactions may be expressed with the help of a diagram shown in Table 6, where ‘Alex’ is the system:


Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys

Table 6. A systems representation of Alex. Examples of possible interactions are listed. The environment includes Chris, other group members and such other systems as School, KGB, neighbours, etc.

Because a number of factors need to be juggled simultaneously it is convenient to present the information in tabular form. In the text that follows we show representative examples of such factors and how they are related to the empirical information found in the interviews themselves. Table 7 presents the variable of the friendly environment and its values. These are the environments of Alex and Chris where the sub-cultural hippie values, as they were comprehended by these respondents, are developed. The limitations in the scope of the article do not allow us to describe and discuss the semantics of all the values, which would definitely help us to present a broader ethnographic picture of the unique hippie lifestyle in Soviet times. Here we limit ourselves to the presentation of the structure of the friendly environment.

Lessons from a Lithuanian Hippie Paradise Glimpsed through a Keyhole


Table 7. Friendly environments. Friendly environment of Alex:

Friendly environment of Chris:

Free spaces after school

Free spaces after school

‘Company’ in city park

‘Company’ in city park

Big Beat festival in Riga

Pop session in Kaunas

Pop session in Kaunas

First student discotek ‘Saulute’ in Kaunas First student discotek ‘Saulute’ in Kaunas Campsite by Kaunas Sea

Campsite by Kaunas Sea

Commune in Riga

‘Hippy Mecca’ Palanga

‘Hippy Mecca’ Palanga

Father, brother, grandfather self-taught musicians Father makes own violin, grandfather plays in independent orchestra

Big Beat group ‘Raganiai’

Big Beat group ‘Raganiai’

The information given in the table presents the friendly environment of Alex and Chris; such environments were also typical of many other Lithuanian hippies in Soviet times. Moreover, this information allows us to compare the values of the variable ‘friendly environment’ of Alex and Chris. Some of the values are typical of both respondents while others appear relevant only to one of them. Given the regular interaction between Chris and Alex, it is plausible to conclude that they shared with each other the experience and impressions from their participation in different environments and consequently created their hippie identity. Understanding of the identity represented here corresponds with the interpretation of identity as ‘a mode of thinking’: ‘Truth and identity are not fixed objects but are a regulated way to speak about the world or ourselves’ (Barker, 2005, 19).


Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys

Plate 5. Lithuanian countercultural band, Company, play a wedding party, 1971. © Egidija Ramanauskaitė archive

Further we present data from fieldwork to give an example of how functions work in real conditions. In other words, we show how the state of the hippie Alex is interrelated with the impact of the friendly environment and the Soviet environment. The impact of friendly as well as of Soviet environments on the state and behaviour of Alex are presented in the Table 8 opposite:

Lessons from a Lithuanian Hippie Paradise Glimpsed through a Keyhole


Table 8. State changes of Alex with environmental interactions. u1 – friendly environment:

s1 – state:

y1 – self-expression:

Riga Big Beat Festival /1969

Rock music and hippy appearance – subcultural unity

Communication about music, hair, jeans with ‘antiwar’ signification

u3 – Soviet environment:

s3 – state:

y3 – self-expression:

Festival surrounded by plain clothes police

Pride and feeling of empowerment ‘there are many’ ‘Ours is the power’!

Open, proud behaviour

The Big Beat festival in Riga (1969) was the first among such festivals in the former Soviet Union. This is a friendly environment for Alex (u1). There he meets more people with similar ideas and lifestyle and enjoys the sub-cultural unity (s1). This environment is suitable for the development of sub-cultural awareness and the hippie identity, which reveals itself through sub-cultural self-expression (y1). The table also summarizes the situation when the friendly environment is impacted on by the Soviet environment – KGB (u3): the festival site is surrounded by the undercover police. This helps Alex to comprehend himself not as an isolated being but rather as one in unity with the other hippies linked through the sense of community. The comprehension of the sub-cultural ‘we’ comes into existence (s3), which helps him to challenge the aggressive environment of the Soviet regime (y3). We further provide an extract from the interview with the respondent. The extract reveals the interactions among the values of the variables of the environments, the states and the self-expression described above, as Alex describes it. We met many people [at the Big Beat festival]. There were people who came from Khabarovsk.3 It was very funny, somehow there were few militiamen but very many


Eastern bands from as far away as Khabarovsk (Russian Far East) played at the festival. No western bands participated in the festival because at this time the Soviet Union tried to limit western influences on its population to an absolute minimum.


Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys ambulances located around the sports hall… And then you realize when you see that we are the power – some 200–300 people, not five or four, you know, covered under the hoods: you unfasten, you say, well, ok, I’ll get in… So cool, you know, in jeans, in all the other stuff, then you realize – power… That was the year 1969. I still keep the badge. It is so damaged…

We can see more of the Soviet environments in Alex’s real life – the influences do not come just from the KGB. In order to envision this reality better, we further display the values of the Soviet environment of both actors (see Table 9). Table 9. Soviet environment. Soviet environment for Alex:

Soviet environment for Chris:

Teachers forbid long hair

Teachers forbid long hair

For refusing to cut hair expelled from Communist Youth Union / 1968 —

After 8th grade teacher enters into record ‘opposed to establishment’/1967

KGB arrest for wearing flowered jeans; humiliated and deported from Palanga/1969

KGB arrest for wearing flowered jeans; humiliated and deported from Palanga/1969

KGB pressure to inform on friends

KGB pressure to inform on friends

KGB tries to close Kaunas Pop session /1971

KGB tries to close Kaunas Pop session /1971

KGB shadows trip to Riga Commune Sent to insane asylum /1972* * Incarceration in a mental hospital was one of the KGB techniques for dealing with dissidents and others who deviated from societal norms.

In the systems approach used here one must generate a systems representation for each member of the group. We now examine the interviews provided by Chris and again provide examples of how interactions and

Lessons from a Lithuanian Hippie Paradise Glimpsed through a Keyhole


states might be characterized. For this illustration we have chosen an episode from Chris’s hippie times which explains how his anti-Soviet attitude develops. Table 10 shows the anti-Soviet environment variable with the values which provide information that is in contrast to Soviet ideology. This is the knowledge that Chris and Alex obtain from sources outside the school, such as family and neighbours. This knowledge influenced their awareness and sub-cultural self-expression. The comparison of the values shows that although both respondents receive similar information about pre-war Lithuania and a critique of the regime, they receive this information from different sources: Chris receives it from the family, while Alex receives it from neighbours. On the basis of the research results, it can be supposed that there were no discussions critical of the regime in Alex’s family. The analysis of Alex and Chris’s hippie times shows that they spent much time at Chris’s place because Chris’s parents tolerated their values. Therefore, it can be assumed that Chris’s attitude and the attitude of his family towards the regime were known to Alex and helped him to look for more knowledge about pre-soviet Lithuania. Table 10. Anti-Soviet environment. Alex’s anti-Soviet environment:

Chris’s anti-Soviet environment: Father talks about pre-war Lithuania Listens to Western radio broadcasts with brother At home father openly opposes Soviet government

Organist neighbour tells of church calendar rituals and also about pre-war Lithuania Professor neighbour gives history text ‘Šapoka’ to read Joins another more politicized group preparing anti-Soviet slogans


Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys

Table 11 presents an impact of anti-Soviet and Soviet environment on Chris’s behaviour: Table 11. Changes of state of Chris under the influences of the environment / 1967 / 8–9 grade. u2 – anti-Soviet environment

s2 – state

y2 – expression

Chris’s father has a negative view of the system of soviet government

Chris sees what is omitted in the history textbooks

He searches for information on historical facts, to commemorate Lithuanian National Day*

u3 – soviet environments

s3 – state

y3 – expression

a) Teacher slaps down actions of Duke of ancient Lithuania: Kęstutis** was barbarian

a) Kęstutis wasn’t barbarian

a) Chris comes into conflict with the teacher

b) Teacher writes in an evaluation of Chris that he ‘spoke ill of the Soviet regime’ /1967

b) Disturbed

b) Chris comes to a decision to leave the school and to find a job.

* National Day: on 16 February 1918 Lithuania declared independence from Russia and Germany. ** Grand Duke of Lithuania (1381–1382) who defended his country’s western borders against the Teutonic Knights (The Grand Duchy of Lithuania formed in 1230s).

Chris grew up in a family which had a negative view of the system of Soviet government (u2). That engendered an attitude in Chris towards the Soviet environment (s2), encouraged him to take an interest in history (y2). A teacher of history provided negative interpretations to the actions of dukes of ancient Lithuania (u3a). Chris was shocked to hear about this (s3a). He constantly came into conflict with the teacher regarding historical topics (y3a). As a result of the conflicts, after finishing the eighth grade, the teacher wrote in an evaluation of Chris that he ‘spoke ill

Lessons from a Lithuanian Hippie Paradise Glimpsed through a Keyhole


of the Soviet regime’ (u3b). It was evident that such an evaluation made it impossible for him to enter university after finishing high school (s3b). That was the main reason why soon Chris came to a decision to leave the high school (y3b). Chris’s school experience influenced the development of his personality and shaped his alienation towards school and the social regime. After he finished the tenth form, his father died. Chris dropped out of school and started working at a paint warehouse in the Nemunas docks in Kaunas. The further analysis of the interaction between Chris and Alex reveals to us that their activities included such things as the search for the frescos from the times of the Great Lithuanian Dukedom in churches, the celebration of the Lithuania’s National Day on 16 February and the discussions about the old-time Lithuania with Alex’s neighbour, an organist. The links discussed here are determined on the basis of the extract from an interview with Chris, presented below, and on the basis of the other relevant data from observation. Chris explains: Chris: My brother used to listen to the radio programmes ‘Amerikos balsas,’ ‘BBC,’ this was here like the evening supper. He listened to the politics, and so did I and after the politics he used to turn the radio off. I used to tell him – wait a minute, don’t turn off, what’s gonna be next. Well, next was the music programmes, and so we listened. The programmes were good, all the news… Q: And now discuss briefly the historical questions, you used to have different information from what the teacher told you, didn’t you? Chris: Yes, sure. Q: Where from? Chris: Well, the information from abroad. […] I should start, you know, from my father, because my father was such…, well, he had a very strange attitude towards this Soviet regime… […] and he educated us more or less in this manner, our family was big, four brothers and two sisters, so six of us grew together … My father used to say […] nothing will come out of this order and this government. Q: And what about the Lithuania’s independence, did you hear anything about that?


Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys Chris: Of course we did, the 16th of February. I remember some kind of Polish wine called ‘Rycerskie’ was introduced then and there was the Lithuanian ‘Vytis’4 and the Polish eagle5 on it … the Lithuanian ‘Vytis’ on a bottle of wine … well, it didn’t matter so much that on a bottle of wine, but that was the Lithuanian ‘Vytis’, and that was a big plus that we had this wine on the 16th of February. This happened perhaps in the years 1968 to 1969. […] I had many Lithuanian coins, coins of the times of President Smetona,6 I was interested in numismatics. So I had various questions: why was the Lithuanian ‘Vytis’ imprinted there? Why was it so – the independence in 1918 and the coin appeared in 1925? Why? […] There was no such information; I learned something from my father and also from… I had such a neighbour, an old man, he eagerly told me about those times and he always concluded: what delicious ice-cream we had in the times of Smetona. Q: You mentioned the history teacher. Chris: Well, here, you know, some politics starts then. It was the history teacher that we had conflicts with about history … Something about Kęstutis and about Vytautas,7 well, you know, about those barbarians … and so we argued. Finally, when we finished eight forms, everybody received statements of their character evaluation, and it went like: ‘Shall we read?’ And the whole class said: ‘We shall.’ So she did, she read somebody’s and then somebody else’s and when mine was read the whole class roared: ‘The student exposed a negative response to the existing social regime.’ In the eighth form, where were the wits of that teacher, I wonder… I had no idea why she had put it so … Father died and I had completed ten forms then. I told my mother that was all – I would not continue into the eleventh […], I would go to work, because we needed money, because I saw that it would be hard times for the family … Anyway in that high school … you know, these conflicts with the class teacher … and I left, found a job in the Nemunas shipping company as a warehouse keeper.

4 5

6 7

The coat of arms of Lithuania, consisting of an armour-clad knight on horseback holding an ancient sword and shield, is also known as Vytis (‘the Chaser’). The Lithuanian coat of arms is one of the oldest national coats of arms in Europe. The White Eagle is the Coat of arms of Poland. (The Coat of Arms of the Polish– Lithuanian Commonwealth was the symbol of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (United Kingdom of Lithuania and Poland, the sixteenth–seventeenth century), representing the union of the Crown of the Polish Kingdom and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It combined their previously separate Polish and Lithuanian coats of arms. Antanas Smetona signed the Declaration of Independence of Lithuania in 1918, and was the first President of the State of Lithuania. Vytautas the Great was the ruler (1401–1430) of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Lessons from a Lithuanian Hippie Paradise Glimpsed through a Keyhole


Towards Groups The above examples and discussion were presented to show the sort of considerations that transform interviews or questionnaires, which contain empirical observations, into a set of theoretically motivated structures, the most important of the latter being a system characterization of each respondent. Once the information is organized in this way we can proceed to structure the group as a whole. In this part we illustrate important steps through selected examples. The essential problem at this stage is to set up interactions between the individual actors we have been characterizing so that group properties are appropriately developed. In the presentation above we have introduced two such actors – Alex and Chris – and we now examine how they interact with each other, without forgetting that they are also continuing to interact with other aspects of the environment. In graphic terms this process can be represented by Table 12 where Alex and Chris are represented by square boxes and their interactions with each other and their environments in general are represented by lines with arrow-heads. Essential to developing group characteristics are those lines which join the two individuals to each other, particularly if there are cross (feedback) interactions. The group then becomes identifiable as a system in its own right. Table 12. Alex-Chris-environment-interactions.


Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys

Plate 6. Lithuanian hippies on the road, early 1970s: ‘We are a power’. © Egidija Ramanauskaitė archive

How this diagrammatic representation is related to ethnographic knowledge is presented in Tables 13–15 below, where we give examples of interactions between the individuals which led to the development and strengthening of a group identity. As mentioned earlier, in Riga Alex experiences KGB pressure (ua) (see Table 10), which he tries to resist through the feeling of the sub-cultural unity with the other members at the festival: ‘We are a power’ (sa). Upon his return from Riga, Alex shares his experience with Chris, who has also encountered the pressure of the Soviet environment. When his teacher identifies him as hostile to the Soviet regime in the statement of his character evaluation, Chris realizes the might of the Soviet system and consequently accepts Alex’s experience (uk). The experience delivered by Alex helps Chris to maintain the spirit of revolt, to join the comprehension of ‘We are a power’ (sk) and to continue to resist by preserving his own values (yk).

Lessons from a Lithuanian Hippie Paradise Glimpsed through a Keyhole


Table 13. Relations between two actors (Chris and Alex). u a – environment of Alex

s a – state of Alex

ya – self-expression of Alex

Alex feels KGB pressure in Riga

Rebellion, it’s too much, ‘We are a power’

Tells Chris that Riga is more free, with many long haired youths

uk – environment of Chris:

sk – state of Chris:

yk – self-expression of Chris

Alex’s experience fills out Chris’s relations to the Soviet system

Chris enters into ‘We are a power’ state

I would walk to London on foot if they only allowed me to leave

Another ethnographic example describes interactions between Chris and Alex while they were organizing their bohemian life in the city of Palanga (a Lithuanian holiday resort on the Baltic coast), which in Soviet times was considered a bohemian hangout of musicians and artists. Table 14. Trip to Palanga (1969). u1 – friendly environment:

s1 – state:

y1 – self-expression:

a) Chris sees Palanga, called ‘Hippy Mecca’, for the first time

a) Chris experiences freedom in Palanga

a) Chris tells Alex of his experience, invites him to come with him

b) Alex accepts the invitation from Chris

b) Waiting for life of freedom

b) Draws flowers on trousers and slogans about love, goes to Palanga, leads a bohemian existence

u3 – Soviet environment :

s3 – state :

y3 – self-expression:

Arrested by police and ordered out of Palanga

Does not understand why made fun of, why ‘Vytis’ is confiscated

They try to be evasive, delay, but leave


Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys

Chris had an opportunity to go to Palanga where he experiences feelings of freedom (s1a). Having returned, Chris shares his impressions with Alex and invites him to go there with him (y1a). Alex accepts the invitation (u1b) and they prepare for the journey. They decorate their trousers with flowers and inscriptions of love for that is how they understand hippie romanticism. They live in a bohemian style in Palanga (y1b). Due to their odd appearance, the flowers and inscriptions on the trousers, Chris and Alex are picked up by the local police. The latter question them and order them to leave Palanga (u3). Chris and Alex do not understand why the police laugh at their clothing and why the police take away their button with the Lithuanian ‘Vytis’ (s3). They are forced out of their Hippy Mecca (y3), as Chris later remembered. [Note: In Palanga, Chris and Alex used to buy wine, go to the discos and look for free entertainment because they did not have a great deal of money.] Chris: Well, yeah, and then these decorated flowered jeans, and the hair length was such comparatively … well, in short, it bothered someone. One morning we were woken up by knock, knock on the door. Two men in uniforms came in and one civilian. ‘We received information that you live here unregistered’. How should we know where you have to register here? And then they go like: ‘And where are your flowered trousers? Well, all right… Get the things…,’ we go to the militia (police) station. Then they searched our things. They kept searching and searching and they found some sugar. At once the civilian scraped the sugar suspiciously with his nail: ‘What is that?’ I say, sugar. And the lump was so rubbed down that it didn’t look like a sugar lump… but at that time we had no idea about any drugs. Then after many years I thought that he must have suspected something like that. ‘Why is it here in your pocket? To make life sweeter? And whose is this little horse?’ I say – ‘But that is the Lithuanian Vytis.’ ‘Where did you get it from? How long have you been wearing it? Why are you wearing it?’ That was the summer, the summer of 1969 and I was seventeen. So what, we stayed there for a while, had our pictures taken with these flowered jeans on. Q: Dressed and photographed? Chris: Yes, because we also had other clothing. They dressed us in these jeans and photographed. Well, you know, these clothes of ours somehow made them laugh very much. They say, – ‘we haven’t seen anything like that …’ They told us that, well, in short, ‘you have to be away from Palanga today, all right?’ All right, but anyway the weather is nice, and we had only a few days left, but still we were already being urged out, so we didn’t return there …

Lessons from a Lithuanian Hippie Paradise Glimpsed through a Keyhole


The identification and characterization of interactions among group members is more difficult than just characterizing the individuals because there are many possible interactions (any member of the group with any other member) and because the information about the interactions is distributed among multiple interviews or questionnaires. To some extent this complexity of information can be handled by introducing more abstract characterizations of the interactions but at the risk of losing significant ethnographic detail. In the initial stages it is necessary to examine the source material multiple times so that an appropriate degree of abstraction is reached. Table 15 shows the interactions between Chris and Alex after they make a decision to become rock musicians and begin to realize their intention. Table 15. Chris and Alex make a decision to become rock musicians. u – environment:

s – state:

y – self-expression:

Chris’s brother plays the seven string guitar

The Beatles do not play seven string guitars…

Chris removes a string

Suggests to Alex to form a group ‘Chairs’

Why ‘Chairs’? Chairs fits – everyone ‘leans’ on us, the school, the parents…

Alex suggests – remove ‘c’ and you get Hairs

They reflect at length – With article like ‘The first without ‘The’ then Beatles’ with…

Chris proposes recording songs, acoustic guitar not right, need an electric one. He starts building electric guitar

Chris thought of plugging a guitar into the tape-recorder’s microphone inlet

What comes out of that is almost such a tuned up sound, astounding…

Alex immediately got down to the drums

Alex returns Chris’s lead: ‘Let’s go on…’

This is fantastic! Now we get ahead in music!

They create songs, Chris creates a design for the album covers.

They release music albums

Signs of the time … It is far more than Pink Floyd!

They present their new records to their friends


Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys

The interview texts on the basis of which the links between Chris and Alex have been established are presented below: Chris: What else can I say … oh, this music, you know, appeared… These records later… they play and why couldn’t we… at that time we used to have guitars at home (my brother used to play), but these guitars had seven strings, the so-called Russian tuning, and all the westerners used to play the six-stringed ones, so I remade ours into the six-stringed, and it was so good to play… The next problem was to electrify the music, to get some kind of amplification, so we had the simplest.… I attended a club of young constructors for some time then…, we acquired some equipment… You add this simple ‘Aidas’ tape-recorder to the acoustic guitar and you get this sound, and here is your electric guitar. And we also… I thought of plugging into the microphone inlet not in the simple inlet so what came out of that was a distorted sound, astounding. […] Well Alex immediately got down to the drums, you know, like … a cup, a box … these first attempts… And then we call our group ‘Chairs,’ we thought why chairs? Everybody’s got to sit on us, at school they sit on us, parents sit on us… And then (Alex) added a point: if you take away ‘c,’ what remains is ‘hair,’ which is also good, at that time the musical Hair was released – in 1968.

Alex was asked how many groups he had played in, and about the process of forming and naming a band and about making the relevant instruments: Oh, many; Chris and I started playing at school in the years 69–70, the group was called ‘Chairs’. That was great. If you cross ‘C’, you are left with ‘hair’, anyway; it’s not a stool though. We were contemplating for a long time. We first had it without an article and then we added it like in The Beatles. We used to make the instruments ourselves. It took three months for Chris to complete carving out his guitar. He spent time making it, borrowing and overseeing the process. Everything went right. After that a few single experiments … The guitar, the flute, the bass guitar but no drums, the bass with drums… So these were the experiments…

The underground musical activities at free spaces, usually at Chris’s place are explained by each of the hippies in turn: Chris: Well, we spent a lot of time together with Alex, look, I’ve calculated today 17 albums of ours have been released. Q: Right, and what did one look like? Chris: A sheet of paper decorated like a disc, the size is smaller, similar to the size of a CD. Inside two cut-out paper discs, this is for visualization. The sound was audio

Lessons from a Lithuanian Hippie Paradise Glimpsed through a Keyhole


cassette, whoops… no audio… at that time tape recorders used to be more popular. We used to record, it used to be like you work sometimes too noisy, mother opens the door, go… Q: Did you regard yourself as in the vanguard at that time? Alex: You know, there were experiments… this also reflected in the titles… We prepared the albums with Chris. So it was far more than Pink Floyd … It had water flowing and then boom boom…, so many signs of the time were created, many things. But anyway we had our audience, as I say – how to reach a sell-out, you know, in a five-seat cinema hall, so you need to sell eight tickets… and you have a sell-out. So you know it… all the audience, they listen… but just a few of them. And you would still try to avoid those interested a bit and the like… Anyway it used to be a closed circle. Many used to suffer, and even parents used to betray some of us. One used to say, what kind of morons are these…

As mentioned at the beginning of this section, the sorting out of interactions between the members of a group is a more demanding task than the initial characterization of a member individually.

Conclusion In the preceding two sections we presented examples of how to analyze empirical information in the framework of a modified systems approach. The first section concentrated on the structuring of information needed to describe distinct individuals (as systems), while in the second section the emphasis was on structuring information associated with the interactions among the individuals. As this is a preliminary report, neither analysis is yet complete: the work has yet to include all the individuals making up the group and the number of variables needs to be increased. Nevertheless we feel that even the incomplete examples are sufficient to indicate that the introduction of systems, which then structure the ethnographic information into states, expression variables, and influence variables, has considerable utility. While it is yet to be convincingly demonstrated, it appears that it may be possible to relate the essentials of group phenomena to the


Egidija Ramanauskaitė and Rimas Vaišnys

interplay of self-expression variables and influence variables between the group members in the course of forging a group identity. If the systems-oriented approach as outlined above is successful it may provide a natural framework for making comparisons between different subcultural groups, and not only the Lithuanian hippie subculture of the late 1960s and early 1970s discussed here. It is our argument that the systems approach, by explicitly inviting the identification of environmental interactions on the one hand, and on the other, doing so in relationship to the group internal structure, provides a natural way of looking at similarities and differences among subcultural groups of different kinds. Only by actually carrying out such work will it be possible to decide further on the merits of such an approach.

References Barker, C. (2005). Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: SAGE. Burt, R.S. (1982). Toward a Structural Theory of Action: Network Models of Social Structure, Perception, and Action. New York: Academic Press. Coleman, J.S. (1990). Foundations of Social Theory. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press Durkheim, E. (1915). Elementary Forms of the Religious Life: A Study in Religious Sociology. London: G. Allen & Unwin; New York: Macmillan. Homans, G.C. (1974). Social Behaviour: Its Elementary Forms. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. Homans, G.C. (1950). Human Group. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. Luenberger, D.G. (1979). Introduction to Dynamic Systems: Theory, Models, and Applications. New York: Wiley. Parsons, T. (1951). The Social System. Glencoe, Ill: Free Press.

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Ramanauskaitė, E. (2003). ‘Lithuanian youth culture versus Soviet culture.’ In Anu Mai Koll (ed.). The Baltic Countries Under Occupation: Soviet and Nazi Rule 1939–1991. Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis: Studia Baltica Stockholmiensia 23. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International. 315 – 340. Svede, M.A. (2003). ‘Lights, camera, subversive action! Latvia’s hippie auteurs.’ In Anu Mai Koll (ed.). The Baltic Countries Under Occupation: Soviet and Nazi Rule 1939–1991. Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis: Studia Baltica Stockholmiensia 23. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International. 341 – 346.


Euro-Indians in the Framework of Slovak Society Radoslav Hlúšek

Introduction The movement of Euro-Indians in Slovakia has a relatively long history which is connected with the same movement in the Czech Republic. The break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993 meant a division of the Euro-Indian movement into two parts – Slovak and Czech. Although neither of them has ever stopped co-operating, it is not possible to deny that since 1993 Slovak and Czech Euro-Indians have gone their own ways. This chapter is concerned with the history of this movement in the wider European and North American context and with the organization and activities of Slovak Euro-Indians in the framework of Slovak society. There are few native peoples in the world which have attracted European interest and which are commonly known to them. North American Indians not only are one of these peoples but also arguably occupy the first place among them. There are several reasons for this. First of all there is the popular culture, adventure novels and subsequently films about the Wild West and the wars between ‘Red Indians’ and white settlers. The sad destiny of the Indians was reflected in the newspapers at the time and above all in the already mentioned adventure novels. It is understandable that this provoked the sympathies and interest of Europeans. Many of the Europeans who moved to the United States in the nineteenth century in order to look for a better life, kept in touch with their relatives who remained in Europe. Many of these immigrants had to settle on the frontier of the civilized Western world and the Great Plains Indian tribes. Thus they became part


Radoslav Hlúšek

of the emerging Wild West legend. The advance of white settlers towards the American West provoked a clash of civilizations whose outcome was determined in advance. The colonial conflict between agricultural settlers and nomadic hunters and gatherers was nothing new in world history and the case of Great Plains does not represent an exception. It should not be considered as a conflict between civilization and barbarism but rather as the clash between two different cultural systems, one agrarian and the other based on hunter gathering, which was bound to lead to the victory of the colonizers (Opatrný 1998: 9). It is significant that people in Europe know most of all those native American Indian tribes which lived and continue to live in the area of the Great Plains or the Prairie (see Fowler 2003). The Great Plains are the home of well known tribes such as the Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche and the Kiowa, whose glorified resistance against white people as represented by the United States Army and settlers grew into a legend which extended far beyond the American continent. The existence of prairie culture only lasted for just over a century. But because of this resistance and wars, Europeans have mostly known only about these native American Indian tribes. This has been particularly through adventure novels set in the Wild West as well as through Hollywood Western films. Another aspect of Native American culture which has attracted people in Europe is the perceived relationship of North American Indians to nature and the environment. This balance between Indian societies and nature is something that is often understood to be missing in modern Europe.1 It is widely believed that European ways of life are destructive of the environment and so the Indian attitude towards nature has become an ideal. This opinion is common not only in Europe but throughout Western civilization as a whole. However, it is something of a myth. The Indians have never been as good ecologists as most people think. They used to


This may explain the attraction of a version of native American lifestyle for some counterculturalist groups. For example, for the place of tipi culture in British alternative lifestyles – from hippy drop-outs to eco-warriors to new travellers (see McKay 1996: 53–57).

Euro-Indians in the Framework of Slovak Society


throw away everything they did not need and the close surroundings of the camps as well as the streams and rivers running alongside them used to be polluted by human excrement. Nevertheless, all of this pollution had an organic origin and after the abandoning of the camp it simply decayed (Moore 2003: 148). The image of the extinction of big buffalo herds by white hunters is also not entirely true. There is some evidence to confirm that Plains tribes killed more buffalo than they needed because of the hide trade (Flores 1991: 483). I have mentioned only a few of the reasons for the attraction to North American native cultures for Europeans; there are more but those already mentioned should suffice. Central Europe, especially the Czech Republic, is a region where the traditions and legacy of Indians have found an ideal place to flourish. The Czech people have been more interested in them and for a longer time than the Slovaks but the Indian lifestyle has found its followers in Slovakia, too. These followers began to organize camps where they lived in tipis, practised Indian habits and rituals and tried to live in harmony with their environment. This was not supported by the communists, but also not forbidden because they saw a good source of anti-American propaganda in the Indian genocide. After the fall of the communist regime, the Euro-Indian movement, like all non-communist movements, developed further and became somewhat more familiar to the rest of the population.

Defining Euro-Indians The difficulty with studying the Euro-Indian movement in a Central European, especially Slovak, framework, is that it is a new phenomenon and therefore there is little academic research in this field. Apart from sporadic articles mostly in local newspapers and journals (Hybáčková 2001: 18–20), as well as equally sporadic TV appearances which always look for the sensational, and the internet sites of some groups, material related to this topic barely exists. It can also be said that this subculture is not very sought after


Radoslav Hlúšek

by journalists because it does not cause any social problems. Perhaps this is also the reason for the relative non-interest of academic specialists such as ethnologists or sociologists. Euro-Indians do have their own websites and publish their own journals but from a sociological or cultural perspective these publications are not well researched in comparison with publications on skinheads or new religions, for example. Therefore, this chapter is based almost entirely on ethnological fieldwork in which information was collected through participant observation, questionnaires, interviews and informal conversations. In general we can say that the Euro-Indian movement in Slovakia is not widespread in the sense of the number of members. There are several groups which have different numbers of members ranging from less than 10 to 30 or 40. The biggest and most important group called Wígmunke Oyáte from Eastern Slovakia has more than 30 members. All of the others are much smaller and do not have the importance of Wígmunke Oyáte.2 Apart from these groups it is necessary to count some individuals who are not members of any group but keep in touch with other individuals or groups and participate in camps, general assemblies, meetings and ‘pow-wows,’ the dance festivals of North American Indians which as a part of native American culture are also organized in Europe by Euro-Indians. However, while these groups and individuals exist throughout the whole country, the existence of Wígmunke Oyáte means that most of the Slovak Euro-Indians live in the Eastern part of the country and most of their activities take place there as well. At the beginning of this chapter it is appropriate to explain the term Euro-Indian which I have already used above. We can look at this expression from different points of view. It was already indicated that the word Indian in this context is clearly linked with the native inhabitants of North America. This means that a Euro-Indian is a person who likes the lifestyle and values of native North American people and lives in accordance with these values. But the members of this movement make distinctions among themselves. Put simply, if somebody considers themselves to be a Euro-


This name originates from Lakota language and means People of the Rainbow (wígmunke-rainbow, oyáte-people). For more see Ullrich, 2004, 2005.

Euro-Indians in the Framework of Slovak Society


Indian, this does not automatically signify that they will be considered to be a Euro-Indian by other members of the subculture. So the question is who is a Euro-Indian and how can we define him or her? If somebody wears Indian clothes and camps in a tipi somewhere in the forest once a year for couple of days, are they a Euro-Indian? For the majority of society the answer is probably yes but not for other members of the movement. A Euro-Indian must be interested in a hobby, or more precisely in the lifestyle and values of native Americans for the whole year, must read books and articles, produce Indian artefacts, clothes, weapons and decorations and live in harmony with nature.3 Therefore it is sometimes difficult to define or mark somebody as a Euro-Indian.

The Historical Construction of the Native American in the European Imaginary In order to describe the history and origins of the Euro-Indian movement in Slovakia, it is necessary to examine it in a broader context. Searching for the beginning of this movement leads us back to the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. At this time, white American society, marked by the end of the Wild West era, was slowly changing its attitude towards native Americans. This process led to the formation of a movement among non-Indians, which mostly meant among white Americans, at the beginning of the twentieth century. This movement was connected with the term ‘hobbyism,’ which reveals that the interest in Indian cultures had the character of a hobby and leisure activity. Although this term is not totally accurate and does not give a true picture of the substance of the movement, which is also a lifestyle and belief system, it has become common, especially in the United States and some Western European countries. Hobbyism developed 3

This definition comes from my fieldwork and from numerous conversations with many members of the Euro-Indian movement in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.


Radoslav Hlúšek

in relation to other movements, mainly scouting and woodcraft.4 Hobbyists started to study specific ethnological literature, visit Indian reservations and acquire Indian knowledge and wisdom. This process is also evident in the publishing of journals, for instance The American Indian Hobbyist, in which serious and professional papers on specific topics such as Indian clothing, dances, songs and traditions, have been published. Besides this, they organized activities like camping in tipis, meetings, exhibitions, powwows and also produced Indian artefacts. Very early on, hobbyism started to spread from the United States to Europe, firstly to those countries which were former colonial powers and which had direct historical contacts with North America, especially Great Britain, where the first hobbyists appeared around the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century.5 Europe also became a favourite destination of the Wild West Show of Buffalo Bill. This circus offered performances from Wild West life such as fights between Indians and cowboys, and hired famous personalities of the Wild West like Sitting Bull or Annie Oakley. It became famous not only in the United States but in Europe as well. At this time, the show toured not only Western Europe but also, for example, visited Košice in Eastern Slovakia. Apart from Great Britain, hobbyism was also established in Sweden, Germany,6 The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Bulgaria, Poland, Finland and Hungary. Only here in continental Europe, the name Euro-Indians has became established, so from now on it will be used in this chapter and the term hobbyism, although more popular in the beginning, will be used less frequently. 4 5


Especially woodcraft, founded by the famous Scot, Ernest Thompson Seton, which is based substantially on native American cultures and there are still many EuroIndians who are also woodcrafters or began with woodcraft (see Pecha 1999). It should not be forgotten that E.T. Seton, whose book Two Little Savages is a regarded as a bible for every woodcrafter and Euro-Indian, was a Scot. Apart from this, there was the influence of George Catlin, painter and writer, who became famous because of his paintings of Plains Indians. The foundation of the Westerns Society in 1954 was the logical result of this process. This is one of the biggest movements in Europe in terms of camping and the presence of real Indians, and it was influenced by the novels by Karl May. There is also the Museum of Karl May in the town of Radebeul.

Euro-Indians in the Framework of Slovak Society


Euro-Indians in Former Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic The Euro-Indian movement also started to develop in former Czechoslovakia. Its Czech part has always been particularly known for its interest in American culture, and not only in the Indians. The Wild West era in Bohemia was represented by camps, cowboys and country music which, although it may not have much to do with American country music, is one of the most popular music styles in the Czech Republic. The development of the Euro-Indian movement in Czech countries was also supported by several collections on Indian subjects, for example, in the Náprstek Museum in Prague, Opočno Castle and Konopiště Castle. It is also worth pointing out that American anthropologist Aleš Hrdlička, author of the theory of the Asian roots of Indians and their migration across Bering Strait to America, had Czech origins. But first of all, the woodcraft movement as well as scouting, supported by Seton’s visit to Prague in the 1930s, was established there and many future Euro-Indians began as woodcrafters. For example, the Liga Lesní Moudrosti (The League of Woodcraft) was founded by Miloš Seifert in 1922 and still exists today (Pecha 1999: 35). But woodcraft, although it is based on Indian culture, did not comply with the ideas of some members who were looking for pure ‘Indianness’. Therefore they left the woodcrafters and in the 1960s and 1970s they founded the first groups or tribes interested only in Indian cultures, especially in Indians from the Great Plains. Czech Euro-Indians soon created a strong base with a number of identifiable tribes and they published the journal Poselství ze světa v kruhu (Message of the World in a Circle). This journal was first published only in 2001 but it has its several predecessors, such as the Indian Hobby Courier and the Euro-Indian magazine. But many Czech Euro-Indians began to use their interest for business purposes, selling Indian artefacts and buying and selling Indian goods from the United States and


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Germany. This caused a rift among Czech Euro-Indians and some left the Czech-wide organization named Indian Corral.7

Euro-Indians in Slovakia The existence of the Euro-Indian movement in Slovakia, apart from the fact that it has also developed from woodcraft, hiking or scouting, has always been connected with the Czech movement. Although there were always some differences between Slovak and Czech Euro-Indians in Czechoslovakia, the movement was perceived as a unified Czechoslovakian one. Only the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993 divided this originally united movement into two. But strong contacts have been maintained and Euro-Indians on both sides of the frontier do not consider 1993 as the breaking-point. The year 1989 and the fall of the communist regime in former Czechoslovakia is a similar case. Even though the Velvet Revolution is considered to be an important and significant event, it did not have major consequences for the Slovakian Euro-Indian movement since neither the lifestyle of Slovak Euro-Indians nor the structure of the movement was changed. What has changed is the availability of professional ethnological literature, the possibility to travel to the United States and the possibility of registering some groups as Non-Governmental Organizations. But this opportunity was utilized only by the group Wígmunke Oyáte, which was registered as a Non-Governmental Organization in 1991. Otherwise the general history of Euro-Indians in Slovakia follows the same pattern as in the other above-mentioned countries. In the framework of Czechoslovakia we can trace its beginnings back to the 1920s.


As these Euro-Indians who left, and who mostly come from Moravia in the eastern part of the Czech Republic, say: ‘We co-operate more with Slovak Euro-Indians, because they are not commercially orientated’.

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In the 1960s some individuals interested in North American native cultures (Plains culture) started to gather in small groups. After 1989 we can see the growth of the movement, as it became more popular to be a Euro-Indian and since that time Slovak Euro-Indians have organized a total of twelve Slovak-wide camps and there has been one Czechoslovakian one. The contemporary situation is more complicated, because the boom is already over and the number of Slovak Euro-Indians is decreasing. This issue of the decreasing number of Slovak Euro-Indians, seems to be paradoxical at first sight but it is due to some specific conditions. The Euro-Indian movement, in Slovakia as in other countries, has never been massive. The biggest boom in the movement was apparent in the mid-90s when many young people were looking for a different form of self-realization. They found it in the Euro-Indian movement because of the popularity of North American native cultures, especially the culture of the Great Plains, as a result of exposure to adventure novels and movies, in former Czechoslovakia. But, growing up and getting married, they gradually abandoned this hobby and lifestyle. This does not mean that they are not interested in it any more, it only means that they do not have the time to dedicate themselves to their favourite hobby. This process is especially common if one is not a member of a particularly large and strong group and the hobby is only engaged in individually. After the turn of the millennium this situation became more obvious and the Euro-Indian movement is now less attractive for potential newcomers than it used to be. There are numerous new types of leisure activity and several new subcultures which can be considered as being more attractive, for example new religious movements or a range of environmental organizations. Apart from Eastern Slovakia where Wígmunke Oyáte exists, the situation of the movement is becoming worse. Discussions with many of the members of Wígmunke Oyáte as well as other groups and individuals, strongly confirmed that there has been a downhill tendency in the Slovakian Euro-Indian movement because of the lack of interest of new people and the departure of current members for various reasons. The decline of the Euro-Indian movement in Slovakia, that is the numbers of members rather than the quality of their activities, was evident at the most recent General Assembly which took place at the end of May and beginning of June 2008.


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Usually the General Assembly consists of a programme which is announced to all invited participants in advance. The programme includes presentations, lectures on Indian topics, rituals, competitions for the most beautiful Indian product and so on. It also includes plans for the next year and the evaluation of the previous one. In 2008 everything was prepared and organized in accordance with this pattern. But nothing happened, people were just talking drinking, eating and becoming confused and disappointed. The organizing group did not fulfil what it promised and many people stayed only for couple of hours and then left for home. There was nothing to do there. There used to be around 150 people participating in each General Assembly, but now it is hard to gather together 40–50 people.

Organization and Structure During the years in which the Euro-Indian movement has existed in Slovakia, a specific type of organization and structure has developed. In this structure, there is no organization covering all Euro-Indians in Slovakia. This does not signify some kind of anarchy or disorder. Instead, this model is based on the structure of North American Indian cultures and therefore the greatest emphasis is put on independence. There is neither a hierarchy nor strict rules on a Slovak-wide level. Apart from the Slovak-wide camp, which was organized for the last time in 2006 and the General Assembly of Slovak Euro-Indians, which takes place once a year, there are no other joint activities. Furthermore, nobody is forced to participate in these events if s/ he does not want to do so. Everything is entirely voluntary. The movement runs on the basis of groups and individuals, which are very independent and in some cases also unstable. Some groups have very limited membership and it is sufficient if one or two people cannot continue with their lifestyle for various reasons such as marriage with someone who is not interested in the Euro-Indian lifestyle, for the group to disintegrate into individuals. Every group has its own internal rules, which are not very strict and there

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is no difficulty in keeping to them if the members are genuinely interested in membership in a certain group. Thus the strong accent put on independence is very typical of all Euro-Indians. The abovementioned groups were created on the basis of residence, friendship and kinship. The majority of the members of each group lives in the same region of Slovakia and within them exist subgroups unified by kinship (families, cousins, brothers, sisters and brothers or sisters in law). This is not to mention the role of friendship. Every group is led by its own chief, as another element of North American Indian society. To be the chief is only an honorary function and does not signify any advantage. The chiefs have to keep in touch with the members and organize the activities of the group. They have to devote much more of their time to group than the others, but nobody has to obey them. Even though it was stated that there is no Slovak-wide organization, one authority does exist His name is Little Horse and he is the respected chief of all Slovak Euro-Indians. He was elected at the beginning of the 1990s as one of the oldest Euro-Indians and his function too is only honorary; he has no power and disposes only of his personal authority. The member base of the Euro-Indian movement in Slovakia is distinguished by being relatively gender-balanced. The gender distribution is almost equal, with a slight preponderance of men, which varies with each group. There are numerous subcultures in Slovakia but there are not many of them which have this characteristic. Therefore they can be less stable, although the Euro-Indian movement also lacks stability, but for different reasons. However, it was not always so gender-balanced during the development of the movement. In its beginnings the movement was more masculine, which is not surprising. Young men were particularly interested in Indian cultures. But over the course of time, as they became older, they started to marry and brought their wives into the movement. The opposite also happened with young Euro-Indians leaving their hobbies because of marriage partners who were not interested in this lifestyle. For these reasons there are some groups based on familial membership even though at present this is not the rule. What can be observed is that there is just one group in Slovakia, which can be labelled as familial, Wígmunke Oyáte. Husbands, wives and their children form the basis of this group.


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It is therefore logical that, currently, the reproduction of the group comes mainly from the inside – children who were born in an Indian environment and from their birth participated in all the activities. Contrary to what happened in the past, newcomers represent only a very small percentage of the membership.8 This gender and membership structure also influences the average age of the majority of Slovak Euro-Indians, which is between 30 and 40. The oldest members are more than 60 years old, while the youngest are babies. But most of them are between 30 and 40 years of age because they are from the generation of the early 1990s, when they joined the movement as young men. They have remained members up until the present. The biggest and most important Euro-Indian group in Slovakia, then, is Wígmunke Oyáte from the eastern part of the country, mainly from Košice but also from Moldava, Bodvou, Prešov and Spišská Nová Ves. As I noted earlier, this group has more than 30 members, though nobody was able to say the exact number. It depends whether they also count children or only adult members who already have their Indian name. If the former, then the number is considerably higher. The group or tribe is made up of several free, informal bands or sub-tribes, based on residence and families, as well as individuals. The most important factor which unites this group is friendship. This comes from the common interest in Plains Indians but today friendship seems to be more important than the original hobby. They spend a lot of time together and they do not only engage in Indian activities. They also meet up for parties, weddings, concerts, sports, New Year parties, or just to drink beer. Because of Indian tradition and because of the fact that somebody has to co-ordinate and organize common activities, they have a chief and in addition pipe-keepers and holy men. These last two positions are very important. In the case of Wígmunke Oyáte there are three sacred pipes and therefore three important pipekeepers of the


During my two-year long fieldwork I observed only one case, of a 17-year-old boy who joined the group. But the older members say that nobody knows how long he will stay, because he does not have any contemporaries and all the men are more than 10 years older than he is.

Euro-Indians in the Framework of Slovak Society


male, female, and tribal pipes, the last having been ritually, although not personally, consecrated by the power of a sacred Lakota pipe given to this tribe by White Buffalo Woman. This mythological figure and the story about her is fundamental in Lakota religion. The story tells of the disintegration of this tribe in ancient time which was resolved by the arrival of White Buffalo Woman who brought the sacred pipe to Lakotas and taught them sacred rituals. She assured them about the correctness of lifestyle they had chosen, the lifestyle of nomadic buffalo hunters (Ullrich 2002: 276–279). Holy men are responsible for various rituals but the spiritual life of Euro-Indians goes beyond the scope of this chapter. The meaning of the name Wígmunke Oyáte is very characteristic. Its translation from the Lakota language signifies diversity and the union of the Earth and heaven (the rainbow). People from Wígmunke Oyáte are interested in various tribes of the Great Plains9 but because of the need for unity, the group is based on Lakota culture as the culture which is the best known and most popular. This basis in Lakota culture is the reason for several of the laws which must be kept during the camping time, such as the observance of male and female sides of the tipi.

Activities Euro-Indians are engaged in many different activities. In the beginning every member wanted to do almost everything. But over the course of time and because of much greater knowledge they started to be specialists in particular occupations. Some of them have chosen a spiritual path and become holy men, while others produce clothes, moccasins, bows and arrows, and other artefacts. Generally everybody is able to make the majority of Indian goods but not everybody can consecrate a tipi, for example. Therefore we can find among them specialists who excel in a certain 9

For instance The Lakota, Cheyenne, Kiowa and Crow Blackfoot tribes.


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type of occupation. However, the favourite and principal activity of all Euro-Indians is camping in tipis. (See Laubin and Laubin 1990 for detail on tipis.) This takes place several times a year during extended weekends and vacations, depending on each group or individuals. The main camp is organized in the summer and lasts two weeks. It used to be Slovak-wide but because of some differences between Euro-Indians there are now several summer camps in Slovakia. Every camp has its own chief and camp police who oversee the observance of the camp rules. The camps are organized in the style of the camps of North American natives of the nineteenth century which means that all modern technologies and amenities such as electricity, showers, WCs, radios, televisions, notebooks and mobile telephones are prohibited in the camp.10 The camps have an authentically Indian atmosphere which is supported by a rich social life in accordance with the social life of native Americans. People play games, work together and visit other tipis where they just talk or sing, drum, eat, drink coffee or tea and smoke pipes or cigars. The general rules that need to be respected are simple and there is no difficulty in keeping them. Firstly, it is a requirement to wear clothes of the time of the nineteenth century (living history) and to live in a familial or hunting tipi.11 It is prohibited to drink alcohol, use drugs and to smoke filter tip cigarettes within the camp. The work is divided into female and male tasks, with the women responsible for cooking on the fire, while the men provide wood and water. It is necessary to bathe in the creek every morning before breakfast, if you do not want to stay hungry. Last but not least is the care of the environment. It is strictly prohibited to throw any rubbish the camp produces into the forest. Apart from these general rules some special ones exist but they depend on each tipi and group.12

10 11 12

In fact, there are, of course, mobile phones but they cannot be used inside the camp and they have to be hidden in the tipi. The latter is for young men or boys who are not married yet. But it is rare because they usually stay in the tipi of their relatives or friends. For instance smoking, the observance of the female and male sides of the tipi, and so on.

Euro-Indians in the Framework of Slovak Society


A number of activities take place during the camp. People play various games such as games with travois13 and dice, there is the hunting and tracking of deer, archery, some people organize ‘expeditions’,14 some practise rituals like the sweat lodge or pipe rituals and almost the whole camp participates in the pow-wow. Tanning is also a very widespread activity undertaken in order to have skins for Indian products. During the camps there are almost always some problems but these are connected mostly with big camps where a number of different groups and individuals are present. All these different parties have different ideas about the camp. Some of them are only spending their vacation in the camp and have, for example, alcohol, while others look for pure Indianness without any elements of Western culture. Because of these disagreements, the Slovak Euro-Indian movement can never be united but it is important to add that unity is not the aim of any group or individual. In spite of this, camping, especially the main summer camp, represents the main event for every Euro-Indian and it is meaningless to be a Euro-Indian without camping. In this part of the chapter it would be apposite to clarify some of the differences mentioned above. I have already said that Slovak Euro-Indians have organized twelve Slovak-wide camps and that they have participated in one Czecho-Slovak camp. This tradition was broken in the summer of 2006 at the end of the last Slovak-wide camp and therefore there was no Slovak camp in 2007. There are several reasons why this happened but the most important one is the existence of irreconcilable opinions about the way the camps are organized. Each group and individual is used to keeping their own rules during the year and it has always been hard to unite the rules during Slovak-wide camps. Therefore the organizing group (every 13


An invention of the Great Plains Indians which enables dragging loads over land. The construction is based on two long poles which are placed along the sides of the horse and tied together above its back. The other ends are pulled along the ground and the gap between the poles is filled with two crossbars. The space between the crossbars is netted by rope or skin. Thus the platform for a load is created (Moore: 2003, 51). This means hiking in Indian clothes and with Indian equipment for a couple of days. This activity is practised throughout the whole year and not only during the camp.


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selected group organizes Slovak-wide camps for two years) predetermined the rules and announced them to every invited Euro-Indian. The year 2006 was the last time that Wígmunke Oyáte organized this camp. All the time the members of this group had to contend with the breaking of some of the rules, especially with the drinking of alcohol, which is strictly prohibited in the camp. People from Wígmunke Oyáte are very serious Euro-Indians and it is not only their vacation that they spend in accordance with an Indian way of life. This camp is the highpoint of the season for them and they always want to spend it productively, that is, in the creation of what they think of as the real atmosphere of a Great Plains Indian camp of the nineteenth century. They do not want simply to provide a backdrop for people on vacation dressed in Indian clothes. For this reason, they decided not to camp with what they considered as these problematic groups and individuals anymore. So the following year (2007) they organized their own camp to which they invited selected friends and guests. Another group, the Ants, organized the so-called Slovak-wide camp, but more people went to camp with Wígmunke Oyáte. Because of this rift, not many people came to the General Assembly of Slovak Euro-Indians this year as has already been mentioned.

Relations with Slovak Society Although it would seem to be the case that Euro-Indians are significantly different from mainstream society, this is not entirely true. It is because Euro-Indians do not get involved in public issues, do not have political aspirations and do not long to be known or even famous that the majority does not even know about their existence. It is virtually impossible to recognize a Euro-Indian in the street. Outside of the camps they wear the same clothes as other people and if we do not notice some tiny decorations such as earrings, necklaces and bracelets and leaving aside the long hair of

Euro-Indians in the Framework of Slovak Society


the men, we would not be able to distinguish them from other passers-by.15 Their employment is equally ordinary, including such positions as teachers, workers, tradesmen, doctors or engineers. What differentiates them from others is their internal world and values. They put a strong accent on spirituality, the protection of nature and a different way of spending free time. Therefore, if we want to talk about contacts and relationships we have to keep in mind this situation. Although Euro-Indians are not in agreement with the attitude of the majority towards the environment, globalization and consumerism, there are few problems or even conflicts between them and the majority. Of course, the Euro-Indian opinion of the society that surrounds them is not very positive. This is only because, in their opinion, Western society and civilization destroys nature and resources because of money and wealth and has lost respect for ‘Mother Earth’.16 This means that Euro-Indians do not want more from society than what, according to them, should be normal and natural. They say that our society has given in to materialism and consumerism and has lost its spiritual values. Money has become of prime importance and sometimes the only measure of everything, and society has given in easily, uncritically and rapidly to the pressures of globalization. In this context the majority of society is necessarily empty for almost every Euro-Indian. Mainstream society’s way of spending leisure time in shopping malls and supermarkets is considered to be nonsensical by Euro-Indians because such a life cannot be considered meaningful. However, Euro-Indians do not reproach society and still feel themselves to be a part of it, although a very specific part, and take what is good from society, but not without forethought. This lifestyle of the Slovak Euro-Indians in the context of relations with Slovak society is also represented by a very low level of self-presentation. Since they do not long for a media image they do not desire the presence 15 16

This is not the case if you enter their houses or flats, which are full of Indian artefacts, books, weapons, clothes, pictures and maps, that immediately reveal who lives there. During my fieldwork at the summer 2007 Euro-Indian camp, one Euro-Indian told me: ‘People have lost their connection with Mother Earth. They do not even recognize what they are doing and meanwhile they are destroying the Earth’.


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of journalists in the camps, who are not really welcome, because they are mostly seeking sensational stories. Because of this, there are few articles in the newspapers and journals or TV and radio appearances. However, serious interest is welcomed and, without this interest, the few articles which have already been written, would not have been published. Every media appearance, even though these are rare, is the responsibility of each group or individual.17 In this social and cultural atmosphere it is logical that each Euro-Indian group or individual has its best relationships with other Euro-Indians, at home or abroad and with similar movements such as woodcrafters and scouts. But these intra-movement relationships are in fact rather limited. The really strong connections and friendships exist between Slovak and Czech Euro-Indians, which is a result of their common history, the nearness of the two countries and last but not least by the lack of a language barrier. Slovak Euro-Indians always invite related Czech groups to participate in camps and vice versa. Together they have organized not only joint camps but also pow-wows, informal meetings and so on. To keep in touch with Euro-Indians from other countries is much more difficult and usually such connections do not last for a long time. Some people from Wígmunke Oyáte, for instance, were in contact with Euro-Indians from Poland and Bulgaria. Since they cannot meet up any time they want to, the contact was limited to sporadic correspondence, which has slowly ceased. When we realize that Slovakia like other European countries does not even have its own national organization, it is clear that an international organization of the Euro-Indian movement cannot exist. But, of course, we must always keep in mind that this state corresponds with the original situation of North American native people in the nineteenth century. There was no unity among them and there is also no unity among Euro-Indians as a whole.


For instance, Wígmunke Oyáte has its own web page, it used to publish a journal called The Voice of the Eagle (see Hlas Orla), sometimes the members are interviewed by journalists and in the Museum of Eastern Slovakia in Košice it organized two exhibitions on the topic of Plains Indians.

Euro-Indians in the Framework of Slovak Society


Conclusion The Euro-Indian movement in Slovakia has its own history, which is at least relatively long in comparison with that of other Slovakian subcultures. Since most of these other subcultures emerged after the year 1989, the Euro-Indian movement is one of the oldest subcultures in the Slovak republic. In comparison with the Euro-Indian movement in other European countries it is slightly younger but not very much. We cannot look at Slovak Euro-Indians separately but always within the wider framework of former Czechoslovakia and in close relationship with Czech Euro-Indians. The boom, which arose after the fall of communist regime, although the effect of this is not as great as could have been expected, is already over, but the short-term future of the movement can still be seen as positive in the sense of the continued existence of the movement, its lifestyle, worldview and values. The Euro-Indians themselves, however, are not persuaded about this with regard to the more distant future when this active generation will have grown older. The movement has never been massive and the decreasing numbers of the members may bring about the end of the Euro-Indian movement in Slovakia. One solution might be closer cooperation with Czech Euro-Indians but the effects of this solution would be only temporary. Looking to the future, Euro-Indians themselves are sceptical about the continued existence of the movement. In many ways, the Euro-Indian movement in Slovakia is strictly apolitical. Euro-Indians do not have public ambitions and do not try to persuade anybody about anything. Their organization and structure is based on independence as a substantial feature of North American Indian cultures. Euro-Indians do not think that they are markedly different people but consider themselves to be ordinary people with a distinctive hobby, lifestyle and values and they do not long to be separate from the rest of Slovak society.


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References Flores, D. (1991). ‘Bison Ecology and Bison Diplomacy. The Southern Plains from 1800 to 1850.’ The Journal of American History, vol. 78, no. 2: 465–485. Fowler, L. (2003). The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Great Plains. New York: Columbia University Press. Hlas Orla (Voice of the Eagle) (1997, 2000). Hybáčková, B. (2001). ‘Na začiatku bol Vinnetou.’ Život 3/2001: 18–20. Laubin, R. and Laubin G. (1990). The Indian Tipi, its History, Construction and Use. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Lemešani, T. (2008). ‘Oheň rozložia iba s kresadlom, v potoku sa umývajú bez mydla.’ Košický večerník, 11 April 2008: 11. McKay, G. (1996). Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance since the Sixties. London: Verso. Moore, J.H. (2003). Šajeni, Praha: Nakladatelství Lidové noviny. Opatrný, J. (1998). Kde leží indiánská zem. Konec bojů na Velkých pláních. Praha: Brána. Pecha, L. (1999). Woodcraft, lesní moudrost & lesní bratrstvo. Olomouc: Votobia. Ullrich, J. (2002). Mýty Lakotů aneb když ještě po zemi chodil Iktómi. Praha: Argo. Ullrich, J. (2004). Speak Lakota! Vol. 1. Bloomington: Lakota Language Consortium. Ullrich, J. (2005). Speak Lakota! Vol. 2. Bloomington: Lakota Language Consortium.

Euro-Indians in the Framework of Slovak Society




The Formation of the Záježovŵá Community: Ideals and Reality in a Slovak Eco-Village Martin Priečko

Introduction The sense of community life lies in the common sharing of chosen values expressed not only by the world-views level of individual members but also projected onto the general way of life of the community as well. However, several of the key ideas of intentional communities are based on idealistic, visionary or even utopian foundations. The application of such romantic ideas in several cases encounters difficulties in relation to the concrete conditions of real life. This chapter explores the way that one small Slovak community manages to cope with a spectrum of substantial challenges (mostly of an internal character) in the interest of preserving and stabilizing community life. Alternative ways of life that go against the dominant culture and which are not able to overcome developmental challenges, mainly in the beginnings of their formation, usually do not last long (Keller 1997: 158). As many as 80 per cent of communities in formation cannot react to new visions and apply them to ordinary community life and therefore they perish within two years of their establishment. (Forster and Wilhelmus 2005: 378). The community being researched in Záježová has overcome this critical period since it has existed for more than ten years; it continually grows and even partially changes. The aim of this chapter is to point out certain internal differences within the community, such as the questions of leadership, decision-making, common meetings and the formation of


Martin Priečko

local self-sufficiency, with which the community has to cope in order to sustain its existence and also to adapt to new conditions. Empirical data were gathered during research activities within the framework of the Society and Lifestyles project (2006–2008), and ethnographic research was carried out during February–March (Fieldwork I) and October (Fieldwork II), 2007. In total, 22 respondent statements were recorded. Analysis of community documents was also used as an additional resource.

Záježka: An Overview The settlement of Záježová – the location of the community life centre Záježka – is in dispersed settlements in the Javorie Mountains, to the southwest of the town of Zvolen, Slovakia. According to the tax register of the former valley centre, twelve hamlets are situated within it and are at various distances from it. Currently, the locality administratively belongs to the neighbouring town of Pliešovce. Between 1959 and 1990 the locality was separated as an independent village. The rapid outflow of inhabitants in the 1970s and 1980s, brought about mostly by the shortage of employment in the surrounding areas, had the effect that today only about 15 per cent of the traditional population, most of them of retirement age, inhabits the settlements. Several deserted settlements in isolated mountainous localities between 650 and 750 m. above sea level became suitable sites for the creation of the Záježová community. Záježka is formed by about sixty newcomers, about one third of whom are children. To distinguish themselves from the original population, they prefer to be called novolazníci, what we might call eco-villagers. Even after twenty years of existence, the members of Záježka refuse to be designated as a community, instead they incline towards the term ‘loose association,’ although several of them originally left for Záježka because of a preference for community life. In the opinion of association members, the distances between individual members (families) are too great to allow any real community life to work. They point to the fragmentation

The Formation of the Záježovŵá Community


of the settlement into small co-operating sub-groups. I do not agree with such an argument; the geographical separation of individual settlements in the framework of one particular locality does not prevent the sharing of common values, ideals or goals because of which individual members came to Záježová. Záježka shows evident features of being a social formation, created as a spontaneous reaction to the maladies of modern society, with a shared effort to adopt an alternative lifestyle (Keller 1997:157, Jandourek 2001: 127), for which the joint housing of community members is not a basic precondition. For this reason, I will henceforward use the term ‘community’ to designate the Záježová association. From the age point of view, the community is formed by adult individuals in the 28–48 age range. Only four of them are single. Difficult life conditions in a dispersed settlement dispose the members towards life in pairs or in families. Two thirds of the members have university education. Only one female member has her family roots directly in the locality, while the remaining eco-villagers come from the environs of Slovak cities and towns. One pair comes from the Czech Republic. The number of members increases continually from year to year. The reason for this may be the community entry programme, which offers potential candidates the possibility to test their coexistence within community activities for an extended period. The community has built its own facility to accommodate potential candidates in the hamlet Sekier for this purpose. So far, about sixty people have lived in the facility, most of them staying for at least one season of the year. Several current active members of the community went through the entry programme and remained in it until they were able to become residentially independent. On the other hand, there are a number of individuals who could not take root in the community and after the short trial programme left the association for various reasons. Active participation in community and wider local activities and a symbolic fee are the conditions for the temporary housing of the candidate. The entry programme is currently very attractive for candidates, whole families among them, who would like to try out the ecologically sustainable and materially simpler life of the community. The popularity of Záježka exceeds the borders of Slovakia and in Sekier it is possible to meet foreign candidates, mostly from the Czech Republic, but also from the United States of America, as


Martin Priečko

well as France, Great Britain and other western European countries. Such a form of membership, in which an individual participates in community activities without the possibility of involvement in decision-making about joint activities, can be considered as ‘part-time membership’ or ‘associate membership’ (see Forster and Wilhelmus 2005: 370–372). Another category of people participating in community activities is formed by a wide group of sympathisers and supporters (more than 100 of them), who take part in short-term, mostly weekend, activities, trainings or camps. This group comes to Záježová occasionally, but it is characterized by relative stability. Today, short-term activities address the younger generation, mostly from the ranks of students. From the point of view of member continuity, the community is now adequately supported and secured. The origins of re-settlement of Záježová date back to 1989 when in the deserted mountain environment, the ‘Škola ľudovej kultúry’ (School of Folk Culture), relocated from the open-air museum of the Slovak village in Martin, was established. During this period, weekend activities and camps focused on the preservation of folk culture, and the possibilities of its transmission in present-day conditions took place. These activities were organised by the conservationist association ‘Strom života’ (The Tree of Life),1 a handful of enthusiasts who met at weekly or irregular intervals. The first permanent residences only appeared in 1991, paradoxically after the demise of the ‘Škola ľudovej kultúry’. The year 1994, when some of the newcomers founded the Non-Governmental Organization ‘Pospolitosť pre harmonický život’ (Society for Harmonious Living) in order to support the building up of community life, can be considered as critical for the development of the community. An important personality who introduced the ideas of community life, is Igor Chýra, who learned the rules of community life during his sojourns in Scotland. Chýra still serves as an administrator of ‘Pospolitosť pre harmonický život’ (PHŽ). After ten years of existence the community has shaped itself into an association whose members share common visions of life and values in


Eco-villagers are still known as Stromári, which is derived from the name of former movement, ‘Strom života’ (

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an isolated and so far non-productive environment. The members of the community are trying to lead an ecologically related life characterized by a no-waste economy, organic gardening, energetic thrift, the application of environmental principles in building, the operation of a recycling centre, in harmony with ideas of permanent sustainability, voluntary austerity and social solidarity, which are applied in real life and concrete conditions.2 By accepting the idea of voluntary austerity, they at the same time create a certain alternative counterbalance against the global, consumerist way of life. The ecological character of the community is accentuated by its membership of the Global Ecovillage Network since 2004. All these above-mentioned aspects are in close correspondence since the concept of permanent sustainability is based on environmental, social and economic premises (see Huba 1997: 64–65, Forster and Wilhelmus 2005: 372). Such value orientations projected onto practical routine are also attractive for new members. The primary interest of the community in the socio-economic development of Záježová and in the revitalization of a traditional, eco-conscious way of life requires active participation in the public or political life of the


The theoretical principle of the concept of permanent sustainability is based on a conscious responsibility towards future generations and on the harmonious relations between people and nature. The concept uses the attributes of prevention, balance, effectiveness, solidarity, frugality, reverence or respect. It requires the harmony of economic and social development with the needs of nature (Huba and Ira 2000: 12). The term voluntary simplicity was used in the nineteenth century by H.D.Thoreau as an expression of counter-reaction against the implications of life in an industrial society. He warned against the dangers of the modern lifestyle (the narrowing of the sense of life to consumption and property characterized by constant pursuit of something new, without any deeper context). He considered life in peace with one’s own consciousness and in harmony with the laws of nature (the harmonic symbiosis man – nature) as the highest priority for human efforts (Kosek 2004: 174). H. Librová explains simplicity in its environmental conception as a voluntary willingness to reduce consumption of material goods, as well as environmentally harmful services and leisure-time activities. (Librová 2003: 28–29). Much Thoreau-style rhetoric and practice were actively embraced and promulgated by the 1960s and 1970s western counterculture, as well as earlier manifestations of ‘back to the land’ lifestyles.


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catchment village. Among other things, the members of the board of PHŽ are gradually embedded in the organizational structure of local public life and the administrator himself enjoys special respect.3 The sympathies of the original inhabitants were gained mostly by the realization of the project ‘Čisté Javorie’ (Clear Javorie), in the framework of which they put into operation the sorting and recycling of rubbish in Pliešovce and surrounding villages. The annual increase of interest in community activities such as camps, courses, discussions, craft workshops, youth meetings, and conservationist events also contributes to the positive image of Záježka. The public participation of community members, however, still remains on a civic, cultural-social activity level and does not extend into the area of local or regional politics. Since 1994, community activities in Záježová have been administered by the NGO ‘Pospolitosť pre harmonický život’ (PHŽ) with the key aim of ‘spreading ideas of harmonious living, supporting the re-settlement of the region by people who incline towards ideas of harmonious life and to present practical techniques leading to harmonious life’ (PHŽ Statutes: 2004). Among the main fields of interest of the organization – as we also learn from the Statutes – are the protection of nature and the countryside, organic eco-agriculture and natural building construction, activism and social solidarity on a local, national and global level and the support of family, women and children. PHŽ organises all the activities that outwardly present community life: it closely co-operates with local and regional selfgovernment, mostly in the realization of environmental and social projects, organizes a wide spectrum of activities for the public: dance, craft, creative events, meditative meetings and discussions and represents the community in partnership events. Besides PHŽ, the NGO ‘Záježka’ (founded in 2004) is active in Záježová. Its main aim is to oversee the activities within the community – the development of community life, the economic and


Community members use social capital and the distinctive personal qualities of the administrator of PHŽ in the acquisition of building permits, the realization of buying and selling transactions and in the cases of protection of individual or group interests.

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socio-cultural revitalization of the village and the creation of suitable conditions for eco-villagers. The activities of the ‘Záježka’ NGO are currently stagnating and are on the decline. The reason for this is the overlap of competencies with PHŽ. Activities aimed to support the development of the community and its members are also directed towards the restoration of the surrounding environment and the catchment area. In such a small community, there is no reason for the coexistence of two similar organizations. Some of the respondents even expressed their desire for its actual abolition, as one ecovillager put it to me: ‘The Záježová organization is rather on the decline. There have been proposals to abolish it’ (R1: Male, Fieldwork I). Joint facilities owned and administered by the community that support the activities of both the community and individual members contribute to the self-definition of the community. The maintenance and management of these facilities in Záježová became the source of income for several members. Their prosperity and perspective arouses feelings of solidarity and community validity among the inhabitants of Záježka. The character of the facilities corresponds to the character and orientation of the community. Among the most important currently are: •

• •

• •

Sekier: a restored former smallholding with warehouse, woodshed, cellar, cowshed and library serving as an accommodation facility for potential neocottagers. It consists of two parts, one assigned for long-term and the other for short-term participants. The Education Centre ‘Polomy’: similarly to Sekier it is intended for the accommodation of participants, mostly for large-scale weekend events. The Recycling Centre simply called ‘Recyklačko’: its purpose is to recycle the communal waste of the surrounding villages (Pliešovce, Sása, Babiná and Bzovská Lehôtka). It was founded in 1994, in the framework of the project ‘Čisté Javorie.’ The operation of the centre is financially supported by the ‘Ekopolis Foundation’ and ‘REC Slovakia’. The sawmill which is used by community members for the acquisition of firewood and timber. The alternative school: this is the most recently established community facility. It was founded in 2007 on the premises of a former primary school in the centre of Záježová. Currently it is attended by six children of school age (PHŽ Annual Report, 2006). The school premises are also used as a community centre for the meetings of the eco-villagers.


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Community Cohesion, Leadership and the Decision-Making Process One of the most important premises for the sustainability of prospering community life is a firm definition of the rules of coexistence. To avoid potential conflicts between individual members of the community, each member having his/her own primary ideas, it is essential in the first place to identify the core vision, to agree with it and to support it through individual action. (Christian 2004: 9–10). To write the statutes down increases their general effect and obligation. The creation of community rules is not a oneoff process; the statutes are usually formed over a longer period, sometimes years, during the existence of the community. They require hours of discussion, the consensual agreement of the members and they are implemented by the community itself. In present-day Záježová respondents point out the double nature of the rules of coexistence, which constitute both formal written rules, related to the operation of community as a unit and its individual parts – management of community NGOs, redistribution of funds, usage of communal facilities and the food bank and informal (unwritten) rules that determine the everyday mutual interactions of members. Informal rules are agreed at common meetings and they are spread orally or passed on between the permanent members and the new candidates. The members of the community emphasize that the rules, especially the formal ones, are essential for the life and stability of the community. They admit that the absence of these norms would lead to chaotic interaction and eventually to the demise of community life, despite the fact that several members disagree with the interpretation of the rules and do not identify with them completely. The reason for this disproportion is the different social backgrounds of the individual members. In the period when the community statutes were created, the present-day diversity of members was not and could not have been taken into account. Several obligatory norms do not respect family life, the status of children in the community or the heterogeneity of temporary eco-villagers and sympathizers.

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The different social backgrounds of the members often becomes the seed of interpersonal conflict. In this case, the achievement of a joint consensus is not possible in relation to defending the diverse living needs of individual members. Several members have changed their marital status and it is therefore more difficult for them to coexist in the frame of rigorously set social norms. Although the social rules are in continual development and they are adapted to the actual needs of the community, for the people of Záježová it is increasingly difficult to harmonize the different needs and ways of life of individual members. Several founding members are still single, others live as couples, while others have three children. This fact was rather aptly expressed by one of the respondents when talking about personal change in relation to community norms: We had an agreement about the rules four years ago, but many of us went through some kind of developmental stage. Back then people did not have kids but now other things in life put pressure on them. It is not as it was supposed to be. It is hard to harmonize everything. (R13: Male, Fieldwork II)

Differences of opinion resulting from the heterogeneity of the membership are significantly displayed during community meetings. The frequency of meetings depends on the extent of the community agenda which needs to be dealt with within a certain time span. Community meetings in Záježová have been organized for approximately 5–6 years. Originally, the community met frequently and regularly. However, the meetings gradually lost their intensity and regularity. Nowadays they are held twice a month on average. The purpose of the meetings is mostly decision-making but they are also socio-integrative. Community meetings have the character of a round table discussion with the purpose of achieving general consensus or majority agreement about community issues; statements of income from subsidiary operations, statute changes, acceptance of new members or the approval of events programme. Despite the relatively low number of community members regular attendance is a problem. The community does not possess any communication mechanism to promptly inform community members about current issues and at the same time provide discussion space for absent members. There is an unwritten rule that absent individuals trust


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the decision making of the participating members acting for the good of the community. Here we can say that the tradition of local round tables is on the decline. The reason is the excessive variety of opinions and values of members (again, in the context of individual social background) or advocacy of individual interests, with no regard to the needs of all. Because of previous negative experiences in the case of one or two members, a deliberate disregard of community meetings can be observed. Separation of the agenda and entertainment areas during community meetings would be a partial solution. This resolution was accepted during one of the meetings; up until then, both parts of meetings were organized at the same time, which means that every round table finished with an entertainment event or the refreshment of attending members. This differentiation did mean that some respondents began only to attend agenda meetings and others only participated in the social ones. One of the respondents considers the lack of acceptance of different opinions during round tables as a reason for the differentiation of community meetings: Considerably less people joined the meetings because there was no possibility to participate in decision-making. There was a long talk about the Recycling Centre and so on. So this is why we divided those meetings into agenda and social ones. (R3: Male, Fieldwork I).

Another member of the community also identified a level of bias that could creep in in what could be seen as a self-perpetuating process that favoured the administrators’ agenda: ‘Certainly there are people who make decisions, who have the power and naturally they incline towards decisions which suit them better’. (R7: Male, Fieldwork I). Afterwards, one administrator also admitted that decision-making power accumulates in the hands of a limited group of associates: ‘When there is a problem, when I need advice, I consult with three or four people and then I accept a decision’. (R13: Male, Fieldwork II). Both current low frequency and irregularity of community meetings and lack of interest among some inhabitants of Záježová in such meetings weaken consensual decision-making as one of the preconditions of community life. Respondents cite differences of opinion, even antagonism between

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different opinions about community life, the advocacy of individual and to a lesser extent group interests and the slowness of meetings in dealing with general issues. Under the pressure of this development, the members of the Záježová community agreed to organize regular quarterly meetings of the whole community which last all day or weekend. Typical occasions for such meetings are the feast days in the calendar such as celebrations of the solstice, St John bonfires or Morena effigy burning,4 or events of a family character such as weddings, childbirth, the acceptance of new members, or house-warmings. Thematically, the quarterly round tables focus on discussions concerning everyday living needs like housing and facilities, statements of income from subsidiary operations. New members are considered, and improvements, organization of courses, voluntary work and events for the general public are also discussed. Existing community issues requiring consensual agreement are also presented. These meetings are accompanied by entertainment events such as dancing, theatre, masquerade balls, or nutcracking parties.5 Despite their decreasing frequency, community meetings with a rich cultural programme still act as an integrating element which increases the feeling of solidarity, prevents internal conflict and supports the general mood of the community. (see Forster 1998: 42). Increasingly popular are informal group sessions, usually based on the territorial adjacency of dwellings. For several community members, these sessions serve as a replacement for whole-community meetings because of their friendlier atmosphere. Informal meetings fulfil a socio-communicative occupational and entertainment role. Agreement about the joint action of participants of informal meetings frequently becomes the momentum for the initiation of meetings of the entire community. 4


The taking away of Morena is an ancient pagan ritual during which an effigy of Morena is burned and thrown into flowing water. On a-symbolic level this represents the removal of winter, illness and dirt from the local community. It is a relic of human sacrifices to the waters of spring. Nut-cracking has a social character as well – a wider circle of participants meeting for the purpose of entertainment. Such events take place mostly during winter months.


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The process of decision-making or, at least regulation in the community is closely connected with leadership. A typical feature of intentionally built environmental communities such as the eco-villagers’ community in Záježová is the egalitarian principle based on the above-mentioned consensual decision-making of all the members. Political-economic status is in this case irrelevant. In practice it means that each community member has his or her own right to express a positive or negative attitude towards a discussed issue without prejudice. Evidence of a certain participatory or radical democracy can be found on the official community website: ‘there is no guru to lead the others. There is no place for self-realization here in Záježová if anyone attempts to become one’ ( This written declaration is only one side of the coin, since the reality of community life differs from the statement in several respects. In this regard it is essential to emphasize the role of the founder and the administrators of the subsidiary organizations. Numerous respondents admit that there exists a group of undeclared leaders, who possess greater decision-making power and significantly influence other members of the community. Igor Chýra belongs to this group. Not only is he one of the founders of the community but his natural leadership skills predestined him for the management of PHŽ. His accumulated experience enables him to have decisive say on disputed issues and he is generally considered to be the sort of experienced, elder person, some kind of spiritus movens who regulates the course of life in Záježová. The existence of an unofficial leader is not considered problematic by the members of the community, on the contrary they see the establishment of the leader as a natural development of community life, as one respondent explained: ‘There are leaders naturally transformed by time and deeds, whom nobody needs to determine, who prove themselves in community and the community accepts them. This is our case’ (R10: Male, Fieldwork I). Around the personality of Igor Chýra, a group of individuals serving together on the board of the PHŽ has continuously been formed; these people – by virtue of the fact that they were working in this secondary association – gained respect from the other members of the community, for example by being given a free hand in economic matters.

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The Possibilities of Self-Sufficiency and Self-Supply The vision of local self-sufficiency is one of the dominant priorities in building the community life of Záježová. The condition for a self-sufficient community is to meet the needs of individuals within the framework of the community’s social and economic networks. Most of the respondents left their urban environment with a vision of a community existence that would give them an adequate supply of everyday necessities However, in concrete conditions, the process of building local self-sufficiency seems to be difficult and often time-consuming. Certain difficulties arise directly from the harsh geo-climatic conditions of the community’s locality such as its remoteness, difficult access and high altitude, as well as the lack of possibilities for economic activity, the insufficient civic facilities of the locality, and the diverse needs of the members in the economic, social and food spheres, which are related to the diverse family situations of individual members.6 Community activities such as the Recycling Centre employ only a few members. Since most of the members depend on a monetary livelihood, employment outside the community or even the locality seems to be the solution. Financial income is essential for households with children. Therefore, some members, usually males leave for long-term often seasonal work abroad. Other members engage in a craft activity such as stove or furniture construction within the community or commute daily to local or regional centres such as Pliešovce or Zvolen respectively. Female members work in the home and relevant farmsteads. This situation can be related to the slow growth of the number of community members and the preference for short-term residence in the community. There was an attempt to resolve this internal incapacity of the community to secure its members’ economic subsistence through the nonmonetary Local Exchange Trade Schemes, LETS (see Purdue et al 1997).


The centre of former village of Záježová offers only minimal employment opportunities. There is a grocery store, post office and since 1993 a stock farm offering limited job opportunities (usually of a seasonal character).


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Its local authors were inspired during stays abroad and tried to adapt this system to local community conditions. The basis of the system lies in the non-monetary circulation of labour activities, services, products and help. Such a system is significantly pro-social – it supports the ideas of social and community solidarity. Each member, according to his/her capacities, offers commodities for circulation, which are exchanged with other members according to their needs. The advantage of the system is that an individual does not have to exchange directly with the partner from whom he needs an activity, service or product. To facilitate measurability, a specific LETS unit was created in Záježová: ‘Jež’ (hedgehog), derived from a person-hour (one person-hour represents 10 hedgehogs). The account book, in which all exchange activities are recorded (circulation of hedgehogs) is called the ‘Ježovník’ and it is controlled by an elected bookkeeper. For each commodity, a LETS cheque for an agreed amount of units is written. The cheque is registered by the system bookkeeper, who deducts ‘Jež’ from the recipient’s account and adds them to the account of the provider. However, the LETS system encountered several barriers in real life, and currently it primarily works on a whole-community level in the form of voluntary work for the good of common property. On an individual level, problems with demand occurred since there was no interest in some of the commodities offered; there were also problems with the low number of participants in exchange (only seventeen) and with the fact that almost all of them had to invest more effort in the external economy and therefore local exchange activity suffered. One respondent’s experience of the LETS system traces the shift in enthusiasm: At first there was great enthusiasm. But as the time goes on, you get over it. We didn’t use LETS. Unfortunately, we cannot use it, for as a family with four members we have no possibility to return. (R3: Male, Fieldwork I)

The most frequently exchanged commodities were surplus food such as fruit and vegetables and tools. Despite the relative failure of the system, the respondents value its positive feature, which is that it developed habits of gratuitous, non-monetary or reciprocal mutual aid in several members and as such increased social solidarity within the community. As one put

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it: ‘I don’t exchange anymore. This doesn’t mean that the system failed, it means that it was successful’ (R2: Male, Fieldwork I). Food self-sufficiency is related to local conditions of agricultural production. As I mentioned earlier, the local introduction of cultivating a wide enough range of crops to fulfil the basic dietary needs of community members is impeded by the difficult geo-climatic conditions of the locality. For this reason, the members are at the most able to supply themselves all year round with fruit and vegetables, which are the basis of vegan or vegetarian diet. However, this is not a guaranteed annual achievement and depends on the weather in particular seasons of the year. The low-quality stony soil cannot guarantee the introduction of alternative farming methods in the area such as mulčovanie or no-plough farming.7 However, in harmony with this ecological approach, all members of the community observe the condition of organic (non-chemical) farming. The chosen form of experimentation is not given further definition. In the past, potatoes were the crucial crops in Záježová but this tradition catches on only slowly among the eco-villagers. Dairy production supplements the diet. Almost every household keeps domestic stock, mostly goats and sheep, and to a lesser extent cows. The following statement illustrates the variety in diet of the community members: I don’t eat meat. Sometimes I am a vegan, sometimes a vegetarian, I fast often. I eat crops that I grow in the garden. But it depends on the season. Mostly fruits, vegetables, various weeds, cereal pancakes, milk and cheese occasionally. I buy only bread and sunflower seeds. As far as groceries are concerned, I am about 40–60 per cent self-sufficient. Mainly with apples and potatoes, there is no problem with them all year round. (quoted in Prirodzená strava a sebestačnost, 13 September 2004, www.

The goal of local self-sufficiency in Záježka has also resulted in the project of a community Foodbank. The basis of this operation of the community is the acquisition of essential groceries, which cannot be produced 7

Mulčovanie is a method of soil cultivation when crops are grown under a breathing layer of bio-material (for example straw, various tree branches). This method of cultivation is widespread among the eco-villagers.


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by members themselves, mainly cereals and their secondary products like flour, flakes and bran, legumes, rice, sugar, salt, honey, soya beans and oil. These groceries are purchased wholesale and they are stored in wooden chests in the communally-rented storehouse in the centre of Záježová, the premises of the former municipality. Wholesale purchase is more economical and ecologically it produces much less packaging material. Shopping at grocery stores is an alternative for the members of the community. The supply of the required commodities is managed by a Foodbank administrator, who is the same person as the PHŽ administrator. The community prefers organic groceries from local or regional sources. In the eight years of the Foodbank’s existence, the food co-ordinator has had at his disposal a relatively wide network of bio-suppliers from the immediate surroundings of Záježka. The bank is open to each member of the community as long as he has opened a purchasing account that is, has deposited cash in the Foodbank account. Contrary to other community projects, the operation of the Foodbank is evaluated positively by the members themselves and is one of the most frequently used community enterprises. In this case, the problem of the various distances to each hamlet solved by the location of the Foodbank in the centre of Záježová, which has relatively passable connections to each residence. As far as the question of the social emancipation of its members is concerned, the Záježová community is relatively self-sufficient, even in spite of the distances between individual dwellings. Since individual members ‘escaped’ from cities to the remote environment of dispersed mountainous settlements, refusing the prevailing consumerist way of life, various emancipatory tendencies of a social character are obvious within the community. Eco-villagers may visit valley centres only exceptionally, to see the doctor or to visit local authorities, unless, obviously, they commute daily to work or to school. A common frequency of valley centre visits is once or twice a month. Family members in the residents’ original environment are visited once or twice a year. As far as school attendance is concerned, eco-villagers have managed to put into operation an alternative school for community children which started on 1 September 2007. The organization of frequent social events such as dances, the joint celebrations of calendar events, the admission of new members, drama performances, film screenings and

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especially the organization of community weekends (meditation exercises, craft and music sessions) contribute to the development of community social life. The organization of such activities is spontaneous and voluntary. Regarding the wider locality, the parallel organization of events in Záježka is not unusual. Winter months provide wider opportunities for social and entertainment activities and during this period the frequency of such events is much more intensive.

Household Facilities and Equipment The facilities of individual eco-villagers’ households in Záježová reflect the way of life and preferred values in the community. The preferred principles are of voluntary austerity or environmentally-related permanently sustainable life in harmony with the rejection of present-day trends towards consumption. For some community members there is even an aversion towards modern technological progress and its manifestations. The re-settlement of a deserted and isolated environment with a low degree of social and economic productivity can be regarded as an ideal space for the realization of the above-mentioned ideals and visions. In everyday manifestations of real life this means living economically as far as electric power is concerned, with no plumbing or mains sewerage, with a bathroom that has a primitive toilet and with no television set or car. All of the eco-villagers have had such a romantic rejectionist vision. However, the research material indicates that the degree of opposition to technological modernization decreases in proportion to the duration of settlement. Families of eco-villagers who have been active in the area for longer gradually improve their households in accordance with contemporary trends towards modernization, only the tempo of this progress is different. Almost all the members of the community now use mobile telephones, for instance. Hygienic facilities are being improved as well – indoor bathrooms, electric water heaters, washing machines or freezers have been installed. In the case of families with


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children, television sets and computers are also used and the latest addition is paradoxically the use of a car despite its much highlighted environmental threat, if the nature of the economically active member’s employment requires it. The households with minimal or obsolete facilities are generally those freshly inhabited. Economic factors, together with family life to a certain extent have a negative impact on ecological and austere ideals (Librová 2003: 236). Such tendencies can be observed in certain statements by Záježka members: At first I wanted to save the world. When I found out that it is not that simple at least I wanted to save my ideals. But everything changes when you have children. They need to go to school, to be educated, to have friends. If you can’t guarantee that in your own community, they will go to society and it will start to influence them. So you buy a TV set for them. (R7: Male, Fieldwork I.) At first I gave up all technological amenities, but they keep piling up. I am trying to find the appropriate degree of using things. We own the car only because I commute for work daily. (R10: Male, Fieldwork I.)

In several households certain shifts on an ideological level can be observed. In this context there is the interesting remark by the above respondent about a rational degree of everyday use of technological innovations, especially when socio-economic reality requires it. Present-day community dwellings thus in several cases become a contrasting mixture of individual preferences for collecting antiques and a taste for modern technology.

Conclusion After ten years of existence, the Záježová community is a relatively permanent but still developing community with a small number of stable members. It still retains the status of an experimental environment which offers the applicants the possibility to try simple and austere everyday community life in harmony with the idea of permanent sustainable development. The

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number of people from the ranks of the general public interested in such a way of life is increasing annually. Under the pressure of new social circumstances such as the prevalence of members with children, the pillars of community existence which have so far been crucial are beginning to collapse. The LETS system is being abandoned or only formally sustained, the intensity of round tables is decreasing, decision-making is moving into the hands of the administrators of the local NGO. Lastly, there is still no serious system of farming based on principles of organic, non-chemical cultivation of crops and at the same time contributing to the resource self-sufficiency of community members in the low-yielding conditions of the mountainous environment. In such conditions, polarizations of opinion or even potential conflicts occur within the community: one group is formed by community enthusiasts – newcomers, mostly, as well as single individuals who have different living demands to those of the permanently settled families with children who form the other group. These families are heading towards greater, primarily economic, individualization, and are gradually becoming emancipated from former community bonds. The ideals of community life tend to be receding in relation to the economic self-sufficiency of the family. On the other hand, the bonds that hold the community together are still strong enough to withstand interpersonal conflicts – among these bonds are the revitalization of a self-sufficient and sustainable local economy, the development of the eco-village, the attraction of community events and entertainment the successful operation of the Recycling Centre, and the use of the Foodbank throughout the area. Overall we can say that present-day life in Záježka has been transformed into a certain compromise between permanent sustainable life and voluntary simplicity intertwined with the need for economic independence connected with the raising of the technological level of community households.


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References Christian, D.L. (2004). ‘“Structural conflict” and interpersonal conflict.’ Communities. Summer 2004: 9–12. Forster, P.M. (1998). ‘Communities and academics: a developing dialogue.’ Community, Work & Family, vol. 1, no. 1: 39–49. Forster, P.M. and M. Wilhelmus. (2005). ‘The role of individuals in community change within the Findhorn Intentional Community.’ Contemporary Justice Review, vol. 8, no. 4: 367–379. Huba, M. (1997). ‘Kopaničiarske osídlenie, životné prostredie a trvalo udržateľný spôsob existencie.’ Životné prostredie, vol. 31, no. 2: 61–66. Huba, M. and V. Ira (2000). Stratégia trvalo udržateľného rozvoja vo vybraných regiónoch. Bratislava: STUŽ/SR. Jandourek, J. (2001). Sociologický slovník. Praha: Portál. Keller, J. (1997). Úvod do sociológie. Praha: SLON. Kosek, J. (2004). Člověk je (ne)tvor spoločenský. Kapitoly ze sociální psychologie. Praha: Dokořán & Argo. Librová, H. (2003). Vlažní a váhaví. Kapitoly o ekologickém luxusu. Brno: Doplněk. Purdue, D., J. Durrschmidt, P. Jowers and R. O’Doherty (1997) ‘DIY Culture and extended milieux: LETS, veggie boxes and festivals.’ The Sociological Review. 45:4: 645–667. Community Documents Správa o činnosti PHŽ v roku 2006. Archív komunity. (PHŽ Annual Report 2006. Community Archive). Stanovy PHŽ z roku 2004. Archív komunity. (PHŽ Statutes 2004. Community Archive).

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Part 2 New Religious Movements


New Religious Movements in Post-communist Russia and East-Central Europe – a Threat to Stability and National Identity? Neil Foxlee and Christopher Williams

This section of the book presents essays which investigate various aspects of the phenomenon of new religious movements (NRMs) in post-communist Russia and East-Central Europe (ECE). The term ‘new religious movements’, it should be emphasized, is used here to refer to groups that – from an external perspective – may be neither new nor obviously religious,1 but are liable to be viewed or treated as such in an ECE context. This particularly applies to international NRMs, which are sometimes viewed as a threat to the traditional values of the countries in question, especially by the established churches, but also by governments, the media and the public. Some NRMs, however, notably Baltic and Slavic neo-pagan movements, are of domestic origin, and may themselves be associated with a greater or lesser degree of ethnic or national exclusivism: the question thus arises, not only of the degree of tolerance or intolerance shown towards NRMs in ECE countries, but also of the degree of tolerance or intolerance shown by some NRMs towards some other groups. These new studies seek to contribute to a greater understanding of both kinds of NRMs, with the aim of informing current academic and policy debates on the subject. Our more modest aim


See Pilkington and Popov’s chapter in this collection, which suggests that for some young Russians, neo-paganism does not function as a religion, but rather as part of a broader, ethnically exclusive world-view.


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in this introduction is to provide a broad theoretical, cultural, historical and socio-political context for the individual chapters that follow.

Theorizing New Religious Movements In a recent overview, Robbins and Lucas argue that although the study of new religious movements has flourished since the mid-1970s, the field as a whole ‘is still characterized by a certain ambiguity or incoherence’ (Robbins and Lucas 2007: 227). Most obviously, the term ‘new’ is historically relative, and no longer really applies to many of the religious groups which originally aroused academic interest thirty or so years ago. It may also be noted that ‘new’ religious movements tend to either draw heavily on elements of existing religions, or self-consciously attempt to revive or reconstruct ‘dead’ religions, as in the case of the various forms of neo-paganism. As Robbins and Lucas (2007: 229) point out, the term ‘movement’ is also problematic, as it raises the question of whether or not analyses of NRMs should, for example, encompass sects in the strict sense of the term (that is, groups that break away from existing churches) and the more amorphous phenomenon of ‘New Age’ movements (which in turn also raises the question of how strictly the term ‘religion’ itself should be applied). Inevitably, the studies collected in this section of the book reflect the ambiguity which Robbins and Lucas see as characterizing the field. The situation is further complicated by the fact that many religious movements which would not be considered to be NRMs in Western Europe or the US are regarded as such in the East-Central European (ECE) context, where they are seen as ‘new’ in relation to the traditional religions or dominant churches of the countries concerned (Merdjanova 2002: 17). This view, it so happens, coincides with the scope of the journal Nova Religio, which is devoted to the study of ‘religious communities, movements, and phenomena that fall outside the established, or dominant, religious institutions and discourse of a given nation or culture’ (Robbins and Lucas 2007: 229, citing

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Lucas 1997: 8). If what counts as a ‘new’ religious movement in this sense is relative to a given nation or culture, however, this poses the question of whether a general theory of NRMs is possible. Excluding theories of conversion and so-called ‘brainwashing’, Robbins and Lucas identify five main theories currently associated with NRMs: 1) secularization; 2) globalization; 3) rational choice/religious economy (the market model); 4) post-modernity and modernization; and 5) sect-tochurch theory (Robbins and Lucas 2007: 230). Of these five theories, the first four seem, on the face of it, to be particularly relevant to the situation in post-communist ECE, and as we shall see, there are significant overlaps between them. Conventional secularization theory, which sees a general tendency for societies to follow the British and West European pattern of becoming less religious, has been severely challenged by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the continuing strength of religion in the USA. In revised versions of this theory, however, secularization and religious revival are seen as alternating phases in a self-perpetuating cycle of decline and renewal (Stark and Bainbridge 1985 in Robbins and Lucas 2007: 230, 233). This explanation would suggest that any religious revival that has taken place in ECE countries over the last twenty years should be viewed as a reaction to the promotion of atheism under communism, which supposedly created a ‘spiritual vacuum’ after the collapse of the communist system. However, as we shall see, academic opinion on this issue is sharply divided. Moreover, Stark and Bainbridge’s theory on its own does not explain why some ECE citizens should turn specifically to NRMs, especially those of foreign origin, rather than simply returning to the religion of their parents or grandparents. This is a question to which only the theories of globalization, rational choice/religious economy and modernization/post-modernity would seem to provide possible answers. The immediate attraction of globalization theory (see Hexham and Poewe 1997, Beckford 2004) in an ECE context is that many NRMs – Indian-inspired NRMs, for example – are both international in their reach and exotic in their origin. Of course, some ECE-based NRMs – notably various forms of neo-paganism – are narrowly national in both their origin and orientation. As Robbins and Lucas point out, however, some


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modern religious phenomena – fundamentalism being the most obvious example – can be interpreted as a reaction against globalization, and this can clearly be seen as applying to neo-pagan movements with nationalist overtones: ‘The globalist relativization of received individual and social identities may produce a “fundamentalist” or neo-traditionalist reaction that often entails a primitivist retreat to a traditional deposit of “truth” and authenticity, which is reinforced by socio-political mobilization’ (Robbins and Lucas 2007: 232). Although ‘globalization’ has become a fashionable, catch-all explanation for all kinds of disparate phenomena, and needs to be balanced against culturally specific explanations, it can still potentially account – in part at least – for both the international and national forms of NRMs discussed in this section of the book. Rational choice theory (see Young 1997), which ultimately derives from economics, was originally developed specifically to account for the emergence of NRMs. In contrast to conventional secularization theory, Stark and Bainbridge (1985) argue that there is a more or less constant demand for religion, insofar as it offers believers prospective benefits (such as an afterlife) not available from secular ideologies: the specific attraction of NRMs, in this view, is that they tend to offer more of these benefits than traditional religions – hence the ‘rational choice’ of these NRMs by believers seeking to maximize their returns. Given, however, that Stark and Bainbridge’s theory suggests that ‘the more audacious a NRM’s supernatural claims and promises […], the more chance it has for long-term success’ (Robbins and Lucas 2007: 234), the element of rationality involved seems questionable. Moreover, whereas it was arguably more rational under communism to be an atheist than to be religious, it is not obviously rational in a post-communist society to be a member of an NRM liable to be regarded with suspicion, if not outright hostility. Stark and Finke’s (2000) ‘religious economy’ variant of rational choice theory, which uses a supply-side approach to explain religious pluralism, seems to have an obvious application to the ECE context, where the collapse of communism can be seen as opening up a religious market to both international and home-grown NRMs. This ‘free market’ approach, however, has been criticized by Bruce, who argues that for such a model to work, ‘we need a society where people are strongly religious but are not strongly

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attached to any particular church, sect or denomination, and where there are not strong ethnic loyalties which constrain ability to choose from a range of options’ (Bruce 1999b: 274). This may apply to the US, but clearly not to Europe, with its combination of secular societies and – in much of East-Central Europe – societies with strong ethnic-religious identities (see Bruce 1999a: 100–120). As Robbins and Lucas imply, the theory of post-modernity and modernization (see Heelas 1998) has much in common with that of globalization, insofar as ‘the hyper-plural and globalizing dimensions of postmodernity have been identified as encouraging the worldwide diffusion of alternative worldviews and lifestyles,’ thereby creating ‘cultural conditions that encourage the emergence of new and foreign mystiques and that generate syncretic religious formations’ (Robbins and Lucas 2007: 237; emphasis in original). Such an environment is obviously favourable to Indian-inspired NRMs and New Age movements, for example. But just as nationalistic neo-paganism can be seen as a reaction against globalization, so it can also be seen as a rejection of modernization and post-modernity, regarded as a threat to national identity and stability. More generally, it can be argued that the spread of post-modern capitalism to East-Central Europe has led to a culture of increasing consumerism and individualism in religion as in other areas of life, and that the decline of the extended and nuclear family has led young adults to seek ‘family surrogates’ such as NRMs (Dawson 1998: 53–56) – and, indeed, subcultures. As with globalization, then, the theory of post-modernity and modernization seems especially pertinent in the ECE context. We turn finally to sect-church or church-sect theory, which has a long history in the Anglo-American sociology of religion (see Robbins and Lucas 2007: 239). This describes a continual cycle in which sects or cults – in the non-pejorative sense of NRMs which are non-schismatic in origin – lose their appeal in the process of becoming institutionalized churches or denominations, leading to the formation of new sects or cults which respond better to the needs of their members. Traditionally, such cults and sects were seen as appealing to marginal elements in society, but – as is also evident in ECE countries – many NRM recruits do not fit this category, leading Robbins and Lucas to conclude that this is an area


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in which more research is needed. Another, related question is what kind of psychological needs NRMs fulfil, and here the studies in this section suggest different answers according to whether the NRMs in question are domestic or international in origin: whereas, for example, both ECE neopagan and Indian-inspired NRMs reject institutionalized religion, the first are clearly associated with the question of ethnic and national identity, while the second seem bound up with the search for a vaguely defined but all-embracing spirituality (on the relationship between religiosity and spirituality, see for example Roof 1994; Wuthnow 1998; Barker 2004). The latter, however, can also be seen in terms of an increasing tendency towards secularization,2 which brings us full circle. Although none of these Western NRM theories can be applied uncritically to post-communist East-Central Europe – which, for various reasons discussed in the next section, constitutes a special case in this context – a combination of them can add to our understanding of the emergence, development and treatment of NRMs in the region. The line of thinking that this might lead to could be crudely summarized as follows. Even if – as Merdjanova (2002: 23) argues – the suppression of religion under communism did not create a spiritual vacuum, the collapse of communism clearly created another kind of vacuum through the loss of the hitherto dominant official belief-system. At the same time, ECE countries were opened up to the disruptive forces of modern global capitalism, opening up in turn a religious market in which both international and – as part of a broader movement of post-Soviet ethnic and national assertiveness – home-grown, nationalistic NRMs could find (or re-establish) a niche. National identity issues, however, have led in some cases to continuing discrimination against international NRMs in particular, which are often perceived by the state, established churches, the media and public alike as alien and as a threat to attempts to (re)build national unity and stability.


As Ališauskienė’s chapter in this collection notes, for example, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation, describes his philosophy as a ‘secular spirituality’.

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New Religious Movements in the Social and Religious Landscape of East-Central Europe A useful overview of religion in ECE is provided by Borowik (2007), who identifies five main reasons for regarding the region as a separate entity from the rest of Europe as far as religion is concerned. First, Christianity generally came to ECE later than it did to Western Europe, with remnants of Baltic and Slavic paganism surviving longer there. Second, Christianity took different forms in ECE: Eastern Orthodoxy (for example, in Moldova, Romania, Russia), Roman Catholicism (such as in Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia) and Protestantism (Estonia and Latvia). Third, religious identity in ECE countries has been and remains closely tied up with national identity, defined in opposition to an Other or Others. Fourth, under communism, ECE countries were subjected to a strongly anti-religious regime. Fifth and finally, ECE countries have experienced the collapse of communism and the radical social transformation that came in its wake (Borowik 2007: 654–657). Despite these similarities among ECE countries, Borowik argues, there are important differences between them in three broad areas – Orthodox Eastern Europe, predominantly Catholic Central Europe and the largely Protestant Baltic states of the North – while the religious composition of individual ECE countries varies widely from diversity to near-homogeneity (as in Catholic Poland), with many having sizeable minorities (as in the mainly Russian community of Orthodox believers in the Baltic States). In addition, there are significant differences between Eastern and Western Christian Churches in terms of their beliefs, organization and the role of religion in everyday life (Borowik 2007: 657): whereas the Roman Catholic Church has a hierarchical structure, for example, Orthodoxy is autocephalous, with fourteen self-governing Churches; Orthodoxy also tends towards mysticism, and the Orthodox world in general remains un-modernized. Finally, there are profound differences in the broader culture: Western culture, according to Borowik, stresses individualism and pluralism, whereas Eastern culture emphasizes ‘the power of the collectivity [and] charismatic


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and authoritarian leadership in politics’ (Borowik 2007: 658). Although Borowik’s observations relate to mainstream religions in ECE, it seems reasonable to assume that the factors she identifies have also had an effect on the reception of NRMs in the various countries concerned. Other relevant factors here include the degree of individual religious liberty and government, media and popular perceptions of NRMs, both of which vary considerably from country to country. In some cases, NRMs are seen as ‘deviant’ and a threat to the state and traditional religions, whereas in others, NRMs are seen as relatively harmless. As regards their members, Doktor states that ‘[o]ne usually finds an over-representation of younger, urban, better-educated males and persons from non-religious or less religious family backgrounds’ (Doktor 1999: 138). Doktor adds that this is due to youth being a period of religious experimentation, but he also points out that young people tend to be more receptive to new ideas and practices (Doktor 1999: 139). This has led to some accusations of manipulation and coercion, with NRMs viewed as ‘sects’ who allegedly ‘corrupt’ youth by brainwashing and hypnotizing them (Doktor 1999: 140–142). Borowik concludes that the traditional churches have been in the forefront of this ‘more or less open hostility’ (Borowik 1997: 17), often falsely portraying NRMs as a source of instability and disharmony, using sensationalized, non-objective media coverage to label them as groups who allegedly take property from new members, encourage members to take drugs, engage in sexual abuse, kidnap children and so on (Borowik 1997: 23). This has resulted in NRMs being ‘treated badly’ (Barker 2000: 53) and wrongly labelled as ‘cults’ (Barker 1997: 53). Barker attributes this trend to the fact that many NRMs are ‘perceived as foreign, a threat to the security of the country and in direct competition with traditional national religions’ (Barker 1997: 36). NRMs are also resented, according to Barker, because they are often superior ‘in teaching and in evangelizing’ as well as in their ‘financial base’, meaning that they can tempt followers by offering free English classes or by emphasizing religion, health and wealth (Barker 2000: 60). Finally, NRMs are feared because they allegedly poach believers from the national (traditional) churches, use financial inducements and exploit the tendency of some followers to use religion to further their careers.

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The communist legacy also has a key role to play here, because Soviet socialism has in Barker’s words ‘produced generations of persons unversed in the basic tenets of the Bible, with little or no knowledge of their religious traditions and rituals’ (Barker 1997: 39). As a result, people in Russia and ECE countries are unfamiliar with Western religions or spiritual concepts (Barker 1997: 39). Although this situation has changed over the last decade or so and a number of ECE states have guaranteed religious freedom via the implementation of new constitutions and relevant legislation since 1989,3 one of the problems is that there is no clear definition in these constitutions of what an NRM actually is (Merdjanova 2001: 271). This is and has been to the advantage of traditional religions, conservatives and nationalists and to certain parts of the state wishing to put pressure on or control NRMs. Thus, despite constitutional guarantees of protection of freedom of religion and belief, over time legal restrictions have been placed upon certain NRMs in some countries (most notably in Russia since the introduction of a tough new 1997 law on religion) because ‘NRMs are perceived as inconvenient and intrusive mediators of alien interests and foreign policies’ (Merdjanova 2001: 274). This perceived threat to national stability and identity has led to negative mass-media campaigns against NRMs, which have provided distorted, inconsistent, inaccurate and generalized information on their role in Russia and ECE. Finally, there has been increasing state regulation of NRMs, which makes it difficult for them to register or receive government support (Richardson 1997: 267). This has been the case in Bulgaria since 1994, Hungary since 1993, Macedonia and Russia since 1997, Poland since 1994, in Romania since 2006 and so on. Thus to give just a few examples, the White Brotherhood, Angels of Salvation, Soldiers of Christ, Soldiers of Justice and Jehovah’s Witnesses were refused registration in Bulgaria in 1994, whilst the Unification Church, the Church of Scientology and the Jehovah’s Witnesses were refused state support in Hungary (Merdjanova 2002: 13–14).


For example, under the 1991 Bulgarian Constitution (Articles 13, 37); the 1990 Act in Hungary; the Polish concordat signed in 1993; the 1991 Romanian Constitution, and so on.


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This change in attitude since the initial euphoria of 1989 can be partly explained by the fact that some traditional religious groups (such as the Russian Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church in Poland) are linked to the dominant social and cultural values and the prevailing social order, whereas NRMs, by their very nature, represent a challenge to the authority and legitimacy of the dominant or traditional religious institutions. As a result, NRMs often have a tense relationship with the establishment, partly because many embody Western or global values (for instance, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists). Merdjanova adds that societies ‘experiencing enormous economic difficulties and cultural and moral disorientation, and which also lack traditions of tolerance, may easily embrace intolerant attitudes and modes of behaviour’ (Merdjanova 2002: 54). Because of state and societal intolerance, some NRMs still suffer from discrimination and prejudice and are subject to dogmatism or closed minds nearly twenty years after transition. This is what Merdjanova refers to as the continued ‘fortress mentality’ (Merdjanova 2001: 281). Thus one 2006 survey in the Czech Republic found that no fewer than 76 per cent of respondents had a negative attitude to Islam, 83 per cent a negative view of Jehovah’s Witnesses and 52 per cent a negative attitude towards pagans (Nespor 2008). Opponents of NRMs also fear liberalism and individualism as well as free choice. Unfortunately many of the new member states of the EU view NRMs as a threat to their political and social stability. Thus Merdjanova comments: In Eastern Europe the NRMs do not usually have political aspirations and do not endanger the state; just the opposite: most of them openly declare their willingness to abide by the law and work for the wellbeing of society. However, […] negative attitudes to NRMs in postcommunist countries are increasingly being articulated in terms of nationalist protectionism. (Merdjanova 2001: 291–292)

Most of the NRMs analysed in this section of the book fit Merdjanova’s description in the first part of the quotation above, although the Garda group in Latvia, for example, is far more nationalistic and Russophobic (see Garda 2001, and Stašulāne and Priede’s chapter in this collection) and hence falls into the second category. NRMs are also often seen as a threat to national identity: see, for instance, Lankausakas’s view of Evangelists

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in Lithuania (Lankauskas 2002) or Gills’s (1999) analysis of press perceptions of NRMs in Latvia. In this context, research by Kocsis shows that, in order to remain in existence, the Hare Krishna organization in Hungary is attempting to prove that Indian spiritual values and Hungarian cultural traditions are not alien to each other (Kocsis 2004).

An Overview of the NRM Chapters The first chapter, by Williams, explores the general changes in the religious landscape in Russia in the Soviet and post-Soviet eras, emphasizing in particular the changing nature of state-church relations in contemporary Russia, as well as popular, government and especially the Russian Orthodox Church’s attitudes towards NRMs. This is followed by Pilkington and Popov’s detailed ethnographic study of the meanings attached to neopaganism by two loose and geographically distant Russian subcultural groups – of self-identified Cossacks and skinheads respectively – with extreme ‘national-patriotic’ views. Among the conclusions drawn by Pilkington and Popov are that, unlike Western neo-pagan movements, these groups view neo-paganism not as a religion or as a form of pantheistic spirituality, but as part of a broader world-view that encompasses ethnic exclusivism and a militaristic masculinity. The next two chapters, by Deák and Ališauskienė, investigate Indianinspired NRMs (I-NRMs) in Slovakia and Lithuania respectively. Whereas Deák offers a comparative study of four such movements – ISKCON (Hare Krishnas), Sahaja Yoga, Yoga in Daily Life and the followers of Shri Chinmoy – in terms of both their (neo-)Hindu conceptual framework and their presence in Slovakia, Ališauskienė draws on Western academic discussions of the relationship between religiosity and spirituality to understand the relative significance of these notions for Lithuanian (and Danish) members of the Art of Living Foundation of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. An allembracing spirituality, indeed, turns out to be a large part of the appeal of


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these movements to their ECE adherents, who find in I-NRMs an attractive alternative to Western materialism on the one hand and institutionalized religion on the other. Stašulāne and Priede’s chapter explores how the Agni Yoga/Living Ethics philosophy of the Russian thinker Nicholas Roerich and his wife Helena has been interpreted differently by three different Latvian theosophical groups, one of which is closely associated with the extreme-right Latvian National Front. This underlines that, just as NRMs in general take many different forms, so a single NRM can have different strands, ranging from the politically innocuous to the potentially dangerous. Part Two of the collection concludes with a study by Silvia Letavajová which uses content analysis to examine how the Slovak media’s representation of Islam shapes public attitudes towards the country’s Muslim minority. The results of her investigation reveal a depressingly familiar picture of negative media stereotyping helping to create and reinforce an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality rather than a climate of mutual understanding and tolerance.

Conclusion In the final analysis, NRMs in Russia and East-Central Europe are less important in themselves – their membership is often statistically insignificant – than in what they reveal about political, religious and social attitudes in the individual countries in question. Crucially, they provide a litmus test for a society’s commitment to the liberal-democratic values of individual freedom, pluralism and tolerance. As Merdjanova puts it: the presence of NRMs gives [Russian and East European] society the opportunity to test the genuineness and level of its democratisation. It gives the traditional churches the chance to prove the relevance of their response to the new socio-political environment and to show in practice the advantages they claim for their message. A multicultural and multi-religious environment gives people the opportunity to overcome

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dogmatic visions and stereotypes inherited from communism and to acquire new perspectives for understanding themselves and the other. (Merdjanova 2001: 287)

Some ECE countries are less tolerant than others of NRMs, partly because of the hostile stance adopted by the state, established churches and media; many of the same countries, it should be noted, are also facing difficulties with regards to their treatment of ethnic minorities ( Johns 2003, Tesser 2003). In the new EU member states and new democracies of Russia and ECE, which claim that all citizens are equal before the law, the new constitutional and legislative provisions on religious freedom and ethnic tolerance must apply in practice, not just in theory, and equally to all groups, including ethnic minorities and new religions. Religious and ethnic diversity remains a major political and social challenge for Russia and ECE, and the sense of fear, suspicion and an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality will take years to overcome. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Venice Commission, the US Helsinki Commission and the European Court of Human Rights have already voiced their concerns about the situation in some countries, for example Romania (Iordache 2008) and Russia (see Williams’s chapter in this collection). In the meantime, however, the promotion of integration, inclusion, religious tolerance and multiculturalism – or at least open debates on these issues – is vital to the solution of the aforementioned problems and to the democratic process in these countries. It is clear that current diversity policies need re-thinking in some ECE states, so that plural identities (national and European) emerge alongside the promotion of religious and ethnic diversity and associated rights. One final thought: the term ‘new religious movement’ was originally introduced by Western academics to provide a neutral alternative to the pejorative use of ‘cult’ by anti-cult movements. As we have seen, however, the concept remains ill-defined, incoherent and arguably ill-equipped to describe the complexity of new (and some not-so-new) religious phenomena in the countries of post-communist Russia and East-Central Europe, where the vagueness of the notion has frequently been exploited by the authorities and established churches to discriminate against non-traditional religions. In the Russian and East-Central European context, in other


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words, ‘new religious movements’ are often in effect viewed and treated as dangerous ‘cults’, precisely because they do not conform to the religious traditions of the countries concerned. If freedom of religion is to become a reality in the region, however, new and established religions must be given equal status under the law and equal treatment in practice. To this end, policy-makers would do well to consider whether the very notion of ‘new religious movements’ does not help to create an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality, and to remember that Christianity, for example, was once a new religious movement itself.

References Barker, E. (1997). ‘But who’s going to win? National and minority religions in post-communist Society’. In I. Borowik and G. Babinski (eds), New Religious Phenomena in Central and Eastern Europe. Krakow: NOMOS. 25–62. Barker, E. (2000), ‘The Opium Wars of the new millennium: religion in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union’. In M. Silk (ed.), Religion on the International News Agenda. Connecticut: Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. 39–59. Barker, E. (2004). ‘The Church without and the God within: religiosity and/or spirituality?’ In D.M. Jerolimov, S. Zrinscak and I. Borowik (eds), Religion and Patterns of Social Transformation. Zagreb: IDIZ [Institute for Social Research in Zagreb]. 23–47. Beckford, J.A. (2004). ‘New religious movements and globalization.’ In P.C. Lucas and T. Robbins, New Religious Movements in the 21st Century. New York: Routledge. 253–263. Borowik, I. (1997). ‘Religion in post-communist societies – confronting the frozen past and the peculiarities of the transformation.’ In I. Borowik and G. Babinski (eds), New Religious Phenomena in Central and Eastern Europe. Krakow: NOMOS. 7–24.

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Borowik I. (2007). ‘The religious landscape of Central and Eastern Europe after Communism.’ In J.A. Beckford and N.J. Demerath (eds), The Sage Handbook of the Sociology of Religion. London: Sage. 654–669. Bruce, S. (1999a). Choice and Religion: A Critique of Rational Choice Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bruce, S. (1999b). ‘Modernisation, religious diversity and rational choice in Eastern Europe.’ Religion, State & Society 27 (3–4): 265–275. Dawson, L. (1998). Comprehending Cults: The Sociology of New Religious Movements. New York: Oxford University Press. Doktor, T. (1999). ‘New religious phenomena in Eastern Europe’ in L. Tomasi (ed.), Alternative Religions among European Youth. Aldershot: Ashgate. 125–145. Garda, A. (ed.) (2001). Nevienam Mes Latiju Nedadom (We Give Latvia to Nobody). Riga: Vieda. Gills, N. (1999). ‘New religious movements in Latvia in the mirror of the press’, paper presented to CESNUR conference, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. Heelas, P. (ed.) (1998). Religion, Modernity and Postmodernity. Oxford: Blackwell. Hexham, I. and K. Poewe (1997). New Religions and Global Cultures. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Iordache, R. (2008). ‘The position of non-traditional communities following the adoption of Romanian law on religious freedom and the general regime of religious denominations.’ Paper presented to CESNUR international conference, LSE, London, 16–20 April. Johns, M. (2003). ‘“Do as I say, not as I do”: The EU, Eastern Europe and minority rights.’ East European Politics & Societies 17 (4): 682–699. Kocsis, N. (2004). ‘Krishna in Heroes Square: devotees of Krishna and national identity in post-communist Hungary.’ Journal of Contemporary Religion 19 (3): 329–335. Lankauiskas, G. (2002). ‘On “modern” Christians, consumption and the value of national identity in post-Soviet Lithuania.’ Ethnos 67 (3): 320–344. Lucas, P.C. (1997). ‘Introduction and Acknowledgements.’ Nova Religio 1: 8.


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Merdjanova, I. (2001). ‘Religious liberty, new religious movements and traditional Christian churches in Eastern Europe.’ Religion, State and Society 29 (4): 265–304. Merdjanova, I. (2002). Religion, Nationalism and Civil Society in Eastern Europe: The Postcommunist Palimpsest. Studies in Religion and Society 58. Lampeter: Edwin Mellon Press. Nespor, Z.D. (2008). ‘Attitudes towards new religions in the “non-believing” Czech Republic.’ Paper presented to CESNUR international conference, LSE, London, 16–20 April. Richardson, J.T. (1997). ‘New religions and religious freedom in Eastern and Central Europe: a sociological analysis.’ In I. Borowik and G. Babinski (eds), New Religious Phenomena in Central and Eastern Europe. Krakow: NOMOS. 257–282. Robbins, T., and P.C. Lucas (2007). ‘From “cults” to New Religious Movements: coherence, definition and conceptual framing in the study of New Religious Movements.’ In J.A. Beckford and N.J. Demerath (eds), The Sage Handbook of the Sociology of Religion. London, Sage. 227–247. Roof, W.C. (1994). A Generation of Seekers. The Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boom Generation. San Francisco: Harper Collins. Stark, R. and W.S. Bainbridge (1985). The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival and Cult Formation. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Stark, R. and R. Finke (2000). Acts of Faith: Exploring the Human Side of Religion. Berkeley: University of California Press. Tesser, L.M. (2003). ‘The geopolitics of tolerance: minority rights under EU expansion in East-Central Europe.’ East European Politics & Societies 17 (4): 483–532. Wuthnow, R. (1998). After Heaven: Spirituality in America since the 1950s. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. Young, L.A. (ed.) (1997). Rational Choice Theory and Religion: Summary and Assessment. New York: Routledge.


The Fight for Religious Freedom and Pluralism in Post-communist Russia Christopher Williams

The main challenges facing post-Soviet countries in terms of religion have been as follows: first, dealing with the Soviet legacy and the history of persecution of churches and believers; second, addressing the fact that some churches co-operated or collaborated with the communist regime in their respective countries; third, the nature of church-state relations in Russia and East Central Europe; fourth, the degree of liberalism shown towards different religions; and finally, the impact of the Gorbachev years, which led to individualism, greater choice, the introduction of a religious market and religious competition between the traditional (or national) churches and new or revived religious movements. This leads us on to a whole series of related questions, such as: has the situation in the post-communist era changed regarding attitudes towards religion, church and religious freedom? What impact did economic, social and political transition and transformation have on church-state relations? How have the countries discussed here dealt with secularization and has a religious revival taken place? What are the similarities and differences between new religious movements (NRMs) in Russia and East Central Europe? How have the traditional religions and the media reacted? What are the reasons for the rise of the NRMs, who joins them and why? Perhaps most importantly, what does all this mean for nation, religious and national identity? Have different religions and churches acted as a mechanism of integration and/or as a means of reducing tension and conflict over the last twenty years? And finally, have the changes that have occurred led to a lower level of religiosity or fewer religious freedoms than first thought when communism collapsed? This


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chapter will use the example of Russia to answer the above questions and make reference to the situation in East Central Europe as appropriate.

Religion in Russia and the Communist Legacy Prior to the 1917 Russian revolution, believers and churches were common in Russia. Russia was not only a multi-ethnic empire, but also very pluralistic in terms of religion. Thus, according to the 1897 census, out of a population of 125 million, 72 per cent were Orthodox Christians; 9.2 per cent Catholics; 3 per cent Protestants, 11.1 per cent Muslim; 4.2 per cent Jews and 0.4 per cent Buddhist (cited in Krindatch 2004: 115). The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) may have been the dominant, national church, but it existed alongside a number of other religions and churches, including Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Buddhism and Baptist evangelicalism. From 1917 on, a series of laws were introduced by the Soviet government. The Bolsheviks regarded religion as ‘pre-scientific superstition’ and as a form of ‘capitalistic oppression’ (Bennett 1960: 43–44). The new Soviet state saw Christian churches as conservative, individualistic, protective of the status quo and acting in the interests of the ruling class (Bennett 1960: 108). As a consequence, they quickly abolished all national religious privileges and put all religions on an equal footing. This change affected the ROC most. N.K. Nikol’skii argues that the ROC exploited the masses, supported the tsarist autocracy and was a handmaiden of the state; whereas Gregory Freeze believes that the ROC existed in parallel with, but was not actually part of the state apparatus before 1917. It was nevertheless a major pillar of the autocracy. Finally, S.L. Firsov argues that although the ROC supported the tsarist state, over time this position was abandoned (see Mukhina 2004: 6). Thus there are differing opinions of ROC-state relations prior to 1917. What is perhaps crucial here is that the Bolsheviks shared Nikol’skii’s interpretation and therefore sought to put ROC schools

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and institutions under state control by launching a fully-fledged programme of scientific atheism (Pospielovsky 1988a; Thrower 1983). The Bolsheviks took the necessary steps to ensure that church and state were separated, and although they introduced an anti-religious campaign from 1919 onwards, religious freedom was possible, at least initially. The monopoly on religion which the Bolsheviks thought the ROC possessed was smashed, because of its links with – among other things – nationalism (Pospielovsky 1988b). The Bolsheviks encouraged other existing religions to flourish in order to break the ROC’s monopoly. Thus the Baptists, who had been in Russia in the 1860s and 1870s and were particularly strong in Southern Russia, Ukraine, Finland and the Baltic states, were made legal as part of the 1905 Edict on Tolerance (Coleman 2002: 95). By 1914, the Baptists had 100,000 members in Russia. Further major campaigns in the early Lenin years and the creation of the Bapsomol, an organization for young Baptists, meant that by 1926–1927 there were half a million Baptists (Beerman 1968: 69–70). The Baptist converts came from the ROC and included soldiers returning from the front and civil war as well as peasants, artisans and industrial workers (Coleman 2002: 97, 99). Like the Komsomol (Young Communist League) members, the Baptists encouraged ‘clean living’ (Coleman 2002: 109). Similarly, the Pentecostals, who had emerged in the pre-revolutionary era and were 17,000 strong by the 1920s and based in Odessa (Durasoff 1972: 17–19), were also used as a means of weakening the ROC (Bourdeaux 1965). However, although Soviet policy sought to eradicate the ROC, its strategy failed (Walters 1986: 135). Walters argues that although various other religions, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, enjoyed the freedom and scope to carry out missionary work, after Lenin’s death in 1924 and increasingly under Stalin ‘persecution was to be directed indiscriminately and comprehensively at all religions and churches’ (Walters 1986: 137). Thus the Catholic Church in Russia was one of those targeted because of the Vatican’s anti-Bolshevik stance, and the Soviets became very suspicious of churches directed from abroad, as they associated Catholicism, for example, with enemies such as the Poles, Italians and Germans (Dunn 1977). After the end of the 1920s, the Soviet state relied less on non-orthodox churches and more on its own creations – the League of Militant Atheists


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and the Living Church, which were viewed as being more reliable and ‘dedicated to the full support of Soviet power’ (Walters 1986: 138). Universities were quickly purged of believers and 800 million books and pamphlets containing anti-religious propaganda were distributed by 1930 (Walters 1993: 14). Many religious leaders who had served their purpose, such as Ivan Voronaev of the Pentecostal movement in Odessa, were jailed or died in prison (Durasoff 1972: 22). Due to this policy of ‘atheist communism’, the ROC was in crisis by 1939. Only 2,000 of its churches remained open, down from 46,000 in pre-revolutionary times (Walters 1986: 138). This was largely a result of the confiscation of church property and the imprisonment of clergy in labour camps. However, everything changed with the outbreak of the Second World War, the collapse of the Nazi-Soviet Pact and the German invasion of Russia in June 1941. Stalin now needed the ROC to unite and mobilize the Soviet people against its German enemy. In exchange for ‘endorsing the war effort’, Stalin agreed to re-open churches, theological schools and monasteries. The ROC was now functioning again and the number of clergy gradually expanded (Walters 1986: 139). After 1945 and Soviet expansionism into East-Central Europe, the ROC was used to consolidate Soviet influence over orthodox churches in its new sphere of influence, but it was still brutally persecuted. Talonen (1997) demonstrates that in parts of the new so-called Soviet bloc, such as Latvia, Evangelical Lutherans, who were popular among 57 per cent of the Latvian population, were attacked and weakened in the late Stalin era because of the alleged link between religion and nationalism. This resulted in Evangelical Lutherans being put under NKVD surveillance, killed or deported. Forced collaboration by some (such as Archbishop Gustaus Tors) may have enabled the Evangelical Lutheran church to survive (Talonen 1997). Similar tactics were deployed with the Ukrainian Uniate churches. Walters (1986) points out that although the ROC endorsed Soviet foreign policy, it was still subject to strict Soviet control via the Council for Religious Affairs. Hence, bishops and priests were approved and monitored, and sermons checked for content to ensure that they avoided political and social issues. Bourdeaux (1970) stresses that the Soviet party-state’s ruthless treatment of the ROC – persecution of Orthodox clergy, suppression

The Fight for Religious Freedom and Pluralism in Post-communist Russia


of monasteries and seminaries – had a negative impact on parishes and individual believers, but that key figures, such as Levitin, Eshliman and Yakunin, courageously resisted this oppression. John Anderson argues that Soviet religious policy consisted of three key elements: the creation of a new Soviet atheist Man (and Woman too, of course); the administration and state regulation of religious bodies; and responding, using repression when necessary, to any challenge posed by believers (Anderson 1994: 3). The overall aim was to contain the influence of religion and reassert state control via an atheist programme in the education system, mass media, the appointment of passive religious leaders and the use of informers within religious organizations and structures. If these tactics failed, then religious gatherings were disrupted, believers harassed or arrested and churches closed (Anderson 1994: 48–49, 55, 59). The earlier accommodation between the ROC and Soviet state noted above was undermined by Khrushchev’s ‘savage anti-religious campaign’ of the late 1950s. This meant that the number of Orthodox churches operating fell from 22,000 in 1959 to only 7,000 by 1965 (Walters 1993: 21). In the short term, this new course of action backfired and led to the development of a religious wing of the dissident movement which existed from the late Khrushchev era until the rise of Gorbachev. In the past, religion had been viewed as reactionary, but now it was directly linked to dissent and nationalism. Although there were some dissenters within the ROC, a major role in religious dissent was played by the unregistered Baptists (the so-called initsiativniki) who argued in favour of religious liberty, not co-operation with the post-Stalinist state (Walters 1986: 142; see also Bourdeaux 1969; Fletcher 1971; Jancar 1976 and Kowaleski 1980a, 1980b). This trend was by no means limited to the USSR: in 1971, for example, 17,000 people signed a petition calling for religious freedom in Lithuania (Anderson 1994: 92). Later on, in 1976, Father Gleb Yakunin set up the Christian Committee for the Defence of Believers’ Rights in the USSR and publicized Soviet human rights abuses in the West (Walters 1986: 153). Anderson estimates that around a hundred religious dissidents were arrested each year from the mid-1960s until the rise of Gorbachev (Anderson 1994: 135). However Brezhnev did not simply use strong-arm tactics, he also applied the principle of divide and rule, making concessions to registered


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congregations and allowing the ROC to ‘discipline its own dissidents’ (Walters 1993: 23). Once again, this policy was not very successful, as the number of religious activists arrested reached 400 by October 1982 and around 20 per cent of the Soviet population still declared themselves to be ‘active religious believers’ (Walters 1986: 143). Evaluating Soviet religious policy outcomes, Powell (1978) argues that the Soviet government succeeded in destroying the political and economic strength of the church and in limiting people’s access to it; had reasonable success in reducing the numbers attending church; moderate success in reducing celebrations (holy days/rituals), but failed in overall terms to convince religious believers that their ideas were wrong. All in all, the Soviet state failed to create sufficient numbers of militant atheists. Soviet policy was not radically changed until Mikhail Gorbachev arrived on the political scene in March 1985 and had a fundamental rethink about the role of religion in Soviet society (Anderson 1994: 156). He realized that the emphasis on state atheism was not working and that religious reform was necessary in order to restore faith in the party and Soviet state. As Froese points out: ‘Atheists waged a 70 year war on religious belief in the Soviet Union. The Communist Party destroyed churches, mosques and temples; it excluded religious leaders; it flooded the schools and media with anti-religious propaganda and it introduced a belief system called “scientific atheism” […]. But in the end the majority of old Soviet citizens retained their religious beliefs’ (Froese 2004: 35). Froese argues that the reasons Soviet attempts at atheism failed were people’s steadfast religious beliefs despite communism; the fact that state repression was counterproductive; the fact that its anti-religious propaganda was ineffective; and finally, as scientific atheism was linked to communism, when the latter was undermined and fell, so did the former (Froese 2004: 36, 45, 48). Gorbachev also played a role in the demise of scientific atheism, as he made a number of radical changes, including releasing religious prisoners, relaxing state restrictions on the production and importation of religious materials and books, and allowing, as a consequence of his market reforms, a new religious market to emerge in Russia. All of this culminated in a religious revival in the USSR and East-Central Europe in the mid-late 1980s. Commenting on his trend, Krindatch states: ‘There is no doubt that religion

The Fight for Religious Freedom and Pluralism in Post-communist Russia


has become an influential social force and religious institutions today are a significant component of Russia’s civil society’ (Krindatch 2004: 125). Gorbachev’s biggest contribution was the introduction of the 1990 law on freedom of conscience and religious associations (Anderson 1994: 173–176). As a result, people throughout the USSR were now able to worship and practise their religion openly and to advance in their careers, irrespective of their faith. By the end of 1990, Anderson concludes, ‘the Soviet state had in effect dropped its long tradition of assault on religious values and institutions and provided a legal framework within which religious groups could exercise freedom of conscience’ (Anderson 1994: 181). However, before these new-found gains could be consolidated, an attempted coup occurred against Gorbachev in August 1991, during which the ROC took an ambiguous position (White and McAllister 2000: 368). This was quickly followed by the collapse of the USSR itself in December 1991. By this time, out of a USSR population of 270 million, 22.8 per cent were Orthodox Christians, 18.5 per cent Muslim, 5.5 per cent Catholics, 3 per cent Protestants, 0.4 per cent Buddhist, 0.2 per cent Jews and 50 per cent non-believers (Krindatch 2004: 115). The question that remained unanswered was whether religious pluralism and freedom would be maintained in the post-communist era.

Religious Freedom and Pluralism in Post-communist Russia As we saw above, there was a religious revival in the late 1980s and a new 1990 law guaranteed religious freedom. With the demise of communism, there was a rebirth of spirituality; destroyed churches were restored and new ones built. The options available for Russians ‘ranged from traditional orthodoxy, Islam or Judaism to […] Protestantism and Pentecostal churches’ (Agadjanian 2001b: 475–476). The USSR’s disintegration and collapse had, however, led to an identity crisis and, as White and


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McAllister point out, the ROC favoured a religious monopoly rather than religious pluralism (White and McAllister 2000: 360). As I have shown elsewhere (Williams et al 1996; Williams 2000), the demise of communism created a very uncertain social, economic and political situation, and Russia was highly unstable during Yeltsin’s second term in office (1996–1999). These difficulties impacted on the degree of trust in parties, state and church. Research shows that declining trust in state and political organizations has been partly offset by the increased popularity of religious organizations. According to Krindatch, mistrust in the ROC has remained around 21–22 per cent since 1994, although the number who trust the ROC has in fact risen slightly from 55 per cent in 1994 to 62 per cent in 2002 (Krindatch 2004: 117). Approximately a quarter of all Russians have abandoned atheism since the collapse of the USSR and as a result the number of ‘religious communities’ has risen from around 6,600 in 1990 to nearly 21,000 by 2003 (Krindatch 2004: 127, 130). Of these 11,439 were Orthodox; 358 Catholic; 4,760 Protestant; 3,445 Islam; 262 Jewish; 213 Buddhist; 96 Hare Krishna; 406 Jehovah’s Witnesses and 46 Mormons (Krindatch 2004: 132). It is difficult to be precise about the absolute number of followers for each of these religions because of the way statistics on religion are collected in Russia. According to Filatov and Lunkin, different criteria are used to calculate religious affiliation. According to the ‘ethnic principle’ and 2002 census results, there were 120 million Orthodox believers, 20 million Muslims, 900,000 Buddhists, 600,000 Catholics and 230,000 Jews in Russia (Filatov and Lunkin 2006: 34). By contrast, if we use ‘religious self-identification’, then there were 75–80 million Orthodox believers, 6–9 million Muslims, 1 million Catholics, 300,000 Protestants, and 234,000 Jews in Russia in 2002, as well as 10,000 Hare Krishnas and 10,000 Mormons. In the same year, there were an estimated 300,000 members of new religious movements, though in 1998, there were an estimated 225,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses alone (Filatov and Lunkin 2006: 34, 38–39). Finally, if we use the number of religious organizations registered with the Ministry of Justice by 1 January 2004 as our measure, we have the following results: 10,767 Orthodox, 267 Old Believers, 235 Catholic, 1,460 Pentecostal, 1,571 Baptist and Evangelical, 620 7th Day Adventist,

The Fight for Religious Freedom and Pluralism in Post-communist Russia


202 Lutheran, 98 Methodist, 256 Jewish, 3,397 Muslim and 180 Buddhist (Filatov and Lunkin 2006: 44). By 2006, the most recent year for which data is currently available, there were 22,513 religious organizations operating in Russia, including 1000 Baptist; 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses and 53 Mormon (Daniel and Marsh 2007: 13). Given Russia’s size, the degree of religiosity varies from one geographical area to another, and according to the religious infrastructure. Krindatch points out that the highest level of religiosity tends to be found in southern and eastern parts of Russia and the lowest in territories east of the Urals. He adds that differences in religiosity among various age groups and according to educational level are on the decline, but gender ‘remains a significant determining factor’, because a higher proportion of females than males are religious. Finally, Krindatch’s research results demonstrate that occupation can also be crucial, with the more religious including peasants, office workers, old-age pensioners and housewives, while industrial workers are listed among the ‘godless’ (Krindatch 2004: 128). Krasnov suggests that Yeltsin was very much in favour of religious freedom, creating a council for co-operation with religious organizations and including representatives from the Orthodox Church, Old Believers, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews as members. The aim of this Council was to ‘make recommendations to the Russian President’ and to build a partnership between church and state (Krasnov 1998: 40–41). Unfortunately, very limited progress was made, partly as a result of Yeltsin’s erratic behaviour and actions, but also because the Council had no desire to become ‘an appendage of the state administration’ (Krasnov 1998: 43). One of the biggest changes made in Yeltsin’s second term was the 1997 law, which we shall now discuss in detail.


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The 1997 Russian Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations The 1997 law was a symbol of the abandonment of the ideal of religious freedom itself. (Daniel and Marsh 2007: 11) Russia is distinctive among the post communist societies as the only one in which there was no recent legacy of religious freedom. (White and McAllister 2000: 360)

Bacon defines religious freedom as ‘the right to practice a religion without interference from the state’ (Bacon 2002: 97). This, however, raises the question of whether the freedom in question is granted at an individual or communal level. Furthermore, state interference can have both positive and negative aspects. On the ‘positive’ side it can mean preferential treatment for one or more religions (such as the ROC), while on the ‘negative’ side it can result in prohibiting one or more religions (e.g. NRMs) using a variety of tactics – such as persecution, bans, registration constraints. The ideal situation, Bacon argues, is where a state is ‘neutral’, showing no clear preference and adopting an even-handed approach to religion and religious organizations (Bacon 2002: 99). The 17 September 1990 law stated that ‘No religion may be established as a state or compulsory religion. Religious associations are separated from the state and equal before the law’ (cited in Fedorov 1998: 451). But Russia’s 1997 law on freedom of conscience and religious associations, which was passed by 358 votes to 6 and backed by the ROC, Communists (KPRF), neo-fascists (LDPR) and other nationalists and opposed by Catholics, Protestants, Old Believers and non-Muscovite Orthodox figures (Elliot and Corrado 1999: 109), has reversed this situation. Bacon points out that this 1997 law demonstrates that the post-Soviet Russian state is not neutral, but favours the ROC above other religions, despite promoting ‘mutual understanding, tolerance and respect’ for other religions such as ‘Christianity, Islam, Buddhism [and] Judaism’ (Bacon 2002: 103). Von Geusau suggests that the 1997 law undermines Russia’s commitment to the rule of law, contradicts the fact that it has signed Council of Europe decrees on

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religious freedom and breaks Article 9 of the European Convention (Von Geusau 1998: 44–45). This new law draws an unhelpful distinction between ‘religious organizations’, which are officially registered, and ‘religious groups’, which are unregistered. Registered ‘organizations’ can own property, employ people, conduct religious services and carry out charity work; but unregistered ‘groups’ have no such rights. ‘Religious organizations’ can be dissolved if they violate public security and order, incite racial, national or religious enmity or threaten morality or health (Bacon 2002: 104), whereas ‘religious groups’ face the same challenges, as well as the major hurdle of getting registered in the first place, as they must have existed for fifteen years to qualify. These references to public security and order, racial, national or religious enmity and threats to morality or health are very broad and deliberately vague, allowing Russian courts and government officials to interpret them as they see fit. As we shall see, this is to the advantage of the ROC and the disadvantage of NRMs, which can be divided into two categories, ‘old’ and ‘new’. In the Russian context, the term ‘old NRMs’ can be applied to those religions and churches that existed but were prosecuted in the Soviet period, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Protestants, Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals and Hare Krishnas. Movements such as the Moonies as well as new-age spirituality (NAS) groups which promote the ‘self ’ rather than the old Soviet notion of the ‘collective’, fall into the category of ‘new’ NRMs. Marsh traces the reasons for the change from the 1990 law on religion, based on Western principles of religious freedom, to its more hard-line 1997 version. He argues that as early as 1993 attempts were being made to amend the 1990 law to bring in tighter restrictions on religious organizations and groups, especially NRMs. The proposed 1993 amendments were in fact approved by the Supreme Soviet, but Yeltsin vetoed them (Marsh 2005: 546). However, by 1997, the tide had turned. Daniel and Marsh conclude that the introduction of the 1997 law was the product of four years of pressure from the KPRF, LDPR and ROC (Daniel and Marsh 2007: 7). Davis (1995) argues that although the ROC survived communism it still faces a number of challenges today. These include dealing with accusations of collaboration with the Soviet regime, shortage of funds, religious


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apathy among certain sections of the population, a lack of bibles and books and now competition from the growing number of domestic and foreign NRMs. The ROC justified its stance on the new 1997 law by arguing that its main aim was to protect the ‘moral conscience’ of the Russian nation, but the real reason was that it sought to ‘restore the church’s official position with state protection’ (Von Geusau 1998: 53). Verkhovsky argues that the ROC has links with Russian nationalists (such as the Black Hundreds and Russian National Unity), but is not necessarily ‘itself a nationalist and anti-Semitic body’ (Verkhovsky 2002: 333). He adds that there are still major divisions within the ROC, with the more fundamentalist elements strongly opposed to Western influence and rejecting liberal democracy and human rights, wanting to restore Imperial-style autocracy and to place restrictions on Jews and others (Verkhovsky 2002: 334). These sections of the ROC strongly supported the 1997 law and are clearly a major source of Russian religious xenophobia. Elliot and Corrado argue that the implementation of the law was ‘uneven, quixotic and episodic’ up to December 1999, when Yeltsin left office and Putin was still president-in-waiting (Elliot and Corrado 1999: 110). There were a number of reasons for this: many were opposed to Moscow-based policies, officials were inventive enough to find ways around the 1997 legislation and the law itself was open to interpretation. There was also Western pressure to apply the law leniently and it seemed likely that human rights lawyers acting on behalf of the NRMs and other religions would challenge the validity of the 1997 law (Elliot and Corrado 1999: 110). Analyses by Bacon and Elliott and Corrado of sixty-nine cases under the law in 1997 demonstrate that thirty-seven involved Protestants, eleven foreign organizations, eight Catholics and five so-called ‘cults’. There were, however, no cases against Mormons due to a major US charm offensive, but twenty Pentecostals and twelve Evangelical Baptists were also involved (Bacon 2002: 108; Elliot and Corrado 1999: 111–112). Of these sixty-nine cases, nineteen involved harassment and denial of a place to worship; fourteen led to criticism of their international leaders; eight had problems with registration; eight involved prohibitions on their charity work and finally eight cases led to the use of violence (Bacon 2002: 108–109). The largest number of cases were in the Moscow region (twenty) and the Far East

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(nine) (Elliot and Corrado 1999: 112). It seems that Protestants prefer to lie low and get by, avoiding trouble via bribes rather than launching major protests against the situation (Elliot and Corrado 1999: 113–116). It is widely known that although this new law was passed by the Russian parliament, it was backed by the ROC, nationalists and communists. The ROC did so because it aspires to be a ‘state church’ (Fedorov 1998: 451). Basil adds that many Duma members have ‘sympathy for orthodoxy and the orthodox church’ (Basil 2005: 158). This law came into effect mainly to protect Russia’s spiritual heritage and to eradicate ‘sects’ and ‘cults’ (Von Geusau 1998: 44–45). Agadjanian argues that there were two prevailing views leading up to and at the time of the law: traditionalists feared Islam (partly due to alleged links to terrorism in Chechnya and the ongoing ‘war against terror’), Western denominations (e.g. Catholics and Protestants) and NRMs (especially those of Western origin), whereas Russian liberals were in favour of the modernization of the ROC, and non-Orthodox religions were seen as a way to achieve this, so they sought to defend NRMs, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Moonies (Agadjanian 2001a: 354–356). Unfortunately, the traditionalists won out. One of the reasons for this was that the ROC was closely associated with the Russian national idea, ethnicity and identity, and had supported Yeltsin during the first Chechen war (1994–1996) (Agadjanian 2001b: 482). The ROC was thus acting like a national church ‘in search of the state’ (Agadjanian 2001a: 363). There is a debate among scholars about exactly how close the relationship between the ROC and successive post-Soviet presidents and governments really has been and whether or not a ROC resurgence is partly responsible for the 1997 law being introduced. Basil points out that the initial euphoria of the early communist period has gradually given way to growing insecurity and a fear of the West and of moral decay, as shown by rising alcoholism, drugs, prostitution and pornography. This in turn has led to the ROC increasingly acting as a symbol of the ‘moral and patriotic standard of Russian life’ (Basil 2005: 153). Despite this, Basil concludes that there is division within government circles and that the Russian state is taking a cautious approach in its relationship with the ROC. This is partly due to widespread Western criticisms of the 1997 law, which was seen as ‘unconstitutional’ (Basil 2005: 155, 159). By contrast, Marsh argues that it


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is the Moscow Patriarchate rather than the Eastern branch of the ROC which has been instrumental in creating a shift of position on religious freedoms and that ‘political actors at multiple levels [also] seek to limit the religious freedoms of members of minority religions’ (Marsh 2005: 548–549). Interestingly, Fedorov adds that the new law reflects majority opinion (Fedorov 1998: 454). In this context, he emphasizes the fact that the ROC and some Russian politicians see the NRMs as being the product of the ‘pernicious influence of the West’. This constituency also viewed the previous 1990 law as too closely associated with Western liberal democracy, human rights, liberalism and an open/civil society, which are allegedly not suitable for Russia (Fedorov 1998: 450, 454). Knox (2005: 131) argues that the ROC has become ‘a pseudo-state church’ and that as a result it is starting to play a major role in post-Soviet Russia, especially in relation to national identity. However, Knox also makes the important point that the ROC is not monolithic, as it contains both national chauvinists as well as reformers. It is the former, led by Patriarch Aleksei, who have hampered the development of religious pluralism in Russia and favoured the new 1997 law (Knox 2005: 179). As a result, the ROC now receives state aid for the restoration, maintenance and protection of its buildings and subjects, and its decline is being gradually reversed. The traditionalists in the ROC have not sought via the 1997 law to limit ‘traditional’ religions (Islam, Buddhism, Judaism), but to restrict NRMs and foreign missionaries in general, seeing them as ‘detrimental to Russia’s moral fabric’ and as a threat to the ROC (Daniel and Marsh 2007: 10; Knox 2005: 174). Daniel and Marsh point out that a key factor has been the fact that the Russian public is largely ignorant about the new 1997 law on religion. They also believe that the new law was simply legitimizing an already existing situation in some regions of Russia, such as Arkhangel’sk, Astrakhan and Serpukhov, where the 1990 law was being violated and the proposed 1993 amendment was already illegally in use (Daniel and Marsh 2007: 10–11). One of the requirements of the 1997 law was that all religious organizations needed to re-register by March 1999, and although the deadline was later extended to March 2000, Daniel and Marsh argue that 2,095 religious groups still failed to successfully re-register (Daniel and Marsh

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2007: 12). This figure has however since declined to 980 by 2002, including thirty-nine mosques in Stavropol (Daniel and Marsh 2007: 13). It is also important to point out that some religious groups, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, successfully challenged the fifteen-year rule mentioned above in November 1999, but others, such as the US Evangelical organization CoMission, were forced to stop their charity work in schools as a result of the 1997 law (Bacon 2002: 110–111). The worrying trend is that other ex-communist states, such as Belarus, Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine have all followed suit and favoured the Orthodox Church, whereas Lithuania favoured the Catholic Church (Froese 2004: 69–70). Since 1997, there have been other attempts by Putin to draft a state policy in the religious sphere. The aim, according to Verkhovsky, was to enable the Russian state to intervene/interfere in disputes over jurisdictions within confessions. Although the media and leaders of traditional religious organizations, such as the ROC, were broadly in favour of these proposed amendments to the 1997 law, this move failed (Verkhovsky 2002: 336–337). Nevertheless Verkhovsky concludes that these additional moves are part of a growing fundamentalist and anti-globalization rhetoric and are also ‘giving new legitimacy to xenophobic attitudes in the ROC’ (Verkhovsky 2002: 343). Gaskova has gone even further, arguing that the ROC is guilty of not promoting ‘democratic change’ and instead, like the Putin government, has more authoritarian tendencies. Gaskova attributes the shift in religious policy and legislation between 1997 and 2004 to a number of factors: the ROC’s traditionalist doctrine, the previous symbiosis between the ROC and the state, the general climate of instability, and the fact that ‘religion is shaping political culture’ in Russia. Finally, she highlights the ROC’s unique role and a rise in conservative nationalism (Gaskova 2004: 112–117). What has all this meant for Russia’s NRMs?


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Russian Attitudes towards NRMs The anti-Western, anti-cult state of mind […] helped to justify the more rigid 1997 law both before and after it was put in force. (Agadjanian 2001a: 354)

As we saw earlier, Russia suffered seven decades of enforced secularization and communist atheist indoctrination and so the churches and the population were ‘forced to adapt to and compromise with the Soviet regime’ (Shterin and Richardson 2002). It was not until 1990 that there was a greater diversification of the religious market, which resulted in the emergence of various NRMs. As a consequence, by 1995 there were around 3,000 missionaries representing over twenty-five foreign agencies working in Russia (Froese 2004: 68). According to Shterin and Richardson, a year later there were an estimated 300,000 members of 6,000 NRMs in Russia (Shterin and Richardson 2000: 257). Thus NRMs might often be small, but they are becoming highly visible throughout Russia. Caldwell portrays the growth of NRMs as the product of transition, globalization, market capitalism and commercialization, and highlights the financial and other opportunities for foreign NRMs following the collapse of communism (Caldwell 2005: 23). All in all, Caldwell concludes that the NRMs are teaching Russians ‘how to navigate and succeed in Russia’s constantly changing and contradictory economy’ (Caldwell 2005: 29). The fate of different religions in Russia since 1991 has varied. According to Filatov and Vorontsova, Russia suffers from anti-Catholic intolerance. This dates back to the thirteenth century, but before 1917 the Catholic Church was one of the largest with 331 parishes. It was well organized and Catholics carried out extensive charitable and educational work. After the Russian Revolution, however, the Catholic Church, like the ROC, suffered from persecution. There was a Catholic revival in the 1970s and early 1980s, but it was subsequently broken up by the KGB. The major resurgence in Catholicism took place during the 1989–1993 period, with the result that by 1998 there were 150,000 Catholics in Russia in 200 registered organizations (Filatov and Vorontsova 2000: 79–80). However in the late 1990s, ‘the nationalist press, both communist and non-communist, used the same

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myths, prejudices and accusations – Catholic conspiracy, Catholic expansion, Jesuit plots – arguing that these [Catholics] were behind Russia’s problems’ (Filatov and Vorontsova 2000: 80). Thus, in line with the 1997 law, Catholics have been portrayed as driven by ‘soulless Western values’, a threat to the ROC and hence posing a ‘spiritual and intellectual challenge to Russian Orthodoxy’ (Filatov and Vorontsova 2000: 82–83). Filatov argues that in the period prior to the year 2000 the greatest gains were made by Protestants. Although Protestants initially tried to see ‘socialism in a Christian context’, they too suffered in the Soviet era and played a major part in the dissident movement, as we saw earlier. By 1999 new Russian Baptist and Evangelical organizations had emerged and the movement experienced significant growth (Filatov 2000: 93–97). Caldwell’s analysis of one Protestant NRM in Moscow between 1997 and 2002 found that its members included people from Russia, Africa, the UK and the US. Some members joined because of accusations that ROC members had collaborated with the state/KGB and spied on their own members whereas others joined because it helped members to make sense of their place in the world, acting as ‘a system of value and a system with value’ (Caldwell 2005: 20, 25). The first Lutheran church in Russia was set up in 1576, and by 1914 there were a total of 3.3 million Lutherans in the country. As most of these were of German origin, the churches’ official language was German too. In the Soviet period from 1917–1943, sixty-eight Lutheran pastors were either killed or sent to the gulag (Strickler 2001: 102). During the Second World War, many Lutherans were deported on the suspicion that they were part of a fifth column. Deportee status was not lifted until 1955, and the Lutheran church re-emerged in the 1970s, run by three gulag survivors. By 1985 there were 250 Lutheran organizations in Russia (Strickler 2001: 103–104). Unfortunately, the Lutherans were hit hard by large-scale emigration from the Soviet Union to Germany from 1986 on (Strickler 2001: 104). Although in the former USSR (excluding the Baltic States), there were 600 Lutheran congregations, with an estimated 250–300,000 members, the Lutheran church had insufficient money to pay its heating bills and so needed constant support from Germany to survive (Strickler 2001: 105–107). Thus, although the 1997 law undoubtedly affected


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them too, the loss of charismatic leaders due to German emigration, the aforementioned difficulties, internal division and the fact that they are in direct competition with Baptists, Adventists and Pentecostals, means that the Lutherans’ future in Russia is unpredictable (Strickler 2001: 107–110; Filatov and Stepina 2003: 382–388). Buddhism became popular in Russia in the early eighteenth century and by 1741 the first temples were permitted. Although the number of temples slowly expanded to thirty-seven by 1913, and the Buddhists tried to reach an accommodation with the Bolsheviks, this strategy failed. By Stalin’s time, forty-seven temples were closed and 15,000 lamas exiled (Fagan 2001: 9–10). However in the post-Second World War period a more relaxed approach was taken and the Buddhists gradually became subservient to the Soviet state. The heartland for Buddhism became Buryatia. According to Fagan, the two key Buddhist leaders, Ayusheyev and Samayev, are divided, partly because Ayusheyev supported the 1997 law (Fagan 2001: 14–15). Despite these divisions, Buddhism is still growing, and as one of the traditional religions, it is unlikely to be badly hit by the 1997 law. From Caldwell’s study, it would appear that NRMs have a positive role to play but unfortunately NRMs are generally seen as a negative influence on the grounds that they are ‘anti-social’, ‘criminal’ and ‘dangerous’. Thus the Hare Krishnas (ISKCON) were deemed a ‘totalitarian sect’ after 1994, while the Jehovah’s Witnesses were accused of carrying out ‘subversive’ and ‘criminal’ activities, especially in the post-1995 period (Shterin and Richardson 2000: 266). Shterin and Richardson conclude that this attitude has been ‘largely constructed under the influence of Western controversies over NRMs’ which have been ‘effectively recycled’ (Shterin and Richardson 2000: 250, 258). The Russian view of NRMs is perhaps best illustrated by the Yakunin– Dvorkin case of 1997, in which Yakunin, a former Soviet dissident, took issue with Dvorkin, an anti-cult movement activist and ROC functionary. Dvorkin had depicted certain NRMs (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hare Krishna, and Scientology) as ‘totalitarian sects’ – a highly loaded term – who allegedly brainwashed, beat, raped, lied to and stole from their members. Yakunin argued that Dworkin’s remarks were ‘libelous’ (Shterin and Richardson 2002). In the end, Yakunin lost and the outcome lent

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legitimacy to the view that Russian NRMs are ‘dangerous’ and ‘criminal’ (Shterin and Richardson 2002). Although this result was far from desirable, Shterin and Richardson attribute it to the problems of Russia’s transition to liberal democracy and to the ROC’s concern about foreign NRMs. They conclude that the Yakunin–Dvorkin case shows that religious pluralism has ‘limits’ in Russia today. More importantly, the case demonstrates just how easily Western experts and sources can be used to mislabel Russian NRMs. Although Shterin and Richardson do not see this as the end of religious pluralism in Russia, this negative view still prevails over a decade later. One of the groups mentioned in the Yakunin–Dvorkin case of 1997 was Scientology, which was introduced into Russia in 1992. The following year, a Hubbard Humanitarian Centre was set up in Moscow (Krylova 2001). Scientology has also been subject to media and government attacks. According to Krylova’s research, information from the State Duma, General Prosecutor’s office and the FSB, as well as the Ministries of Health and the Interior, have been used to successfully label Scientology as one of the ‘totalitarian sects’ doing ‘lots of psychological harm’, leading to MVD and FSB investigations. When these tactics failed, allegations of tax evasion were made. Although these charges were dismissed due to insufficient evidence in June 2000, the Hubbard Centre in Moscow was closed due to ‘registration errors’. Other Scientology branches in Khabarovsk, Khaty-Mansiisk and Izhevsk have experienced similar treatment (Krylova 2001). Before and especially after the introduction of the 1997 law, then, NRMs in Russia have been given a hard time. The reality, according to Shterin and Richardson, is that no NRMs have directly challenged the Russian state: NRM members tend to be ‘loyal citizens’ and proven cases of endangering the rights or health of NRM members are ‘extremely rare’ (Shterin and Richardson 2000: 269). One such apparently harmless example of old NRMs in Russia is the Rerikh (Roerich) movement, which originated in the early twentieth century and was strongly influenced by the inter-relationship between art, culture and religion. Although it was a theosophical movement, it combined occultism, yogi, Hinduism and Buddhism. Thus it was essentially a blend of Eastern religious values with Russian culture (Lunkin and Filatov 2000: 138–139). Rerikh was well connected


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and knew key Bolsheviks such as Chicherin, Krupskaya and Lunachevsky and after 1917, the Rerikh movement ‘expressed its full support for the Bolsheviks and its policies’, with the result that its followers underwent ‘no real victimisation or prosecution’ (Lunkin and Filatov 2000: 141–143). By 1989, a Soviet Rerikh foundation had been set up, followed in the early 1990s by an N.K. Rerikh museum and International Rerikh centre. According to Lunkin and Filatov, their religious philosophy is a mix of ‘ecology, astrology, vegetarianism, occultism, magic, Zen Buddhism, nationalism, communism and messianic expectations’ and so it has a very broad appeal, but it is nevertheless ‘shaped uniquely in and for Russia’ (2000: 148). Kravchouk argues that if a religion is older, well established and more familiar, then it is likely to be more readily accepted or at least tolerated, so we should not be too surprised that NRMs are viewed in such an antagonistic way (Kravchouk 2003). Shterin and Richardson add that cultural anxieties, social problems and economic turmoil are the main reasons for the aforementioned ‘menacing images’ of Russian NRMs. This trend, however, is also the product of fear of Western values and influence, the resurgence and role of the ROC, of secular anti-cult groups and of the conservative, nationalist tendencies of some government officials (Shterin and Richardson 2000: 270).

Conclusion Krindatch argues that there have been three broad trends since 1991. First, after the initial introduction of a free religious market and greater religious freedoms (1990–1997), there was gradually more support for some religions (in particular the ROC) and discrimination against others. Second, after 1997 there was more obvious state discrimination against potential rivals to the ROC, especially Western-imported NRMs. Finally, it has become clear over the last decade or so that religious freedom in Russia is not a fundamental right or an unconditional principle, but is granted or

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lost depending upon the prevailing political, socio-economic and other circumstances (Krindatch 2006: 63–64). The 1997 law is just one way for the Russian state to manage religious pluralism, which is still a relatively new concept in Russia. Its adverse effects can be partly offset by encouraging an interfaith dialogue in schools, thereby countering prejudice and discrimination. Halsall and Roebben argue that Russia has at least two options here: a special course on Orthodoxy via history and culture rather than religious studies, or a special course on world religions, incorporating Orthodoxy. This would enable Russian schoolchildren to explore their religious identities and to counter fundamentalism and extremism (Halsall and Roebben 2006: 446). While such an approach is by no means easy, given the climate detailed above, there are also other issues that need addressing, such as the language of instruction, terminology, teacher training, textbook availability and so on, before this process can begin in earnest (Halsall and Roebben 2006: 449–450). Glanzer and Petrenko also rightly point out that the issue of ‘religious education’ has always been politicized in Russia and remains so. The Soviets failed to control religious education and after a brief period of liberalization in the Gorbachev and post-communist eras – when Western organizations such as CoMission trained 50,000 Russian educators to teach Christian ethics between 1992 and 1997, and the Moonies circulated their booklet, My World and I (1994) to 10,000 schools in Russia and the former Soviet Union (Glanzer and Petrenko 2007: 58–59) – we appear to have reached a stalemate, at least for now. The Russian Ministry of Education is largely in favour of religious pluralism, allowing all types of churches to hold conferences, whereas the ROC sees this as a threat. In 1997 the ROC succeeded in undermining Russian Ministry of Education, CoMission and Moonie partnerships, at least at a central level, although such work continues at a local level (Glanzer and Petrenko 2007: 60). Since then the ROC has been pushing for the introduction of a course on the history of Orthodoxy in schools. The Ministry of Education sees this as controversial and as a way of undermining religious pluralism, so in 2004 Andrei Fursenko, the then Minister of Education and Science under Putin, pushed for a mandatory course in the history of major world religions (including Orthodoxy), much to the dismay of the ROC (Glanzer and


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Petrenko 2007: 61–62). The issue remains unresolved because ‘the Russian government shows little consistency in its approach to church-state issues in education’ (Glanzer and Petrenko 2007: 73). However traditionalists within the ROC have also contributed a great deal to the current confusion and seem unwilling to share the religious stage with others. Until there is greater tolerance and respect for the ‘other’ and their religion, especially on the part of the ROC, and until the issues of Russia’s self-identity and negative attitudes towards religious outsiders and NRMs are resolved, the fight for religious freedom and pluralism in post-communist Russia will continue for years to come.

References Agadjanian, A. (2001a). ‘Public religion and the quest for national ideology: Russia’s media discourse.’ Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion 40: 351–365. Agadjanian, A. (2001b). ‘Revising Pandora’s gifts: religious and national identity in post-Soviet societal fabric.’ Europe–Asia Studies 53: 473–488. Anderson, J.D. (1994). Religion, State and Politics in the Soviet Union and Successor States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bacon, E. (2002). ‘Church and state in contemporary Russia: conflicting discourses.’ Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics 18: 97–116. Basil, J.D. (2005). ‘Church-state relations in Russia: Orthodoxy and Federation law, 1990–2004.’ Religion, State and Society 33: 151–163. Bennett, J.C. (1960). Christianity and Communism Today. London: SCM Press. Beerman, R. (1968). ‘The Baptists and Soviet society.’ Soviet Studies 20: 67–80. Bourdeaux, M. (1965). Opium of the People. London: Faber and Faber.

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Bourdeaux, M. (1969). ‘Dissent in the Russian Orthodox Church.’ Russian Review 28: 416–427. Bourdeaux, M. (1970). Patriarch and Prophets: Persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church today. New York: Praeger. Caldwell, M. (2005). ‘A new role for religion in Russia’s new consumer age: the case of Moscow.’ Religion, State and Society 33: 19–34. Coleman, H. (2002). ‘Becoming a Russian Baptist: conversion narratives and social experience.’ The Russian Review 61: 94–112. Daniel, W.L. and C. Marsh (2007). ‘Russia’s 1997 Law on freedom of conscience in context and retrospect.’ Journal of Church and State 49 (1): 5–17 Davis, N. (1995). A Long Walk to the Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy. Boulder, CO: Westview. Dunn, D.J. (1977). The Catholic Church and the Soviet Government, 1939–49. East European Monograph. Boulder, CO/New York: East European Quarterly/Columbia University Press. Durasoff. S. (1972), Pentecost behind the Iron Curtain. New Jersey: Logos International. Elliot, M. and Corrado, S. (1999). ‘The 1997 Russian Law on religion: the impact on Protestants.’ Religion, State and Society 27 (1): 109–134. Fagan, G. (2001). ‘Buddhism in post-soviet Russia: revival or degeneration?’ Religion, State and Society 29 (1): 9–21. Fedorov, V. (1998). ‘Religious freedom in Russia today.’ Ecumenical Review 50 (4): 449–459. Filatov, S. (2000). ‘Protestantism in post-Soviet Russia: an unacknowledged triumph.’ Religion, State and Society 28 (1): 93–103. Filatov, S. and R. Lunkin (2006). ‘Statistics on religion in Russia: the reality behind the figures.’ Religion, State and Society 34 (1): 33–49. Filatov, S. and A. Stepina (2003). ‘Lutheranism in Russia: amidst Protestantism, Orthodoxy and Catholicism.’ Religion, State and Society 31 (4): 367–384. Filatov, S. and L. Vorontsova (2000). ‘Catholicism and anti-Catholic traditions in Russia.’ Religion, State and Society 28 (1): 69–84. Fletcher, W. (1971). ‘Religious dissent in the USSR in the 1960s.’ Slavic Review 30 (2): 298–316.


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Froese, P. (2004). ‘Forced secularization in Soviet Russia: why an atheistic monopoly failed.’ Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion 43 (1): 35–50. Gaskova, M. (2004). ‘The role of the Russian Orthodox Church in shaping the political culture in Russia.’ Journal for the Study of Religions & Ideologies 7: 111–121. Glanzer, P. L and K. Petrenko (2007). ‘Religion and education in Postcommunist Russia: Russia’s evolving church-state relations.’ Journal of Church and State 49 (1): 53–73. Halsall, A. and B. Roebben (2006). ‘Intercultural and Interfaith Dialogue through Education.’ Religious Education 101 (4): 443–452. Jancar, B. (1976). ‘Religious dissent in the Soviet Union’. In R.L. Tokes (ed.), Dissent in the USSR: Politics, Ideology and People. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press. 191–230. Knox, Z. (2005). Russian Society and the Orthodox Church: Religion in Russia after Communism. London: BASEES/Routledge (Curzon series on Russian and East European Studies, 13). Kowaleski, D. (1980a). ‘Religious belief in the Brezhnev era: renaissance, resistance and realpolitik.’ Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 19 (3): 280–292. Kowaleski, D. (1980b). ‘Protest for religious rights in the USSR: characteristics and consequences.’ Russian Review 39 (4): 426–441. Krasnov, A. (1998). ‘Russia: a country of religious freedom?’ The European Legacy 3 (2): 39–43. Kravchouk, V. (2003). ‘Extremism in NRMs: a Russian perspective.’ Paper presented at the CESNUR international conference, 9–12 April, Vilnius, Lithuania. Krindatch, A.D. (2004). ‘Patterns of religious change in post-Soviet Russia: major trends from 1998 to 2003.’ Religion, State and Society 32 (2): 115–136. Krindatch, A.D. (2006). ‘Religion, public life and the state in Putin’s Russia.’ Religion in Eastern Europe 26 (2): 28–67. Krylova, G. (2001). ‘Controversies about the Church of Scientology in Russia. Legal methods of defense of the right for freedom of reli-

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gion.’ Paper presented at the CESNUR international conference, London. Lunkin, R. and S. Filatov (2000). ‘The Rerikh movement: a homegrown Russian new religious movement.’ Religion, State and Society 28 (1): 132–148. Marsh, C. (2005). ‘Russian Orthodox Christians and their orientation towards church and state.’ Journal of Church and State 47 (3): 545–561. Mukhina, I. (2004). ‘Church and religion in imperial Russia: a review of recent historiography.’ Marburg Journal of Religion, 9 (2): 1–34. Pospielovsky, D.V. (1988). A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Anti-religious Policies. Vol. 1 of A History of Soviet Atheism in Theory and Practice and the Believer. New York: St Martin’s Press. Pospielovsky, D.V. (1988). Soviet Anti-religious Campaigns and Prosecutions. Vol. 2 of A History of Soviet Atheism in Theory and Practice and the Believer. St Martin’s Press, NY. Powell, D.E. (1978). Antireligious Propaganda in the Soviet Union. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Shterin, M.S. and J.T. Richardson (2000). ‘Effects of the Western anticult movement on development of laws concerning religion in Postcommunist Russia.’ Journal of Church and State 42 (2): 247–271. Shterin, M.S. and J.T. Richardson (2002). ‘The Yakunin vs. Dvorkhin trial and the emerging religious pluralism in Russia.’ Available on CESNUR website at Strickler, G. (2001). ‘Lutherans in Russia since 1900.’ Religion, State and Society 29 (2): 101–113. Talonen, J. (1997). Church under the Pressure of Stalinism: The Development of the Status and Activities of the Soviet Latvian Church during 1944–50. Linnanmaa: Historical Society of North Finland (Studia Historica Septentrionalia 25). Thrower, J. (1983), Marxist-Leninist ‘Scientific Atheism’ and the Study of Religion and Atheism in the USSR. Religion and Reason 25. New York: Mouton/de Gruyter. Verkhovsky, A. (2002). ‘The Role of the Russian Orthodox Church in nationalist, xenophobic and anti-Western tendencies in Russia: not


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nationalism but fundamentalism.’ Religion, State and Society 30 (4): 333–345. Von Geusau, F.A. (1998). ‘Russia, Europe and religious freedom’. The European Legacy 3 (2): 44–54. Walters, P. (1986). ‘The Russian Orthodox Church and the Soviet state.’ Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 483: 135–145. Walters, P. (1993). ‘A survey of Soviet religious policy’. In S.P. Ramet (ed.), Religious Policy in the Soviet Union. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 3–30. White, S. and I. McAllister (2000). ‘Orthodoxy and political behaviour in Post-communist Russia.’ Review of Religious Research 41 (3): 359–372. Williams, C. (2000). ‘The New Russia: from Cold War strength to postcommunist weakness and beyond’. In P.J. Anderson, G. Wiessala and C. Williams (eds), New Europe in Transition. London: Continuum. 248–266. Williams, C., V. Chuprov and V. Staroverov (eds) (1996). Russian Society in Transition. Aldershot: Ashgate.


Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia: Religion? Ideology? Philosophy? Fantasy? Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov

Introduction The significance of religious identification – including neo-paganism – in the expression of ‘national-patriotic’ views is well-established in the study of extreme nationalist politics in contemporary Russia (Verkhovsky 2000: 715). Published literature, however, considers the question first and foremost at the political and instrumental level by examining the relationship between religious affiliation and particular forms of political doctrine, organization and action. The conclusion reached is that ‘when choosing a particular confession, extreme right-wing groups are governed by a preformed philosophy (mirovozrenie), seeking out the most “traditional” religion to serve as the basis for the formation of a new national world view (mirovozrenie). If such is not found, it is “reconstructed” through some idea of it (in the case of “native” (iskonnie) pre-Christian beliefs) or, in extreme cases, openly invented…’ (Likhachev 2003). The current chapter, which draws on a provisional analysis of ethnographic research with young people in locations in the South and the North of Russia, takes a more cultural and more holistic approach. It assumes that neither the political nor religious identities of the young people participating in the research are pre-formed, but rather are unfinished and constantly being renegotiated. Moreover, it understands these religious choices not instrumentally (as subservient to political aims), but as one element in a broader youth cultural ‘strategy’. The question we ask, therefore, is: why is neo-paganism attractive to young


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov

people with national-patriotic views? And what role does it play in their wider understanding of, and engagement with, society? The research upon which this chapter draws was a study neither of neo-pagan nor of ‘national-patriotic’ youth movements. Rather the research used an ethnographic approach to generate contact with, and subsequently study, fluid groupings of friends and acquaintances sharing certain common interests and beliefs. Identifying the two ‘groups’ for comparison thus requires their construction rather than their description. In both cases, the starting points for generating acquaintance were known individuals or organizations for whom the expression of racial or ethnic belonging and/or exclusivity was important. Thus, while acknowledging the risk of grossly simplifying a wide diversity of individual views and practices, we tentatively suggest that in both sites of research the young people with whom we worked shared the following: a strong sense of their own ethnic, regional and/or national belonging; a clear vision of an ethnically, regionally or nationally defined ‘home’ and (in some cases) a commitment to the exclusion of others from it; strong masculinities and/or essentialist notions of gender roles and identities; and involvement in cultural practices that included or extolled militarism, social order and violence, including, in some cases, ethnically or racially targeted violence.

Situating the Research The first site of research was in Krasnodar krai (region) where the researchers1 worked with young people who identified themselves as ‘Cossacks’ and/or participated in the activities of official organizations within the


The main researcher in the ‘Cossack case study’ in the Krasnodar krai was Anton Popov (University of Warwick). In September 2007 he was joined in the field by Hilary Pilkington (University of Warwick). Several audio interviews during Fieldwork 2 were recorded by both researchers jointly or separately.

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Cossack revivalist movement.2 It is important to emphasize that this group was neither coherent nor united: it was a network of acquaintances and friends who shared an interest in Cossack cultural and ethnic revival. The research in Krasnodar krai was focused on young Cossacks (15–30 years old), although it also involved a number of older respondents (35–70 years old) who participated in Cossack organizations and historical reconstruction movements alongside the younger informants. The study was conducted as a multi-sited ethnography (Marcus 1995). The main settings of fieldwork were Krasnodar, the capital city of the region and Sochi, a city on the region’s Black Sea coast. Short trips were also undertaken with informants to a number of Cossack and historical reconstruction events and festivals held in Krasnodar krai (Gelendzhik and Taman) and in the neighbouring Rostov region (Azov). The fieldwork took place in March–April (Fieldwork 1) and August–September 2007 (Fieldwork 2). In addition to fieldwork diaries, twenty-five interviews with twenty-two individuals were conducted during fieldwork. The interviews have been transcribed and both interviews and fieldwork diaries are being coded using NVivo7 software. The second fieldwork site was the city of Vorkuta in the Komi Republic of the Russian Federation. Vorkuta is a territorially isolated and rapidly de-industrializing and depopulating city in the far north-west of Russia. The respondent ‘group’ was first encountered in 20023 and at that time might be described as a friendship group of young people aged around 16–18 years centring on a core group of respondents with a more or less active ‘skinhead’ identity. Between 2002 and 2007 the articulated identity

2 3

This includes informal historical reconstruction and fencing clubs, which also promoted Cossack identity, the Cossack way of life and military skills. This case study was conducted by a team of researchers from ‘Region’, U’lianovsk State University (Elena Omel’chenko, Al’bina Garifzianova with the assistance of El’vira Sharifullina and Ol’ga Dobroshtan) and the University of Warwick (Hilary Pilkington), but builds on research with core members of the group that goes back to 2002. The main researcher in this case study was Al’bina Garifzianova. The chapter is based on interviews, ethnographic diaries and visual data generated by the whole team. The analysis of materials for this particular chapter was undertaken by Hilary Pilkington.


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov

of respondents shifted significantly: away from a stylistically and ‘street violence’-focused ‘skinheadism’ towards the maintenance of racist views as an ‘inner conviction’, accompanied by a more ‘civilian’ (work, leisure, ‘family’) orientation and/or a more conscious and formal political engagement. Between the first and second stages of fieldwork the group underwent a significant split as a result of an argument (ostensibly over the use of leisure space) and although contact was retained with all original respondents, they no longer constituted a single friendship group. During the second stage of fieldwork (October 2007), one previously unknown and older (30-year-old), informant became a core member of the friendship group. The materials drawn on in this chapter are: fifteen audio and video interviews conducted in October–November 2006 (Fieldwork 1) transcribed and coded using NVivo 7; eight audio and video interviews conducted in October 2007 (Fieldwork 2); field diaries written by Al’bina Garifzianova and Hilary Pilkington; and visual data (photos and video) gathered both by respondents and by the researchers. Neo-paganism emerged as an issue of significance during the course of the ethnographic research in each location independently. The research in Krasnodar krai began with a focus on Cossack youth, but as the researcher moved through the network of respondents, he found a strong connection between the Cossacks and the historical reconstruction movement and between the latter and neo-paganism. However, elements of a neo-pagan ‘world-view’ were also found among Cossack respondents who, although not directly involved in the activities of historical reconstruction clubs, had been introduced to neo-pagan ideas through their participation in this wider network. In Vorkuta during fieldwork in October 2006, a number of respondents independently expressed an attraction to neo-paganism, although they did not at that time identify themselves as neo-pagans. By October 2007, however, one core member had become a pagan, while in the narratives of a number of other respondents, neo-pagan and/or antiChristian themes had become more prominent. Although the extent and nature of neo-pagan belief in these two groups of young people varies considerably, by contrasting the two case studies it is possible to throw into relief both what is common to and different about the role of neo-paganism in their wider cultural strategies. This

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chapter compares and contrasts the two respondent sets along four main vectors: their overall attitude to religion and faith; their understanding of neo-paganism and its connection to their wider attitudes (including their political attitudes); the extent and forms of their engagement with neo-pagan symbolic and ritual practices; and the role of neo-paganism in whole cultural strategies.

Religious Diversity and Ambivalence Given the official representation of Cossacks in contemporary Russia as devoted defenders of the Russian Orthodox Church, it would have been legitimate to anticipate that the two case studies described above would ensure a strong preponderance of orthodox Christians among respondents. Indeed, as Verkhovsky (2000: 715) maintains, ‘Russian Orthodoxy still serves as the ideological basis for the majority of the national-patriots’. In fact, both respondent sets were religiously highly diverse, including active Orthodox believers, atheists and ‘neo-pagans’. Moreover, with the exception of a widely articulated anti-Semitism (see below), views expressed by respondents were primarily tolerant of, or at least ambivalent to, religious difference: There are also different kinds of skinheads. Some think one thing, some another. Some… there is even a band which glorifies Tsarism, Orthodoxy and all that… Some think that paganism is the native religion. Everyone thinks differently… Whatever you think, we have a common goal. And that’s it. (Andrei, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 1)4


Quotations from interviews are cited using a pseudonym for the respondent, the fieldwork location and ‘Fieldwork 1’ or ‘Fieldwork 2’ as an indicator of date of interview as outlined above. Excerpts from fieldwork diaries are cited indicating the case studies as ‘Krasnodar’ or ‘Vorkuta’. Excerpts from Krasnodar are from Anton Popov’s diary. Excerpts from Vorkuta are from Hilary Pilkington’s diary.


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov

Orthodoxy Among respondents there were individual committed Christians. In Krasnodar, one respondent’s Orthodox conviction led him to be known widely as ‘Father Georgi’. Although an active member of the network, Georgi (he didn’t like to be called ‘Father’) was also the object of much in-group humour and teasing as a result of his faith and (according to respondent narratives) his associated lack of a girlfriend. Sarmat – who led much of this teasing – joked that ‘his life’s aim is to write his thesis, get a good job, earn a lot of money, buy a flat and car and then… enter a monastic order’ (Sarmat, cited in Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1). Georgi himself was relatively modest about his Christian beliefs; he claimed that he had no real right to call himself a proper Orthodox Christian ‘because I do few worthy things’ (Georgi, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 2). Moreover, he was tolerant of those with other faiths. Talking about what he refers to as the ‘propagandizing’ of neo-paganism in the group, Georgi noted: I am relaxed about it, but I think they are misguided in a religious sense. But I am not bothered by it. I get on fine with them, although if there was a negative attitude towards Christianity, if they started slagging it off, then I would react negatively. Not to any extreme degree, of course, but still – then I wouldn’t have anything [in common] with these people… (Georgi, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 2)

Among Vorkuta respondents, only one – Valera – displayed any positive identification with the Orthodox faith (see Plate 7). However, Valera’s faith had been newly found and was linked to a personal crisis in his life (when he had been sent to prison for just under 18 months). The trauma of prison had caused him to reflect deeply on his earlier life, and – as he explains below – this was central to his decision to become a Christian: I had no goal in life, I only thought about myself… relaxing, girls, that’s all, clubs, music, nothing else. I didn’t need anything else… I wasn’t even baptized. I got baptized in prison, imagine. (Valera, Vorkuta, video interview, Fieldwork 1)

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


Plate 7: Orthodox cross, October 2006.

By autumn 2007, a new personal crisis – separation from his girlfriend – had severely dented Valera’s faith. When re-interviewed he expressed his disenchantment with religion: Interviewer: Do you believe in God? Respondent: I believed for a while… Interviewer: And now? Respondent: Fuck knows… Interviewer: Why? Respondent: Well, it’s bollocks, if He’s so fucking cruel… Interviewer: How do you mean ‘cruel’ exactly?


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov Interviewer: Well, all this shit in my life. I mean, I try to do the right thing but [life] just shows me its arse… It’s all bollocks. Interviewer: The disappointment… Respondent: There is no God, there’s just fate… (Valera, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 2).

More significant than the lack of widespread, positive identification with Orthodoxy among respondents, however, was a frequently encountered counter-narrative of Orthodoxy as an inauthentic and restrictive structure imposed primarily as a means of social control, which is discussed in Section 2 of the chapter. Atheism The understanding of young people’s religiosity within the framework of the post-Soviet revival of Christianity and the vulnerability of young people to recruitment by ‘sects’ has tended to obscure the fact that atheism is alive and well among young Russians. For some respondents atheism was a conscious ‘choice’, as illustrated by Lera’s declaration: ‘I don’t believe in God at all. I’m an atheist.’ (Lera, Vorkuta, video interview, Fieldwork 1). This conviction, moreover, was tightly bound to a wider materialist philosophy: It’s just impossible. I can judge for myself whether God exists or not. He doesn’t. He simply doesn’t. He doesn’t exist because He just doesn’t, because what exists, is what exists on earth. I am living right now, here and now. (Andrei, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 2)

For other Vorkuta respondents, however, atheism was, more accurately speaking, a starting point for independent religious exploration. Slava, for example, was a committed atheist who fundamentally believed that God was a fabrication, or in his words, ‘a deception’ (Slava, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 2), but at the same time, expressed a strong interest in paganism. Comandor (a Sochi respondent) had also come to neo-paganism from atheism – his grandfather had remained a committed atheist and communist – while a group of neo-pagans from St Petersburg, encountered

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


at the Azov festival, explained that they had also started out as atheists, but had come to neo-paganism having been ‘disappointed’ in Orthodoxy (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 2). Thus, in trying to understand the connection between ‘national-patriotism’ and neo-paganism, we should not forget that a strong intermediary function is played by atheism. Indeed, this is recognized by Shnirelman (1998: 8), who sees the ‘combination of open atheism with the call for a restoration of pre-Christian beliefs’ as a feature of a number of neo-pagan movements. Developing this argument below, we suggest that this is a common trajectory for respondents precisely because neo-paganism does not fulfil the function of a religion – in terms of a faith system – in their lives. ‘Other’ Faiths: Islam and Judaism A notable characteristic of Vorkuta respondents was that, despite articulating extremely hostile attitudes to many ethnic groups from the Caucasus and the Central Asian region, whose members were Muslim, they were frequently (although not exclusively) positively oriented towards Islam as a more or less abstract concept: Muslims? Muslims are sound. They have a united faith, a good faith. They don’t have faggots like we have. (Slava, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 1)

However, Slava’s example of what is ‘good’ about Islamic faith (the intolerance of male homosexuality) suggests his reasons for admiring Islam were related to his perception of it as sharing his intolerance, in this instance of ‘deviant’ masculinities. Another respondent talked of his ‘respect’ for Islam because of its ‘strictness’, the willingness of its followers to endure pain, even death, for its cause and, in contrast to Orthodoxy – which he saw as enslaving the nation – its orientation towards advancing and promoting the nation or ‘people’:


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov It [Islam] doesn’t subordinate people. It gives them the opportunity to use their human resources for the good of their people, for the good of their religion… (Egor, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 2)

The exception to the rule on religious ambivalence was a ritual antiSemitism which was widely articulated amongst both sets of respondents. For Vorkuta respondents, this anti-Semitism was a practice of ethnic or national ‘othering’ and had little to do with Judaism as a faith: it primarily served to explain the misfortunes that had befallen Russia. Thus Zhenia declared that ‘Jews are our main enemy’ (Zhenia, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 1) because of the ‘numerous sufferings they have inflicted on the Russian people’ – which, in his mind, included responsibility for the October revolution as well as the current ‘Zionist occupation of government’ in Russia. In contrast, where reflections on faith concerned Jewishness, anti-Semitism was expressed through the primary object of resistance – Christianity. Thus, reflecting on the ‘imperfection’ of Jesus Christ, Roman and Valera observed: Roman: … I don’t even get what is so perfect about him [ Jesus Christ]. To start with he was a Jew anyway. Going back twenty-four generations. Valera: Jews – a fucking waste of space. Roman: Yeah, a waste of space, really. And why should we believe in religion? (Roman and Valera, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 1)

Similarly, Comandor resented Christianity for its origins in Judaism: Respondent: … I don’t agree with a lot in the Christian religion. A lot annoys me. Interviewer: For example? Respondent: For example, the Lord over all of us, the Lord of Israel, Savaof 5 – the God of all gods, Savaof – he is just a minor god of one of the Jewish tribes. What has it got to do with the rest of us? We have our own gods, why do we need him, why? (Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 1).


‘Savaof ’ here refers to the primordial consciousness or God-the-Father.

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


Krasnodar respondents were also prone to routine anti-Semitic statements and to declaring Christianity to be a branch of Judaism, or, in their words, a ‘zhidovskaia vera’ (‘a Yid religion’) (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 2). Neo-pagans Published literature on neo-paganism in contemporary Russia focuses on the identification of different movements, organizations or sects. Among our respondents, whose neo-paganism was weakly institutionalized, the key differentiation was at the broader level of definition. While for Vorkuta respondents the standard Russian term ‘iazychestvo’ (paganism) was used, Krasnodar neo-pagans were most likely to talk about themselves as ‘rodnovery’.6 The significance of this in relation to the role neo-paganism plays in their overall philosophy is discussed at length in the following section. Here it is worth noting only that the differences between ‘iazychniki’ and ‘rodnovery’ were primarily of form rather than substance:


The term ‘rodnaia vera’/ ‘rodnoverie’, literally translated as ‘native faith’ is used by a number of neo-pagan organizations and individuals in contemporary Russia, Ukraine and across Eastern Europe (see Ivakhiv 2005). Some radical-nationalist organizations which use neo-paganism as their spiritual or ideological foundation emphasize that ‘native faith’ is exclusive to Slavs – ‘rodnoia vera Slavian’ (see for example Soiuz Slavianskikh Obshchin Slavianskoi Rodnoi Very n.d.). Others would oppose such ‘xenophobic nationalism’ and emphasize the worship of ‘Rod’ – the highest deity in the Slavic pantheon. However, ‘rod ’ also signifies ‘kin’ in Russian, suggesting both biological and spiritual connections between ‘rodnovery’ (see Liul’chak 2007). The majority of Cossack neo-pagan respondents with whom we worked in Krasnodar krai, however, talked of their close links to the followers of ‘rodnaia vera’ from Ukraine (see below). Although the Ukrainian branch of ‘rodnoverie’ has developed within the same neo-Slavic nativism as Russian rodnovery, it has strong links with Ukrainian nationalism. Ukrainian rodnovery (or ridnoviry), sometimes call themselves the followers of ‘Native Orthodox Belief ’ (Ridnaia Pravoslavnaia Vira) and believe that Rod is a single god who has multiple ‘manifestations’ (Edinyi i Mnogoproiavnyi Bog) revealed in other Slavic deities (Mykolaiv n.d.).


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov Rodnaia vera – we talk about it like that now – […] is also referred to as iazychestvo or as neo-iazychestvo (neo-paganism), so it can be referred to in a variety of ways. The main thing is that it is a cult that existed before Christianity in Rus. (Sarmat, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 1)

Moreover, rodnovery was often simply used to describe those who, literally, ‘spoke the same language’, whereas iazychniki denoted ‘foreign’ neopagans:7 Iazychnik is someone who speaks another language – same faith, different language, to put it crudely. (Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 1)

In only one instance did respondents insist on distinguishing between themselves (rodnovery) and sects or cults. This was in relation to the ‘ingliists’,8 who were reported – albeit primarily based on an encounter with one member of this church – to have ‘ridiculous’ views, most frequently narrated as a belief that pre-Christian gods arrived from space (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1). Aitamurto (2007) confirms the distrust of the ‘ingliists’ among other rodnovery, which she attributes to the sectarian tendencies ascribed to the church.



Differences between ‘Slavic-Aryan Vedic culture’ and the paganism (iazychestvo) of other people was one of the main themes at the 4th All-National Assembly of Orthodox Old Believers (Rodnovery) held in Sochi in October 2006. This event was organized as an all-Slavic neo-pagan conference with participants representing neo-pagan ‘rodnover’ communities from Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Czech Republic and Slovakia (see n.d.). The ‘ingliists’ are a neo-pagan movement who worship Perun (the ruler of the skies, the god of thunder and lightning and of war) and who are organized as the Ancient Russian Ingliistic Church of Orthodox Old Believers-Ingliists (Drevnerusskaya Ingliisticheskaya Tserkov Pravoslavnikh Staroverovnglingov) (Ivakhiv 2005). The Omsk branch of the church was reported to have been closed in 2004 after its members were accused of promoting white supremacist views and using prohibited symbols such as the swastika (‘Supreme Court outlaws neo-pagan sect’ 2004). The name is reported variously as stemming from ‘ingli’ meaning sacred, infinite fire (Krasnodar diary) and from ‘inglia’ meaning ‘infinity’ (‘Supreme Court outlaws neo-pagan sect’ 2004).

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


Narratives of Neo-paganism The young people participating in our research appear to conform to what Likhachev (2003) defines as ‘national neopagans’: they were prone to understand paganism as a philosophy rather than as a religious conviction. This is evident from the fact that both sets of respondents support their neopagan views not by declarations of a spiritual kind (such as revelations, expressions of faith), but with reference to ‘books’ and other sources of knowledge. Comandor, for example, notes: … I have read a lot of literature, I have looked through a lot of stuff… There is a whole series of books dedicated to individual gods… A lot has been preserved, all kinds of historical manuscripts… A lot of old customs have been preserved, there is a lot in dances, in folk customs… (Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 1)

In particular, respondents referred spontaneously and frequently to two books: the Book of Vles (Velesova Kniga 2006) and Istarkhov’s (2006) The Russian Gods Strike (Udar russkikh bogov). However, what is striking about the discussion of these books is the critical engagement respondents have with them. In particular Krasnodar krai neo-pagans (Koldun, Sarmat and Comandor) were not only aware of, but interested in, the disputed status of the Book of Vles: A lot remains in manuscripts. Well the manuscripts are also corrupted [but] a lot has remained. There is one document – the Book of Vles – now there is a big debate about whether it is genuine or not. Some say that it is a crude forgery, others say, no it’s the truth…. In fact a lot of people have emerged now who are speculating on this wave… A lot of strange people have emerged who either simply know the market well or who are psychologically unwell and are trying to force their views on others, who declare themselves to be great teachers… So you mustn’t take heed of everyone, but ask whether they know something, really know something, what kind of person they really are. (Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 1)

Thus, we would not concur with Likhachev (2003) that neo-paganism necessarily acts as an ‘ideology’ rather than a religion. The critical engagement with neo-pagan sources and the way in which they are read almost as


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov

‘think pieces’ for contemporary life suggests rather that, for our respondents at least, neo-paganism is a cultural resource for individual philosophical growth. This is well illustrated by Sarmat’s reflection on the Book of Vles: … when I read it, I really liked it. But it shouldn’t be seen as a kind of Bible for the Slavs. Basically it is a manuscript. It is about some princes, where they went, what they did, how the Rus fought, stuff like that. There are a lot of what I would call patriotic sentiments in there that I would say are relevant for contemporary life. There are a lot of good tips there for young warriors – the book is useful, I think it is useful to read it. And it evokes a lot of good thoughts about the past of our people, the pagan, not the Orthodox past. (Sarmat, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 1)

Istarkhov’s Udar russkikh bogov (2006, first published in 1999) is a quite different text. It has a self-defined ideological mission to expose Christianity and communism as, alongside Judaism, ‘the three Jewish religions’ and to counterpose to them paganism, which, Istarkhov claims, is the ancient and true religion of the Russian and Aryan peoples. Indeed, the book is so openly anti-Semitic9 that it comes with its own health warnings from the publishers, who state that they do not necessarily share the author’s views and remind readers that the Russian constitution lays down the ‘right to freedom of thought and speech’. To a certain extent, Vorkuta respondents use the book as directed by the author, that is, as ‘an Aryan informational weapon against the Yidocracy’ (Istarkhov 2006: 2). At one point, indeed, Slava quoted almost an entire passage of the book (2006: 141), which seeks to explain the satanic origin of Jewish symbols (for example, the six-pointed star). However, even the least critical respondents suggested that the significance of the book for them was not the ‘truth’ of its content, but that it provided a starting point for challenging perceived wisdom. For Andrei, its attraction was in the fact that it ‘exposes the absurdities of Christianity, which everybody knows, but, for some reason, nobody examines or is able to respond to’ 9

The book is not only anti-Semitic, but also profoundly anti-Christian, and is reported to be one of the books burned by fundamentalist Orthodox groups in March 2001 in Kuzminki Park, Moscow in a protest action demanding the adoption of a law ‘On Spiritual and Moral Censorship’ (Verkhovsky 2003).

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


(Andrei, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 2), while for Roman it provided a source of information on what he perceived to be the silenced subject of paganism: … but paganism, nobody understands it. Nobody knows it. The state hides paganism. It doesn’t want to talk about it. Not at all. The media all deny it. (Roman, Vorkuta, video interview, Fieldwork 1)

Talking, albeit more specifically, about the book’s thesis on the ‘perversion’ of Jesus Christ, moreover, Slava suggests that Istarkhov’s book has an empowering effect: Just read it, that’s all… You just start to understand and not to believe everything… You have to believe yourself, that’s all. What else do you need? (Slava, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 1)

Krasnodar respondents were more critical of Istarkhov.10 Two respondents (Koldun and Timofei) considered it to contain a lot of truth, but to be too ‘unsubtle’ (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1), while older respondents talked about it in a derisory tone as ‘harmful’ and ‘stupid’ (Potelkin, cited in Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1). Thus, for Krasnodar respondents, as Comandor notes, you need not only to read a lot but also to ‘see, feel that the person writing really knows something…’ (Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 1). In general terms, our respondents share a common mode of engagement with neo-paganism which is primarily rational rather than spiritual. Neo-paganism, in their narratives, is first and foremost a body of alternative knowledge (or at least a gateway to such) and is engaged with at a rational and, to some extent, critical level. However, the narratives of Krasnodar


This greater critical faculty is partially explained by the greater access to sources of knowledge and communities of practice available to the Krasnodar respondents. It is also possibly partially explained by the fact that Krasnodar respondents were more likely to be educated in general educational schools or to be students in higher education and in subjects in the humanities (especially history), whereas Vorkuta respondents were either already working or were students in technical, business or service spheres.


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov

krai and Vorkuta respondents differ in emphasis, and the implications of this are discussed below as the two dominant narratives of neo-paganism – as a counter-force to Christianity and as an expression of ethnic exclusivity – are outlined. Neo-paganism as Anti-Christianity The first major narrative of neo-paganism among our respondents was one that envisaged paganism as an ‘alternative’ to the ‘trinity’ of Jewish oppressive systems – Judaism, communism and Christianity. This narrative was found among respondents in both Vorkuta and Krasnodar krai. However, while for Krasnodar respondents this was a minor theme in their understanding of neo-paganism, for Vorkuta respondents Christianity appeared frequently as an oppressive structure and the dominant narrative of neopaganism related to its potential to resist this oppression. In this narrative, paganism was invoked as the authentic religion of the Russian people before Christianity was imposed upon both country and people: And anyway, when it comes down to it, what is, as they say, our true faith? In Russia… who are we? Pagans when all is said and done… Christianity was foisted on us… They drove us down to the river and baptized us. (Egor, Vorkuta, Fieldwork 2)

As evidence of the ‘repressive nature’ of Christianity informants sometimes referred to the violent history of the Christianization of the populations of Russian principalities during the Middle Ages as an act of foreign aggression (by Byzantine Greeks). In Sochi, for example, Klaus recounted, as if it was a ‘scientific fact’, a bizarre and unsubstantiated theory that in the twelfth century – during the Mongol invasion – only those towns that remained pagan were taken and destroyed by the invaders. This, he said, was because these towns had retained their gold and other treasures, while settlements that were Christianized were not attacked by the Mongols because they saw no point in plundering towns which had been already stripped of their wealth by the Christianizing Greek monks and priests (Klaus, Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 2).

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


The appropriation by Christianity of official representations of Cossacks – as Orthodox warriors – was also resented. This was best articulated during the Taman festival when one of the riders in the Kuban Cossack mounted unit (a unit sponsored by the regional administration) declared angrily in the course of a discussion: ‘Why don’t we put all our cards on the table. I’m not a Christian. I am a rodnianin [believer in Rod, God]. I believe in Rod.’ (Sania, cited in Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 2). As a rule, however, the understanding of Orthodoxy as an everyday oppression was exclusive to our Vorkuta respondents. It expressed itself, first and foremost, in their vision of the Christian faith and its institutional form, the Orthodox church, as a mechanism for constraining and controlling ‘the people’: Respondent: Christianity – I hate Christianity. Interviewer: Why? Respondent: I reject Christianity. Totally. What good is it? Nobody can tell me. Not one argument. What is good about Christianity? How is it [good]? As a form of government? No…. How can Christianity be expressed, what is it? The servant of God? First you are a servant. And only then you are God’s. Who is this God? There is no God. Where is he? What is he? He doesn’t exist. What does God mean at all? (Roman, Vorkuta, video interview, Fieldwork 1)

While another stated: Respondent: I hate the Orthodox Church. Interviewer: Why? Respondent: Because it stupefies the people. It drives it into slavery. It turns us into morons who troop off to pray. (Egor, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 2)

In addition to its oppressive nature, respondents find Christianity wanting in its moral relevance. They understand the development of Christian morality – and in particular the Ten Commandments – as being for the purposes of mass social control rather than to help individuals negotiate the real moral dilemmas they face: That’s what the Church does, it simply… I can’t think how to put it properly … it has kind of turned the whole faith which a person gives to themselves into a legal code,


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov and kind of written its own criminal code – Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal. So people think that, in terms of morality, the Church offers everything they need… Take the Ten Commandments – thou shalt not kill, not lie for example. How can I not lie if my life depends on it? Thou shalt not steal. How can I not steal if my children are dying? … Or ‘thou shalt not kill’ – but what if I am going to be killed, why can’t I respond? (Artem, Vorkuta, Fieldwork 1)

Moreover, Vorkuta respondents repeatedly returned to the discussion of what they – drawing heavily on Istarkhov – considered the immoral or, more accurately, perverse roots of Christianity. This perversion was embedded in: the symbol of the cross (associated with Satanism or devil worship); the use of bread and wine in communion to symbolize the flesh and blood of Christ (often referred to as ‘cannibalism’); and claims of sexual perversion (homosexuality and paedophilia). All three of these threads are expressed in the following interview excerpt, in which Roman explains his hatred of Christianity: Respondent: Christianity, I hate Christianity. A corpse on a cross, it’s basically, it’s a symbol of killing. And if they had killed him [Christ] on an electric chair – fuck, can you imagine what we would be wearing round our necks? Or if they had impaled him on a stake? Or hung him from the gallows? … It’s awful, really. And according to the Old Testament, even any Testament, whether it’s by Moses or by Luke, [they say] Jesus never had sexual relations with anybody. And… if someone looked at a woman then his eye would be put out, if a hand was raised for something sinful, it would be cut off and discarded, and the same with a leg. So, in heaven, there are either only disabled people or eternally impotent ones, that’s the first thing. Then take the fact that he was a cannibal. Do you know he was a cannibal? Wine is blood, bread is the flesh of Christ. Have you heard about that? When people receive communion, they drink the blood of Jesus… And, I think, he was also a homosexual. Do you know why the Romans crucified him on a cross? Why they didn’t throw him into a pit? Why they didn’t torture him? Why they simply didn’t hang him? Why they put him on a cross? Can’t you tell me yourself ? And why facing frontwards, not backwards? Nobody knows about this… Interviewer: So why did they? Respondent: They crucified active and passive [homosexuals]. Passive [homo­sexuals], they crucified with their faces to the cross, active ones facing frontwards. And they didn’t place crowns on all their heads – only the pederast’s. That’s it. (Roman, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 1)

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


A more traditional criticism of the official Orthodox Church concerned its ‘hypocrisy’ and materialism. Egor, despite being a baptized Christian, declared his hatred for the church and in particular its priests, whom he described as ‘duplicitous swine’ (Egor, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 2). Although he had grown up in Vorkuta, Egor had Kuban Cossack origins, and his critique of the Orthodox establishment was shared by our Cossack respondents: Our … well what’s considered our Church … I don’t like it. My grandmother always went [to church], but my grandfather was a committed communist, an atheist all his life. So from childhood I wasn’t steeped in it and then I began to take a close look myself. You see a priest telling someone, recounting these good thoughts, that everybody should share with everybody else, that if you are struggling then you have to tighten your belt. Then they leave the church in their new Audi, walk away talking on a mobile [phone]. That’s not right. The majority, this Christian Church is all rotten. I mean people – don’t be offended, of course – but people, they all … well not all, not all, there are genuinely enlightened individuals, people who are genuinely spiritually rich, but there are very few of them … mainly people go there to earn money, to live well, to eat well, but not to actually do anything. They come out, wave the incense about, conduct the service. Of course you have to know a lot, they know the Bible by heart. But what’s the point? All priests, as far as I can tell, with whom I have talked, they all mainly join [the Church] for material gain, not to serve God. (Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 1)

Thus, even those informants who remained Orthodox believers distanced themselves from the church as an ‘institution’ or from what they termed its ‘dogma’ or chose to join communities of Old Believers (staroobriadtsy) as an alternative to the mainstream Russian Orthodox Church (Vitia, Stepanych, Potelkin, Alex, cited in Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1). The dominance of this negative narrative of neo-paganism among respondents in Vorkuta – whose use of Nazi symbolism and nationalsocialist rhetoric makes them appear most closely to conform to what Likhachev (2003) refers to as a ‘right-wing radical group’ – provides some counter-evidence to Likhachev’s argument that such groups are ‘just as much religious as they are political’ groups. For our respondents at least, neo-paganism, first and foremost, provides a resource for resisting what


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov

they perceive to be oppressive state structures and a means of liberating themselves as individuals. Neo-paganism as an Expression of Ethnic Exclusivity Studies of the emergence of neo-paganism in the late and post-socialist periods in a number of Eastern and Central European countries (including Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Belarus) point to a clear link between neo-pagan ideas and radical (ethno-) nationalist movements and ideologies (Ferlat 2003: 47, Shnirelman 1998, Wiench n.d., Ivakhiv 2005). Our empirical data also provides evidence of a strong connection between neopaganism and a Russian ethno-nationalism rooted first and foremost in the sharing of a common Aryan past. This ideological exchange is documented as far back as the early 1930s (Shnirelman 1998: 3) and was reproduced by the rodnover ‘priest’11 Koldun during a conversation which is recounted here from field notes: I asked Koldun who could be considered a rodnover. Could a non-Slav, an Armenian for example, be a rodnover? He thought for a moment and said that it was a difficult question. Then after lengthy reflection, he answered that ‘dark Armenians’ could not be rodnovery because ‘it is a Slavic faith and Slavs are fair (svetlie)’. He said that dark Armenians are mixed Armenians, whereas real Armenians are, like Aryans, blond and blue-eyed. He said that the ethnonym ‘Armenian’ itself stems from the root ‘aryi’. He added, ‘In general we don’t like them [dark Armenians].’ I asked how he felt about Slavs who were also dark like Bulgarians or Serbs… He answered that this was all the result of mixing, but, nevertheless, there are signs which allow one


There are two ranks of spiritual leaders among rodnovery. The highest ranking are the volkhvy, translated here as ‘sorcerers’. The lower rank are the zhrets, which is translated here as ‘priests’. Neither translation adequately expresses the original meaning of these terms, because, for example, in English the word ‘priest’ has a strong Christian connotation. However, in Russian, ‘priest’ might be translated also as ‘sviashchennosluzhitel ’, a term used by both Christians and neo-pagans ( The alternative translation of ‘zhrets’ as ‘shaman’ is also inadequate because of the association in Russia of ‘shamanism’ with native non-European peoples of Siberia and the Far East.

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


to clearly differentiate Slavic-Aryans from non-Aryans. He quoted an example of an Ossetian acquaintance who was accepted as ‘one of us’ by both Russians and Ossetians. (Koldun, Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1)

This ‘Slavic-Aryan’ myth was also present in the narratives of Vorkuta participants, albeit as a vision of a transcendent political ideology passed not historically, from generation to generation, but trans-nationally – from one Aryan nation (Germany) to another (Russia) (Lera, Vorkuta, Fieldwork 1). This is clearly illustrated by Lida, a respondent from Vorkuta who identified herself as a ‘skin’ and who routinely employed national-socialist ideology and symbolism in expressing her ethnically and racially exclusivist views: I, for example, am more a patriot and, in some way, a nationalist because I am for my country. I think that even a black person (negr) is basically a human being. But he should work over there in his Africa, or wherever he is from. I mean he was born there, that’s his homeland. He should defend that homeland and do everything for its good. Why should this black person (negr) live in my country and take from my country? (Lida, Vorkuta, Fieldwork 1)

Moreover, there are active ‘skins’ among members of Shaman’s rodnover community in Anapa. Although Koldun himself was cautious about supporting what he termed ‘skinhead methods’, he agreed with the opinion of a Krasnodar rodnover, Timofei,12 that ‘there is nothing wrong with skins’ positive attitudes towards Hitler – he was a “normal bloke” (normal’nii muzhik) who did what he had to do’ (Timofei, Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1). Cossack neo-pagans, however, tended to eschew any neo-Nazi interpretation of the Aryan theory of the origin and dominance of the White Race and were also generally negatively inclined towards skinheads and Nazism. For example, Comandor, who claimed to be ‘a Slavic nationalist’, at the same time condemned young people who ‘follow various Führers’ for fear of being left behind by society (Comandor, Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1). One reason for this difference between Cossack and non-Cossack neo12

It is important to note that both Koldun and Timofei identified themselves as rodnovery, but not as Cossacks.


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov

pagans might be the centrality in the construction of Cossack identity of the notion of mixed origin (as in Georgi’s narratives) and of the Cossacks’ ‘frontier past’ (Ingvar, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 1) with the inevitable interethnic marriages with neighbouring non-Russian and non-Slavic people. The recently published illustrated history of Cossacks, Kazaki (Almazov 1999), for example, depicts Cossacks as an ethnic group which emerged from the ‘melting pot’ of the Great Steppes and incorporated, at different periods of its history, peoples of Turkic, Iranian, Caucasian, Slavic and Greek origin. Indeed, among our Krasnodar Cossack respondents, many were children of mixed marriages and had one parent of non-Slavic ethnic origin. The notion of ethnic purity was thus quite alien to most of the Cossack participants; as Daniil said in his interview, ‘we are all half-Cossacks’ (Daniil, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 2). Thus, there appears to be a significant difference between the meanings which our respondents from Vorkuta and from Krasnodar attached to their neo-paganism. In the narratives of respondents from Vorkuta, ‘paganism’ (iazychestvo) was mobilized as part of a wider resistance to a perceived oppression by Christianity, ‘Jews’, ‘non-Whites’ and the ‘state’ in general. In contrast, the narratives of Cossack participants in the research demonstrated a more ‘positive’ substance to their neo-paganism, as one element in the construction of their ethnic and cultural uniqueness as ‘Cossacks’.13 Although it would be incorrect to suggest that respondents shared a single understanding of this Cossack identity – and the role of neo-paganism in it – illustrative here is the version offered by activists and leaders of the historical reconstruction movement, Sarmat and Korshun, who were open and committed rodnovery, and who believed that Cossacks are a separate Slavic ethnic group. Central to this narrative is the mobilization of neo-paganism as a means of differentiating themselves from ‘Russians’. According to Sarmat, and a number of other Krasnodar participants, rodno-


One exception here is Slava whose articulation of his neo-pagan beliefs included reference to a desire to ‘return’ to something ‘native’ (iskonnim), ‘from which we came’ (Slava, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 2).

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


verie as a form of neo-paganism originated from Ukraine where it is called ridnivirii (Sarmat, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 1, Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 1, Dima, audio interview, Fieldwork 1). Sarmat and Korshun often visited Ukraine as guests of and participants in Ukrainian Cossack cultural and sports festivals which are held in the cradle of the Zaporozhe Cossacks, the isle of Khortitsa on the river Dnepr (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 2). Indeed, as Sarmat stated (approvingly), ‘in Ukraine it is easier to meet a pagan Cossack than a Christian one’ (Sarmat, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 1), while Koldun explained that he liked Ukrainian because it is close to the ‘true Slavic language’ (Koldun, Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1). Indeed, there were many examples of what might be called ‘Ukrainophilia’ among Russian rodnovery,14 suggesting it to be an expression of neo-Slavic revivalism which lies at the core of neo-paganism in many Eastern European countries (Wiench n.d.).15 Our ethnographic data show that ideas close to, or originating in, the ‘pagan world-view’ are widespread in the Cossack movement. This, we suggest, is because ‘discovering’ their ancient (pagan) history is central to uncovering their origins as a separate people – an attitude well illustrated by an old Cossack saying heard frequently during fieldwork, ‘Cossacks came from Cossacks’ (‘kazaki ot kazakov povelis’). Such ideas were shared by our young respondents involved in informal (Cossack) historical-reconstruction clubs, who were often self-professed rodnovery (like Sarmat and Comandor), as well as by members of ‘mainstream’ official organizations (units of the Kuban Cossack Host, KKV), who, as a rule, consider themselves to be Orthodox Christians. Thus even the ‘ataman’ (head) of a small Cossack organization within the KKV, 56-year-old Stepanych, was considered by younger Cossacks to be ‘an expert in neo-paganism’ (Dima, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 1; Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1). Dima, who neither identified himself as a neo-pagan nor had any strong commitment to the Russian 14 15

In fact a number of project research participants in Krasnodar who were not neopagans (for example Georgi, Ingvar and Nik) were also Ukrainophiles. In contrast, in Vorkuta, such narratives of Slavic-ness in relation to neo-paganism were almost absent, with the exception of one respondent who referred to paganism as ‘the native belief of Slavs’ (Andrei, Vorkuta, Fieldwork 1).


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Orthodox Church, explained the connection between the growing interest in neo-paganism among Cossacks and theories of the ancient (Scythian) origin of Cossacks: Interviewer: Have you heard about Cossack neo-pagans? Respondent: Yes, a lot, well not a lot, but I know Cossacks who study and probably even practise pre-Christian, as they say, rituals… In fact Cossacks were around even before the Christian era, they are an ancient people, they were probably just referred to differently. And many people study this question. Many start from the fact that Cossacks are a social stratum, but before they became a social stratum, who were they, where did they come from? […] And young people, students, became interested… And now this has taken off and people have started to study in depth… where they came from… And now it has become widely accepted that it was the Soviet regime that erased [this ancestry] from the [the history of the] Cossacks, that… removed [reference to] these roots from textbooks, from everything. Now we have to dig, learn. Scythians are our ancestors. They lived like Cossacks – they were warriornomads, so to speak. Then [in Zaporozhe] the Sech’16 developed… Our roots are the Scythians and the Scythians are not Christians. They came before Christ. (Dima, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 1)

The correlation between neo-paganism and Cossack ethnicism is not absolute however: some respondents who had strong views about the ethnic difference of Cossacks were very critical towards what they referred to as ‘neo-pagan nonsense’. However, they usually also held religious views which ‘deviated’ from the dogmas of the Moscow Patriarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church as well. Some common ground is found between neo-paganism and Orthodoxy in the Orthodox Old Believers.17 Vitia – 16


The Zaporozhskaia Sech’ was a Cossack quasi-republic which existed in the steppes of contemporary southern Ukraine between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. The Sech’ was abolished in 1775 by Catharine the Great, who saw this semi-independent Cossack republic as an obstacle to the Russian imperial drive in the Black Sea region. In 1792, the former Zaporozhe Cossacks were resettled to the Kuban region (today known as Krasnodar krai). Many contemporary Kuban Cossacks in Krasnodar, like Dima for example, consider themselves descendants of the Zaporozhe Cossacks (on Zaporozhe Cossacks see, for example, Kutsenko 1993: 56.). Russian neo-pagans sometimes call themselves ‘Old Believers’ (starovery) meaning that their belief preceded the Christianization of Rus (see;

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


who defines himself as a ‘Cossack nationalist’ and rejects the Russo-centric theory that Cossacks were originally escaped Russian serfs – often visits a community of Nekrasovtsy18 Old Believers near Sochi. Moreover, among Cossacks there is also a widespread perception of Old Believers as people who preserve the true religion of Cossacks, since there were many Old Believers in ‘ancestral’ (korennie) Cossack Hosts of the Don, Terek and Urals (Vitia, Sochi, Fieldwork 1). Active neo-pagans thus continue to constitute a marginal minority within the Cossack revivalist movement, which itself is a very diverse phenomenon in terms of the political and ideological preferences of its activists (Laba 1998). However, in Krasnodar krai there is evidence of a growing mutual interest among Cossacks and neo-pagans in each other’s ideologies and practices. Sarmat, for example, described the attitudes of official Cossack organizations towards neo-pagans as having moved from absolute intolerance to interest and collaboration (Sarmat, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 1). This is illustrated below in the apparently mutual and pragmatic acceptance of difference between individual neo-pagan Cossacks and formal, Orthodox Cossack organizations: Interviewer: I am interested in the question of what happens when you join – with your neo-pagan views – a Cossack patrol unit (druzhina)? Surely every meeting begins with a prayer. Do you feel okay about that? Respondent: I can stand, I will stand, but I don’t pray. Interviewer: So you don’t see any problem in being a Cossack but not being Orthodox?

18 They are nothing to do with the Russian Ancient-Orthodox Church (Russkaia Drevle-Pravoslavnaia Tserkov’ ), which emerged in the sixteenth century as a protest against the church reforms of the Moscow Patriarch Nikon and whose followers are also known as strovery or staroobriadtsy. The Nekrasovtsy (so named after the surname of their leader) were Cossacks who left the Don area in 1709 and settled in Kuban, which, at that time was part of the Ottoman Empire. They went into military service for the Sultan. In the 1770s–1780s, they resettled in the western part of Turkey and lived there until they began to return to the Kuban and Don areas in the early part of the twentieth century. The last Nekrasovtsy returned to the region in the 1960s; by faith they were Old Believers.


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov Respondent: … in the Sech’ there was no church … not until the Russian troops, imperial troops came and the Sech’ ceased to exist, there was no church. It was established later, the church appeared … in the eighteenth century, at the end of the seventeenth century they began to build something. There was no church but there were several of our sacred places (kapishchi)… The thing is that those Cossacks had a quite peculiar attitude to religion, that is, they wore crosses but the old beliefs remained and were even stronger. (Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 1)

This kind of pragmatism continues in contemporary practice: a good example is the collaboration between official (Orthodox) Cossack organizations and the informal Cossack club led by Sarmat (a neo-pagan) in organizing an annual Shrovetide festival (see below). The connection between neo-paganism and ethnic exclusivity is, therefore, more complex than it might at first appear, and, we suggest, quite different for our two groups of respondents. Respondents in Vorkuta and Krasnodar krai share an active position vis-à-vis society in general, as well as specific philosophical outlooks and cultural practices which have ethnic or national belonging at their core. They also share an interest in neo-paganism, which to a greater or lesser extent is drawn on or mobilized in the pursuit or articulation of this outlook. Moreover, participants with the strongest identities as ‘skins’ or ‘Cossacks’ in both fieldwork locations were also the most engaged in neo-paganism. However, for research participants in Vorkuta the neo-pagan outlook is essentially anti-Semitic and racist, being rooted in the belief in the superiority and dominance of the Aryan/White race. Thus for them, neo-paganism remains rather marginal, although it retains an appeal as a marker of non-conformism, specifically through their rejection of Orthodox Christianity (understood as a branch of Judaism and a pillar of the ‘Zionist-occupied’ government of the contemporary Russian state). In contrast, Krasnodar krai respondents were concerned above all with the construction of Cossack identity. This made neo-paganism – or at least elements of its philosophy – attractive across a broader constituency, since it offered an ‘authentic’ alternative to the dominant construction of Cossacks (as Russian/Orthodox ‘runaway serfs’) that they sought to dismantle.

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


Symbolic and Ritual Practices There are, according to Likhachev (2003), ‘very few’ pagan believers who join communities and participate regularly in rituals and practices of worship. This is confirmed by our research: engagement with neo-pagan rituals and practices among our respondents was limited, especially in Vorkuta, where there was virtually no neo-pagan community at all. However, comparing and contrasting the practices in which they did participate helps to illuminate the different role that neo-paganism played in the lives of respondents. Gods, Priests and Sacred Places Krasnodar respondents showed knowledge, albeit incomplete knowledge, of the pantheon of ancient Slavic gods.19 They recognized the highest deities, Rod20 and Perun, as well as a series of other important gods including: Svarog (the god of fire21), Veles (the god of the underworld, commerce and cattle, locked in a mythic battle with Perun), Iarilo (the god of spring and vegetation), Mokosh’ (the only female god), Agni (the god of fire), Mara and Morok (the gods of death and deceit), Lada (the wife of Svarog and


There is no single, authentic and reliable source on the Slavic pantheon. Respondents’ understandings of what constitutes this pantheon are therefore outlined here, with footnotes recording any significant differences from published accounts. 20 Some sources (e.g. Madlevskaia 2006: 96–103) do not recognize the existence of ‘Rod’ at all and see Perun instead as the highest deity in the Slavic pantheon, based on the fact that the most detailed and widespread records relate to Perun and because there is evidence that Perun was worshipped across the whole territory of ancient Rus. 21 There is some disagreement about whether Svarog was worshipped in and of himself, or was in fact just an incarnation of Rod or indeed of the natural spirit of fire (see for example Madlevskaia 2006: 116).


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov

the protector of love, youth and beauty)22 and Dazhdbog, also known as Khors (the god of the sun). The connection between Slavic gods and other ancient pantheons is recognized by some respondents, suggesting identification with a ‘global’ community of neo-pagans. Thus Koldun noted that Perun was known elsewhere as Perkunas or Thor (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1). For others, however, it was shared Vedic gods who were the most significant, since this connection reflected the common Slavic-Aryan past discussed above: Respondent: Well it’s our Vedic gods, Vedic religion … well Indian – it’s a reflection of our Slavic … well, this Slavic-Aryan religion. What happened was that first of all the Aryans came to India. They [pre-Aryan Indian peoples] had some state there. They [the Aryans] trampled over that state… So this Indo-Aryan race… appeared as a result of this. From pre-Aryan times, the population had been divided into different castes. But when [the Aryans arrived] they decimated the higher-caste groups [and took their place]. What was left was the black population… and they mixed with the Aryans. It didn’t happen in a few days, of course, it happened over centuries. And then the Aryans moved off towards Europe, leaving a part of the Aryan culture… Interviewer: So in short you consider all Indo-European gods to be your gods? Respondent: No, what remained with the Indians was distorted, of course, but a part remained genuine. That is, the pantheon of gods is more or less the same… For example their ‘Rudra’ is our Iarilo, that is, the god of the bright sun… Interviewer: Okay, so it seems for you Indian religion is like paganism (iazichestvo) – the same thing [as rodnoverie] but in a different language. Respondent: It is not paganism (iazychestvo), it is the same kind of polytheistic religion as the Greek pantheon. In the Greek pantheon, something has remained from us too, but very little. In India a bit more has remained, but it’s not ours. (Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 2)

This knowledge of the ancient gods and the myths that surround them, however, is only weakly incorporated into the neo-pagan rituals in which respondents engaged. The only exception to this was the claim by Koldun that rituals in which they engaged used a bull’s horns, a wolf skin and


Lada is not widely recognized as belonging to the ancient Slavic pantheon and may well be an invention of later folklorists.

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


Plate 8: Bearskin, Shrovetide festival 2007.

a bearskin to symbolize Veles’s appearance in the guise of each of these animals (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1; see Plate 8). For those such as Comandor, however, the connection between knowledge of the gods and current rituals is rather abstract: Interviewer: Do you observe any rituals or customs connected with this religion? Respondent: I just believe in them, it helps me, that’s what I think. Interviewer: Maybe, I don’t know. Are there any rituals? Respondent: Well, in principle, there is the worship of weapons, worship of ancestors. Ancestors… there are also spirits of ancestors. We believe that they are still alive, they watch what is happening to their kin (rod). So we worship our ancestors. What can I say? It’s like you just hold on to it, you know, it helps you. (Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 1)


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Moreover, there was little evidence of any regular contact with leaders or places of worship that would indicate active engagement in neo-pagan rituals. Leaders of pagan rituals were referred to by Krasnodar respondents as volkhvy (sorcerers) and zhretsy (priests) and one respondent – Koldun – considered himself to be a ‘priest’, following his initiation by a ‘sorcerer’ from Tula (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1). Visits to local sacred places – two temples (kapishchi) in Anapa which consisted of a circle of stones, in the middle of which eight campfires would be lit in dedication to the major gods (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1) – also appeared rare.23 Symbols and Imagery Symbolic engagements with neo-paganism were more frequent, although their form differed between our fieldwork sites: for Vorkuta respondents these engagements were primarily visual and/or stylistic, whereas for Krasnodar krai respondents they were often verbal. Thus while in Krasnodar, respondents appealed to ‘history’ – often via popular socio-linguistics – to explain the Aryan roots of the Slavs, Vorkuta respondents used the connection between Nazi symbols and pagan or pre-Christian Slavic symbols as a way of visually projecting that identity. The most widely used of these symbols is the kolovrat or sun wheel (a Slavic pagan symbol dedicated to svarog, the sun god). The use of the kolovrat by Slava in a tattoo on his arm is typical of the way in which pagan and national-socialist symbols are woven together in his identity (see Plate 9). The symbol itself is based on the Slavic kolovrat rather than the reinvented cross-shape swastika of the Nazis.24 However, its appropriation in


Although one (older) respondent reported travelling to the far north – Altai and Voronezh – to visit sacred places (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 2). 24 The use of the Nazi salute and the kolovrat is reported also among the ‘ingliists’; the kolovrat is justified by them as ‘an ancient Hindu symbol’ important in Russia because of the Slavic-Aryan past (‘Supreme Court Outlaws Neo-pagan Sect’ 2004).

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


Plate 9: Kolovrat tattoo, October 2007.

the name of ethnic exclusivity is manifest in the inscription around it of ‘Blood and Honour’.25 This is how Slava explains the meaning of the tattoo: It’s basically a kolovrat – it’s an eternal swastika, it’s a pagan sun symbol. So it signifies my war, my life and that I am a pagan. (Slava, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 2)


This is a reference to the white power skinhead movement which emerged in the UK (out of a magazine of the same name founded in 1987) as a response to the Anti-Nazi League’s Rock against Racism movement. Its founder – Ian Stuart Donaldson, the late lead singer of the band Skrewdriver – remains an iconic figure among Russian skinheads.


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Slava also explained the group’s use of the Nazi salute – which had been frequent in 2003, although it had become infrequent by the time of the research in 2006–2007 – as both a ‘skinhead’ sign and a pagan ‘salute to the sun’ (Slava, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 1). In contrast, Krasnodar respondents were keen to differentiate between the kolovrat and the swastika, while recognizing the symbolic connections between them: Interviewer: By the way, I noticed the symbol you are wearing. It’s a kind of swastika isn’t it? Respondent: Well it’s a kolovrat. Interviewer: You call it a kolovrat do you? Respondent: There are a lot of names for it. The swastika has four points. Interviewer: And how many spokes are there? Respondent: Four. Interviewer: No, I mean in your case? Respondent: Eight. There is also the zmeevik – that’s the more wavy one, a variant of the swastika I mean, of the swastika cross. I don’t know, I don’t even know how many [variants] there are. Take for example, the – damn I have a memory like a sieve, the Cossacks who went to Turkey… Interviewer: The Nekrasovtsy? Respondent: That’s it, the Nekrasovtsy. Their shirts, the traditional ones that are left, they’re all fastened with them… The belt of the Virgin, in the icon, you see it’s fastened with a kolovrat. So they’re just ancient symbols: the symbols of fire, strength and power. (Comandor, audio interview, Fieldwork 1)

The kolovrat and other neo-pagan symbols were in evidence at festivals such as maslenitsa, while the polovetskie baby (pagan stone statue) at a local museum was an object of pilgrimage during the Azov festival (see Plate 10). Moreover, Krasnodar respondents were not averse to using pagan symbolism, not least to playfully disarm Christianity: Another thing that was interesting about Sarmat’s flat was that in a glass cabinet on the wall I noticed three relatively old icons. He noticed me looking and pointed out that these icons were hanging directly opposite pagan stone figures (polovetskie baby). And indeed on the wall facing them were hanging four miniature pagan statues (polovetskie baby)… and a small badge depicting a kolovrat. Regarding the icons he explained that he had thrown out all his icons, some of which he had given to ‘Father Georgi’, but had kept the old ‘family’ icons. (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1)

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


Plate 10: Polovetskie baby, Azov museum, August 2007.

Etymology Krasnodar krai respondents tended to recognize the power of linguistic rather than visual symbolism. Thus a number of key elements of neo-pagan faith were explained linguistically. It was argued, for example, that paganism (rodnoverie) was a faith (vera) not a religion (religiia), because: The word vera comes from two Aryan words – vedat’ and ra – that is, to know the truth (znat’ pravdu), but religion comes from the prefix ‘re’ that is ‘return’ and ‘liga’ that is ‘masses’ and is translated as ‘return to the masses’. (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1)

As we show later, this differentiation is significant for understanding the appeal of neo-paganism among our respondents. There were many cases of


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such etymological discussion and explanation, however. Another respondent explained the word nevestka (bride) as meaning ‘she who is approaching knowledge’, based on the roots ‘ne’ (not, as in not yet married), ‘vest’ (knowledge) and ‘ka’ from the preposition ‘k’ (approaching). The argument was that in ancient times it was women who were the possessors of knowledge, but that only married women attained full knowledge, thus a nevestka was someone who was on the threshold of attaining such knowledge (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 2). Perhaps the most interesting illustration, however, is the etymological explanation of the ethnic origin of the Cossacks: Stepanych began to argue with him: ‘Where did the Cossacks come from?’ Sania answered that the ‘Cossacks’ [kazaki] are ‘Coss-acks’ [kaz-aki], that is, those who had received the order [na-kaz] to guard the borders… He somehow derived the etymology of the word ‘Cossack’ (kazak) as being ‘white deer’ (belie oleni). It is really difficult to reconstruct all the details of this etymological argument, but I recall that at some point they discussed the Berendei,26 who are also considered ancestors of the Cossacks, but Stepanych and Sania agreed that the Berendei could not be the direct ancestors of the ‘white deer’ because in their name there was the root ‘ber’ which means ‘bear’ (medved’ ). (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 2)

It is interesting that although Stepanych did not identify himself as ‘pagan’, and was rather critical of the neo-paganism of his younger friends, he used the same etymological language in this discussion with the neo-pagan Sania. Indeed, as Shnirelman notes (1998: 4), ‘such spurious folk etymology’ is often employed by Russian neo-pagans in their historical mythology. In search of their Cossack identity, Cossack ethnicists appeal to a mythical past which they share with neo-pagans, and thus, not surprisingly perhaps, employ similar etymological practices. Furthermore, such linguistic logic makes even those Cossacks who are not neo-pagans receptive

26 The Berendei was a Turkic tribe/group of tribes or clans. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries they lived in the frontier zone between principalities of Rus and the Steppes in the lower Dnepr river region. The Berendei were vassals of Rus princes, serving in their armies and making up a significant part of the Rus cavalry (Budovnits 1960: 204).

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


towards a broadly ‘pagan worldview’. For instance, in a conversation with the researcher, Alex, who was not a neo-pagan, proposed an etymology of his surname as koldun (‘male witch’) which was consistent with his personal reconstruction of his Cossack genealogy from pagan sorcerers (volkhvy) (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 2). It is also significant that Alex, as well as Stepanych and Sania, employed words and stems from a range of languages (e.g. Iranian and Turkic languages), which, according to Cossack historical mythology, were used on the Cossack native steppes. In this way, Cossack ethnicists employ pseudo-scientific etymologies to articulate a vision of their origin which sees them as native to the region (Kuban, Don, the Great Steppes), different from Russians (who arrived there later), yet also as an ethnically mixed frontier population. Rituals There was relatively little opportunity for either set of respondents to participate in pagan rituals. However, for those in the Krasnodar region – many of whom were active participants in historical reconstruction movements – pagan rituals were implicitly or explicitly part of the events and festivals they attended which were dedicated to the reconstruction of Slavic traditional way of life. Maslenitsa The most widely celebrated of these festivals is maslenitsa (Shrovetide), in which Krasnodar rodnovery participated every year. Their participation in – indeed organization of these events – is interesting, because it required co-operation with official Cossack organizations. The reason for this atypical engagement is probably primarily pragmatic: the festival was financially supported by the official organization and gave the informal groups a degree of legitimacy and public visibility. Alongside the preparation and provision of traditional foods (such as pancakes with honey), central to these celebrations is the demonstration of traditional martial/


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fighting arts such as lavochki (‘bench wrestling’, see Plate 11), stenka na stenku (‘wall against wall’, see Plate 12) (Daniil, audio interview, Fieldwork 1) and the reconstruction of warrior identity and practices (see Plate 13). The latter is referred to by Comandor as ‘the worship of weaponry’ (Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 1). Central to Krasnodar respondents’ ritual practices is also the remembrance of ancestors, which lies at the heart of their interpretation of ‘Cossack traditions’: From the start this was considered to be the primary duty of a Cossack, a Slav…, [this was] the main reason these holidays were observed, the main thing was the remembrance, worshipping, of ancestors. I mean when a person honours his kin (rod), that is when he marks these holidays on certain days, five – they are called ‘dedy’, their kinship line (rod) is strengthened. Even after one of these holidays, rituals, people feel a change in themselves, a kind of support, a kind of infusion of strength. (Daniil, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 1)

Plate 11: Bench-wrestling, Shrovetide festival 2007.

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia

Plate 12: ‘Wall against wall’, Shrovetide festival 2006.

Plate 13: Reconstruction of medieval Tatar warrior dress, Gelendzhik, April 2007.



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Plate 14: Ritual circle, Shrovetide festival 2007.

Another ritual – kolo – was also practised at these festivals. This involved gathering in a circle (kolo) and offering a sacrifice – beer on the occasion this was observed by the researcher – to the gods. Such a circle was also used to surround combatants as they performed traditional wrestling, as depicted below at a Shrovetide festival in 2007 (see Plate 14). De-Christianization Among both sets of respondents, the most important exclusively pagan ritual in which they had engaged was the ceremony of de-Christianization, which marked their entry into the pagan community. In the interview excerpt below, Olia described how this ritual happened for her:

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


Interviewer: What do you think about this paganism (rodnoverstvo)? Respondent: You know, at first I thought that it was nonsense but then when I was renamed… Interviewer: You were renamed – how do you mean? Respondent: [My husband] and I went to – where was it now? Well, somewhere a long way away and at that ceremony [prazdnik] when they offered to rename anyone who wanted to be renamed, [my husband] said, ‘Well, do you want to?’ So I said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ But he said straight away that if you renounce Christianity, then you are no longer a Christian. I was okay with that, so I was renamed. Now I have a second name – Svetomira. Interviewer: So you are either Ol’ga or Svetomira? Respondent: Yes. Interviewer: And how was the ritual of renaming conducted? Respondent: Well, you kneel down, a man or a woman, or two women, two men walk around you and recite certain words. Then they stand back to back with you and throw an axe behind your back. Then they walk around you a second time, pick up the axe and then you have to give them something to burn. It’s a sign that you renounce Christianity. I had a patterned handkerchief, a small bit of cloth, so I had to give it to them and they burned it. Interviewer: And what else does your paganism consist of, what else do you participate in? Respondent: Nothing else, only that. Interviewer: So you just don’t go to church…? Respondent: I don’t go to church, no. If I’m honest, I have never believed in God, I didn’t believe even when I was christened. […] Interviewer: Did [your husband] also get renamed? Respondent: Oh, he has had so many [new names] – Sarmat, the one he has now, and what else? Not Radokar, but something like that. He has had lots of names. Sometimes his friends come up and say, call him by some particular former name and say, he owes me this and that. And I’m standing there, like, ‘I don’t know anybody with that name’, so I stand there not saying anything. And they say, what, you don’t know your own husband? And I go, ‘What has it got to do with him?’ (Olia, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 2)

Olia’s narrative suggests that for her, if not for her husband, the process of entering the neo-pagan community had been spontaneous, albeit rooted in a recognition that she had ‘never believed in God’. For Slava, the decision to reject Christianity was more deliberate. In October 2006, Slava declared himself to be an atheist, saying ‘I believe in atheism. I don’t believe in anything else.’ However, during that interview,


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov

he also indicated for the first time that he had a ‘leaning’ towards neopaganism and wanted to undergo a (pagan) ritual of ‘de-Christianization’ (raskrestitsia). The terminology used itself is indicative: for Olia the ceremony was one of ‘renaming’ or gaining a second name, whereas for the Vorkuta respondent, Slava, the acceptance of paganism was articulated first and foremost as a rejection of Christianity. As with Olia, there was a certain element of opportunism about his decision to take part in this ceremony: Slava had heard about it from a friend living in Briansk. However, he had planned to do it for some time and explained his decision by relating his experience of baptism at the age of five, which appeared to be a sign of his destiny: … when I was taken to be baptized, the priest basically missed me out. He sprinkled everyone with water, you know, but didn’t fucking sprinkle me. This woman, my godmother basically, goes ‘You forgot him’ and he goes ‘Mmm… okay’, fucking laughing, flicked some water on me and then left the church. (Slava, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 1)

In October 2007 when we talked with him again, he had already undertaken this de-Christianization ceremony after attending a Shrovetide ceremony with a group of neo-pagans in the forest by Briansk. The ceremony, as described by Slava, was quite different from that which Olia had undertaken. It had involved only himself and his friend and had consisted of burning a cross on a fire (see Plate 15) – a symbolic act of renunciation of Christianity, as Olia also described. It also involved cutting a second life-line in the palm of his hand, symbolizing belief in the cycle of life, death and rebirth, but experienced by Slava as an act of masculine solidarity. He explained this part of the ceremony as a ritual in which he and his friend became ‘blood brothers’ (see Plate 16). The ceremony did hold a spiritual significance for Slava, however, even if he struggled to understand and articulate exactly what that was: Kind of… maybe it’s real, you see it’s like a kind of incomprehensible thing too. Maybe it does mean something real. You know, something was really weighing on me from above basically… and then ‘whoosh’ and everything was okay. I felt pure

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


Plate 15: Fire at de-Christianization ceremony, spring 2007.

and free. I don’t know. You know, the weight just lifted somehow. I don’t know, maybe it’s psychological. I don’t really understand it. (Slava, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 2)

For both these respondents, despite their positive feelings about the process of denouncing Christianity and entering the pagan belief community, there is a clear limit to their incorporation into what might be considered a religious community. According to Slava, this was partially because, without a regular community of pagans for support in the city, it was difficult to overcome the Christianity that people had drummed into them from childhood. However, he also recognized that he would never be a hundred per cent pagan because he did not fit in with those ‘serious’ believers whom he described as ‘very difficult people’ (Slava, Vorkuta diary, audio


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov

Plate 16: Cutting of second life line, de-Christianization ceremony, spring 2007.

interview, Fieldwork 2). Slava’s genuine interest in neo-paganism, therefore, was combined with a clear idea about how it should fit within, not dictate, his life as a whole. ‘My Own God’: Individualism and Faith in Modern Urban Life Neo-paganism in contemporary Russia has been studied primarily as a group phenomenon and in relation to its political engagement with groups of ethno-nationalist orientation (see, for example, Shnirelman 1998; Verkhovsky 2000; Likhachev 2003). The ethnographic methodology, as well as the overall focus, of the research upon which this chapter

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is based has produced a rather different perspective, since neo-paganism did not constitute the ‘collective identifier’ of the entire group but the individual choice of some respondents. The fact that it was nonetheless highly visible among two very different sets of respondents suggests that neo-paganism does not need to be either a strongly articulated religious community (‘sect’) or be interlaced with a strong political ideology to be meaningful to young people in contemporary Russia. It can exist as a set of ideas with which individuals engage to a greater or lesser extent and as a part of wider cultural strategies. Neo-paganism for our respondents is not a ‘religion’. It does not provide a set of rules or structures governing their lives. At most it is a way of seeing the world (mirovozrenie) or a philosophy of life (zhiznennaia filosofia) which helps them to distinguish good and evil on an everyday basis. Sarmat, for example, defined neo-paganism in the form of rodnaia vera in the following way: Basically it is a faith, a great philosophy of life. At its root is of course one higher God, God Rod, from whom everything emanated – other gods and people, naturally. What attracts me personally to rodnoverie is freedom. I mean, in Christianity you’re taught constantly that you are a servant [rab], that you’re always obligated to someone and in general told what you have to do. In rodnaia vera it’s not like that. Of course there are rules governing the actions of individuals, which divide us, and our actions, into good and bad, but as a rule nobody says that we are obligated to anyone. We don’t have that. So people are free in their choices. (Sarmat, Krasnodar, Fieldwork 1)

Neo-pagan values and practices provide an alternative to what respondents perceive as ‘mainstream’ or ‘dominant’ religious or world-views which are rigid and intrusive and which cage and suppress the individual. Indicative here is the interpretation discussed above by Koldun, a neo-pagan priest, of the word ‘religion’ as ‘return to the mass’: a process by which the individual is reduced to the mass and deprived of her/his individuality. In contrast, he suggests, ‘faith’ (vera) implies true knowledge (znat’ pravdu) which has to be acquired by the individual (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1). This neatly mirrors Comandor’s vision of neo-paganism as an individual or personal search for true belief or knowledge accessed by digging deep within:


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov So all this, all this knowledge, all that went before, sits in the person somewhere, in their subconscious, traditional knowledge (rodovie znaniia) is preserved and, if you want to, you can release it from within yourself. (Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 1)

He likens this process to teaching oneself to ‘see in the dark’ using one’s other senses: You can release it by putting yourself in a situation in which you need it. In principle people can’t see in the dark, that is, the human eye cannot discern objects, according to science. But in actual fact, you can, by special training, develop a sense that you can see really well in the dark, kind of sense an object. Blind people, by hearing, moving, tapping a stick, know absolutely what is happening. In the same way it is possible to release other knowledge. (Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 1)

It follows that central to the attraction of neo-paganism is its lack of organizational or institutional compulsion: Interviewer: And this [Sarmat’s] organization – are they all neo-pagans? Respondent: No, it’s a matter of voluntary faith. It’s a voluntary thing. You can’t force anyone, nobody will be forced to believe. I mean you can make someone go to church constantly, cross themselves… I don’t know … observe prayers in the mosque… But there’s absolutely no point. He’ll cross himself, go to pray or observe Muslim prayers, but he’ll never believe. He’ll observe a certain, well… obligation. He has this obligation, he has been made to observe it, he will do it and that’s all. But he’ll remain exactly who he always was because you can’t force anybody. For this reason we don’t force anyone and there is no such obligation. (Comandor, Sochi, Fieldwork 1)

This sentiment was echoed by Artem, who resented not only the dogma of the church, but also the social norms and practices associated with it: I believe in my own God. Not in that God that is forced on all of us. I hate it when some granny comes up to me and starts nagging me that I should believe in this, believe in that and he will save me. I have an obligation only to myself and to my parents – those who have given me something. (Artem, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 1)

This position resonates strongly with Ferlat’s (2003: 40) description of neopaganism as being centred on ‘independent thinking, living according to one’s own values and personality and not according to what society, culture,

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


parents have imposed on you’. The attraction of the absence of strict rules and power hierarchies was articulated clearly by Andrei: Respondent: … Paganism is basically much more intelligent, not more intelligent, but more just than Christianity. Interviewer: Why? Respondent : … Because there are no absolute truths in paganism. There’s nothing absolute. Even God… its gods [interruption as respondent answers call on mobile]… there are no absolute truths, even the gods, take for example the god of harvest, yeah? The gods are praised and brought sacrifices… [but] they [the gods] can be punished, and so can their idols. Interviewer: You mean people punish their gods? Respondent: Yes. And their idols that they have in the house. They can hit the idol, even throw it out of the house. Nothing is absolute. I mean the gods are not omnipotent over the people just as people… Interviewer: … don’t rule over the gods… Respondent: Yes. The two are connected. So if an individual is doing well then it benefits the god, but at the same time if the god does not satisfy that individual then he/she can reject him [the god] and choose another idol… (Andrei, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 2)

Undoubtedly this relative freedom was one reason neo-paganism had a particular appeal to young people, but not the only one: The discussion moved on to neo-paganism (rodnoverie). Boria, it turned out, had also been interested in this, albeit several years ago. He said that young people are drawn to neo-paganism at the moment because ‘it’s not fashionable to be Orthodox’. He said that today parents are all Orthodox and their children don’t want to be like their parents. Vitia said neo-paganism is attractive because it is a kind of ‘fantasy’ while Orthodoxy was boring and ‘priests don’t really go to the people’. (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1)

The easy absorption of neo-paganism into wider youth cultural styles and tastes has not been discussed in this chapter, but is certainly evident from our research. Respondents collected – and shared with us – neo-pagan music and downloaded neo-pagan symbols and graphics (such as the Celtic cross and the kolovrat). Of course this association might also encourage superficial engagements with neo-paganism, as suggested by one young woman in conversation with the researcher:


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov Upon hearing that among my Cossack acquaintances there were many neo-pagans, [Аnka] said that it is generally quite widespread among young people at the moment. She said that a lot of people are interested in ‘Russian Vedas’ and that there are a lot of these youth groups… rappers, punks, Goths who go round all in black. And these Goths and punks, add something ‘Russian’ to their Western [style], that is ‘neo-paganism’. (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1)

But there is also something about the ‘fantasy’ element of neo-paganism that appeals directly to young people, especially young men, as they seek to imagine and enact attractive images of the self. For Slava, participation in neo-pagan rituals was exciting ‘because it releases powerful energies…’ (Slava, Vorkuta, audio interview, Fieldwork 2), while Andrei, another Vorkuta participant, describes his interest in neo-paganism thus: By conviction I would say that I am an atheist. I like neo-paganism purely because of its bellicose ideology. I mean, in paganism a man is always a warrior, a defender of his country. And he is strong, clever, wise and so on. I take that on board for myself. I like it. (Andrei, audio interview, Fieldwork 1)

The interest of Krasnodar krai informants, Sarmat, Klaus and Comandor, in neo-paganism (rodnoverie) and the historical reconstruction of Medieval Rus and/or the Steppes was also closely linked to the way in which the symbolic violence involved allowed them to express their masculinity in what they saw as a constructive and patriotic way (Krasnodar diary, Fieldwork 1 and 2). Indeed, in general, one might say that the revival (and to some extent invention) of ‘traditional martial arts’ such as ‘Slav-Gorets wrestling’ in post-Soviet Russia is central to making neo-paganism attractive to young Russian men (Comandor, audio interview, Fieldwork 1; see also Shnirelman 1998: 2). Nevertheless, as Andrei makes clear, the plot of this pagan fantasy remains constructed by its author: It’s not just a fashion… If it releases some kind of energy, then great, of course, get involved. But for me, you know… I believe in what I have in my soul and I think how I think and I don’t need any of this… And if I was somehow to become religious then I certainly wouldn’t participate in rituals because I just don’t need them. Why should I need them? I can give praise or whatever to the gods myself, independently, I don’t need another thirty thousand people there… (Andrei, audio interview, Fieldwork 2)

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


It has been the contention of this chapter that, although neo-paganism is often utilized as an ideological foundation by radical nationalist parties and organizations in post-Soviet Russia (Shnirelman 1998), and despite the superficial ‘fit’ between the often xenophobic and racist attitudes of our participants in Vorkuta and Krasnodar krai and their tangible engagement with neo-paganism, it would be quite wrong to understand our ‘groups’ of young people as quasi-religious organizations or their neo-paganism to be little more than an extension of a political ‘ideology’. Our respondents are politically engaged in as much as they take an active stance towards society, including its political structures. In this context, the neo-paganism of some of our respondents is an individual philosophy or world-view that enables them to express their dissatisfaction with existing socio-economic conditions and their resistance to mainstream political ideology and ‘religious dogmatism’ (in the case of Vorkuta respondents) or, (for Krasnodar participants) to explain and (re-) construct individual as well as group identities as Cossacks.

Conclusion This chapter presents some first thoughts about the role of neo-paganism in the wider cultural strategies of young Russians. It takes as its starting point the assumption that religious identification is important for those expressing ‘national-patriotic’ views and that neo-paganism has a particular connection with national-patriotic movements (Verkhovsky 2000: 715). What it adds to the debate is evidence from empirical research with young people, which invariably makes these connections appear more complex. Drawing on ethnographic work with groups of respondents at least some of whom identify themselves as ‘Cossack nationalists’ or ‘skinheads’ we are able to effectively take an inside look at the meanings attached to neopaganism among two groups defined by Verkhovsky (2000: 711) as Russian


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov

extremists. This empirical evidence, at its current stage of analysis, suggests a number of potential strands for further investigation. First, and possibly most importantly, the difficulty in defining and naming our ‘groups’ of respondents suggests that the growth of chauvinistic and nationalistic attitudes among the Russian population in general in recent years makes it difficult to determine where ‘everyday’, routine, or ‘banal’ nationalism or racism ends and ‘extreme’ or ‘radical’ nationalist views begin. This significantly problematizes the instrumental approach to the relationship between neo-paganism and politics, which suggests that radical xenophobic groups first emerge and then identify a suitable religious doctrine to support their views. The isolation of ‘extremist’ political views is further problematized by official discourse which, under Putin, has promoted a strongly positive approach to the evocation of ‘patriotism’, especially among young people, including the adoption of a five-year ‘state programme’ for the ‘patriotic education’ of citizens (Gosudarstvennaia programma ‘Patrioticheskoe vospitanie grazhdan rossiiskoi federatsii na 2006–2010’, 2005). This was apparent from our fieldwork, which showed that individuals openly expressing ethnically and/or racially exclusive visions of Russian society were able to express their views unashamedly and as ‘patriotic’. Second, although neo-paganism is far from central to the identities of our respondents, our research confirms a clear link between the neo-pagan world-view of some respondents and their ethnically exclusivist practices and narratives. Across both fieldwork sites, these world-views share an appeal to a pre-Christian heritage that is understood as the authentic state of the Slavic or Slavic-Aryan people. This confirms Shnirelman’s observation that Western neo-pagan environmental and feminist concerns are secondary in importance in Russia to neo-pagans’ considerations of social, race and ethnic problems. This ethno-national lens ensures that ‘the emphasis is on an “ecology of culture”, from which it is relatively easy to progress to concepts of “purity of blood”’ (Shnirelman 1998: 10). Third, however, neo-paganism is articulated differently across our two groups of respondents. Moreover, it is so in a way which broadly confirms Ferlat’s (2003: 45) suggestion that there are two kinds of Russian pagan movements: negative, that is those which react against something,

Understanding Neo-paganism in Russia


particularly Christianity, via an anti-Christian discourse; and positive, that is those which seek to promote ancient traditions and to develop a different way of perceiving the world. However, our research also suggests that these discourses are not integral narratives of opposing groups, but rather narrative threads within broader youth cultural strategies. Indeed, we have suggested here that they are not mutually exclusive, insofar as both strands – negative (anti-Christian) and positive (revival of pre-Christian traditions) – can be combined within broader youth cultural strategies. Fourth, a central element of this patriotic interpretation of neo-paganism is its association with a particular form of masculinity which is based on explicit militarism. Thus evidence from our study would appear to confirm Ferlat’s argument that contemporary Slavic paganism in Russia is ‘more an intellectual construction based on a search for identity than a feeling of unity with the universe and nature’ (Ferlat 2003: 46). This, once again, suggests a stark difference from New Age and other Western neopagan movements. Indeed the narratives of our respondents in both sites were remarkably devoid of reference to the spiritual value of reconnection with nature (priroda).27 Fifth, we suggest that neo-paganism does not serve the purpose of, or replace, religion for our respondents. Religious diversity is widespread among respondents and religious agnosticism or ambivalence might be the most widely held position. Neo-paganism, where it is followed, is not articulated as a faith system, therefore, but as part of a wider world-view or philosophy which is rationally rooted and in which doctrinal ‘canons’ are employed as evidence or knowledge which supports the broader worldview. Thus, in considering the relationship between neo-paganism and ethnic exclusivism, our study provisionally points towards a rejection of the understanding of neo-paganism as either ‘religion’ or ‘ideology’ and towards further study of its significance as a ‘philosophy’ (or rather world-


The only exception was an elderly female participant met at the Taman Cossack festival, who ‘believed in Vedy’ and emphasized the importance of living in harmony with nature, which she achieved by living alone in the forest.


Hilary Pilkington and Anton Popov

view) and its appeal as ‘fantasy’. Most importantly, it suggests that any further study of its significance for young people must be set in the context of their whole lives, or ‘cultural strategies’, as an instrumental approach is quite simply unable to capture or understand those ‘powerful energies’ that young people draw from it.

References Aitamurto, K. (2007). ‘Russian Rodnoverie: negotiating individual traditionalism’, paper presented at International Conference on Globalization, Immigration, and Change in Religious Movements, Bordeaux, 7–9 June 2007. Almazov, B. (ed.) (1999). Kazaki. St Petersburg: Zolotoi Vek and Diamant. Budovnits, I. (1960). Obshchestvenno-politicheskaia mysl’ drevnei Rusi (Socio-political Thought of Ancient Rus). Moscow: USSR Academy of Sciences. Ferlat, A. (2003). ‘Neopaganism and New Age in Russia.’ Folklore 23: 40–48. Gosudarstvennaia programma ‘Patrioticheskoe vospitanie grazhdan rossiiskoi federatsii na 2006–2010’ (State Programme ‘On the Patriotic Education of Citizens of the Russian Federation, 2006–2010’) (2005). http:// Istarkhov, V. (2006). Udar Russkikh Bogov (The Russian Gods Strike). Moscow: Russkaia Pravda. Ivakhiv, A. (2005). ‘Nature and ethnicity in East European paganism: an environmental ethic of the religious right?’ The Pomegranate 7 (2): 194–225 Laba, R. (1998). ‘The Cossack movement and the Russian state’. In N. Kirei (ed.), Arkheologiia i etnografiia Severnogo Kavkaza. Sbornik nauchnikh trudov (The Archaeology and Ethnography of the North Caucasus:

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An Edited Collection). Krasnodar: Kubanskii gosudarstvennii universitet. 462–506. Kutsenko, I. (1993). Kubanskoe kazachestvo (The Kuban Cossacks). 2nd edn. Krasnodar: Krasnodarskoe knizhnoe izdatel’stvo. Likhachev, V. (2003). ‘Politicheskii antisemitizm v sovremennoi Rossii’ (Political anti-semitism in contemporary Russia), Moscow, Part 3, Chapter 3 ‘Right-wing radicals between God and nation’. http://xeno. Liul’chak, V. (2007). ‘Sila Roda i slabost’ natsii’ (The power of Kin and the weakness of nation). Interproza. Interaktivnii literaturnii konkurs. Madlevskaia, E. (ed.) (2006). Russkaia Mifologiia: Entsiklopediia (Russian Mythology: An Encyclopedia). Moscow: EKSMO/St Petersburg: Midgard. Marcus, G. (1995). ‘Ethnography in/of the world system: the emergence of multi-sited ethnography.’ Annual Review of Anthropology 24: 95–117. Mykolaiv, M. (n.d.). ‘Stanovlenie i razvitie radnoveriia rusinov (ukraintsev) v noveishee vremia’ (The emergence and development of the native faith of Rusins (Ukrainians) in recent time). Rodove Vognishche. http:// Shnirelman, V. (1998). ‘Russian neo-pagan myths and antisemitism,’ Acta – Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism 13: 1–15. Soiuz Slavianskikh Obshchin Slavianskoi Rodnoi Very (Union of Slavic Societies of Slavic Native Faith) (n.d.). ‘Supreme Court outlaws neo-pagan sect’ (2004). Asia, 9 August 2004. (n.d.). ‘IV Vsenarodnoe Veche pravoslavnykh stroverov (rodnoverov) “Vedicheskaia kul’tura slaviano-ariev: sposoby vosstanovlenia kul’tury na Zemle”’ (‘Fourth All-national Assembly of Orthodox Old Believers “Vedic Culture of Slavic-Aryans: Ways of Reviving the Culture on Earth”’. Velesova Kniga (Book of Vles), trans. and annotated by V. and Iu. Gnatiuk (2006). Moscow: Amrita-Rus’.


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Verkhovsky, A. (2000). ‘Ultra-Nationalists in Russia at the onset of Putin’s Rule.’ Nationalities Papers 28 (4): 707–722. Verkhovsky, A. (2003). ‘The Orthodox in the Russian Radical Nationalist Movements.’ 28 April 2003. publications/194EF5E/194F193 Wiench, P. (n.d.). ‘Neopaganism in Central-Eastern Europe’. http://www.


Spirituality in the Post-communist Religious Marketplace: Indian-inspired New Religious Movements in Slovakia and their Conceptual Framework Dušan Deák

Introduction The term New Religious Movements (NRMs) is generally used to describe a diverse variety of religious movements that have existed over two or at most three generations. Such a classification, however, already poses problems (Barker 1998: 10ff ). Some of these movements may be relatively new, but follow much older traditions, while others do not claim to be religious movements and others still can hardly be seen as movements. Whatever the ambiguity of the term, we will use it here to describe religious groups that are relatively new (i.e. they emerged in the twentieth century) and whose doctrines offer an alternative to traditional religious beliefs. Because the movements which we are going to discuss have found their inspiration in Indian religiosity and systems of religious thought, we shall use the term Indian-inspired New Religious Movements (I-NRMs) to distinguish them from other NRMs. The I-NRMs operate with concepts that by and large originated in India and are still widely used by adherents of traditional Indian religions. The basic aim in this chapter is to present the general contexts for understanding these movements in the social environment of post-communist Slovakia, paying particular attention to the religious


Dušan Deák

concepts they use.1 It should be noted, however, that the academic source material dealing with I-NRMs in Slovakia is very limited, while the followers of, say, Shri Chinmoy or Swami Maheshwarananda have, to the best of our knowledge, escaped detailed academic attention in general.2 In several cases we will therefore have to rely on information obtained from fieldwork rather than from previous academic studies. Since the collapse of communism in 1989, Central and Eastern Europe has been opened up to a host of competing ideologies, notably in the religious field. One indication of this has been the appearance of a large number of NRMs, including I-NRMs, in the region. Slovakia has been no exception in this respect. But what accounts for the I-NRMs’ penetration of the contemporary religious market in Slovakia? To begin to answer this question, we should perhaps look back two centuries or so to the period when European colonialists, along with philosophers and Romantics, first brought Indian thought into the European political, academic and (last but not least) literary arena.3 The first Slovaks to show their enthusiasm for India did so in a purely academic way. In 1831 the linguist Štefan Ján Tamaško published a Sanskrit textbook. Although his translation of the Mahabharata4 remained unpublished, he was the first Slovak writer to try to convey at least something of the Indian world to educated readers, since



3 4

These concepts often accompany, or are explained by the particular practices associated with each NRM. As space does not allow us to discuss these practices in detail, the use of the word ‘concept’ will always imply the practices with which the concept is associated. Shri Chinmoy is briefly mentioned, however, in some academic studies of NRMs (e.g. Bird and Reimer 1982, Krumina-Konkova 1999). There is also a study of Chinmoy’s poetry by Vidagdha Meredith Bennet (1991), but it does not address Chinmoy’s other activities. The author has been unable to find any studies devoted specifically to Shri Chinmoy or Swami Maheshwaranda. The process of the acculturation of Hinduism in Europe, and particularly in Czech lands, has been studied in Fujda 2007. See also Halbfass 1990; Inden 2006; Lorenzen 2006. Although several terms and names derived from Indian languages occur in this study, in order to simplify the text we have avoided the standard transliteration of these words and simply used their anglicized forms.

Spirituality in the Post-communist Religious Marketplace


both books were written in Latin (Rácová 2004: 35). The slow but gradual increase of Slovak interest in Indian thought is best documented through the writings of the former Protestant priest Ján Maliarik (1869–1946). Probably inspired by theosophy – he was a member of the Vienna Theosophical Society – Maliarik wrote several religious and philosophical works which show the overwhelming influence of Indian thought, and especially the monistic advaita vedanta of Shankaracharya. He also wrote a commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In addition to his literary activities, Maliarik was a social activist with strong pacifist leanings. In 1938 he published an appeal to world leaders to prevent another world war. He also corresponded with several influential intellectuals of the time, such as H.P. Blavatsky, Gandhi, Tolstoy, Ingvar Sigurdsson and Raja Mahendra Pratap of Mursan.5 After Maliarik, Slovak interest in Indian thought, though limited, never ceased. Being a part of Czechoslovakia, Slovakia shared the benefits of academics at Prague’s Oriental Institute and generally from the Czechs’ much closer relations with India. Slovaks were able to read translations of Indian religious and literary works from Sanskrit and other Indian languages, and intellectuals generally had favourable conditions for studying India. Although the numbers involved were comparatively small,6 there was a definite interest in the subject which persists to this day. In order to understand the conditions which lay behind the relatively smooth incorporation of I-NRMs into the Slovakian religious scene, we should also say a few words about traditional religion in the country and its enforced metamorphosis during the communist period. Even today, many Slovaks are very proud of their religious traditions, which are predominantly Christian: while most (around 70 per cent) of the population are Roman Catholic, there are also Augsburg Protestant, Greek Orthodox and other Christian churches.7 Although the Slovak president during World War Two was a Catholic priest, religion has been a private matter in the 5 6 7

All the information on Maliarik here has been taken from and During the communist period, only one professional Indologist was Slovak (Kolmaš, Krupa and Opatrný 1999: 47). Moravčíková and Cipár 2003: 17–29.


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country since the last decade of the eighteenth century, and Christianity in modern-day Slovakia closely conforms to the model of the ‘secularized Christianity of the West’ (Holm 1998: 95). Thus on the one hand it is possible to observe the rise of secularization in conjunction with modernization, and on the other, to consider the post-1948 communist regime as being partly the result and partly the most extreme promoter of these tendencies (cf. Davie 2003: 324). During the communist period, however, people’s perception of what religion is and how it should be understood was – due to the state’s involvement – radically modified. Traditional symbols, many of which were connected to Christianity in one way or another, were forcibly replaced with new communist symbols. In universities, Marxism-Leninism replaced philosophy, and so-called ‘scientific atheism’ became the official state ideology. Under this repressive system, whole generations were brought up without any formal access to religious education, while public adherence to religion was persecuted. Christians came under intense pressure to exclude religious thinking from their lives, reinforcing the process of secularization noted above. Although the communist regime did its best to suppress traditional religion, however, it was not so repressive towards Asian and Indian culture (Melton 1998: 50), which includes many religious or at least spiritual components. Yoga, for instance, though traditionally a complex religious doctrine with its own characteristic practices, was seen as sufficiently secular to be tolerated. The medicinal interest of intellectuals (often doctors) in yogic exercises, such as asanas or kriyas, led to the establishment of official yoga associations (Gajdoš 2003), while communist censors permitted the publication of relevant literature that had been purged of any religious content.8 This quasi-scientific presentation of Indian traditions and their potential contribution to public health helped to sustain popular awareness of and interest in Indian thought, however disconnected it was from religion. The fall of the communist regime and the creation of a democratic social environment were accompanied by the influx of a plurality of symbols, 8

See for example. Polášek 1985.

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including religious symbols. Diversity and freedom of choice were proclaimed the foundation stones of any future progress and the years of prohibition were followed by years of multiple opportunities. Many competing ideologies, systems of thought and philosophies emerged, with an inevitable effect on the formation of a new attitude towards religious matters.9 Very soon the need was felt to fill the gap caused by the lack of public religion and religiosity. The traditional churches reassumed their traditional place, many professional or lay Christian societies and associations were founded or re-founded and the development of a new Christian religiosity led to the re-establishment of formerly prohibited religious traditions. Although some researchers have seen this situation in terms of a religious revival, others have questioned this assumption (Borowik 2007: 662–663). But whether they involved a general religiosity or belonging to specific religious denominations, these developments demonstrated that after 1989, religion in post-communist countries was ‘in’.10 However, it was not only Christian churches which spoke out on religious matters. The new freedom of choice and opportunity brought other religious groups on to the scene, a considerable number of which were NRMs. Many of them came from the West, and one can even say that the boom in religiosity was also accompanied by a boom in organized proselytism. Just as post-communist countries opened themselves up to the Western economic market, so they became part of the market for Western religions, and so the whole range of Western religious organizations started missions in order to attract potential followers (Barker 1999: 50–51, Melton 1998: 45–46, 63–64). In this new religious marketplace, the traditional Christian churches inevitably had a head start on their rivals. Historically, geographically and psychologically, their presence was already well established, while their 9


This phenomenon was reflected in the appearance of new or re-established publishers specializing in religious and spiritual literature, whether from a Christian perspective or those, such as CAD Press or Dharma Gaia, publishing books and texts related to other world religions and religious groups. On a personal note, the author can recall that some people who had previously never spoken about religion seemed to become religious virtually overnight, at least in terms of their conversation, the beliefs they expressed, the symbols they wore and so on.


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impact was reinforced by the rise in nationalism.11 In such a competitive environment, however, NRMs represented a viable alternative for all those who could not identify themselves with the traditionalists, or who were looking for something different. The attraction of I-NRMs in particular was that they offered unfamiliar and potentially exciting ways of approaching religion and of understanding people’s role in the world. They offered the so-called ‘mystical wisdom of the East’, as well as various systems of spirituality, ‘green values’ and a healthy lifestyle (Holm 1998). Whether in the form of ahimsa (non-violence), karmic law, vegetarianism and yoga, or the monistic assimilation of God to everything, everywhere and in all times, such concepts represented (and represent) a powerful alternative to the understanding of the world as it developed in the European socio-religious environment, which is based predominantly on Christian values and rooted in the Graeco-Roman-Barbarian12 cultural matrix. This alternative, however, led to a negative response from representatives of the traditional churches. Organizations were established to study and mainly to fight these new religiosities, which were tendentiously labelled as ‘sects’. The Centre for the Study of Sects (CSS), which is affiliated to the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Slovakia, plays a leading role in attempts to demonize new, non-Christian religions.13 It operates in partnership with another organization, the Centre for the Prevention of Sects. 11

12 13

Even today, some representatives of the Catholic Church in Slovakia are viewed as strong supporters of nationalism. See, for example, the ongoing debate regarding Msg. Archbishop J. Sokol, for example in ‘Sokol rehabilituje Tisov režim’, SME [We Are], 5 January 2007, and ‘Sokola kritizujú Židia aj Rómovia’, Pravda, 3 January 2007. On the connection between the Central European churches and nationalism, see also Borowik 2007: 655–656. The term ‘Barbarian’ should not be understood in a negative sense in this context. The compound term ‘Græco-Roman-Barbarian’ is used in an attempt to convey the diversity of Europe’s cultural roots. Since there is hardly any academic literature on the CSS’s activities, we have been forced to rely on information the Centre has published on the Internet. On the demonization of non-Christian religions, see the links at temy_sar.stm. Among the ‘sects’ listed on the website, for instance, are Aikido, Chinese religions and even Judaism.

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We shall leave aside the arguments used by these Centres and concentrate instead on the ‘oppositional space’ they create against the various new religions active in Slovakia. Using media propaganda and public lectures, they have challenged all the religious groups that they call ‘sects’. However, many of the Centres’ claims are disputable, mainly because, apart from traditional Christian denominations, they consider almost all other religious groups as dangerous sects (including the four NRMs under discussion), and have a very narrow view of religion and religious freedom. Their publications are one-sided and far from academic, sometimes displaying a missionary zeal. This is not a new phenomenon, since state-sponsored anticult organizations and the uncertain terms in which new religiosities are understood to be ‘dangerous’ or different from established denominations have been already criticized by scholars in other European countries (Davie 2003: 336–338). We will return to the activities of anti-cult movements more particularly when discussing the mission of Shri Chinmoy. Although the I-NRMs currently active in Slovakia include various Hindu and Buddhist religious groups, in this study we will be concerned only with those that claim to have originated in Hinduism: the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON, popularly known as Hare Krishnas); Sahaja Yoga (or Vishva Nirmala Dharma); and the followers of Swami Maheshvarananda and Shri Chinmoy.

Hinduism and the Neo-Hindu Mission to the World Since all the I-NRMs (or their teachers) that we shall discuss acknowledge Hinduism as the source of their teachings, it is necessary to begin by explaining the conception of Hinduism and neo-Hinduism on which this discussion is based. Basically, Hinduism can be conceived as a combination of doctrines, philosophies, beliefs and practices, which – for a considerable time and with the exception of the belief in an omnipotent supernatural


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Being – did not have a unifying principle underlying its various forms.14 A similar, but yet distinct religious conglomerate is neo-Hinduism, which along with ancient Indic thought appears to be the source of the teachings of I-NRMs. Neo-Hinduism represents the reform movement in Hinduism launched by nineteenth-century reformers who attempted to reformulate the understanding of the ancient Indic religious doctrines (Zbavitel 1993; Killingley 2003). The challenges to the religious thought and practices that were posed by the reformers still continue to dominate religious debate among Hindus themselves. We can also, and justifiably, apply the adjective ‘neo-Hindu’ to all later and present Hindu teachers of religion who, apart from the ancient Indic wisdom, found their inspiration in the thinking of these first reformers of Hinduism. In this context, it is significant that virtually all of these new neo-Hindu teachers – though they might differ in minor points of their understanding of what they call the core of Hinduism – propound universalistic teachings: teachings that, unlike old Hinduism, emphasize the universal values attainable by all mankind. Many of them state that all religions basically lead towards the same goal – the realization of God (Bharati 1970: 276, 281 n. 45).15 They propagate different means and techniques to attain this goal, such as meditation, yoga, self-knowledge and devotion. This brings us to another important characteristic of neo-Hinduism: in its present-day form, it is also an export religion. Its success, it seems, depends on two strands of devotees: traditional Hindus (Nye 1998), especially those living in the West and brought up in Western societies, who can play a significant part in building the popularity of neo-Hindu teachers; and new converts and sympathizers, who do not come from an Indian society linked to traditional forms of socio-religious organization, but are still from modern Western societies.16 All the I-NRMs discussed in this chapter were founded by the Hindu missionaries of spirituality in the West. 14 15 16

There has been considerable academic debate regarding the precise nature of Hinduism. See, for example, Thapar 1989; Lorenzen 1999, King 1999 and Viswanathan 2003. Cf. Fuchs [n.d.]. This does not mean that neo-Hindu teachers who live in the West are without followers in India itself. Their success at home, however, is usually based on their

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We have already used the term ‘spirituality’. This is used mainly to refer to the ideas and related practices, proponents of which believe in the ‘power of the incorporeal world’. It is very important here to note the distinction between spirituality and religion, because the teachers of I-NRMs do not appear to preach religion, but rather spirituality. Doubtless, there is a vital connection between religion and spirituality. However, two people from different religions might be considered equally spiritual, while maintaining the differences between their particular religions. Such a distinction, on the other hand, provides a space for all those who propound ‘one true religion for all’, as neo-Hindu missionaries do. They present themselves as having already mastered knowledge of this ‘ideal religion’ that can only be found through spirituality. They adopt the ancient Indic institution of the guru, which connects them directly or indirectly to other gurus from other Indic religious traditions. Their teachings are usually a vital combination of Hindu religious philosophy, lore, and practice, and a ‘modern’ emphasis on spirituality which appears to be less morally and socially demanding than conventional religion and which is therefore more appealing to secularized Westerners. Although the institution of the guru is ancient and its necessity in order to obtain spiritual truths has been recognized in the Indic religious environment for a very long time, neo-Hindu teachers have developed it considerably. They represent the gurus of a spirituality that is destined for export. The new religious market that has opened up after the fall of communism in Eastern European countries, where some people do not seek traditional religion, but rather alternatives presented in a new and attractive spiritual discourse, therefore provides fertile ground for the activities of neo-Hindu teachers.

success in the West. Obviously there are also neo-Hindu teachers in India with a huge following who have never left the country, but these are beyond the scope of this study.


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Indian-inspired NRMs in Slovakia The political change which occurred in Slovakia in 1989 triggered societal changes that subsequently led to the establishment of I-NRMs. It has, of course, been a gradual process. Out of all the I-NRMs known to be active in Slovakia (ISKCON, Sahaja Yoga, Shri Chinmoy, Meher Baba, Satya Sai Baba, Brahma Kumaris, Yoga in Daily Life, Transcendental Meditation, the Rajneesh movement, and the Diamond Way (vajrayana)),17 we have chosen four – ISKCON, Sahaja Yoga, Shri Chinmoy, Yoga in Daily Life – which appear to be the most established and best-known in Slovakia. All of them entered the country from the West via the neighbouring countries of Austria and the Czech Republic. With respect to the latter country, the role of Czech followers of these four movements in their spread in Slovakia should not be underestimated, and the spread of I-NRMs in Slovakia is in large part indebted to Czech influences or direct help (in the acquisition of relevant literature, in missionary activities and the establishment of the first centres, which often initially tended to represent the branches of Czech centres). The only exception seems to be Sahaja Yoga, whose followers directly transplanted the movement from Austria to Slovakia.18 All four of these I-NRMs began their present activities in Slovakia at the beginning of the 1990s, although the underground activities of ISKCON and Yoga in Daily Life can be traced back to an earlier period.19


18 19

Macháčkova and Dojčár 2002: 57–85. There are a few Buddhist movements active in Slovakia, such as Zazen International, Kwan Um, Yonang-pa and Falung Gong, but since these are more associated with Japan, Tibet or China, we shall not include them in this discussion of I-NRMs. Interview in SY centre in Zohor, 12 January 2007; the informant did not wish his name to be disclosed. Our fieldwork was based on participant observation and interviews, drawing on the author’s knowledge of Indian religions, which aided our understanding of the context and conceptual frameworks used by I-NRM leaders. Our interviews were primarily with ISKCON and Sahaja Yoga followers, due to difficulties in securing interviews with followers of Shri Chinmoy.

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Now, since the Slovak government only collects statistical information on registered religious groups, it is very difficult to determine the precise number of followers of other groups, since none of them seems keen to keep (or at least disclose) membership statistics. With respect to their comparatively recent appearance on the Slovak religious scene, I-NRMs faced problems in registration (which, once obtained, includes state financial support, so carefully distributed in post-communist countries) and preferred – or rather were ‘manoeuvred’ into – acting publicly as registered ‘civil organizations’. There is not enough space here to discuss the problem in its entirety,20 but we will mention the recent registration problems of all NRMs at the end of our chapter. In terms of ‘active members’, each I-NRM probably has a few hundred followers, depending on the group, but the differences between them are not significant. Although ISKCON may seem better known to the public than the other I-NRMs discussed, no firm conclusions can be drawn from this, because there is no necessary correlation between the public profile of a group and the number of its followers. ISKCON, for example, seems to be widely known because of its public activities, such as public singing and vegetarian restaurants, but it runs only five centres in the whole of Slovakia, which, when compared to the thirty-two centres of Yoga in Daily Life or the twenty-one of Sahaja Yoga, would suggest that it is less popular. And yet one of the most prominent representatives of ISKCON in Bratislava (who is, incidentally, of Czech origin) estimated that the movement had thousands of lay sympathizers.21 There are other difficulties in assessing the popularity of I-NRMs in Slovakia. Is the ISKCON’s ashram with its full-time inhabitants comparable

20 The following Slovak laws were consulted: Law 308/1991 on the freedom of religious faith and the position of churches and religious societies; Law 192/1992 on the registration of churches and religious societies; Law 394/2000, which modifies Law 308/1991, and Law 201/2007, which modifies and amends Law 308/1991 and Law 394/2000. In conjunction with these, one should also note Law 83/1990 on the right to assembly among Slovak citizens, where in article 1 it is stated that this law does not apply to the assembly of citizens in churches and religious societies. See for details. 21 Interview with Raghunath, Govinda restaurant in Bratislava, 17 December 2006.


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to the local centres of, say, Sahaja Yoga, which are basically rented premises for weekly gatherings? And how is one to distinguish between sympathizers, lay followers and active members of the group? Can a lay practitioner of yoga under the guidance of teachers schooled in the centres of Yoga in Daily Life be considered a disciple of Swami Maheswarananda – a leader and founder of Yoga in Daily Life? Probably not, yet of the four groups, Yoga in Daily Life runs the greatest number of centres in the country. Furthermore, there are no records of how many previously active members left each group, and how many new sympathizers joined. Although from a statistical viewpoint, it would certainly be interesting to establish a relationship between the inflow and outflow of active members, there is at present no way of knowing the precise membership figures for each particular group. Similar considerations apply to the age and education of members, since each group claims that they attract people of all ages and of all social strata. Finally, there is doubt as to whether a second generation of active followers can be said to exist, since this second generation in Slovakia appears to be too young to be considered conscious members of the group.22 Despite the uncertainty of this information, we shall now proceed with a more detailed analysis of the individual groups, because this survey is not concerned with statistical information per se, but rather with the Indic concepts used by the I-NRMs to attract the wider public. Since different concepts are given greater prominence by different groups, we will discuss those concepts particularly associated with each of the groups under examination, although in practice the groups might draw on all of them.


All the information presented here comes from Society and Lifestyles project-related fieldwork in Slovakia conducted during 2006–2007.

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ISKCON: Bhakti and the Vedic Lifestyle Founded in New York in 1966 by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896– 1977), an enigmatic religious leader from Bengal, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) soon became firmly established in the West. Prabhupada was by all accounts a charismatic personality and founded his religious mission at a politically and socially favourable time. The movement soon gained publicity mainly due to the public singing of the mahamantra (‘Hare Krishna…’) and of other divine (vaishnava) names (Krishna, Gopala, Govinda and so on), accompanied by the propagation of particular values and an alternative lifestyle. ISKCON can basically be regarded as a devotional cult surrounding a powerful religious leader, although with respect to its localization outside India, a very specific one. Indeed, devotionalism (bhakti) – in the form of devotion to the Hindu deity Krishna – is the core of Prabhupada’s teachings (Bryant 2003: 110), as well as their recommended practices. In that sense, he hardly differs from the host of Indian bhakti saints. Like his bhakti predecessors, Prabhupada quoted the texts of the Bhaghavad Gita and Bhagavata Purana, and has been viewed as a valid member of a particular bhakti tradition – in his case that of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampraday, a devotional cult that follows the teachings of the medieval Bengali bhakti saint Chaitanya. With respect to I-NRMs and their inspiration in neo-Hinduism, Prabhupada appeared to occupy a somewhat independent position, since his approach was sectarian rather than universal. On the other hand, some of his religious interpretations and his mission to the West indicate possible connections with the work of other neo-Hindu teachers, even if these were limited. Since the religious activities of ISKCON have been documented by several researchers, and since they appear to be more or less identical in all countries where Prabhupada’s mission has reached, we will not discuss them further here.23


For Prabhupada’s mission see Prabhupada 1997. For academic studies of the ISKCON movement, see, for instance, Judah 1974; Knott 1987; Bryant and Ekstrand 2004; Rochford 2007.


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ISKCON’s activities in Slovakia are determined by social conditions and the resources available to Hare Krishnas. Regarding the latter, it seems that the Slovak ISKCON is self-sufficient, although it may receive additional assistance from abroad. As regards social conditions, ISKCON’s position in Slovakia can hardly be compared to its position in the UK or US (cf. Rochford 2007: 16–52). The Slovak public is still rather conservative and unaccustomed to visible societal differences that are based on religion, with the result that the Hare Krishnas’ devotional public singing leaves people perplexed and at best uninterested. But there are no obstacles to individuals in their search for an alternative lifestyle going to lectures or musical sessions organized by ISKCON. Indeed, what distinguishes Hare Krishnas from other I-NRMs in Slovakia is that apart from spiritual knowledge, they offer a complete ‘Vedic’ lifestyle. People might not wish to enter into a debate with the practitioners of public devotion, but the situation is quite different when they are offered a vegetarian meal. Vegetarianism, being considered modern and healthy, helps to attract customers into Hare Krishna restaurants. Only after going inside do they fully realize that it is not only vegetarian cuisine that is on offer. Visitors can inspect the peculiar dress of the Hare Krishnas, buy books by Prabhupada, eat ‘pure and sanctified’ vegetarian food, listen to Hare Krishna devotional songs or join a discussion about spiritual matters. Thus ISKCON may prove appealing for people who seek a different way of life, an escape from normality, and a new sense of spirituality. If they are interested in exploring the movement further, they can learn about the daily schedule of Prabhupada’s followers, try some practices themselves and eventually join ISKCON. Therefore the ISKCON mission can be easily popularized via the three Govinda restaurants that operate in Slovakia (in Bratislava, Košice and Prešov). For those who wish to become more closely involved, the movement offers two ashrams (Vedic centres) where one can live the life of Hare Krishnas, fully devoted to the movement’s mission. What is of most interest to us here, however, are the concepts used to attract potential devotees as well as to argue with opponents. The concept of bhakti that is propounded by Hare Krishnas as the best means of becoming aware of the divine reality around us (Prabhupada 1993: 118–123, 145–150) is much older than the movement, as its representatives generally

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acknowledge quite readily. However, Indian tradition offers a much broader understanding of bhakti than the version propagated by Prabhupada and the Hare Krishnas.24 Despite the exclusivist claims that the representatives of Slovak ISKCON make with regard to other religions and religious groups, it appears that Prabhupada simply joined the Indian bhakti tradition, which is itself divided into innumerable cults and religious groups, each claiming their own exclusivity. It is therefore arguable that ISKCON is to be understood in terms of the first Western bhakti rather than otherwise. It translates the ideas of the medieval Hindu bhakti revolution into the discourse of the modern Western world and transmits them within a conceptual framework created by Swami Prabhupada. What may be attractive for Slovaks seeking an alternative religion is that the bhakti mode of understanding the religion basically does not require much (a point which some might dispute). It only requires complete devotion to the chosen deity (Krishna). For Hare Krishnas, apart from personal devotions, it also requires the devotion expressed by congregational and public singing. On the other hand, there is a whole range of other factors that also play a role in the process of attracting new bhaktas: exoticism, a different lifestyle and philosophy, and, no doubt, the religion’s claim to be of ancient, preChristian origins. Prabhupada emphasized the love of Divinity, which is best to be attained by directing our consciousness to Krishna (God), bringing a realization of the divine. This can be achieved by worshipping and contemplating Krishna, singing his names and praises, and adopting a vaishnava/Vedic lifestyle. For the initiate, this primarily means adopting the four regulative principles of Hare Krishnas.25 By his use of the concept of Vedas, Prabhupada, like other neo-Hindu teachers, clearly touched a chord in Western feelings about India, Sanskrit and Indo-European cultural roots that has 24 See, for example, the Bhakti in Current Research series: Thiel-Horstmann 1983; Gautam and Schokker 2000 and Thiel-Horstmann 2006. 25 These principles are: abstaining from eating meat, abstaining from intoxication, abstaining from dangerous behaviour and controlling one’s sexual behaviour, including engaging in intercourse only for the purpose of procreation (interview with Raghunath, Govinda restaurant in Bratislava, 17 December 2006).


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developed over the past hundred and fifty years. Consequently post-communist Slovakia has indeed been a fertile environment for such ‘exotic’ religious thought claiming an ancient, that is Vedic, origin. Reference to ancient Sanskrit scriptures that can be observed during the sessions of Hare Krishnas makes an impression on newcomers, as well as the followers of Prabhupada. Usually Slovak members of neither group are acquainted with academic studies of Hindu, and particularly Vedic texts, let alone Indian languages, and indeed many of them acquire their information about Hindu religious concepts solely via ISKCON interpreters. The ‘pathos of Vedas’ thus works as a powerful means of attracting followers. However, what Hare Krishnas present as Vedas, that is mainly the Bhaghavad Gita and Bhagavata Purana,26 are hardly seen as such in academic circles or by orthodox Hindu Brahmans, who are the keepers of this ancient tradition.27 This might not be regarded as a problem, since new religions inevitably bring new interpretations. The fact remains, however, that the concepts related to Vedas and the ‘Vedic’ lifestyle propagated by Hare Krishnas in Slovakian Govinda restaurants, for example, represent a rather metaphorical idealization of the Vedic past as understood by Prabhupada and his followers. What ISKCON offers in Slovakia does not differ widely from what it offers in countries where this movement is better established. In the Slovak religious environment, however, its mission can be seen as both inspiring and challenging. Although the concepts used by the movement – mainly bhakti of the Chaitanyite tradition and the idealization of ancient India – can become, like anything else, the subject of academic polemic, Hare Krishna seems to offer an attractive alternative to mainstream religion to those in search of such an alternative. On the other hand, conservative elements in society appear to view the ‘uncommon’ practices of Hare Krishnas (such as chanting of Mahamantra) as potentially dangerous for the newly evolving religious environment in Slovakia.28 Let us now consider the case 26 Interview with Raghunath, Govinda restaurant in Bratislava, 17 December 2006. 27 See for example Fischer-Schreiber et al 1994: 402–403; Dowson 1978: 344–352. Cf. O’Flaherty 1990: 1–5; Zbavitel and Vacek 1996: 12–72. 28 An ISKCON leader from the ashram in the village of Abranovce (Prešov district) gave an interesting account of public hostility towards the ashram and its inhabitants.

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of Shri Chinmoy, where conservative reaction in the public sphere has been even more pronounced.

The Shri Chinmoy Mission and the Concept of Meditation Shri Chinmoy (1931–2007) was another powerful but controversial Bengali guru who settled in New York, developing a network of followers around the world. In several ways he can be compared to Prabhupada, one common feature being that he was, like Prabhupada, an outstanding personality who was able to exercise influence on large numbers of ordinary people as well as on individuals such as the famous guitarists Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin. Chinmoy began his religious mission to the West in 1964 and two years later inaugurated the first Shri Chinmoy centre in San Juan in Puerto Rico. Shri Chinmoy spread his spiritual message in several ways. To prove the idea that a healthy spirit requires a healthy body he was active in sports like long-distance running and weightlifting. He also presented himself as an artist, specifically as a musician and painter. He wrote several books on religion, meditation and spirituality in which he expounded his philosophy, which is dominated by introspection and the finding of inner peace. Shri Chinmoy’s axiom – that if we could find peace within ourselves it would mean peace for the whole world – led him to various activities for world peace, such as the Shri Chinmoy marathon and the dedication of world landmarks and sites to peace in the world. His universalistic approach to religion shows the influences of neo-Hindu thought. Shri Chinmoy believed in the ultimate oneness of the world’s religions

Initially, the villagers were scared of the Hare Krishnas, considering them dangerous (a public campaign by a local clergyman was instrumental in arousing this fear). Only after several years did they gradually become accustomed to the ashram and nowadays relations between the villagers and the Hare Krishnas are friendly (interview with Mohanrupa Das, 25 November 2006).


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and, much like Vivekananda, presented Hinduism as tolerant, universal and a world-leading religion (Chinmoy 1996: 147–186).29 Chinmoy offered mental introspection as a means of achieving the goal, which for him was – in a completely advaitic (non-dualistic) sense – the realization that we ourselves are Divine, indeed the Divinity itself (Chinmoy 1996: 51–54). Consequently Shri Chinmoy recommended meditation in its ‘classical’ form, which starts from the observation of breathing through gradual calming of the mind up to the cessation of any willed mental activities. This process brings peace to the mind (and by extension to the ‘soul’) and understanding of its unity with the outward world.30 Chinmoy elevated meditation above all other religious/spiritual means, claiming it to be the gateway to inner happiness and the realization of the Divine. However, and again in the fashion of neo-Hindu preachers, he did not leave his followers with just the technique for meditation. He gave equal stress to Divine mercy and love, which symmetrically require the devotees’ efforts and love. Shri Chinmoy’s ‘missionaries of meditation’ first came to Slovakia at the beginning of the 1990s and Chinmoy himself subsequently visited the country four times.31 To this day, his calm or smiling face can be seen on posters inviting Slovaks to meditate; they also show that behind the meditating guru there is a capable organization which guides potential seekers of meditation and peace on his behalf. The followers of the guru organize a weekly public meeting where they propagate Chinmoy’s teachings, sell his books and provide any other relevant information to help answer the questions of newcomers. There are five Shri Chinmoy mission centres in Slovakia, located in Bratislava, Nitra, Trenčín, Žilina and Košice, corresponding to the country’s main regional centres. In all of these cities, with the exception of Nitra, the followers of the mission can be contacted in shops called Madal Bal, after the organization that runs this retail network. It also operates in the Czech Republic, and from the proselytizing material

29 Cf. Vivekananda 1996: 13–21, and especially 79–107. 30 See ‘Learn How to Meditate Online’, kurz_meditacie/nauc-sa-meditovat-on-line. 31 See

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that we have obtained, it can be inferred that the Slovakian centres of Shri Chinmoy’s mission are branches of an organization based in the Czech Republic. The shops sell a variety of goods: from the guru’s writings (published by Madal Bal), through to cushions, bed-sheets, toys and decorative objects, and to the images (murtis) of Hindu and Buddhist deities and instruments necessary for their worship.32 As with Hare Krishna restaurants, Madal Bal shops enable the followers of Shri Chinmoy to attract the public and introduce them to the thought of their spiritual leader. Given that meditation has generally been acknowledged by the wider public as a technique that helps its practitioners to achieve breath-control, mental calm and a state of contemplation, it might seem unlikely that a new religious group propagating meditation would be perceived as dangerous. In Slovakia, however, some Christian activists have shown a distinctly hostile attitude towards Shri Chinmoy’s mission. It is important to note that the hostility of Slovak Christians is directed not only against Shri Chinmoy personally, but at all I-NRMs, and indeed NRMs in general (see above). However, Shri Chinmoy’s group seems to be a special target. Criticism of the mission has appeared in one of Slovakia’s most popular weekly magazines (Plus Sedem Dní, 4/2003). Apart from ridiculing the works and activities of Chinmoy himself, anti-cult activists accuse the members of his group of brainwashing newcomers, and over-emphasizing devotion to their guru – which, according to these activists, can lead to family breakdown and looser ties with the wider society.33 On the other hand, from another perspective, the worries of the Centres might seem reasonable. The negative experiences of some of Chinmoy’s former Slovak devotees have been documented.34 They generally point to 32

A good idea of the kind of products sold by Madal Bal can be obtained from its website. See, which reveals, for example, that they also sell various electrical devices for home and garden use, as well as bathroom equipment and so on. 33 See (pp. 9–10, 13). 34 For a web page with links to sites containing the testimonies of Chinmoy’s followers, see a kulty/Šrí Činmoj.


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various mechanisms (such as compulsory celibacy) for dissociating Chinmoy’s disciples from the wider society, and the strong authoritarian rule in the Chinmoy group, all of which exist under the guise of spiritual emancipation.35 To deal adequately with these aspects, however, would require a special discussion focusing on the strength or weakness of the former devotees’ arguments, which is beyond the scope of this study. Our main concern here is with the concept of meditation and the guidance given by the guru. In some contexts, these indeed might lead to looser social ties. Meditation (dhyana) was developed in the South Asian cultural-religious space as a practice for ascetics rather than for active householders. Yet it has never been restricted to ascetics, but is open to anyone seeking its assistance in their mental and spiritual progress. There is thus room for its multifarious use. Worship of the guru can be interpreted in the same way. The latter is obviously more associated with the world of ascetics or those who seek personal spiritual benefits, or simply those who are not interested in conventional forms of social religiosity. However, the guru in South Asia has never been completely dissociated from the wider society, to which he provides guidance and serves as an example of virtue.36 Meditation, gurus and guru worship are basically South Asian religious concepts which, when applied in a South Asian social context, have never worked in a negative way. A South Asian man or woman might be interested in practising meditation and serving the guru, but they already know, usually from their family environment, what this involves and what the social consequences might be, and make their choices accordingly. The situation is quite different when these concepts are transplanted into a society whose members are not aware of what these concepts were originally intended for, and are completely unaware of their many contexts and implications. It should be emphasized that the rhetoric used by Shri 35


Shri Chinmoy was also charged with sexually abusing his disciples, though not in Slovakia. For various accusation against him see, for example, The Ross Institute Internet Archives for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements at Having a family guru is common among South Asians, but it does not necessarily make them ascetics, or seekers of religious truths.

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Chinmoy and many other I-NRM leaders can be extremely attractive to the unaware listener. Talk of inner harmony, peace and divine bliss might seem very appealing to Westerners suffering from stress in their professional and social relationships. Yet the solutions proposed, especially if they are beyond the individual’s normal powers of comprehension, may not always prove fruitful. But can Shri Chinmoy’s mission in Slovakia be treated only in negative terms because some individuals fail to realize what the meditation marketed in the streets involves? It is not easy to answer such a question, mainly because of the complexity of all the other factors involved. Preoccupation with the guru’s guidance, change of diet and daily schedule, deliberate exclusion from common European socio-cultural activities (which might be described as disturbing, rather than bringing peace of mind) may certainly be such factors, but it would be too arbitrary to state that they are applicable to all Chinmoy’s followers and sympathizers in Slovakia. On the other hand, the number of copies of Chinmoy’s aphorisms that have been sold in Slovakia – apparently over one hundred thousand37 – shows another approach to his mission. Contrary to the claims of the anti-sect centres, it suggests that one does not need to become a follower of Chinmoy to be interested in his teachings. Whether the ‘wisdom’ conveyed by Chinmoy’s aphorisms is his, or whether he merely offers a rehash of neo-Hinduism, is another question, but not a decisive one for those who buy and read Chinmoy’s writings. We shall now turn to the mission of Nirmala Devi in Slovakia and the body of concepts on which her teachings are based.


This information was obtained from an employee of a Madal Bal shop.


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Nirmala Devi and Sahaja Yoga The religious association of Sahaja Yoga is unique among I-NRMs in Slovakia. First, by open acknowledgement of the religious truths coming from a variety of world religions, it does not claim any special religious identity for its followers. They are not discouraged from keeping their previous religious affiliation,38 since the attachment to Sahaja Yoga offers them a sort of ‘higher-level understanding’ of this affiliation. Second, Sahaja Yoga promotes a special spiritual and physical technique that is said to be beneficial in many ways for those who practise it, and which brings its practitioners to the aforementioned ‘higher understanding’. Followers of Sahaja Yoga in Slovakia, as elsewhere, direct their devotion to the movement’s founder Nirmala Salve – a Maharashtrian Christian who later adopted the name Nirmala Devi (Pristine Goddess). She is also devotionally addressed as Shri Mataji. The beginnings of Mataji’s public religious and missionary activities can be traced to the early 1970s. In 1970, she is said to have discovered a specific technique of self-realization which helps people to re-establish their connection with the nature of a world permeated by spirituality, and through this to undergo an inner transformation leading to harmony and bliss. This technique was named Sahaja Yoga, that is Yoga of Unity, and also Natural Yoga. Since that time, Mataji has devoted her time to actively preaching her spiritual findings (called Vishva Nirmala39 Dharma – Religion of Universal Purity) to the world and establishing numerous centres where her technique of self-realization is taught. As a teacher of a specific yoga, she has gained thousands of sympathizers and followers worldwide as well as public acknowledgment in several countries around the world. Sahaja Yoga was introduced into Slovakia in the early 1990s, having being brought into the country by Austrian followers of the movement. Today, Slovak Sahaja yogis gather in private as

38 39

Interview in SY centre in Zohor, 12 January 2007 (the informant did not wish their name to be disclosed). This is a pun on the meaning of the name Nirmala (pure, pristine).

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well as public sessions where they practise and discuss Mataji’s technique, spreading her teachings by selling her books and CDs, and by screening her speeches. Although Mataji has become the first I-NRM leader to enjoy public recognition in Slovakia, through impressive billboards and posters bearing her image, ordinary Slovaks’ knowledge of her extends no further than this. Slovak Sahaja yogis, however, treat Mataji as an incarnation of the Divine principle – the current avatar destined to save the lives of misguided modern people – and indeed typically, as a guru without any faults.40 Clever marketing, of course, can work miracles. Seemingly within the secular discourse of science, Mataji offers an approach to spirituality that looks ‘rational and systematic’ and certainly helps to attract those who might otherwise doubt the spirituality. Such an approach, in turn, helps to spread Mataji’s teachings. What we mean here is that Mataji speaks in terms of ‘energy’. This is a very powerful concept in the modern world, partly due to its scientific overtones and partly because of its positive physical and psychological connotations. Drawing on ancient Indic tradition, she talks of ‘energy’ (Kundalini), the power (shakti) that connects us with the whole world and makes us realize our ‘real divine’ selves. In addition, Kundalini may be described as our Divine Mother. Kundalini’s ‘work’ is explained by its flow through the assumed energy centres in the human body called chakras.41 The Kundalini is said to ‘sleep’ in the lowest part of the human spinal cord. When awakened it rises and pierces through (opens up) each of the chakras, and this process is accompanied by the cognitive realization of virtues corresponding to the particular chakra. It is claimed that each chakra has its own presiding deity, or rather perfect beings who enabled mankind to realize the virtues that the particular chakra confers on an individual. Hindu gods and goddesses preside over the lower chakras, whereas the last two are reserved for the two pairs of Jesus and Mary, Mataji 40 Interview in SY Centre in Zohor, 12 January 2007 (the informant did not wish their name to be disclosed). 41 There are several mystic, occult and spiritual systems of thought that draw on the Indic concept of chakra. It appears to have gained wider popularity in the Western world mainly due to the activities of the Theosophical Society (See Fujda 2007: 135, 188).


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herself and Kalki (the Hindu god-destroyer who appears at the end of the world) respectively (Kakar 1982: 200–203). Once the Kundalini pierces through all the chakras, or in other words when the process of the rise of energy is complete, the practitioner of Sahaja Yoga attains to the divine state of self-realization. According to Mataji, the opening-up of the chakras is not just an individual but a collective achievement (Lužný 1997: 59–60), since during human evolution, the perfect beings ‘opened’ them in order to help others. Mataji opened the last chakra, but also made her achievement accessible to others. Thus – and this is one of the most important of Mataji’s claims – opening of the last chakra, that is, the self-realization or -unification with the Divine Nature that is present in us as well as in the Universe, is accessible to all who follow the method that she discovered for awakening Kundalini. Moreover, they, like her, can pass this knowledge on to other potential ‘self-realizers’. The method mainly involves a firm resolve to achieve self-realization by purging oneself of any feelings of blame, and by forgiving others’ faults (Lužný 1997: 60).42 This self-realization, so Sahaja Yogis believe, makes us a better and healthier person. Furthermore, Mataji and her devotees claim that there is physical, ‘scientific’ [sic] evidence of success (that is, increase in Kundalini), insofar as the flow of energy is manifested by a cooling breeze on the top of one’s head. The rise of Kundalini through the chakras is an ancient and well-known concept in Indic thought, associated with the tantric worldview.43 Tantra was generally rejected in India, partly because of the sexual practices it contained, but mainly because tantrikas were always viewed as magicians, who could use their knowledge of the body for their own purposes. Mataji, however, brings a completely new interpretation to Kundalini. Although she accepts the principle of devotion to the Mother Goddess, she excludes other key elements of tantric thought (for instance, the unification of Shiva

42 As Mataji’s devotees say, one should wish for self-realization within one’s heart (interview in SY Centre in Zohor, 12 January 2007). 43 For an academic discussion of tantra, see Bharati 1965. For further debates, see for example White 2000.

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and Shakti via prescribed practices), and thus offers a radical reformulation of the tantric theory of the ‘awakening of the Goddess Kundalini’. Indic tantrikas never promised the achievement of an increase in Kundalini to everyone, as Mataji does, and indeed, she denounces tantrikas as people whom real seekers of self-realization should avoid (Kakar 1982: 205, 210– 211). Tantric texts describe the increase in Kundalini through chakras in terms of supernatural occurrences: the approaching of each chakra brings supernatural abilities to the practitioner of Kundalini yoga. Mataji, however, never mentions any such achievements. Adopting one tantric concept, behind which is a respectable theory expounded in hundreds of works in Sanskrit and other Indian languages, Mataji simplifies it to the idea of an increase in energy that is available for all, and which results in the state she calls self-realization. Understandably, the idea that one can attain selfrealization within a few minutes is much more appealing to Westerners than the belief that it takes years (or indeed lives) of practice. There is thus a discrepancy between Mataji’s use of the concept of Kundalini and its original tantric use. For Western followers, however, it may be precisely Mataji’s Indian origins that help dispel doubts about the accuracy of her claims. Indeed, Mataji’s current Slovak followers44 do not seem aware of any discrepancy between her teachings and traditional Indic thought. They accept Mataji’s interpretation and believe in the benefits of self-realization. For them, naturally, there is no reason to challenge Mataji’s claims, since their belief is strongly connected with their devotion to a teacher who, in their view, has had a significant and beneficial effect on their lives. As in the other I-NRMs, an ancient and therefore attractive Indic concept has become a viable alternative to conventional views of religion and spirituality. Although the concept of Kundalini might seem fanciful to educated Westerners, non-Indian Sahaja Yogis (including Slovaks) are attracted by

44 Hindu followers of Devi accept her authority on different grounds, mainly because they view her as a successful spiritual teacher. Her exclusion of tantric discourse fits in well with this, since Indians/Hindus generally have a negative view of this discourse (tantravada).


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the notion of ‘energy’. They also willingly accept Mataji’s typically neoHindu comparisons with other religions, for example that Kundalini is actually what Christian tradition calls the Holy Ghost, and what Muslims call ruh. For a Westerner, the universality of such rhetoric is easier to adopt than a specifically Indic rhetoric full of incomprehensible terminology for an outsider. However, operating only within the discourse used by Mataji leaves them incapable of comparing her views with other Indic traditions, and in this sense they lack a critical perspective. Moreover, Sahaja Yogis try to purge themselves of anything that might distract the smooth flow of Kundalini, and it very much depends on what they identify as obstructive. Here their beliefs may indeed have a detrimental effect on their life in the broader society and lead to separation, or at least a preference for association with the ‘pure’ ones. How far such an attitude is present among the Sahaja Yogis is open to debate, since they endeavour to overcome this isolation by public ‘realization days’, that is days when they publicly propagate self-realization. One wonders, however, how seriously they are perceived by those who pass by or even participate.45 Sahaja Yogis are an anomalous group on the Slovak religious scene, and their system of thought is even more anomalous. Although we have placed Sahaja Yogis among the I-NRMs, it is hardly Indic thought which inspires them. According to our personal observations at least, they appear to be much more attracted by the person of Mataji, who offers them access to a supposed cosmic energy and its vibrations, and thus to a ‘higher’ level of life. Nevertheless, Sahaja Yoga clearly offers its adherents a viable alternative to conventional religion, and it depends on how well they would be able to argue their case. It must be emphasized that in this chapter we are focusing upon the concepts used by the I-NRMs, not public perceptions of them per se, which would require additional research. But suffice it to say here that Sahaja Yoga might possibly be viewed as ‘strange’ and that the general public is 45 Opinions on this differ. Colleagues who volunteered to try ‘self-realization’ tended to ridicule the whole experience, and remained unconvinced of the claims made by Sahaja Yogis. On the other hand, my Sahaja Yogi informant said that they received a great response from the public on their realization days. Obviously, more research is needed to assess the level of public response with any degree of certainty.

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not very interested in NRMs on the whole, primarily because they know very little about them.

Yoga in Daily Life: the Group and the Concept The final I-NRM we will discuss is Vishva Guru Dip Mandir (The Temple of the Universal Guru’s Light), more widely known as Yoga in Daily Life. The movement centres on the guru Maheshwarananda, the founder of the particular system of yoga which gives the movement its popular name. However, not all followers of Maheshwarananda form a religious group, they constitute rather several layers of members, only some of whom can be characterized as devotees. Maheshwarananda has been active in Europe since 1972. He maintains a special relation with the former Czechoslovakia since he visited the country during the 1970s and 1980s, that is in the communist era (Lužný 1997: 62), and some of his current Slovak followers have been attached to him for a considerable time. Yoga in Daily Life as an organization, however, first entered Slovakia in the early 1990s. As a system of exercises, it emphasizes the therapeutic effects of yoga as much as its spiritual benefits. Apart from yoga, Maheswarananda is active in various environmental and peace movements. The last World Peace Summit was organized in 2007 by Yoga in Daily Life in Bratislava. There are several groups in Slovakia which promote yoga, mainly in the form of a beneficial practice that leads to a healthy body and a calm mind. Among these, however, only Yoga in Daily Life is counted among the I-NRMs (Macháčkova and Dojčár 2002: 57–82).46 The main reason for this is probably the devotional attachment of group members to Maheshwarananda, who himself claims to be in the lineage of disciples

46 Sahaja Yoga cannot be said to belong among those groups promoting classic yogic exercises (such as asanas, kriyas, pranayama…), since its teaching is based on a different theory (see above).


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of the apparently mythical Himalayan figure of Alakhpuri Maharaj. Of course, mythical figures are also worshipped in Europe, but what is problematic here is that Yoga in Daily Life does not claim to be a religious organization. It is as though its representatives try to conceal their religious convictions behind the therapeutic prestige of yoga. Evidence of this can be found in the late 1990s, when Yoga in Daily Life, through its influence on the then Minister of Education Milan Ftáčnik, attempted to have its teachings included in the curriculum of Slovak primary schools. Although its particular form of yoga was only to be taught as an option, public concern about the teachers’ devotional relation to Maheshwarananda forced the proposal to be withdrawn. Clearly, the controversy arose because of ambiguities about the concept of yoga.47 As mentioned in the introduction to this study, communist regimes in Eastern Europe tolerated a form of yoga shorn of all religious and spiritual connotations which might suggest a connection with the spiritual ‘wisdom of the East’. Indeed, this is how yoga is often presented and perceived in Europe as a whole, where it is commonly understood to be a somewhat strange, but yet effective form of gymnastics with a vaguely mystical element. This is because part of classical Indian yoga deals specifically with bodily positions (asanas) and physical purification (kriyas). If, say, only asanas and kriyas are taught without any reference to the complicated worldview that lies behind them, yoga appears in the guise of a series of techniques that help its practitioners to sit straight, to alleviate back pain or digestive problems and so on. Because they are accompanied by yogic breathing exercises (pranayama), these techniques are also seen as helping to calm the mind and reduce stress. This, however, bears little resemblance to yoga as it was originally understood by its Indian teachers and followers. Yoga is one of the six classical systems of Indian philosophy, which in its overall character is a religious philosophy. From numerous studies of the yogic tradition,48 it is quite clear that Indian yoga is almost inseparable from its spiritual-religious

47 The same ambiguity obviously extends to yoga practice as well (see note 1 above). 48 For instance, Eliade 1958, White 1996.

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context. Certainly, there are exceptions to this rule (for example, Iyangar), but Maheshwarananda’s emphasis on guru lineage and the various spiritual benefits that accompany yoga exercises connect his teaching more to the classical understanding of yoga. We should also not forget that it was precisely Patanjali – author of the Yoga Sutras – who introduced the Divine principle (Ishvara) to the yogic philosophy (Eliade 1958: 7). Furthermore, the classical understanding of yoga, as in the case of meditation – which again is just a part of yoga – places it much more in the world of ascetics than in the world of average citizens. Even today, in rural India a yogi is seen as a man of special or magical achievements who is better avoided through proper worship than invited to stay in the community. Although it has been popularized as an effective Eastern gymnastics, in short, there is much more to yoga when it is taught by a traditional Indian teacher, specifically when they see their yoga teaching as a religious mission. The controversy surrounding Yoga in Daily Life in Slovakia serves as a salutary reminder that the followers of the missions of Indian gurus need to explain their goals clearly if they are to avoid misunderstanding and public hostility.

Conclusion I-NRMs began to be more active in Slovakia only after the fall of communism, bringing a whole raft of new religious concepts that were variously perceived and caused a variety of reactions, both positive and negative. Although Eastern in their origin and partly driven by the forces of globalization (cf. Robbins and Lucas 2007: 231–233) they basically came from the West, where their founders and present leaders have chosen to reside. The latter drew on Indic religious and spiritual traditions in order to convey their teachings, as well as to attract the wider public, for whom Indic discourse is connected to the exotic and mystical East. However, many concepts and related practices introduced by the representatives of I-NRMs can be traced back to the neo-Hindu movement, which remains active to


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this day. In spite of their ancient antecedents, then, these concepts and practices are – with respect to the modern contexts of their presentation – new rather than old. The leaders and followers of I-NRMs emphasize the spirituality of the East as against the materialism of the West and promote various ways of achieving a spiritual state that has been variously described as inner peace, knowledge of human nature or the realization of the Divine. However, in order to achieve this, they demand attachment to spiritual teachers or to the community of believers. This requirement is expressed in different ways, but generally followed. In Slovakia, however, except for a few public cases (Chinmoy, Maheshvarananda), it remains without wider social consequences and has not led to conflict. On the other hand, the religious environment in Slovakia is still evolving. The communist regime severely damaged traditional institutions, thus making room for the present-day new religious market. In this market, traditional religions compete with incoming religions, both endeavouring to attract new followers. I-NRMs form only a minor part of this market and their continuing presence in it cannot be taken for granted,49 although their complete disappearance seems unlikely, since the East (represented here by India) remains a powerful source of religious and spiritual inspiration. The activities of I-NRMs, even if they present the Indian religious heritage according to their own interpretations, do not seem to pose any particular problem in Slovakia. On the contrary, they bring variety and offer a much-needed alternative to the traditional understanding of religion in what remains a deeply conservative country, many of whose inhabitants look down on anything new and unfamiliar. Finally, the passing of a recent law,50 under which any unregistered religious community which wants to qualify for official recognition (that is, registration) – and thus state financial support – must have twenty thousand active members, proves that new 49 It is clearly difficult, for example, to predict what effect the death of Shri Chinmoy in October 2007 will have on his mission. 50 Law No. 201/2007 of 29 March 2007, which modifies and amends Law No. 308/1991 on the freedom of religious faith and the position of churches and religious societies, as well as its earlier modification, Law No. 394/2000. For details, see www.zbierka. sk.

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religious movements have a long way to go before they achieve equality of treatment in the new Slovak religious environment. But for this to happen, there must first be toleration of religious diversity. Let us therefore hope that one totalitarian opinion will not be replaced by another.

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Killingley, D. (2003). ‘Modernity, reform, and revival.’ In G. Flood (ed.) The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. 509–525. King, R. (1999). ‘Orientalism and the modern myth of Hinduism’, Numen, 46 (2), 146–185. Knott, K. (1987). My Sweet Lord: the Hare Krishna Movement. Northamp­ ton: Aquarian Press. Kolmaš, J., V. Krupa and J. Opatrný (eds) (1999). Kdo byl kdo (Čeští a slovenští orientalisté, afrikanisté a iberomaerikanisté). Prague: Libri. Krumina-Konkova, S. (1999). ‘Development of new religious movements in the social and cultural context of contemporary Latvia.’ http://www. Lorenzen, D.N. (1999). ‘Who invented Hinduism?’ Comparative Studies in Society and History 41 (4): 630–659. Lorenzen, D. (2006). ‘Marco della Tomba and the Brahmin from Banaras: missionaries, orientalists and Indian scholars.’ The Journal of Asian Studies 65 (1): 115–143. Lužný, D. (1997). Nová náboženská hnutí. Brno: Masarykova Univerzita. Macháčková, L. and M. Dojčár (2002). Duchovná scéna na Slovensku II, Bratislava: Ústav pre vzťahy štátu a cirkví. Melton, J.G. (1998). ‘The emergence of new religions in Eastern Europe since 1989.’ In E. Barker and M. Warburg (eds) New Religions and New Religiosity. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press. 45–65. Moravčíková, M. and M. Cipár (2003). Religiozita na Slovensku II, Bratislava: Ústav pre vzťahy štátu a cirkví. Nye, M. (1998). ‘Hindus old and new: problems of sacred space in Britain.’ In E. Barker and M. Warburg (eds) New Religions and New Religiosity. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press. 222–242. O’Flaherty, W.D. (1990). Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Polášek, M. (1985). Joga. Bratislava: Šport. Prabhupada, B.S. (1993). Náuka o Sebarealizaci. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Prabhupada, B.S. (1997). Science of Self-Realization. London: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.


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Spirituality and Religiosity in the Art of Living Foundation in Lithuania and Denmark: Meanings, Contexts and Relationships Milda Ališauskienė

Introduction This chapter examines the views of spirituality and religiosity held by members of the Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) in Lithuania and Denmark. The AOLF is a new religious movement (NRM) founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (not to be confused with the well-known musician of the same name) in 1981, when he introduced a world-view that he described as ‘a secular spirituality’, together with yoga practices including a new breathing technique. Shankar’s teachings are based mainly on Hinduism, supplemented by new interpretations and involving techniques derived from Transcendental Meditation and some new ones of Shankar’s own devising. The existence of AOLF as a global NRM calls for research into the local peculiarities of its branches in particular countries, since the process of globalization is usually followed by localization. The main question this chapter addresses is how the discourse of religiosity and spirituality presented by Ravi Shankar is reflected in the discourse of members of the AOLF in Lithuania. Interview-based fieldwork with AOLF members in Lithuania and Denmark revealed that interviewees tended to describe the organization and their activity in it as spiritual. Explanations given for this ranged from disillusionment with traditional religion and its representatives to the need for new categories defining the place of the individual in the


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modern world. The personal narratives of interviewees about their need for spirituality and their decision to become involved in AOLF indicates that they saw themselves as being spiritual but not religious. Interviewees also discussed the possible relations between spirituality and religiosity, and whether they saw them as related or separate.

Contemporary Discussions of Religion and Spirituality Over the last fifteen years, one of the main topics in academic discussions about contemporary religiosity has been the relationship between religiosity and spirituality, or to be more precise the distinction between the two. This debate began in the United States with the works of scholars such as Wade Clark Roof (1993) and Robert Wuthnow (2001). Focusing on the baby-boom generation in the US, which he called a generation of seekers, Roof argued that the individuals he studied could be seen as falling into three groups: loyalists, who remained within their religious tradition; returnees, who experimented with various options before returning to their traditional religion; and dropouts, who moved away from mainstream religion. One of the most important of Roof ’s findings was that people distinguished between being religious and being spiritual (Roof 1993: 30–31, 76–79). Being religious had institutional and sometimes negative connotations, while being spiritual was understood as ‘something deeply subjective and individual’ (Hood 2003: 246). Roof noted that the tendency to call themselves spiritual rather than religious was particularly common among those he described as ‘highly active seekers’, in other words those ‘who are deeply involved in their own personal quest’ (Roof 1993: 79–83). The reasons for the emergence of spirituality or the tendency to call oneself spiritual differs according to country and period. In the US, this was a consequence of the baby-boom generation’s struggles against the establishment, the influences of the ecological, feminist and peace movements,

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and access to education and mass media covering every aspect of human life and making the world smaller. The spirituality of the 1990s differed from the spirituality of the 1960s and 1970s: it became more mature as the children of the earlier generation reached middle age. The maturity of spirituality was expressed with new meanings: for example feminist spirituality, masculine spirituality and ecological spirituality. The new meanings of spirituality brought in a new vocabulary which challenged existing philosophical and theological systems. The variety of spirituality can be seen as reflecting consumer culture, but at the same time it is a phenomenon which combines a rich mixture of different traditions and existential concerns. This rise of spirituality is marked by the rise of a movement that seeks to overcome the dualism of Western culture in search of answers to existential questions and applies knowledge from different traditions, seen as the core of humanity. Common issues enable them to understand each other and feel the oneness which is required in the face of the responsibility for this earth, peace, nature and so on. (Roof 1993: 243–244). Similarly, Paul Heelas noted the need for a new denomination in his essay on religion in postmodernity, where he pointed out that after the period of differentiation, which found its expression in religious and cultural pluralism, the rise of different denominations and later NRMs, new tendencies of de-differentiation can be observed. The rise of an all-encompassing spirituality is the expression of such a process of de-differentiation. (Heelas 1998: 1–18). Here it is necessary to analyse the meanings of spirituality and religiosity and their origins and interrelations. In his study of the baby-boom generation in the United States, Roof mainly discussed the distinction between spirituality and religiosity as being between two different and sometimes even opposite elements. Zinnbauer et al (1997) concurred, suggesting that spirituality and religiosity were indeed two different concepts. Religiosity was related to ‘higher levels of authoritarianism, religious orthodoxy, parental religious attendance, church attendance, self-righteousness and intrinsic religiousness’, whereas ‘spirituality was associated with a different set of variables: mystical experiences, New Age beliefs and practices, higher income and the experience of being hurt by the clergy’ (Zinnbauer et al 1997: 561).


Milda Ališauskienė

Unlike other researchers into spirituality, however, Zinnbauer et al proposed that there were potential relationships between religiosity and spirituality. More recently, Barker (2004) has argued that the relationship between religiosity and spirituality can be conceptualized in a number of different ways according to the context in which it arises. She has paid more attention to the teachings of different religious and spiritual leaders and groups concerning spirituality and religiosity and suggested five models of their interrelations. In the first model, the two concepts of religiosity and spirituality are seen as interchangeable. In the second, spirituality is represented as a sub-division of religiosity: A variant of this would be when spirituality is seen as the very core of religiosity, lying, perhaps, in the mysticism experienced by the ‘truly religious’, such as Meister Eckhardt, Hildegard of Bingen, or Julian of Norwich – or, more recently, persons such as Thomas Merton, Bede Griffith, Mother Theresa or the Dalai Lama. Spirituality in this sense may be pursued by a variety of means such as the exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, the practices of Sufism, the devotions of the Indian siddha, or diverse forms of meditation, chanting or yoga, including practices associated with contemporary New Age and/or Human Potential groups. (Barker 2004: 27–28)

A third possible relationship between religiosity and spirituality, according to Barker, is when religiosity is seen as a subsection of an all-encompassing spirituality. This is the position usually adopted by New Agers or Human Potential movements, although there are also New Agers who wish to distance themselves from religion, which they regard as institutionalized. Such a distinction between religiosity and spirituality is presented by Barker as a separation of the two concepts (Barker 2004: 28). A final possibility is that religiosity and spirituality are seen as overlapping. Barker illustrates this point with a quotation from the President of the Shri Ram Chandra Mission, Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari: ‘[…] spirituality represents everything that religion is not. The only thing we can say they have in common is the idea of God’ (quoted in Barker 2004: 28). In summary, Barker suggests that ‘the term “spiritual” means different things to different people, some seeing it as complementary to religiosity, others in opposition to it, and yet others understanding the two concepts as having more

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complicated relationships, with one encompassing or overlapping with the other’ (Barker 2004: 44). This chapter is devoted to exploring the relationship between religiosity and spirituality and their meanings in the Art of Living Foundation and among its members. This group was chosen as a case study for research because of the lack of previous academic studies of it.1 Firstly, AOLF is assessed from the perspective of religious studies and NRMs; secondly, it is contextualized within contemporary religiosity in Lithuania and thirdly, material from research into AOLF in Lithuania and Denmark is analysed for comparative purposes. Denmark was chosen for comparison because of its different historical experience in the field of religious freedom, while Lithuania as a post-communist country has a history of fifty years under a communist regime which controlled freedom of religious expression. The other important difference between the countries is their dominant religion, namely Roman Catholicism in Lithuania and Lutheranism in Denmark. It is hypothesized that as a result of these factors the meanings of spirituality and religiosity differ. The material from the Society and Lifestyles project fieldwork is discussed in two parts: the first part analyses the relationship between AOLF members and mainstream religion, revealing the religious path of interviewees and their attitudes towards religion, spirituality and the relationship between them, whilst the second part focuses on AOLF teaching and on the personal histories of its members.


Our research was carried out in Lithuania and Denmark in 2005–2006, and involved fifty hours of participant observation and twenty semi-structured interviews with AOLF members.


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The Art of Living Foundation: A New Spirituality or a New Religious Movement? Although the Encyclopedia of World Religions (Melton and Baumann 2002: 82–83) contains an entry on the AOLF, there appears to have been no discussion of the AOLF from the perspective of religious studies.2 The only academic studies related to AOLF seem to be medical articles focusing on its breathing technique.3 The justification for studying the AOLF as a religion here is that it meets the criteria for identifying new religious movements (NRMs) proposed by Bryan Wilson, which include a charismatic leader, an exotic origin, a small number of members, and a new style of living based on a new teaching (Wilson 1981). Later Eileen Barker developed additional features characteristic of such groups, such as first-generation believers and distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and between past and present (Barker 1989: 9–15; Barker 2001). Although the question of the significance or otherwise of these distinctions in the AOLF requires further research, most of the other features are evident in the group. There are a number of reasons why the AOLF has not been studied by researchers in the field of religious studies. The first has to do with the origins of the organization. During the first part of its existence in India, the organization’s main activities were focused on support for social groups in need. In a second stage, the AOLF expanded and founded branches in different countries, where its main activities were the dissemination of Ravi Shankar’s ideas and breathing techniques and the gathering of charitable funds. The second possible reason for the lack of academic studies of the AOLF as a religion springs from the way the group presents itself as a non-governmental organization (NGO) propagating a secular spirituality. This strategy of presenting itself as an NGO, comparable to the United

2 3

The AOLF has, however, been the subject of journalistic investigation in Russia. See http:/ For example Sharma et al 2003, 2008; Agte and Chiplonkar 2008, Agte and Tarwadi 2004; Brown and Gerbarg, 2005; Sulekha et al 2006.

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Nations or World Health Organization, for example, may be misleading. As discussed above, however, the features of the AOLF which it shares with other groups categorized as NRMs allow us to approach the AOLF from the perspective of religious studies. The case of the AOLF is similar in this respect to that of Transcendental Meditation (TM), which was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. There are a number of obvious similarities between the two organizations: both teach techniques which help to reduce stress, both have Hindu origins and both claim they are not religions but NGOs. However, the two organizations differ in their explanations of the reasons why they dissociate themselves from religion. In the case of TM, there is a tendency to oppose religion and science, an opposition which is emphasized in its teaching and which is determined by the social milieu in which it exists. Such contradictions between science and religion in the Judeo-Christian milieu determined the emergence of science as the dominant system of meaning (Rothstein 1996: 17). Thus TM has used science for self-legitimation in this new milieu, using the same symbols and concepts as the dominant system of meaning. In other words, an NRM which exists on the periphery of the religious life of the mainstream society tries to legitimate itself by becoming a part of the dominant system of meaning. In the case of the AOLF, there is also a tendency among some of its members to dissociate themselves from religion. This might be explained in a similar way as TM, although there are some new aspects related to the strategy of the leader of the group and the context in which it operates. For instance, TM had a strategy of confronting religion with science and thus attracting people who were in favour of science, while the AOLF has a strategy of confronting religiosity with spirituality, thus attracting people who, for various reasons, do not associate with any religion. The other important link between these two organizations is the fact that, at the beginning of his spiritual journey, Ravi Shankar was a follower of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and even after the break between them, used a phrase from the title of Maharishi’s book The Science of Being and the Art of Living (1963) for his own teaching. The reasons for their separation have not been disclosed by either side. This fact does not influence relations between the two organizations: indeed, TM practices are acknowledged


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by AOLF members as effective and beneficial when practised together with the breathing technique introduced by Ravi Shankar. Such tolerance of the practices of the other group may be explained by the common origins of AOLF and TM in Hinduism, which places both of them together with other neo-Hindu NRMs such as Sathya Sai Baba, Osho, Brahma Kumaris, Sahadza Yoga and so on. Furthermore, the use of the practices of another group may be interpreted as the sign of a process of de-differentiation, when different teachings and practices are invoked in a search for the oneness of all the people in the world. The other very important similarity that unites all these groups is their ‘this-worldly’ orientation, which places them among other so-called worldaffirming movements. According to Wallis’s typology of NRMs: ‘The style of the world-affirming movement lacks most of the features traditionally associated with religion. It may have no “church”, no collective ritual of worship, it may lack any developed theology or ethics’ (Wallis 1984: 20). It is typical for such NRMs to claim that they offer the means for people to unlock their physical and spiritual potential without the need to withdraw from the world. The technique or teaching that is provided by the group is available for everyone without any special preparation. The main examples that Wallis used to illustrate this typology were Transcendental Meditation (TM) and est (Erhard Seminar Training). When Transcendental Meditation was researched during the latter part of the twentieth century, sociologists of religion applied typologies of NRMs to it. TM was considered to be ‘a human potential movement’ (Bellah 1976: 346) and a ‘world-affirming movement’ (Wallis 1984: 21). The New Age movement that emerged in the 1970s was an umbrella phenomenon that also gave space for TM, and some thought that TM was a part of the New Age movement, being essentially what Bellah has described as a human potential movement. The question of whether or not the AOLF falls into the category of a world-affirming movement is determined by time and place, because the group might exist and act differently in different circumstances. But in general, the orientation of Ravi Shankar’s teaching is ‘this-worldly’: he teaches about everyday things like feelings, mind, daily problems and how to deal with them; the purpose of the breathing techniques he introduced is to enable people to cope with the stresses they

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experience in their everyday lives, and there is no need to withdraw from the world to learn and practise them. The following words of Ravi Shankar reveal the ‘this-worldliness’ of his teaching: We have to learn how to cope with the stress of life. Stress and tension are the root cause of violence. Have a sense of belonging to this planet and all its people … in a peaceful, nonviolent manner. This confidence comes from your inner strength…. Only spiritual upliftment can weed out the destructive tendency in the human mind. (Ravi Shankar in Gautier 2008: 172)

The official biography of Ravi Shankar is a typical story of NRM leaders in its hagiographical nature, reflecting only those events surrounding the emergence of the new teaching or practice that might somehow change or even save the world. Shankar’s biography states that since childhood he stood out as someone who fell into very deep meditation and quoted from the Bhagavad Gita as early as the age of four. It is also stated that he became silent before revealing the breathing technique of Sudarshan Kriya, which is presented as the most important event in Shankar’s life: He has brought to the masses ancient practices which were traditionally kept exclusive and has designed many self-development techniques which can easily be integrated into daily life to calm the mind and instill confidence and enthusiasm. These techniques have helped thousands overcome depression and violent and suicidal tendencies. One of his most unique offerings to the world is the Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful breathing technique that facilitates physical, mental, emotional and social well-being.4

The birth of this technique might also be seen as having religious aspects, because its ultimate aim is to change the world and people, to make people happier and enable them to live without stress. For instance, official descriptions of AOLF practices explicitly state that Ravi Shankar’s Sudarshan Kriya helps people to get rid of stress: ‘[The breathing exercises] eliminate stress and bring back life’s joy’.5 The elimination of stress is associated with a 4 5

Cited at ‘It’s not just money that moves things’, interview with Ravi Shankar in Tehelka. The People’s Paper, 4 March 2006.


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greater quality of life in society as it currently exists, but ultimately it also brings people to a qualitatively different existence. The shift from talking about life after death to stressing the importance of the quality of life in this world instead is very important when debating the difference between modern and postmodern religion. According to Baumann (1998), postmodern religion answers to the needs of contemporary man, who has to be self-sufficient and competitive but experiences many stresses, and needs counsellors instead of preachers. Thus the AOLF website states ‘Everybody wants to be happy and seek for happiness in different ways’, and claims that this can be achieved by practising Ravi Shankar’s breathing techniques and by learning his teaching.6 In this teaching, which takes the form of daily messages to followers that are later published, Shankar quotes various Hindu-origin concepts and Hindu writings such as the Bhagavad Gita and Ashtavakra Gita, which raises questions about the origin of his ideas. For example, in his messages about the laws of the nature he explains: There are three powers in nature: Brahma shakti, Vishnu shakti and Shiva shakti. Usually one of these powers dominates. Brahma shakti is a power that creates something new. Vishnu shakti is the power that sustains existence while Shiva shakti is the power that transforms, gives the life or destroys. (Šankaras 2001: 208)

But at the same time, in his messages to his followers Ravi Shankar also uses concepts and metaphors from Christianity, thus making his teaching more accessible to a Western audience. For example, in his message about worshipping and the sense of belonging, he wrote: ‘It is said in the Bible “I am your Lord. And do not have other gods, only me.” The same is said in the ancient Hindu writings: “The one who worships God which is separated from ‘I am’ is a fool”. And “Poojo aur na deva” – do not worship other gods’ (Šankaras 2001: 223). In the next section we will discuss some aspects of Ravi Shankar’s teachings to show why the AOLF can be regarded as an NRM. We will also examine the AOLF in post-communist Lithuania. 6

See ‘The Courses’ section of

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The Art of Living Foundation in Lithuania The Lithuanian branch of the Art of Living Foundation (hereafter AOLFL) was founded in 1993 and officially registered in 2000. Although the Art of Living Foundation in Lithuania applied for the status of a nongovernmental organization, the Ministry of Justice (which was at that time responsible for registering juridical entities) raised questions about AOLF-L’s origin and activities which were interpreted as religious and the applicant was offered the option of registering as a religious community. After AOLF-L’s refusal to do this, the organization was registered as a non-governmental organization. The global Art of Living Foundation, however, had already been active for eleven years, since 1982 when Ravi Shankar introduced his new breathing technique, Sudarshan Kriya. The main activities of local AOLF communities in Lithuania are aimed at teaching courses on Ravi Shankar’s ideas and breathing techniques; special projects of local groups are directed towards prisoners and children, which involve the courses introduced by Ravi Shankar for groups in need, such as Art Excel and Yes. Ravi Shankar has visited Lithuania twice, in 2000 and 2004. According to the AOLF-L, seven thousand people have already taken the introductory (basic) course on Ravi Shankar’s teaching and breathing techniques. The large number of visitors makes the Art of Living Foundation exceptional in comparison with other NRMs active in Lithuania. It seems that their strategy of providing spirituality and means for coping with everyday stresses has made the AOLF-L very popular in Lithuania. Recently, two quantitative surveys were conducted in which the Art of Living Foundation was mentioned together with other NRMs.


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The first survey was conducted in the summer of 2007, and was devoted to the tolerance of society towards different religious groups.7 There were ten categories of different religious groups, and the Art of Living Foundation was mentioned together with other well-known human potential movements in Lithuania – the Academy of Parapsychology (see Alisauskienė 2004), the Church of Scientology, Transcendental Meditation and so on. The results of the survey showed that the group of human potential movements was considered favourably by almost 37 per cent of respondents; others regarded favourably were traditional Christians (85.6 per cent), atheists (46.6 per cent) and pagans (39.2 per cent). Such results must be viewed in the context of the mainstream religion of Lithuania (Roman Catholicism) and other so-called traditional Christian groups, such as Lutherans, Reformed and Orthodox, who are active in the country. These groups survived the Soviet period and remain the bearers of tradition. Atheists are considered favourably partly because of memories of the scientific atheism that was imposed by Soviet policy and was opposed to religion: it is still popular to think that atheism is something scientific which stands against religious illusions. The tolerance of society towards pagans is due to support for the ancient religion of Lithuania, as paganism is seen as a central part of Lithuanian cultural identity. It would be useful to stress the term cultural in this interpretation, because usually it is not considered as a religious phenomenon at all, but rather as part of old folklore which has an emotional appeal for certain sections of the population. Nevertheless it should be pointed out that the popularity of neo-paganism is rising and that there are different groups propagating neo-paganism. Society’s tolerance for human potential movements was an unexpected result in this survey, but it is questionable whether the name of the group sounded safe or if the names of the movements were unfamiliar to the respondents who participated, which is much higher than for such groups as modern 7

The survey was carried out in the summer of 2007 for the Office of the Inspector of Equal Opportunities in Lithuania by the New Religions Research and Information Centre. Diskriminacija dėl religijos ir įsitikinimų. Sociologinio tyrimo ataskaita (Discrimination on the Grounds of Religion and Beliefs. Report on Sociological Research) (2007).

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Christians, groups of Christian origin, Muslims and Satanists. It is possible that Lithuanians perceived the latter groups to be more threatening than human potential movements. The other important reason for society’s tolerance of human potential movements is their self-representation, which is usually not related to religion, and hence they may not be perceived as a threat to mainstream religions. The second survey about NRMs and society in Lithuania was carried out in November 2007 by the Ministry of Justice. Its main aim was to research contemporary religiosity and Lithuanian society’s knowledge of it. The results are shown in Table 16 below. The Art of Living Foundation was listed together with other NRMs. The results revealed that 0.1 per cent of respondents had participated in AOLF activities, while 0.7 percent had met AOLF members and had been invited to meetings. Although these are very small numbers, 6.3 per cent of those surveyed had heard about the group (see below). In this survey, the AOLF also appeared among other world-affirming movements such as Sathya Sai Baba, Scientology and Sahadza Yoga. In general, this survey revealed that the AOLF is known as one of the many NRMs in Lithuania. These results can be explained by the number of people who have attended AOLF-L meetings or taken AOLF-L courses, the group’s activities and the media attention it has received.8


Press coverage of AOLF-L, which reached a peak during Ravi Shankar’s visit to Lithuania in 2004, has been largely favourable: journalists have rarely questioned the group’s self-presentation, and their articles have usually been published in sections on healthy living, yoga and so on.


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Table 16. Do you know or have you heard anything about these religious movements? (Answers in per cent)9


Results of a survey on NRMs conducted by the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice in 2007. ‘Visuomenės požiūris į naujas religinies grupes’ (Society’s Attitude Towards New Religious Groups),

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Art of Living Foundation Members and Religion: a Comparison between Lithuania and Denmark During the Society and Lifestyles project research on which the present study is based, AOLF members in Lithuania and Denmark were asked about their religious affiliation and religious life – religious socialization, attitudes towards church, experiences in church and church attendance. These questions were considered important for analysing the motivations for conversion to Ravi Shankar’s teaching and to AOLF-L. The religious traditions of Lithuania and Denmark are different: one is mainly a Roman Catholic country, while the other is mainly Lutheran. This is also evident in the answers of the interviewees: only one revealed that he was a Jehovah’s Witness. All of the interviewees revealed their relationship with the religious tradition that they were socialized in or with the religious tradition of the country in which they lived. Regarding their relationship with the mainstream religion, interviewees may be placed, following Roof (1993) into the three categories of loyalists, returnees and dropouts. But in general, all of the interviewees should be included in the category of highly active seekers, i.e. those who were seeking for spiritual experiences and whose spiritual journeys are evident in their personal histories. The prevailing type among Lithuanian and Danish interviewees was loyalists. These people do not consider their current activities within the AOLF as religious and do not see it as contradicting their religious affiliation. They see the Roman Catholic Church or the Danish Lutheran Church as the bearers of tradition in their respective nations. The reasons for such attitudes may be found in the religious socialization of the interviewees. Most of the Danish interviewees had studied religion at school and their interpretation of the meaning of religion in society was mainly related to its importance in the support of tradition. They called the Danish Lutheran


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Church ‘our church’ or ‘our national church’, seeing it as a part of Danish national identity. Thus one interviewee stated (in English):10 […] whenever I am going to be married it is going to be in a church. If I would be buried, it will be by the church following well-known rituals. At some point I thought I wanted to be married somewhere in the East, but it doesn’t make sense anymore, this is what culturally fits me. (Marius, 40-year-old Danish male)

And another added: In school we learned about Christianity. We didn’t learn about other religions but now we can learn. Baptism, confirmation…. a year before my confirmation I went to the service with the priest where […] he taught us different things about that. I don’t remember exactly. That’s actually the only religious education I’ve got. It’s because the Danish traditions are like, you get married in the church, confirmation, funerals and all these things. My brother got married two years ago, so of course I went to church there and to funerals of course. Sometimes on Christmas, too. I’m thinking more and more about Christianity now than I did before. I’m still Christian and I will be. (Rita, 26-year-old Danish female)

Lithuanian interviewees were religiously socialized by their grandmothers or were not socialized at all due to the influence of Soviet atheist policy. Their first experiences of religion came during the time of resistance against the Soviet regime in the 1980s and even earlier and they were mixed with the influence of the former policy on religion, which was seen as ‘opium for the masses’. On the one hand, stereotypes about old and dark churches together with negative experiences in church are still alive among Lithuanian interviewees, but on the other hand, an understanding of the church as being an important element in the people’s lives, the supporter of tradition and part of Lithuanian identity was also evident. Thus one interviewee commented:


All the Danish interviews were conducted in English, while the Lithuanian interviews were conducted in Lithuanian; the author has translated passages from the latter into English.

Spirituality and Religiosity in the Art of Living Foundation


I remember the first time in church, when I turned back and saw above the entrance the huge cross with a life-size figure crucified on it. I remember the shock I had then. I saw a real man there on that cross and it was terrible for me. Every time my parents took me to church there were no places to sit, I had to stand for forty minutes and longer, counting the minutes and it all seemed terrible to me. I knew that a living, bleeding man was hanging behind me and I was afraid. (Adomas, 43-yearold Lithuanian male)

Church attendance among the interviewees in both countries was negligible. Attendance mainly occurred during religious festivals such as Christmas and Easter. Only a few of the interviewees in both Lithuania and Denmark said that they sometimes attended services in popular churches in Copenhagen and Vilnius. Both churches were described as being different in comparison with the majority of churches. This difference was explained by invoking the terms spiritual, conviction, alive, simple which were opposed to terms such as dogmas, rituals, cold. Special attention was devoted to the priests in these churches. Another interviewee noted: I see him [the priest] living the ideas he is preaching, to him faith is not dogmas, but life, he lives his faith, it is his strength and conviction. Yes, in him it is so alive, he is not dogmatic […]. (Eglė, 34-year-old Lithuanian female)

Another trend that was observed among the interviewees was that they went to church in search of good emotions and sensations. Some interviewees considered church as a place where they could come and relax, feel good energy and sensations. This interpretation was also partly a consequence of their activities in the AOLF, as one interviewee pointed out: Now I very much like to go to the church. We go there with the youngsters also. Now every time when I come to the city I go to the church because of the energy and the silence… […] Because they believe in something bigger and it makes this place so beautiful. And I like that feeling very much and I feel very more connected every time I go to the church. And it doesn’t matter what kind of church it is because I like the sensation of God. ( Joan, 35-year-old Danish female)

The second category identified by Roof – returnees, or those who returned to the mainstream religion after a while – was also evident among the interviewees in Lithuania. Giedrė’s story illustrates the idea of returning to the


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mainstream religion after a period of searching. Beginning with paganism, she progressed through charismatic movements before returning to Roman Catholicism. Her story is an example of searching for a faith which is deeply related to the cycles of human life – childhood, adolescence, adulthood and finally the socialization of her own children: I remember when I considered myself a pagan, I even created some pagan prayers for myself […]. I thought that when a person begins to understand themselves as a person, they have to have some point of departure that shouldn’t be another person, but instead somebody like a guardian angel, someone who can rescue you from any situation, who should be important. When you grow up, you search for meaning, but Christianity never attracted me. I saw only dogmas in it, very strict dogmas which I didn’t understand, I read prayers that never moved me. But still it was interesting to take grandma’s prayer-book and search for something in it. Later, when we were students, we encountered ‘Word of Faith’ [a charismatic, full gospel church]. Some people from our group of students were actively involved and they tried to save us. […] Later, when we created a family, we started to read the Bible, and with all the experience we had, we realized that we were starting to understand it better. Later on we went on a pilgrimage to Israel and I think that was a very important religious event in our lives. (Giedrė, 37-year-old Lithuanian female)

Among Art of Living members both in Lithuania and Denmark, only a few people could be considered as falling into the third category identified by Roof – dropouts, i.e. those who moved away from the mainstream religion. Thus one interviewee pointed out: Already when I was a child there were some things in Jehovah’s Witnesses that I could not connect with and where I did not agree. Even though I was only a child there was something that felt wrong. And I find that in my adult life in a way it has helped me a lot. Because, for example, when I came into AOLF, of course I was a little afraid – [thinking] OK, if this a sort of life like in Jehovah’s Witnesses, are they going to have a weird life, a set of rules, but I haven’t found anything that is the same. This is totally 100 per cent of Ravi Shankar, no hell, judgment day, no prophecies that I am not keen on, like you find in most religions. I don’t like that because I don’t believe there is a judgment day and I don’t believe we will be judged in a bad manner or in an evil manner. (Mary, 42-year-old Danish female)

Although Jehovah’s Witnesses should not be considered as a mainstream religion, Mary’s experience illustrates the shift in the understanding of the

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meaning of religion, which was traditionally related to ontological anxiety, life after death, judgment, hell, and so on. Mary emphasizes that these things are not relevant to her anymore: she searched for something else and found it in the AOLF.

Religion and Spirituality in the Art of Living Foundation: in Search for a Model of Relationship The doctrine of a new religion is usually the most flexible element: it may be changed under certain circumstances, especially when the founder of the group is still alive. The case of the AOLF is no exception – the main source of its teaching is Ravi Shankar himself. Every day, Shankar sends a message to his followers from a different corner of the world, depending on where he is at the time. Later the messages are collected and issued as books which are available to everyone. The topics of Ravi Shankar’s messages are taken from everyday life: the emotions people experience, but also ontological issues about life after death, God and so on. These messages about religiosity and spirituality are popular among AOLF members, but our attempts to find more written sources about them encountered some difficulties. In his messages to followers, AOLF founder Ravi Shankar talked about religion in the following terms: Religion has three aspects: value, ritual and symbol. The moral and spiritual values are common to all traditions. The symbols and practices, those rituals and customs that form a way of life within a religion are what distinguish one tradition from another and give each one its charm. The symbols and practices are like banana skin, and the spiritual values – the quest for truth and knowing deep within us that we are part of Divinity – are the banana. People in every tradition have thrown away the banana and are holding on to the skin. (in Gautier 2008: 178)

Religion is understood by Ravi Shankar as tripartite, its core being moral and spiritual values. This core is also sometimes called spirituality. Thus, in Ravi Shankar’s teaching, the relationship between religiosity and spirituality


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is one in which spirituality is a broad concept or phenomenon which may manifest itself in different forms, which may or may not be religions. Or to put it another way: religiosity is a subsection of spirituality. Barker noted that such a model is popular among Human Potential movements (Barker 2004: 28). The importance of spirituality is stressed in Ravi Shankar’s metaphor about the banana and the banana skin, which illustrates the relationship between religion and spirituality and is also widely used among AOLF members. On other occasions, Ravi Shankar has expanded on what spirituality means for him, stating: Spirit represents love, compassion and service, all those things that you can’t hold on to, which are not concrete. Spirituality is that which enhances it which brings peace of mind, makes you happy, more compassionate, wanting to serve. It makes you realize that your life is much more than what you think it is. Spirituality is a celebration, a continuous celebration.11

The theme of celebration and concentration on today is very popular in Ravi Shankar’s teaching, and this is perhaps the core of the spirituality he teaches about – to be alive every day, to have peace of mind, to be happy. This is also stressed by scholars such as Giddens (2000) and Baumann (1998), who have researched postmodernity and the conditions and requirements that it creates for religion. Postmodern religion is aimed at helping people to cope with existential anxiety, that is, with the problems and emotions which they experience every day, instead of focusing on the life after death which was the usual concern of religion in traditional society. The Lithuanian and Danish interviewees were asked to describe what spirituality meant for them and what its relationship with religion was. Almost all interviewees tended to quote Ravi Shankar’s views about the banana and the banana skin, but the meanings they gave to the terms ‘spirituality’ and ‘religion’ were individually constructed. These meanings were also related to their former experiences with religion and their religious socialization. Thus one interviewee noted:


Ravi Shankar’s message to followers, 4 March 2006, cited at

Spirituality and Religiosity in the Art of Living Foundation


Someone has asked what spirituality is. Spirituality is from the term spirit, isn’t it? The spirit which breaks through the darkness and shines. What are the features of the spirit? I think myself that it is openness, love, acceptance, maybe also joy. There should be natural spirit – if it shows up in a person, then they become spiritual. It should be everywhere in their existence. […] Spirituality provides a background against which religion emerges. But eventually when one retreats from the content and stays only with rituals, it becomes very dry, dead or disabled. […] There may be no specific form, the form may be when one talks with a tree – and that is not a religion, but that recognition should be everywhere. There may be no form, no rituals, it is even better without rituals, it is somehow freer then… (Eglė, 35-year-old Lithuanian female)

Whereas Marius stated: I think spirituality is nurturing of the basic human values which will come by itself when you see and understand that me and my neighbour are the one, me and my father are the one, as Jesus said. And he didn’t say it for himself, he did it for us, he meant you and our father that we all are made from the one, from the same spirit. […] Religiosity for me is cultural, a way of putting into understanding or into the rules of living, the basic concept of spirituality that we are one and that we could share what we are. But according to time and place the message is given, I mean Jesus gave his message two thousand years ago somewhere in the world, some cultural background, Buddha five hundred years ago, etc. […] If you stuck with the expression that you are not into spirituality, you are stuck in religion, which is basically rules of conduct, but finally the bottom line of any religion should be to conduct or to make rules for people to conduct their lives in such a way that they could get in touch with or live in accordance with this spirit of religion, with spirituality, with the message of those who had access to reality which the rest of us do not have. (Marius, 40-year-old Danish male)

Eglė’s narrative explains what spirituality and religiosity mean to her. She describes religion as a form and rituals, while spirituality for her is ‘a background against which religion emerges’. Marius’s narrative, by contrast, draws a distinction between religion and spirituality, but he sees religion as a way of expressing spirituality. Thus, in their own way, both interviewees constructed the same model of the relationship between religiosity and spirituality that is used by Ravi Shankar, namely spirituality as the encompassing phenomenon and religion as its subsection. The narratives of other interviewees, however, revealed that they interpreted the relationship


Milda Ališauskienė

between religiosity and spirituality differently. Thus Rūta (not to be confused with Rita above) said: I think that religion is an instrument. And you know some people need such an instrument. Some people are singers, one plays an instrument while another doesn’t. I think that I don’t need any instrument, or I can take any of them and can play wherever I want to. Other people think that they cannot play [that is, be religious] until they choose God or until someone chooses for them. [The Art of Living Foundation] is the only instrument for me. I would never say that I am religious, but rather that I am spiritual. The difference for me is whether you play the instrument or not. I saw people who were agonizing, for instance one friend who read all the books about all religions and had no idea which one to choose. I told him that he had been agonizing for so many years over such a simple thing. I told him to choose all of them or nothing. (Rūta, 29-year-old Lithuanian female)

Rūta’s narrative reveals her understanding of the relationship between religiosity and spirituality as two separate phenomena. Although she says that she does not need religion, she sees it as an instrument which may be used for reaching spirituality. Her obvious tendency to distance herself from religion might be explained by the fact that she regards religion as institutionalized, an attitude which Barker has discovered to be the viewpoint of New Agers (Barker 2004: 28). According to Giedrius, another interviewee: Religion is also spirituality, only it has different manifestations. There are different procedures, rituals and other things. Religions differ in rituals, but they may have similar ideas and knowledge and spirituality unites them. Religion leads to spirituality. The spirituality of Art of Living has no dogmas, no rituals, no symbols of faith like all religions have. I simply don’t know… Every man has his own faith. Some people in Art of Living are Muslims, others Christians, others again are from other different religions, but I think from my own religious viewpoint – Art of Living doesn’t contradict my faith. On the contrary, Art of Living strengthens faith, it helps me to strengthen my spirituality, to lift the quality of my spirituality. (Giedrius, 30-yearold Lithuanian male)

Giedrius’s narrative illustrates two interpretations of the relationship between religiosity and spirituality: a model in which these two concepts are interchangeable and one in which spirituality is an all-encompassing

Spirituality and Religiosity in the Art of Living Foundation


phenomenon and religion is one of its manifestations. He explains that religion may be a way to spirituality. And finally, he associates spirituality with Art of Living because it has none of the dogmas and rituals found in religions and encompasses people from different religions. As Vaiva put it: If there was one united world religion, in which all disagreements disappeared and in which nobody paid attention to the form, knowing that there is only one God, then I would say that Art of Living would fit the bill perfectly. But as I understand it now, religion is only a form, which seems to be meaningful, but in essence the result is the destruction of faith. I think it is absolutely unthinking to fight when you know that there is one God. (Vaiva, 69-year-old Lithuanian female)

Vaiva’s narrative gives us the impression that spirituality is an all-encompassing phenomenon and that religion is only one of its forms. The Art of Living Foundation is seen as a prototype for religion in the future, in which everybody will understand that there is one God and will not pay attention to the forms in which one worships or prays to him. In this sense, the AOLF is seen by its members as a possible example of the dedifferentiated religion of the postmodern phase, which echoes the needs of people in their everyday lives today and at the same time offers the single all-encompassing religion, which they currently tend to call spirituality in order not to confuse it with existing forms of religion.

Conclusion Debates on religiosity and spirituality are a relatively recent tendency in academic efforts to understand and explain changes in contemporary religion. Geographically and historically, it originated in the US, where it was observed that members of the baby-boom generation tended to draw a distinction between ‘being religious’ and ‘being spiritual’. Roof described people who considered themselves spiritual rather than religious as ‘highly active seekers’ (Roof 1993). The AOLF is a new global religious movement


Milda Ališauskienė

which offers spirituality to such seekers. Its members describe themselves as spiritual and have different attitudes to and relationships with their native religious tradition. Depending on the relationship of group members with their religious tradition, AOLF members may be divided into three groups along the lines suggested by Roof: loyalists, returnees and dropouts. In their personal narratives, some of which were included above, the AOLF interviewees drew a distinction between spirituality and religiosity and provided their own models of the relationship between them. The model of the relationship between spirituality and religiosity provided by Ravi Shankar himself is common among human potential movements. It was observed that AOLF members may have models of the relationship between spirituality and religiosity that differ from their leader’s, or at least have individual interpretations of what these concepts mean. Some AOLF members use models of the relationship between religiosity and spirituality that are common among so-called New Agers. The diversity of interpretations within the AOLF is evident: the teachers of the group may have a different attitude from their followers, who may not be well acquainted with the teaching of the group. Our findings regarding the views of AOLF members on the relationship between religiosity and spirituality helps us to gain a new understanding of people’s meanings and needs in Lithuania in comparison with Denmark. The narratives of our AOLF interviewees have revealed their disappointment with the processes of differentiation that lead to the creation of what they see as artificial barriers between religions. At the same time, these narratives also show their welcome for a process of de-differentiation, in which these barriers tend to disappear. Our interpretation of these narratives leads us to the conclusion that institutionalized religion was no longer meaningful for our Lithuanian and Danish interviewees. They seemed to be tired of rituals, priests, sermons, churches, disagreements on formal matters and other issues. They saw spirituality as an allencompassing alternative to religiosity, one which attaches no importance to the forms of worship and which brings different people together, whereas religion divides them. This interpretation is shared by the spiritual leaders of a number of NRMs and their followers, and one of these is the Art of Living Foundation.

Spirituality and Religiosity in the Art of Living Foundation


References Agte, V. and S. Chiplonkar (2008). ‘Sudarshan Kriya Yoga for improving antioxidant status and reducing anxiety in adults’. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. 14 (2): 96–100. Agte, V.V. and K. Tarwadi (2004). ‘Sudarshan Kriya Yoga for treating type 2 Diabetes: a preliminary study’. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. 10 (4): 220–222. Ališauskienė, M. (2004). ‘New Age Milieu in Lithuania: the case of the Academy of Parapsychology’. Paper presented at the CESNUR conference, 17–20 June, Baylor University, Waco, Texas. Barker, E. (1989). NRMs: A Practical Introduction. London: HMSO. Barker, E. (2001). ‘Naujųjų religinių judėjimų ir socialinio atsako į juos apžvalga’ (New Religious Movements and the social response to them). In Religija ir teisė pilietinėje visuomenėje. Tarptautinės konferencijos medžiaga (Vilnius: Justitia), 85–96. Barker, E. (2004). ‘The Church without and the God within: religiosity and/or spirituality?’ In D.M. Jerolimov, S. Zrinscak and I. Borowik (eds) Religion and Patterns of Social Transformation. Zagreb: IDIZ [Institute for Social Research in Zagreb]. 23–47. Baumann, Z. (1998). ‘Postmodern religion?’ In P. Heelas (ed.) Religion, Modernity and Postmodernity. Oxford: Blackwell. 55–77. Bellah, R. (1976). ‘New religious consciousness and the crisis of modernity.’ In C. Glock and R. Bellah (eds) The New Religious Consciousness. Berkeley: University of California Press. 333–352. Brown, R.P. and P.L. Gerbarg (2005). ‘Sudarshan Kriya in the treatment of stress, anxiety and depression: part I – neuropsychological model.’ Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 11 (1): 189–201. Gautier, F. (2008). The Guru of Joy: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and The Art of Living. New Delhi: Hay House. Giddens, A. (2000). Modernybė ir asmens tapatumas. Asmuo ir visuomenė vėlyvosios modernybės amžiuje (Modernity and Self-Identity. Self and Society in the Late Modern Age). Vilnius: Pradai.


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Heelas, P. (1998). ‘Introduction: on differentiation and dedifferentiation.’ In P. Heelas (ed.) Religion, Modernity and Postmodernity Oxford: Blackwell. 1–18. Hood, Jr., R.W. (2003). ‘The relationship between religion and spirituality’. In A.L. Greil and D.G. Bromley (eds) Defining Religion: Investigating the Boundaries between the Sacred and Secular. Amsterdam: JAI. 241–264. Maharishi, M.Y. (1963). The Science of Being and the Art of Living. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Melton, J.G. and M. Baumann (eds) (2002). Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices, vol. 1. Santa Barbera, CA: ABC-CLIO. Roof, W.C. (1993). A Generation of Seekers: The Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boom Generation. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins. Rothstein, M. (1996). Belief Transformations. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press. Šankaras, Šri Šri Ravi. (2001). Švenčiant tylą (Celebrating the Silence), ed. A. Elixhauser and B. Hayden. Oppenau: Art of Living Foundation Books and Tapes Europe. Sharma, H. et al (2003). ‘Sudarshan Kriya practitioners exhibit better antioxidant status and lowerblood lactatelevels.’ Biological Psychology 63 (3): 281–292. Sharma, H. et al (2008). ‘Gene expression profiling in practitioners of Sudarshan Kriya.’ Journal of Psychosomatic Research 64 (2): 213–218. Sulekha, S. et al (2006). ‘Evaluation of sleep architecture in practitioners of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga and Vipassana Meditation.’ Sleep and Biological Rhythms 4 (3): 207–214. Wallis, R. (1984). The Elementary Forms of the New Religious Life. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Wilson, B. (ed.) (1981). The Social Impact of New Religious Movements. New York: Rose of Sharon Press. Wuthnow, R. (1998). After Heaven: Spirituality in America since the 1950s. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. Zinnbauer, B.J. et al (1997). ‘Religiousness and spirituality: unfuzzying the fuzzy.’ Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 36 (4): 549–564.


The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs: A Study of Contemporary Theosophy in Latvia Anita Stašulāne and Janis Priede

Introduction In this chapter, we attempt to model the subcultural dynamics resulting from the reconfiguration of values and beliefs in three different Latvian theosophical groups influenced by the Agni Yoga/Living Ethics philosophy of the Russian thinker Nicholas Roerich and his wife Helena: the Latvian Roerich Society, the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs and the Garda group. The core values of each group are based on selected common beliefs that become central to the group’s members and activities. Studying the beliefs and values of members of these three groups offers an opportunity to understand the processes of reconfiguration within the same set of beliefs, leading to a different field of activities for each group. By comparing the values of the three groups, it is possible to identify culture as the axis of core values of members of the Latvian Roerich Society, education as a key value for the members of the International Centre of the Roerichs, and politics as central to the Garda group. The different orientation of the core values is evident, despite the fact that the beliefs of each of these groups have the same source. The term theosophy is derived from the Greek theos ‘god’, and sophia ‘wisdom’, and is generally translated as ‘divine wisdom’. Since the nineteenth century, theosophy has been identified with the Theosophical Society, a religious movement founded in New York in 1875 by the Russian traveller and writer Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891) and an American


Anita Stašulāne and Janis Priede

journalist, Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907). Blavatsky and Olcott moved to India in 1878, eventually establishing their base of operations in Adyar, near Madras, which still serves as the international headquarters for the Theosophical Society. Affiliated societies were established throughout much of India and in the major cities of Europe (Cranston 1993: 235–241). Theosophy can be seen as a form of Gnosticism. Like other Gnostics, theosophists believe and proclaim that liberation or salvation is possible only through secret knowledge.1 Thus, theosophists are those who know, who pursue mystical knowledge which, they believe, holds the key to eternal life through advancing beyond the physical and into the spiritual realm. Another important attribute of these theosophical groups is their emphasis on the occult.2 The occult character of the groups is evident in their belief that they have secret knowledge of the Absolute, humanity and the universe of which the general population is unaware. In other words, theosophists believe that they are the possessors of secret information about how things really are. Among group members, there is a strong tendency to maintain an image of secrecy about certain central doctrines. Finally, the theosophical groups are of an esoteric3 character. The members of these groups boast of having a knowledge which is available only to initiates, and as a consequence of having a superior status to outsiders. The properly esoteric attitude may be described as a restriction of a higher level of understanding to initiates.4 Theosophical groups, in short, propose secret knowledge for a select category of people. Contemporary theosophy, as represented by numerous theosophical groups, forms a vast network of values, beliefs and activities. An essential part of this network is formed by the Living Ethics or Agni Yoga groups, based on a doctrinal variant of theosophy elaborated by the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich (1874–1947) and his wife Helena (1879–1955) and published as a new revelation in seventeen volumes from 1924. In 1922,

1 2 3 4

Gnosis (Greek): ‘knowledge’. Occultus (Latin): ‘secret’, ‘hidden’. Esoteric derives from the Greek esōterō, the comparative form of esō, ‘within’. Cf. W.J. Hanegraaff, ‘Esotericism’, in Hanegraaff 2005: 336–340.

The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs


Roerich had founded Corona Mundi, an international art centre based on the principle that beauty is the pinnacle of human existence. The centre sponsored schools, the arts, libraries, exhibitions, concerts and scientific expeditions. In order to spread their doctrine, the Roerichs founded the Agni Yoga Society in the mid-1920s. One of the first branches of the society was established in Riga, Latvia, as early as 1930. The most fruitful period in the activity of this branch occurred under the direction of Rihards Rudzītis (1898–1960), a friend and admirer of Nicholas Roerich (Stašulāne 2006). The Roerich Museum in New York was opened to the public in 1924. Roerich’s effort to focus international attention on the importance of preserving and protecting the world’s cultural heritage culminated in the so-called Roerich Pact, an international treaty to protect and preserve cultural institutions and monuments in times of war, which was signed in 1935. He also designed the international Banner of Peace, a flag intended for the protection of educational, artistic and religious institutions and consisting of three solid red circles set within a red ring, all against a white background. The Banner is generally interpreted as symbolizing religion, art and science encompassed by the circle of culture, or as the past, present and future achievements of humanity guarded within the circle of eternity. Contemporary theosophical groups all over the world continue to use the Banner of Peace as a sign of their engagement in the Roerichs’ mission to create a universal culture based on the doctrine of Agni Yoga.5 Roerich dedicated most of his activities to promoting the idea of the synthesis of cultures. Seeking to build a culture of pan-humanity, he claimed


As confirmed by our fieldwork, there is no common tradition of practising yoga among the followers of the Roerichs. The reason is quite simple: the Roerichs did not systematically analyse yoga methods and techniques. Moreover, in Living Ethics there are a number of references which suggest that Agni Yoga has nothing in common with the approach of classical Indian yoga. Although the Roerichs voiced quite a positive opinion regarding Raja Yoga – ‘Therefore, hail we the most ancient – the Raja Yoga. And affirm we the future – the Agni Yoga’ (Agni Yoga Society 1954: 5) – they nevertheless rejected it in favour of their own teaching. For more on Agni Yoga, see Stašulāne 2005: 232–242.


Anita Stašulāne and Janis Priede

to resolve the crisis of culture experienced by European thought. The influence of Roerich’s ideas is international and enduring, but at the same time its manifestations are local and closely related to external factors, as was demonstrated during our research and fieldwork, which was part of the Society and Lifestyles research project. Our fieldwork focused on the members of three theosophical movements in Latvia: the original Latvian Roerich Society, the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs and the so-called Garda group, which has no official name and is closely associated with the Latvian National Front (LNF), the extreme-right group founded by Aivars Garda, a former member of the Moscow-based International Centre of the Roerichs. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to identify the LNF just with the Garda group itself. LNF members share with the Garda group only their political slogans and ideas, and only a small proportion of LNF members also share a common theosophical basis for these activities. Therefore it may be more accurate to say that the LNF represents a radical political organization that is directed and exploited by the Garda group to carry out their political activities, and certain LNF members have little in common with the theosophical orientation of the Garda group. On the other hand, the Garda group also includes members who are not members of the LNF, but who are active in spreading theosophical ideas and literature. Similarly, the theosophical orientation of Garda’s publishing house Vieda is obvious, but only a small number of its publications are related to the political activities carried out by the LNF. Only a very small group of Garda’s closest collaborators totally embraces the blending of Garda’s political and theosophical authority and by using both the political and publishing arms of the group, their political and theosophical ideas can be influential. The location of the theosophical groups – in Riga, Daugavpils and Ventspils, in other words the largest cities of Latvia – shows that theosophy in Latvia is an urban phenomenon. Exact information about the number of group members is not available, partly due to their mixed affiliations. The vast majority of the followers continue to claim that they are Lutherans, Catholics or Orthodox. Only theosophists who have broken definitively with their Christian or Jewish identity do not describe themselves as belonging to the main local denominations, and consider themselves primarily as

The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs


theosophists. The approximate number of the most active members differs from group to group. Judging from our interviews, there are about twenty to thirty core members of the Latvian Roerich Society,6 about twenty-one in the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs7 and seven in the nucleus of the Garda group.8 This means that in total, the number of core members is about forty-eight to fifty-eight theosophists. However, as evident from our fieldwork, the meetings organized by Latvian theosophists are attended by much larger numbers of people: for instance, a meeting organized by the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs in May 2007 attracted about 500 participants.9 Internal meetings are organized in a quite different way, in small groups or cells depending on the number of active core members, and only active members are invited to participate in these meetings. Researchers were invited to all open meetings by the Latvian Roerich Society and the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs. However, in the case of the Garda group, interviews with members were restricted after the leader of the group was interviewed. We estimate that core members represent only 4–5 per cent of the total number of theosophists, with the total number of active members in all three groups in Latvia totalling about 1,000. There are some similarities between the theosophical movements in Latvia regarding the age and gender of group members. The adherents are mostly middle-aged, with the exception of the Garda group, who consist mainly of the younger generation. Members of the theosophical groups 6

7 8 9

Theosophy interview no. 9, held on 1 November 2006 at the Nacionālais Mākslas muzejs, Riga, Latvia, with a female leader of the group of undisclosed age. Audiotape held at Daugavpils University: Archive of Sixth Framework Programme Research Project ‘Society and Lifestyles: Towards Enhancing Social Harmonization through Knowledge of Subcultural Communities’. Theosophy interview no. 23, held on 9 December 2006 on the Daugavpils-Riga train, Latvia, with a female leader of the group of undisclosed age. (All audiotapes are stored as stated above). Theosophy interview no. 4, held on 18 October 2006 in the LNF office, Riga, with a male leader of the group of undisclosed age (audiotape). Meeting of the Latvian Branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs on 5 May 2007 (videotape stored in the same location as audiotapes).


Anita Stašulāne and Janis Priede

in Latvia are predominantly female (about 80 per cent). There are some differences between the movements, however, regarding the nationality of group members: (1) The Latvian Roerich Society consists mainly of Latvians (meetings of the group are held in Latvian, and the books of Agni Yoga or the Living Ethics series are read in Latvian); (2) the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs includes both Latvians and other nationalities, mainly Russians (meetings of the group are held in Russian, and even Latvians read the books of Agni Yoga or Living Ethics series in Russian); and finally (3) the Garda group consists mainly of Latvians (meetings of the group are held in Latvian, but the literature published by their publishing house Vieda is both in Latvian and Russian – with theosophical books in Russian and theosophical and nationalistic publications in Latvian). Furthermore, the structure of the Garda group is characterized by the presence of ‘collaborators’, strong personalities who are only partially accepted by the nucleus. They may interpret the Roerichs’ doctrine in a very subjective way, but more importantly they bring ideas which do not constitute a part of the Roerichs’ doctrine, for example, the call for drug-users and alcoholics to be sterilized.10

A Set of Common Values Our research focused on discovering the most characteristic values in each of the theosophical groups. By values, we mean principles or standards, judgments of what is valuable or important in life. Since theosophical group members share a set of common values, we are dealing with a value system. A value system refers to how a group of individuals organize their values. During our fieldwork we asked our respondents to characterize their values regarding life in general as well as their relationships. By life values, 10

Theosophy interview no. 13, held on 13 November 2006 in Riga with a male member of group born in 1932 (audiotape).

The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs


we meant answers to questions about what was considered important by the respondents regarding life in general: for example, good health and physical fitness; a sense of accomplishment; fame, travel, mental vitality, recreation and play; learning, the arts, music, creative endeavours; reading, learning, spirituality, religion; helping others, protecting the environment, nature. Finally, by relationship values, we meant answers to questions about what was considered important by the respondents regarding their relations with other people: love, trust and honesty; respect from others; loyalty, family and close friends; marriage, sexuality and companionship. From all the values mentioned by respondents we identified the values most important to each group – the core values which guided and determined their actions. In order to identify these values, we used open-ended questions. We asked thirty respondents (including five core members of the Latvian Roerich Society, eighteen core members of the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs, three core members of the Garda group and one of its collaborators). The respondents were selected to ensure representativeness in terms of age and gender. All the respondents were asked to explain their view of contemporary values in Latvia. In this way, the core values were indicated by the respondents themselves, explaining their understanding and their proposals for actions to be undertaken to counter what they saw as the current crisis of values in society. Table 17 compares the core values that emerged from our research into the three groups. The selected phrases represent the core as reflected in respondents’ answers. Answers are grouped in rows according to the frequency of their appearance in the interviews. The most frequent phrases and the most extensively elaborated values are at the beginning of table, while the less frequent and singular expressions are at the end (these should not be undervalued, because they are still indicative of the understanding of values and ideas characteristic of the corresponding group).


Anita Stašulāne and Janis Priede Table 17. Core values of three Latvian theosophy groups.

Latvian Roerich Society

International Centre of the Roerichs*

Garda Group

kultūras vērtības

культурнопросветительская деятельность

nacionālā identitāte

грамотная, духовная интеллигенция


программа культурнодуховного образования народа

tautas evolūcija

kultūras un garīgās vērtības

просвещённые и грамотные люди

cīnies pret civilokupantiem

kultūras līmenis

глубокое знание космическое космических законов

repatriācijas programma

дети нового сознания

kolonistu repatriācija (repatriation of colonizers)

(cultural values)

(national identity)

(culturally educational activities) dziļākas garīgās vērtības

(deeper spiritual values)

augsts kultūras līmenis

(high cultural level)

(educated and spiritual intelligentsia)


(evolution of the nation)

(the programme for people’s cultural and spiritual education)

(cultural and spiritual needs) (cultural level)

(enlightened and educated people)

(deep knowledge of cosmic laws) kultūras joma

(cultural sphere)

garīgās zināšanas

(spiritual knowledge)

(the children of the new consciousness)

работа с учителями

(work with teachers)

(to fight against civil occupants [i.e. Soviet immigrants])

(repatriation programme) [of Soviet immigrants]

[i.e. Soviet immigrants settled intentionally in Latvia by the Soviet government]

latviešu tautas atdzimšana

(revival of Latvian nation)

The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs


garīgas vajadzības

грамотный народ

viendabīga nacionālā vide

dzīvā ētika

гуманная педагогика

zemes īstenie saimnieki

radoša darbība

красиво учить

tautas fiziskā telpa

mākslas izstādes

учить детей

tautas patrioti

kultūras jaunumi

(cultural news)

культура и глубокие знание

saimniektauta latvieši

attieksme pret dzīvi, pret kultūru

kultūra ir pats galvenais virzītājspēks

kultūras alkstoša nācija


ценности культуры

glābt savu kultūru

ētiski rīkoties

(ethical behaviour)

взаимообогащение культур

pilsoņu [pilsoniska] sabiedrība

ceļš uz gaismu


filosofiskā izglītība

pilnveidošanās ceļš

iekšējie [morāles] sargi

neesi nodevējs

ceļš uz uguni


gara atdzimšana

atrast sevī garīgo dimensiju

человек развит и прекрасен

neesi līdējs

(spiritual needs)

(living ethics)

(creative activity)

(art exhibitions)

(attitude towards life, towards culture) (altruism)

(path to light)

(the way of perfection)

(path to fire)

(to find a spiritual dimension in oneself )

(educated nation)

(humanitarian pedagogy)

(to teach in a beautiful way) (to educate children)

(culture and deep knowledge)

(homogeneous national environment) (the true owners of the country)

(physical space of the nation)

(national patriots) (Latvian nation, the owner of the country)

(the nation’s craving for (the leading force is culture) culture)

(cultural values)

(mutual enrichment of culture) (beauty)

internal guardians [of morality] (spirituality)

(cultivated and beautiful person)

(to save one’s own culture)

(civil society)

(philosophical education) (don’t be a traitor!)

(revival of the spirit) (don’t be a lickspittle!)


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garīgā barība

утончённая натура

neesi mantkārīgs


внутренний труд

morālā pašapziņa

vispārcilvēciskas lietas

подвижка духа

neatkarības atjaunošana


думать о духовности

neesi Eiro galma āksts

mēģinu nestrīdēties


veselīga tauta

mēģinu palīdzēt

духовное состояние

sports ir miesas harmonija


красота, свет, знание

Gaismas sūtnis (Ļeņins)

kopīga evolūcija


(spiritual food) (intimacy of heart)

(universally human things) (understanding)

(I try not to quarrel) (I try to help)

(vivacity of heart)

(common evolution)

(refined nature)

(inner labour [of individual spiritual development]) (endeavours of the spirit)

(to think about spirituality)


(don’t be greedy!) (moral self-awareness)

(restoration of independence)

(don’t play the fool [according to the rules] of the EC) (healthy nation)

(spiritual conditions) (beauty, light, knowledge)

(sport as harmony of body) the messenger of light [Lenin]

(morality) veselīgs dzīvesveids

(healthy lifestyle)  CULTURE



* Since the majority of members of the International Centre of the Roerichs belong to the Russian-speaking community, the interviews were conducted in both Latvian and Russian. Translations throughout, whether from Latvian or Russian, are by the authors.

From the comparison of the corresponding values of the theosophical groups, it is possible to identify culture as the axis of core values mentioned by the members of the Latvian Roerich Society, education as a keyword for

The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs


the members of the International Centre of the Roerichs, and politics as the axis of values of the Garda group. What is most surprising is that the different orientation of the core values is so evident, in spite of the fact that the source of each of these groups’ beliefs is the same – Living Ethics or Agni Yoga. The common source of beliefs explains the significant presence of culturally oriented values in the second column and their appearance among the values mentioned by the Garda group. Spirituality is a common value which appears both in the first and second column, and is declared as such by the Garda group, too, although to a significantly lesser extent.

Belief-based Values As a member of a group, an individual has both a personal value-system and a group-value system at the same time. During our fieldwork, we noticed that in the case of theosophy, these two value-systems are consistent because they are closely related to the Roerichs’ doctrine. Since the kind of activity of the different theosophical groups in Latvia is closely linked with their system of values and with the common sources of their beliefs, it is necessary to analyse their understanding of culture, education and politics, as these spheres are interpreted by the corresponding theosophical communities in different ways. The Understanding of Culture by the Latvian Roerich Society The core values of members of the Latvian Roerich Society are grounded in Nicholas Roerich’s understanding of culture. He defined culture as a cult of light (Agni Yoga Society 1977: 100). Culture was regarded by Roerich as the highest peak of civilization. In his understanding, culture is the culmination of evolution: ‘after ignorance we reach civilization, then gradually we acquire education, then comes intelligence, then follows refinement and


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the synthesis opens the gates to high Culture’ (N. Roerich 1933: 424–425). According to Roerich, during the domination of narrow materialism, when the light of the spirit is often extinguished, ‘culture is that refuge in which the human spirit finds ways for religion and for everything uplifting and beautiful’ (N. Roerich 1974: 13). Furthermore, Roerich believed that culture is concerned with salvation, stating: ‘the road of Salvation […] is the road of culture – not the culture of a material civilization, but of true culture – which from time to time opens to Humanity’ (N. Roerich 1931: 125). According to Roerich, ‘the sacred tree of Culture’ (N. Roerich 1931: 260), whose ‘roots sustain the Universe’ (N. Roerich 1946: 291), contains the energy accumulated in treasures of art. In this way, culture is regarded as a creative fire, as a ‘life-giving flame’ (H. Roerich 1954: 70). For this reason, Helena Roerich insists that culture is ‘the cult, or worship, or reverence of creative fire’ (H. Roerich 1954: 77). In Roerich’s understanding, the reverence of creative fire is expressed in all religions of the world: in Christianity, in Zoroastrianism and so on. The creative fire is life-giving: ‘Nations cannot live without creative fire. Destruction is inevitable where the Cult-Ur dies away’ (H. Roerich 1954: 70). One of Roerich’s main assumptions is the existence of ‘the Highest Creativeness’, which builds the next stage in evolution. For this reason, creativity is considered by Roerich to be the fundamental quality of the human spirit and the expression of the meaning of life. Moreover, the creations of the human spirit are vital to universal progress. From Roerich’s point of view, every real creator (poet, writer and so on) collaborates with cosmic energy. The work of artists is particularly highly appreciated – they know the meaning of the word inspiration, they know what sensitivity is, which opens up new forms to them and reveals subtle energies previously unnoticed or forgotten. The work of scientists should also be noted: Roerich considers that the mind of a scientist is a creative one, that scientific activity is an expression of the most precious creative abilities given by the cosmic law of existence. These ideas of Nicholas Roerich’s were reiterated in our respondents’ answers. Interviews revealed that for contemporary theosophists in Latvia culture is related to ‘cult’ in the sense of religion, and that it has developed from religion. The need to preserve cultural monuments was affirmed in

The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs


the name of the culture as the cult of light.11 According to our respondents, culture has a spiritual basis; it is produced through the creative work of the human spirit that seems to pour out of the mysterious depths of human beings: poetry, song, music and painting. For this reason, the meetings of the Latvian Roerich Society group are characterized by musical performances and poetry readings, and meeting-places were decorated with the paintings of various artists or by reproductions of the Roerichs’ paintings. Like Roerich, the members of the Latvian Roerich Society consider culture as the highest peak of human life in all its material and civil aspects. According to our respondents, the early civilizations were created and developed in tandem with culture and actively interacted with it. In other words, civilization was a kind of a frame for culture, and the correspondence between them determined the quality of that period in human history. In their understanding, the complete divergence of civilization and culture is a specific feature of the twenty-first century.12 ‘Beauty will save the world’ – Latvian theosophists love to repeat Dostoyevsky’s words, which according to them express the essence of cosmic evolution, moving from chaos to order, from the simple to the complicated, from ugliness to beauty. The contemplation of beauty advances the evolution of humans, which is regarded as the true aim of human life. It is important to note that most of the respondents from the Latvian Roerich Society asked the authors to hold interviews in front of Roerich’s paintings at the Latvian National Museum. The main activities of the Latvian Roerich Society closely follow its belief-based value-system. The interaction between beliefs and values results in the culture-oriented activities of the Latvian Roerich Society. Most of their recent activities are related to culture.13 For this group, culture is 11 12 13

Cf. interviews nos 9, 10, 11 and 17, October–December 2006 (audiotapes). Cf. interview no. 10, held on 8 November 2006 at the Foreign Art Museum, Riga, Latvia with a female member of the group, born in 1940. Audiotape. Over the last two years, the main public activities of the Latvian Roerich Society have consisted of participating in the following: conferences dedicated to the Banner of Peace in Ukraine together with the international theosophical association and


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the core value, culture is the key word for the group’s beliefs and cultural activities are the dominant activity. The Understanding of Education by the Latvian Branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs The most important factor in the value system of the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs is education, which is the group’s central preoccupation. By virtue of the principle of collective and mutual responsibility, each individual strives to collaborate with others. Central to the concept of education is the obligation of a deep respect towards the Teacher, and firstly to Nicholas Roerich.14 This respect is considered the most essential of all virtues in the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs. Any group member who lacks this respect is looked down upon and ostracized by the group. The profound respect for and attachment to Roerich is extended to group leaders. For members of the group, to be a good follower of Roerich is better than any material possession in the world. By securing a reputation as a good follower of Roerich, an individual can acquire respect and admiration from the other members of the group. The desire to be a good follower of Roerich shows members’ aspiration to reach the next stage of their spiritual evolution.


publishing house Mountain Stars (Zvezdy Gor), with presentations on ‘Living Ethics as the Message of Thought’ (2006) and ‘The Banner of Peace and the Unity of Women in the Name of the Era of Culture’ (2007); the international conference ‘N. Roerich and Russians Abroad’ at the Museum of Foreign Arts (2006); a meeting of Corona Mundi in Switzerland (2007); a meeting dedicated to the seventieth anniversary of the Baltic Roerich Societies’ first congress, with a presentation on ‘The Activities of Rihards Rudzītis’ (2007); and celebrations marking the 110th anniversary of the birth of Rihards Rudzītis and the 75th anniversary of the birth of Gunta Rudzite, organized by the Latvian Roerich Society together with the Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts of the Latvian National Library (2008). Cf. interview no. 27, held on 4 November 2007 in Riga, Latvia with a female member of the Latvian Branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs, born in 1956. Audiotape.

The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs


In order to be a good follower of Roerich, a group member must avoid all thought, words and actions which damage the world of subtle energy. There are three ways they can acquire the status of a good follower: through active deeds, intellectual achievements or moral virtues. Leading a virtuous life seems to be the first path, for there are few opportunities in everyday life to be an active theosophist and few people are endowed with exceptional intellectual qualities. In the group, the virtues most cultivated are the sense of honour, honesty, righteousness, modesty, generosity and disdain for material gains. In view of the strong solidarity of theosophists, most strive to be a true follower of Roerich not only for themselves, but also for their group. Veneration of the Teacher is rooted in belief in the Teacher. The value that group members attach to the concept of Teacher, Master or Mahatma cannot be underestimated, because one of the main components of the Roerichs’ doctrine is the creed of the existence of Invisible Government. According to the Roerichs, Invisible Government proclaims itself in action: the wise teachers, masters or mahatmas direct people’s lives through unceasing work and study. According to the beliefs of theosophists, mahatmas are mystical human beings who direct the course of human evolution from the Himalayas. They exist in the subtle bodies of different grades, true masters of the higher knowledge and power. The main concern of the masters is to lead the greatest cosmic battles: ‘They are occupied with cosmic tasks, and are now engaged in a terrific battle with the dark forces who are trying to destroy our planet’ (H. Roerich 1954: 435). Now, when the subterranean fire is very active, the Great Brotherhood is taking extraordinary measures to save the Earth from premature destruction. Therefore, they are ‘the true Saviours of mankind’ (H. Roerich 1967: 412). It became clear from our fieldwork that a number of theosophists in Latvia seem to declare a great love of knowledge and learning, and a particular respect and admiration for learned people. Like the virtuous man, the learned member enjoys great prestige in the Latvian Branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs. Theosophists believe that knowledge and virtue are the two complementary aspects of the ideal Roerich follower. People associated with knowledge and learning (scholars, teachers and so on) are highly respected by theosophists. The love of learning does not


Anita Stašulāne and Janis Priede

spring from purely social motives. The prospect of improved evolutionary status is among the strongest incentives in their pursuit of knowledge. For theosophists, education represents the essential stepping-stone to the evolution of humanity. This idea is fundamental to the Roerichs’ doctrine. Recognizing that the mind belongs to the fourth dimension, or the realm of metaphysics, the Roerichs affirm: ‘Mind has been symbolized by the sign of Fire. Fiery thinking is the descent of knowledge from the Fiery World’ (Agni Yoga Society 1982: 232). This particular knowledge is above everything, and each individual who collects sparks from it becomes a bearer of light. Thus, knowledge for the Roerichs is not by itself a purely formal term. They specify what is to be known as ‘knowledge of the subtle energies’ (Agni Yoga Society 1956: 145), in other words the teaching of Living Ethics or Agni Yoga. According to the Roerichs, the books of the teaching of Agni Yoga have accumulated profound knowledge and the manifold experience of ages. Their doctrine pieces together ‘the fragments of shattered vessels of ancient knowledge’ (Agni Yoga Society 1937: 121) and gives to the world ancient wisdom. For the Roerichs, each phase of evolution is given that portion of knowledge which can be assimilated during that particular cycle. Thus ‘[e]very Teacher stresses that detail of the One Revelation that is most needed at a certain stage of consciousness’ (H. Roerich 1967: 447). In particular, truth is one, but each cycle accesses it in its own way. These are the main beliefs of the members of the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs and they are reflected in the interviews, presentations during the theosophical meetings and conferences, and in the publications of the group. The exaltation of the role of the Teacher, as well as dedications to the actual international leader of the group, Ludmila Shaposhnikova (Moscow), the Roerichs’ ideas on Cosmic evolution, on the saving role of the Beauty, on supernatural Wisdom, even dedications to Shalva Amonashvili, the promoter of theosophy in pedagogical circles, abound in the collection of poems by the members of the group.15 How-


Bаrtkevič 2006.

The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs


ever, as stressed by the large majority of respondents, the main source of inspiration in the group is the works of the Roerichs. Since the value system of the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs is based on and interacts with their system of beliefs, and both have a strong influence on the actions of the group, its main activities confirm the core values indicated by respondents. For example, the group is highly active in the elaboration and implementation of a new kind of pedagogy, so-called ‘humanitarian pedagogy’. The leader of this movement is Shalva Amonashvili who has developed a new pedagogical approach. The concept of the supernaturally talented ‘indigo children’ (according to the beliefs of Latvian and Russian theosophists, such children represent a breakthrough in the spiritual development of the human race) is used as a basis for this humanitarian pedagogy, which has been introduced in schools, for example, in Liepas elementary school (Latvia), as well as in a number of other schools in other countries (mainly Russia). Seminars and conferences are held regularly to introduce teachers to this humanitarian pedagogy. Amonashvili, who has visited Latvia twelve times, is the main lecturer at these conferences and seminars; about three hundred teachers have participated at the seminars held by him in different locations. Finally in this regard one should mention the International Readings of Humanitarian Pedagogy, held in Moscow, which have been organized since 2002. Over the last decade, up to fifty Latvian teachers have attended this conference each year and helped to spread theosophical ideas in the Latvian educational system (Koņajeva 2006: 6–11). A number of publications by the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs aim to introduce the Roerichs’ doctrine into school programmes, even in secondary school physics courses.16 As a successful attempt to institutionalize the presence of theosophy in the Latvian educational system, a collection of theosophical and theosophically pedagogical articles published in cooperation between the Latvian branch of the


Stulpinienė 2006 and Ozoliņa, Ozols and Vāciete 2007: 76–87 (an excerpt from Stulpinienė’s ‘Physics in the Language of the Heart’ with an introduction by Shalva Amonashvili).


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International Centre of the Roerichs and the Board of Education, Youth and Sport of the Municipality of Riga is particularly important (Ozoliņa, Ozols and Vāciete 2007). Intended to be used by Latvian teachers, the book covers a range of topics, even including the superfluity and dangers of vaccination, which, according to Folkmane, a promoter of humanitarian pedagogy and director of the Latvian Centre for Indigo Children, has been accepted by people who have lost contact with their Higher Consciousness (Folkmane 2007: 88). Other contributors include Ludmila Shaposhnikova, the first vice president of the International Centre of the Roerichs (Moscow) and Marianna Ozoliņa, the director of the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs. The activities and publications of the Latvian branch of International Centre of Roerichs thus coincide with and confirm the set of values indicated by our respondents. It is clearly seen how belief-based core values permeate into the sphere of education in order to spread the group’s message in society as a whole. The Understanding of Politics according to the Garda Group As we have already pointed out, the axis of values for the Garda group is politics. In spite of the criticism of the Garda group’s activities by other theosophical groups, the involvement of the group in politics can be considered as a continuation of Nicholas Roerich’s political activities. Central to understanding this subject is Roerich’s political engagement, which is evident in his attitude as well as in his change of attitude toward the Soviet regime. In 1919, Roerich expressed his opinion of the Bolsheviks as follows: All that Bolsheviks boast of is simply a swindle, a false staging which is intended to deceive the various Socialistic commissions which come to investigate the Bolshevist ‘Heaven of Earth’. […] Vulgarity and hypocrisy. Betrayal and bribery. The distortion of all the sacred conceptions of mankind. That is Bolshevism. That is the impudent monster which is deceiving mankind. A monster which has gained possession of the sparkle of precious stones. (N. Roerich 1919: 3–4; emphasis in original)

The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs


Within a few years, however, Roerich’s opinion appears to have changed. Having received permission to enter Soviet Russia, the Roerichs arrived in Moscow in 1926, where they were met by Ministers (People’s Commissars) G. Chicherin and A. Lunacharsky, and N. Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife. In Moscow, the Roerichs delivered a message from the mahatmas to the Soviet government: In the Himalayas we know of your achievements. You abolished the church, which had become a breeding ground of falsehood and superstition. You wiped out Philistinism, which had become the champion of prejudice. You demolished the educational prisons. You destroyed the family of hypocrisy. You did away with the army of slaves. You crushed the spider of profit. You closed the gates to the thieves of the night. You freed the land of wealthy traitors. You recognized that religion is the teaching of universal matter. You recognized the insignificance of personal property. You understood the evolution of the commune. You pointed out the importance of knowledge. You bowed down before beauty. You brought children the full power of the Cosmos. You saw the urgency of building new homes for the Common Good! We stopped an uprising in India when it was premature; likewise, we recognized the timeliness of your movement and send you all of our help, in affirmation of the Unity of Asia! (quoted in Decter 1989: 165)

If Roerich, who was convinced that religion is a fundamental dimension of human beings, made such an appraisal of the Soviet regime, it can only mean that he had developed a new approach which institutionalized theosophical doctrine by attempting to mix politics with theosophy. Although today Roerich might seem naive in his attempts to find accommodation with Soviet leaders, at that time he proposed theosophy to the Soviet government as the cornerstone of the coming age. His visit to the Kremlin betrays the tendency to ‘theosophocracy’, in other words, theosophy’s tendency to try to gain ideological power through direct involvement in politics. Although his attempt to make theosophy an official doctrine was doomed from the very start, it is interesting to note that the Soviet embassy in Riga continued to have friendly relations with the Latvian Roerich Society throughout the period of Latvian independence in the 1920s and 1930s and even averted the suppressing of the Society by the Latvian government. This decision was reached because Latvian Roerich Society publications praised Soviet culture and economics (Niedre 2001:


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133–134). After the occupation of Latvia by the Red Army, H. Lūkins, a member of the Latvian Roerich Society, and the son of its founder F. Lūkins, was briefly elected to the first Latvian Soviet government in 1940. However, in the long run, his involvement in Soviet political life was unsuccessful: the Roerich Society was closed after the full incorporation of Latvia into the Soviet Union, and in 1949 Lūkins was arrested as the leader of the illegal theosophical society. It was only after the fall of communism and the break-up of the Soviet Union that theosophy and politics merged and had the possibility of manifesting themselves again. But the political situation had radically changed. The Latvian communist party was banned in 1991. The combination of theosophy with popular nationalistic ideas seemed to ensure eventual successful access to power through political institutionalization, such as the merging of communist ideas with theosophy attempted by Roerich in trying to reach an accommodation with the Bolsheviks. Similarly, the Garda group has tried to enter the new post-communist government in Latvia. And both of them, Roerich and Garda, offered Living Ethics as the basis for the development of the social structure of Latvian society. In the foreword to the collection of essays Nevienam mēs Latviju nedodam (‘We Give Latvia to Nobody’) the Garda group refer to the teaching of the Roerichs as follows: ‘the Doctrine of the New Generation clearly indicates the direction of the evolution of world nations which has to be accepted without delay: the mastering of psychic energy, a cooperative social system, the women’s movement or a special role for women in social life’ (Garda 2001: 4). The phrase ‘cooperative social system’ was used by Roerich himself to refer to the social and economic reorganization undertaken by the Soviet regime. The Garda group calls for another social reorganization – for the return of Soviet immigrants (‘colonizers’, ‘civil occupants’) to their native country to bolster the disrupted Russian economy and to create a social structure in Latvia with at least 75 per cent ethnic Latvians (Zepa 2006: 185). In addition, the Garda group also calls for the voluntary repatriation or deportation of 700,000 Russian-speaking Soviet immigrants, considered to be disloyal to the Latvian nation, in contrast to the other 400,000 ‘loyal’ Russian-speaking Soviet immigrants (Garda 2001:

The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs


378). Garda himself justifies the need for repatriation by appealing to the Roerichs and Living Ethics: Yes, it is true, I consider the whole Roerich family to be my spiritual Teachers. Both Living Ethics and the Roerichs’ works confirm the rightness of my convictions. But in their works, nobody […] can find even a sentence in which it has been stated that the Russian nation has to impose its presence on other nations and that the fight of the Latvian nation for its freedom needs to be condemned. (Garda 2001: 372).

Garda formed the Latvian National Front in 1997. It publishes its bi-weekly magazine whose orientation is evident from its title, DDD (standing for ‘De-occupation. Decolonization. De-Bolshevization’). Garda’s political ideas are also channelled through the politically oriented publications of his Vieda publishing house, which was founded by Garda in 1989 as the first private publishing house in Latvia. Although the overwhelming majority of its publications are in the field of theosophy and esotericism, a small number are oriented towards gaining publicity for Garda’s political ideas and aspirations.17 The organization of political protests, meetings and demonstrations serves the same aim. Together with five core members of his group, Garda stood in the parliamentary elections of 2002, at the head of the list of the Latvians Party (which did not, however, reach the threshold necessary to be elected to parliament). Although the Latvian Roerich Society and the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs have expressed regret at the ‘abandonment’ of fundamental values of the Living Ethics or Agni Yoga by the Garda group,18 the open push for political power through blend-



A translation of a few titles will give an indication of this: We Give Latvia to Nobody (Garda 2001); We Give Latvia to Nobody: On the Decolonization of Latvia (Garda et al 2001); Latvianness (Ābele 2001); We Give Latvia to Nobody: Homosexuality – Disgrace and Disaster of Humanity (Garda 2002) and so on. ‘There is nothing in the Roerichs’ teaching the way Garda interprets it. In Living Ethics, it’s the complete opposite: there are paragraphs which forbid getting involved in national matters because the spirit has no nationality. We can already see today how fatal such an approach is […]. At the beginning there may have been some misunderstanding, but I think it has been quite deliberately distorted. Deliberately,


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ing political, social and theosophical ideas displays a tendency which is rooted in the tradition and teaching of Roerichism. Garda follows both the example and the teaching of the Roerichs, who themselves found the basis for their political activities in their own theosophy (a new message from the mahatmas) and merged both in their writings (although their political views changed considerably over the years). In other words, Garda prefers to continue the Roerichs’ line of merging political engagement with theosophy. When taking part in social discussions, for example on homosexuality, Garda explains his point of view by referring to theosophical doctrine. Defining homosexuality as a ‘decay of consciousness’ (Garda 2002: 17), he justifies the need to fight against it by quoting and giving a tendentious interpretation to the revelations of Living Ethics: Urusvati [‘Morning Star’, the occult name given to Helena Roerich] knows that the decay of consciousness is worse than any war, pestilence, or earthquake. […] It causes people to lose their self-respect, to become malicious, and to ignore their own necessary contribution to future generations. The decay of consciousness causes writers to produce repugnant images, and nonentities to sit in judgment. (Agni Yoga Society 1938: 412; Garda 2002: 4)

One may conclude that the core values (as well as the corresponding subordinate values) indicated by respondents from the Garda group coincide with its major sphere of activity, which is direct involvement in the political life of Latvia. Of the three theosophical groups we have discussed, the Garda group is the most active and aggressive in its attempts to influence government policy-making.

like a political business project.’ Interview no. 7, held on 1 November 2006 at the Sv. Pētera baznīca Museum, Riga, Latvia with a female member of the International Centre of the Roerichs, born in 1963 (audiotape).

The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs


Conclusion Our research has established a pattern of reconfiguration of values and beliefs. The reconfiguration is responsible for the difference in the spheres of activities carried out by the three different theosophical groups in Latvia. This model, we believe, reveals important mechanisms present in the processes of the formation of subcultural groups which are based on some kind of doctrinal teaching. In the case of theosophy, the Latvian Roerich Society focuses on the Roerichs’ conception of culture, the Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs on their idea of education, and the Garda group on active participation in politics. A particular set of values comes to life, and manifests itself in the activities of each group. The core value has absolute importance for each group, because the other values tend to orient themselves towards the core value and become subordinate. Since the theosophical groups in Latvia have undergone a different reconfiguration of their beliefs and therefore have each selected a different set of values, they are involved in different spheres of activities. Although the theosophical groups in Latvia do not collaborate closely (and there is a tendency to ‘privatize’ theosophical symbols such as the Banner of Peace),19 and although the adherents of different groups consider themselves to be the only true followers of the Roerichs, at the same time there are no evident conflicts between them because the various theosophical groups in Latvia are active in different spheres. Thus the Latvian Roerich Society makes an impact on culture in the most subtle way: through the world of art and through the publications of works that are fundamental for the understanding of the Roerichs’ doctrine. It acts mostly through artists, poets, writers and journalists coming into contact with theosophy. Their


According to one of the respondents from Latvian Roerich Society, the Latvian branch of the Moscow Roerich Society wanted to register the Banner of Peace as their trade mark. (Interview no. 17, held on 21 November 2006 at Doma laukumā 1 in Riga, with a male member of the group born in 1956 (audiotape)).


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impact on government policy and decision making is indirect. The Latvian branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs emphasises activities in the sphere of education (through the new pedagogical approach, humanitarian pedagogy) and tries to institutionalize its presence in this sphere. Finally the Garda group is active in the political life of Latvia. It works provocatively to create a sphere of influence and gain approval among the nationalistic section of the population.20 Various attempts have been made to bring these three theosophical groups to work together on an organizational level. These attempts usually fail because their core values and spheres of activity are very different. However, on an informal level, working together has always been possible in spite of differences and the doors of communication have never been completely closed. In this chapter, we have outlined a model concerning the dynamics of subcultures resulting from the interplay of beliefs and reconfiguration of values. The core values are based on selected common beliefs that have become central for the members and activities of the group. The reconfiguration of values and beliefs carried out by three different theosophical groups in Latvia can be considered as an example of this process.

20 In 2005, Garda and two other core members of his group were charged with offences of inciting ethnic hatred, but in 2007 they were fully acquitted by the Latvian Higher Court.

The Reconfiguration of Values and Beliefs


References Videotapes of meetings and audiotapes of interviews with members of theosophical groups in Latvia. Daugavpils University: Archive of EU Framework 6 Programme Research Project ‘Society and Lifestyles: Towards Enhancing Social Harmonization through Knowledge of Subcultural Communities’. Ābele, A. (2001). Latvietība vakar, šodien – un vai būs rītdien? (Latvianness Yesterday, Today – Will It Be There Tomorrow?). Riga: Vieda. Agni Yoga Society (1937). Brotherhood. New York: Agni Yoga Society. Agni Yoga Society (1938). Supermundane: The Inner Life, Vol. II. New York: Agni Yoga Society. Agni Yoga Society (1954). Agni Yoga. New York: Agni Yoga Society. Agni Yoga Society (1956). Infinity, Vol. I. New York: Agni Yoga Society. Agni Yoga Society (1977). Hierarchy. New York: Agni Yoga Society. Agni Yoga Society (1982). Fiery World, Vol. I. New York: Agni Yoga Society. Bartkevič, B. (ed.) (2006). Iskry vdohnovl'en'ija [Sparks of Inspiration], Vol. I. Riga: Latvijskoje otd'el'en'ije Meždunarodnogo Centra Rerihov. Cranston, S. (1993). The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement. New York: G.P. Putnam. Decter, J. (1989). Nicholas Roerich: The Life and Art of a Russian Master. Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press. Folkmane, A. (2007). ‘Medicīnas vēsturi un cilvēces likteni mainījušie mīti un to kultivēšanas metodes’ (The myths which changed the history of medicine and destiny of humanity, and the methods of their cultivation). In M. Ozoliņa, D. Ozols and M. Vāciete (eds), Humānisms: Pedagoģija. Pedagogika. Almanahs (Humanism. Pedagogy. Pedagogics. Almanac), vol. 1. Riga: Librum. 88–102. Garda, A. (2001). ‘Ceļš uz jauno pasauli…’ (The way towards the New World), ‘Priekšvārds’ (Preface) and ‘Pēcvārds’ (Afterword). In


Anita Stašulāne and Janis Priede

Nevienam mēs Latviju nedodam (We Give Latvia to Nobody). Riga: Vieda, 3–4, 5–11, 369–379. Garda, A. (2002) ‘Priekšvārds’ (Preface). In Nevienam mēs Latviju nedodam: Homoseksuālisms – cilvēces negods un posts (We Give Latvia to Nobody: Homosexuality – Disgrace and Disaster of Humanity). (Riga: Vieda), 3–21. Garda, A., et al. (2001). Nevienam mēs Latviju nedosim: Par Latvijas dekolonizāciju (We Give Latvia to Nobody: On the Decolonization of Latvia). Riga: Vieda. Hanegraaff, W.J. (ed.) (2005). Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2005. Koņajeva, I. (2006). ‘Indigo bērni jāmāca indigo skolotājiem: Intervija ar humānās pedagoģijas starptautiskās asociācijas pārstāvi D. Ozolu’ (Indigo children should be taught by Indigo teachers: an interview with the representative of the International Association of Human Pedagogy). Psiholoģija Ģimenei un Skolai 2: 6–11. Niedre, O. (2001). ‘Pasākumi pret LKP un tās satelītorganizāciju nelegālo un legālo darbību’ (Actions taken against the illegal activities of the Latvian Communist Party and its satellite organizations). In V. Kaņepe (ed.), Latvijas izlūkdienesti 1919–1940: 664 likteņi. (Latvian Intelligence Service 1919–1940: 664 destinies). Riga: Latvian University ‘Latvijas Vēsture’ Fonds. 139–155. Ozoliņa, M., D.Ozols and M.Vāciete (eds) (2007). Humānisms. Pedagoģija. Pedagogika. Almanahs (Humanism. Pedagogy. Pedagogics. Almanac), Vol I. Riga: Librum. Roerich, H. (1954). Letters of Helena Roerich 1929–1938, I. New York: Agni Yoga Society. Roerich, H. (1967). Letters of Helena Roerich 1935–1939, II. New York: Agni Yoga Society. Roerich, N. (1919). Violators of Art. London: Russian Liberation Committee. Roerich, N. (1931). Realm of Light. New York: Roerich Museum Press. Roerich, N. (1933). Fiery Stronghold. Boston: The Stratford Company. Roerich, N. (1946). Himavat. Diary Leaves. Allahabad: Kitabistan. Roerich, N. (1974). Invincible. New York: Nicholas Roerich Museum.

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Stašulāne, A. (2005). Theosophy and Culture: Nicholas Roerich. Rome: PUG. Stašulāne, A. (2006). ‘Parareliğiskās idejas latviešu literatūrā: teosofija un Rihards Rudzītis’ (Parareligious ideas in Latvian literature: theosophy and Richards Rudzītis). In Prace Bałtystyczne 3: Język. Literatura. Kultura. Warsaw: Uniwersytet Warszawski. 403–410. Stul'pinene [Stulpinienė], I. (2006). Fizika jazykom serdca: priložen'ije k kursu fiziki sredn'ej školy dl'a duhovno-nravstvennogo vospitan'ija. (Physics in the Language of the Heart: an Appendix to the Physics Course for Spiritual and Moral Education). Riga: Parks reklamaj. Zepa, B. (ed.) (2006). Integrācijas prakse un perspektīvas (The Praxis and Perspectives of Integration). Riga: Baltic Institute of Social Sciences.


A Content Analysis of the Representation of Islam and Islamic Culture in the Slovak Media Silvia Letavajová

Post-9/11, Islam and Muslims have become a frequent focus of Western political and media debates and consequently broader public discourse. Perceptions of Islam as a religion and lifestyle, and the interpretation of its principles and rules, differ greatly from country to country and from one culture to another. Academic studies of Islam, for instance, carefully distinguish between doctrinal, popular, political and cultural Islam; public understanding of these notions, however, is often simplified and generalized, as people tend to forget the broad-spectrum nature of their meanings and forms. The public, in Slovakia as elsewhere, has a tendency to generalize and is prone to creating stereotypes: earlier surveys have revealed, for instance, that most Slovaks tend to view terms such as ‘Islamic’ and ‘Arabic’ as interchangeable, while individual as well as public attitudes towards Islam and Islamic culture may generally be viewed as unfavourable and even negative. Our aim in this chapter is to examine the role of the Slovak media in this situation, to explore the way they influence and shape the opinions, attitudes and perceptions of the majority population, as well as the means they use to achieve this, and to establish their way of presenting Islam and Muslims, thus influencing the creation of stereotypes with respect to these issues.


Silvia Letavajová

The Perception of Muslims by the Majority Population In the most recent Slovakian population census, carried out in May 2001, 1,212 respondents described themselves as Muslims (Čikeš 2005: 15). According to statements by representatives of Muslim organizations, however, the number of Muslims in Slovakia is several times higher and may be as high as 5,000. This figure includes primarily foreign students at Slovak universities as well as entrepreneurs and businessmen, many of whom have a university education. In terms of ethnic origin and/or affiliation, they form a very diverse community, consisting of Albanians, Arabs, Bosnians, Slovaks and others. As no doubt in many other countries, public attention in Slovakia was drawn to the Muslim community by the events of September 2001 and subsequent terrorist attacks on European cities. More recently, the community attracted further attention through efforts to obtain the status of a ‘registered church’ and to develop a Muslim cultural centre, including a mosque. Up until now, however, these attempts have met with constant resistance on the part of government and municipal authorities as well as the majority population. A combination of draft legislative amendments, negative statements by political leaders and media coverage of problems which aroused public opinion halted these activities. Judging from available statistics, the view of Muslims held by the majority population in Slovakia may be described as ranging from unfavourable to negative. Many Slovaks have never met any Muslims, and Islamic culture and religion remain an unknown quantity to them. Their reactions are largely shaped by existing attitudes, prejudices and stereotypes, and frequently show a tendency to generalize. Our previous research in this area, based on 189 interviews in four Slovak cities in 2000–2001 (Letavajová 2001, 2006), confirms the existence of a broad scale of individual reactions which are predominantly negative or at best neutral. Respondents had a variety of stereotypes of Islam and Muslims, most of them carrying negative connotations. This applied especially to the following images and/or notions: women’s way of dressing, particularly wearing headscarves; the

A Content Analysis of the Representation of Islam and Islamic Culture


social status of women; circumcision; the influx of Muslims and migrants in general onto the labour market; mosques; and polygamy. Most respondents associated the notions of ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ with terms such as ‘orthodox’, ‘fanatic’ and ‘fundamentalist’. The Slovaks often confuse ethnic groups of the Islamic faith, stereo­ typically referring to any Muslim as ‘Arab’ and attributing to them qualities stereotypically associated with Arabs. Various surveys (e.g. Lukšíková 1999: 78–79, Knapová 2007: 113) testify to the existence of the following negative stereotypes with respect to Arabs: fundamentalism, impulsiveness, noisiness and laziness. Positive connotations, on the other hand, include vivacity, cordiality and business spirit. Although most respondents advocate tolerance of Muslim culture, many of them consider this culture inferior or backward. Islam is generally considered to be the strongest manifestation of the ‘otherness’ of Muslim culture. Respondents tended to emphasize mostly its negative aspects, such as fanaticism, jihad as the concept of sacred war, murdering in the name of Allah, fundamentalism, radicalism, aggressiveness or hindrance to education. Their views are affected by negative stereotypes stemming from ignorance or disinformation. One response given by a 70-year-old female respondent from Bratislava was symptomatic in this respect: ‘I don’t know, I disapprove of it’. (Letavajová 2001: 57). Similar prejudices affect respondents’ views of Muslim women, their family and social status, their way of dressing and polygamy. The prevailing opinion is that Muslim women are oppressed, have no rights and are not allowed to appear in public unless veiled from head to toe. The influence of the media was clearly apparent here, as many respondents made direct references to the book Bez dcéry neodídem [Not Without My Daughter] by the American author Betty Mahmoody, which described her real-life escape with her daughter from her husband in Iran. Here is a sample of views presented by respondents: ‘Nothing good can ever come of it, she will end up in a harem’; ‘Their rights are being violated and they don’t even know it’; ‘They are poor creatures’; ‘I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes’. Regarding headscarves, respondents gave the following answers: ‘The headscarf is a cultural archaism and a display of subordination’; ‘It


Silvia Letavajová

is restrictive’; ‘They must feel hot under those scarves’; ‘I would see it as a handicap’ (Letavajová 2001). The nature of relations between members of the majority population and members of subcultures or minorities depends mainly on contact and knowledge. Most Slovaks, however, have not had the opportunity to form opinions of or attitudes towards Muslim culture that are based on personal experience, since the main direct historical experience of Muslim culture in Slovakia took the form of Ottoman raids in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Slovakian folklore has preserved numerous references to this period up until the present day; needless to say, the dominant images are of looting, plundering, abducting, Islamic symbols and harems. In modern times, Slovaks’ indirect experience of Muslim culture has been affected by interactions with other European countries which have a long history of coexistence with Muslim communities, particularly France, Great Britain, Germany and Austria. A number of surveys carried out in these countries testify to the majority population’s negative attitudes towards inhabitants or migrants of the Islamic faith,1 which may have shaped Slovaks’ views to a certain degree. For most Slovaks, direct contact with the Muslim civilization continues to be substituted by mediated or indirect contact. This was acknowledged by many respondents in our earlier surveys (see Letavajová 2001, 2006), who admitted that their knowledge of Muslim culture was mainly derived from the media. The most frequently cited sources of information on the issue included television, press and radio. This type of experience has been described by Krížková (2006) as ‘media experience’.


According to opinion polls carried out in France, the French public believes that only European and Asian immigrants can be assimilated: Africans or Turks are generally viewed as more difficult to integrate, while Algerians represent a burden and even a danger to them (Lapeyronnie 1993: 70–71). Turks, very much like members of other Muslim cultures, are considered culturally inadaptable. They are seen as violent, incapable of being educated (except religiously) and taking advantage of welfare benefits. The French especially dislike migrants from Muslim countries (Manco 2000: 83).

A Content Analysis of the Representation of Islam and Islamic Culture


Methodology A content analysis of the Slovak press was the principal research method applied in the process of gathering and processing data for the present study. The main aim was to identify the context and ways of presenting the chosen media content. Content analysis is a standard method that is commonly used in social science and humanities disciplines. This method allows the researcher to process large quantities of text information (concepts and other words in texts or text files) and identify, quantify and analyse the presence and meaning of these words and concepts and the relationship between them (Holsti 1969: 2). The smallest units of the analysis are so-called key or most frequently used words (key words in context – KWIC) and phrases. They are subsequently processed and analysed based on their placing in content categories (that is, clusters of words with similar meanings or connotations) which are defined by explicit rules of coding (Stemler 2001). This method is able to analyse any kind of recorded media content (speeches, written texts, interviews, pictures and so on). If it is important from the research viewpoint, textual analysis can distinguish not only the communicated content but also its source and its target group, as well as the method, motive and effect of communication (Surynek, Komárková and Kašparová 2001: 132). From a methodological viewpoint, the data acquired in the first phase was processed in quantitative form (strictly speaking, the term ‘content analysis’ refers to a quantitative analysis). Within this analysis, our goal was to construct criteria for identifying individual features (identifying key words in the articles), identifying categories (titles, text of articles, pictorial illustration) and subcategories (e.g. similar and repeated themes or connotations and meanings of key words). Special attention was paid to the frequency of occurrence of individual features, which were evaluated numerically and proportionally, and then processed in graphic form. The quantitative data was then given an interpretative (qualitative) analysis.


Silvia Letavajová

The subject of the content analysis was texts published by a selection of Slovak periodicals. Their selection from the database had been determined by KWIC, that is, words that were the most relevant to our research: ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Koran’, ‘mosque’ and their grammatical variants. We analysed the overall content and form of selected articles, focusing on the occurrence and frequency of key words, their attributes, synonyms, collocations, placement, meanings and connotations. We examined the headlines of the articles, their content and accompanying pictures. The sample examined consisted of national Slovak daily and weekly publications; the basic criteria for selecting them were circulation figures and on-line availability. The following periodicals were selected: • Nový čas (New Time) tabloid, the best-selling daily newspaper in Slovakia;2 • Pravda (Truth), broadsheet, the second best-selling daily newspaper in Slovakia; • Hospodárske noviny (The Economic Newspaper), broadsheet, the seventh best-selling daily newspaper in Slovakia; • Plus 7 dní (Plus 7 Days), semi-tabloid, the best-selling weekly newspaper in Slovakia, and • Markíza (The Marquise), tabloid, the fourth best-selling weekly newspaper in Slovakia. A total of 124 articles which matched the set criteria over a three-month period from January to March 2007 were selected: sixty-eight from Hospodárske noviny; thirteen from Pravda; twenty-seven from Nový čas; twelve from Plus 7 dní and four from Markíza. From a formal viewpoint, the final sample was very diverse, as it included news, commentary, interviews, discussions, occasional features and so on.


Circulation figures for Slovakia in 2007. Source: Stratégie on-line, a news portal on marketing communication and media (MML-TGI), available at

A Content Analysis of the Representation of Islam and Islamic Culture


The Role of the Media in Shaping Perceptions and Attitudes In the following, we will concentrate on the role played by the media in shaping public attitudes and perceptions. We will also discuss the media’s way of processing and presenting news. The role of the media and the way it operates are the subject of the theory of mass-media communication and, partly, applied social psychology; experts from these areas have provided valuable information. The main purpose of the mass media is to appeal to the broadest possible mass audience. This is a direct consequence of the need for economic profitability, which is achieved by securing income from the audience and mediating its attention to advertisers. The media strive primarily to preserve the audience’s attention, which is viewed as their immediate goal and is often understood as the measure of success (McQuail 1999: 74). The perception, attention and memory of the potential recipients of media information are among the most important psychological processes in the operation of media logic.3 The basic attribute of media perception is selection and significance. It means that recipients (readers, listeners or TV viewers) naturally concentrate only on some media presentations and select what are the more important ones for them. The information offered becomes the object of recipients’ intentional or conscious attention. Also important for the media is the recipients’ unintentional or unconscious attention, or their ability to perceive certain phenomena even without consciously focusing on them. Consequently, the role of the media is to keep recipients’ attention focused on the content offered or to redirect it to another object. From our perspective, it is important to examine the modus operandi of visual or semantic memory, which helps to preserve abstract and general 3

‘Media logic’ refers to the perception of social developments and their interpretation by the media, the method of organizing media material, the way it is presented and the rules of media communication (McQuail 1999: 134).


Silvia Letavajová

facts based on their meaning. Needless to say, the shorter and clearer the fact, the easier it is for the fact to enter memory. Information enters memory based on coding. Visual coding allows the recipients of information to preserve certain kinds of visual image. Coding information on the basis of meaning allows recipients to remember the message, even if they are unable to remember the information verbatim (Atkinson 2003: 270). It is common knowledge that repetition helps to preserve the topicality of information. Experiments with retrieving information from memory show that the most easily retrievable information is presented at the start and the end of a sequence (Hill 2004: 126). This means that the order of items, and particularly relevance and newsworthiness, are important factors for the potential consumers of media content. It also means that they are more likely to remember and retrieve information presented at the beginning of the text (i.e. headlines, opening phrases and sentences) and toward the end (i.e. conclusions and summaries). Apart from the factor of succession, emotional factors also proved to be of relevance, as people have a general tendency to be more receptive to emotionally positive or negative situations than neutral ones (Atkinson 2003: 287). In the process of creating media content, knowledge of the modus operandi of memory and attention makes the media apply the principles of attractiveness, exoticism, topicality, emotionality, conciseness and cogency. Moreover, it allows creators of media content to appeal to passive recipients, for instance readers who read superficially or even flick through pages or pictures. In the field of print media, readers’ attention may be attracted by the placing of the text and the expressiveness of the typeface (e.g. size or font). Readers’ sensory attention can be caught by ‘highlighters’, that is colour or pictures. And since recipients are generally more likely to remember the overall meaning than the verbatim text, creators of media content take pains to emphasize elements which carry meaning, namely phrases, attributes and words positioned immediately next to key terms. Arousing the interest of the broad public is subject to a special set of rules which affect the selection, processing and presentation of media messages. The information to be presented is carefully and purposefully selected during the process of creating media content. Special attention is

A Content Analysis of the Representation of Islam and Islamic Culture


attracted by certain groups of people who are preferred from this viewpoint, particularly well-known public figures or famous personalities (such as celebrities, VIPs, politicians, sportsmen, officials of various organizations), who are often more important than the actual event or development. The same principle applies to the selection and communication of time in media messages: here one can observe a direct connection with the application of principles of topicality, relevance and newsworthiness. The ambition to be the first to report on particular events has led to the development of specific types of information such as hard news, spot news or developing news. But news programmes and/or sections are not only determined by the theme and time but also by the territory. Generally speaking, the closer the locale of any event, the greater the chance it will be covered by the media (McQuail 1999: 243–248). A logical consequence of this approach is the tendency of media content creators to adapt the coverage of events to the target group’s perspective. A good example of this tendency is the practice of informing the audience of the impact of foreign events or developments on the internal situation or the domestic population. The media tend to have a preference for certain facts in the hope of increasing the audience’s attention and satisfaction; consequently, any bias in their selection may lead to a distorted reflection of reality (McQuail 1999: 260). The media have become used to so-called agenda-setting, that is drawing attention to something that is important only to some people and, consequently, forming the public’s perception of which figures, events and developments are important and why (McQuail 1999: 388). Another aspect of processing information is the emphasis on the dramatic character of presented information, which may be enhanced by dramatic images, fast pace or short persuasive formulations. The effect of circulating information also depends on the ratio of rational and emotional elements. Psychological surveys indicate that emotional elements influence mostly recipients with lower education, while more educated recipients are more receptive to rational elements (Výrost and Slaměník 1998: 148–149). The media have a broad spectrum of ways of influencing people’s attitudes and public opinion in general. They have the power to catalyze


Silvia Letavajová

intentional or unintentional change of varied intensity, facilitate the change, cement the status quo (so-called zero change) or prevent change. Media messages may have a short-term cognitive effect on recipients, but may also induce collective reactions in a greater number of people who share their views of a particular situation. Media messages may provoke a broad scale of reactions, ranging from group or mass action to panic or civil unrest caused by the strongest motivators, such as fear, anxiety or anger. On the other hand, the media may systematically support the established status quo or behavioural patterns in order to achieve social control and cement the existing authority via ideology (McQuail 1999: 366–371). Recipients react to the media content either passively or actively, by accepting, rejecting or processing the communicated media message and accepting the media content, subscribing to it, allowing it to influence them or subjecting it to criticism. Whether recipients let the media content draw them into the issue or are able to remain impartial and keep their distance depends on them as individuals, but also the extent to which they are overwhelmed by constant exposure to media content (McQuail 1999: 366–371).

Analysis of Media Representations In this section we will give the results of our quantitative and qualitative analysis of media messages in specific selected articles from the Slovak press. We will study their headlines, text and accompanying photographs. In headlines, the key words ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Koran’, ‘mosque’ and their grammatical variants appeared twenty-four times. The key words were used in the following collocations: ‘Čistý’ islam [‘Pure’ Islam]; Stop moslimským šatkám [Stop to Muslim Headscarves]; Za kritiku islamu odsúdili blogera [Blogger Sentenced for Criticizing Islam]; Zatkli členov moslimského bratstva [Members of Muslim Brotherhood Arrested]; Žid vypočul moslima [ Jew Questioned a Muslim]; Slovenské moslimky [Slovak Muslim Wives];

A Content Analysis of the Representation of Islam and Islamic Culture


Islam na slovenský spôsob [Islam à la Slovak]; Najdlhšiu pláž zväzujú pravidlá islamu [Longest Beach Tied Down by Islamic Rules]; Nemci nechápu: súd rozhodol podľa Koránu [Germans Baffled: Court Ruled in Line with Koran]; Blogera uväznili za urážku islamu [Blogger Arrested for Slandering Islam]; Výroky moslimského duchovného šokovali [Shocking Statements by Muslim Clergyman]; Islamského lídra zatkli [Islamic Leader Detained]; Islamský sobáš? u nás to nejde [Islamic Wedding? Impossible Here]; Zastavenie prác pri mešite Al-Aksá [Stoppage of Works near Al-Aksá Mosque]; Korán nemožno reformovať [Koran Cannot be Reformed]; Michael Jackson možno konvertuje na islam [Michael Jackson May Convert to Islam]; Moslimovia chcú mať církev [The Muslims Want a Church]; Moslimovia, prispôsobte sa! [Muslims, Adapt!]; Slovenský bič na moslimov [Slovak Whip on the Muslims]; Moslimský fanatik [Muslim Fanatic]; Kanada diskutuje, či sú na futbale povolené moslimské šatky [Canada Discusses Allowing Muslim Headscarves at Football Games]; Moslimský duchovný tvrdí: oslavy Valentína sú protiprávne [Muslim Clergyman Claims Celebrating Valentine’s Day Is Illegal].

Most of the quoted collocations feature obviously negative connotations created by negative wording and the meaning of words placed next to key words (for example, criticism, fanatic, sentenced, arrested, slandering, stop, detained, shocking, impossible, whip, illegal). Another noticeable pattern is the creation of oppositions along the lines of Islam ↔ non-Islamic states, non-Islamic traditions or Slovakia (for example, Koran ↔ Germans; Islam ↔ à la Slovak; Islamic wedding ↔ impossible here; Muslim headscarves ↔ football games in Canada; Muslim clergyman claims ↔ celebrating Valentine’s Day illegal; Muslims ↔ adapt!). As already mentioned, the titles of articles are typical examples of ‘highlighting’ media references, which in many cases function as visual signposts for the message. Many readers, who content themselves with reading just the title of articles, are thus only offered relatively distant (in relation to Slovak culture) images of Islam and Muslim culture. The linguist M. Nekula has used the term ‘title xenophobia’ in this connection. This refers to a recurrent feature in news stories about crime, where the ethnicity or religious affiliation of the offender is shown in the title even though this information is unimportant. Thus the given fact (crime) is then seen through the prism of the offender’s ethnic or religious identity (Nekula 1995: 269–270).


Silvia Letavajová

The first criterion used to categorize the examined articles was their content and/or issues they dealt with. Although many issues overlapped with one another in terms of content, the most frequent and dominant issues were the following: Table 18. Most frequent issues in Slovak press coverage of Islam and Islamic Culture. Conflict

75 articles 60%

Cultural differences (i.e. Islam vs. non-Islamic world and culture) 22 articles 18% Muslims in Slovakia

11 articles


Travel stories and reportage

6 articles


Celebrities’ contacts with Islam

4 articles


Other issues

6 articles


In articles reporting on the issue of conflict, three main problems were highlighted: Terrorist attacks and threats. These articles mostly provided information on terrorist attacks and their possible scenarios, massacres, abductions and training camps for terrorists. Most of them featured hard facts on the exact location of events, property damage and the number of wounded and killed, with a special emphasis on victims among women, children, students, European and American citizens. Most of these articles obviously strove to identify the guilty party; some of them spoke of ‘settling the score with evil’. The most frequent issue was terrorist attacks on Great Britain; other countries mentioned in connection with terrorism included especially the United States, Spain, Australia and China. Good examples of this are articles bearing the following headlines: Troch Francúzov dnes zastrelili v Saudskej Arábii (Three Frenchmen Shot Dead in Saudi Arabia); Británia sa bojí teroru. Ohrození sú aj Slováci (Britain Fears Terror, Slovaks Threatened Too); Najmenej 80 mŕtvych, 200 zranených pri útoku v Bagdade (At Least

A Content Analysis of the Representation of Islam and Islamic Culture


80 Dead, 200 Injured in a Baghdad Attack); Na univerzitu zaútočila žena v šatke (University Attacked by Woman in Headscarf ). Military conflict. These articles focused primarily on ongoing wars or prospects of military conflict. Like articles from the previous category, they featured hard facts on the exact location of events and the number of wounded and killed. Most references were made to countries on whose territory the conflict took place or which were involved in the conflicts, namely Iraq, USA, Serbia, Kosovo, Palestine and Israel (for instance, Bosnianski Srbi sa ospravedlnili za vojnové zločiny (Bosnian Serbs Apologize for War Crimes)). Trials, their verdicts and implications. These articles dealt specifically with trials of terrorists and war criminals. The most frequent issue was the case of Bulgarian nurses in Libya who were first convicted and then released; other issues to receive extensive coverage included descriptions of conditions in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, Cuba, and the sentencing to death of Saddam Hussein and subsequent reactions to this (such as Zbabraná poprava (Bungled Execution)). The authors of articles discussing cultural differences focused mostly on the following ten issues: Muslim headscarves. Most of these articles discussed the custom of wearing Muslim headscarves and the right of Muslim women to wear them in European and American schools and public places, for example, Kanada diskutuje, či sú na futbale povolené moslimské šatky (Canada Discusses Allowing Muslim Headscarves at Football Games), Stop moslimským šatkám (Stop to Muslim Headscarves). Sharia law. These articles discussed the issue of Islamic religious law, which was portrayed as contradicting national law, for instance, Šaria možno nahradí časť kašmírskej legislatívy (Sharia May Replace Parts of Kashmiri Law).


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Cartoons of Mohammed. The subject of these articles was a lawsuit involving a Paris-based magazine which had published cartoons of Mohammed, and reactions to this. The entire case was covered from the viewpoint of Western-style democracy and the freedom of speech, such as Sloboda slova vyhrala: karikatúry Mohameda nie sú trestné (Freedom of Speech Prevailed: Cartoons of Mohammed Not Punishable). Family life, weddings, status of women. These articles discussed the issues of the separation of women, divorce, way of dressing, ban on pre-marital sex and punishment for it, so-called ‘honour-killings’ and restrictions imposed on women by the Koran, such as Iránske ženy budú mať ostrov, kam muži nesmú (Iranian Women to Have an Island Forbidden to Men); Nemci nechápu: súd rozhodol podľa Koránu (Germans Baffled: Court Ruled in Line with Koran); Zabime ju! (Let’s Kill Her!). Statements by Islamic leaders. These articles featured comments and reactions to statements by Islamic clergymen which encouraged attacks on unbelievers in exchange for martyrdom and promoted a strict Islamic education for children, for instance, Austráliu šokovali výroky islamského duchovného (Australia Shocked by Islamic Clergyman’s Statements). Imprisonment for criticism of Islam. Again, the main emphasis was on the cultural conflict between Muslim traditions and Western democratic values such as the freedom of speech, for instance, Za kritiku islamu a prezidenta odsúdili blogera na 4 roky (Blogger Sentenced to 4-Year Term for Criticism of Islam and President). Prayers, pilgrimages and Muslim holidays. Here, the main focus was on describing Muslim holidays and emphasizing their mass character, such as, Tisíce sunnitov mieria do Tikrítu (Thousands of Sunnis Headed for Tikrít). One article discussed a ban on Western holidays and their condemnation by Muslim clergymen: Moslimský duchovný tvrdí: oslavy Valentína sú protiprávne (Muslim Clergyman Claims Celebrating Valentine’s Day Is Illegal).

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Islamic revival, conversion, increase in the Muslim population. These articles described the positive relationship to Islam of individuals from European countries, the increasing popularity of Islam among young people and potential threats to the domestic population, for example, Slovák – ohrozený druh (Slovak – Endangered Species); ‘Čistý’ islam sa páči viac mladým (‘Pure’ Islam Found Attractive Especially by Young People). Christianity vs. Islam. These articles compared and juxtaposed both religious traditions and dogmas and discussed the Pope’s statements regarding Islam, for instance, Katolícky štát (Catholic State); Súd vyniesol rozsudok nad vrahom kresťanských dievčat (Court Sentences a Murderer of Christian Girls). Some of them advocated interfaith dialogue. Lifestyle. The theme of these articles was differences between the two cultures, for instance in eating habits or hospitality. They typically described customs, but some of them drew comparisons and advocated acceptance or condemnation of Muslim customs, for example, Čínska televízia zakázala prasatá vo vysielaní (Chinese Television Bans Pigs in Broadcasting); Moslimovia, prispôsobte sa! (Muslims, Adapt!). All the articles examined featured obvious references to the ‘otherness’ of Islamic culture: at times, the authors of the articles seemed to be deliberately searching for differences and even presented them as oddities. In some texts, we can find not only clearly expressed contrasts with Western culture, but also implicitly expressed derision or irony accompanying the depiction of life in a Muslim country. There is evidence of this in the article Iránske ženy budú mať ostrov, kam muži nesmú (Iranian Woman Will Have An Island Where Men Can’t Come) or the article that describes beaches in Muslim countries (Najdlhšiu pláž sveta zväzujú pravidlá islamu (The Longest Beach In The World Tied Down By The Rules Of Islam) where we find the following passage describing a form of beachwear very different from that found in the West, but common in Muslim culture: ‘we would expect people sunbathing, the women dressed in saris or burkas, the men going in to the sea in jackets’. There were also frequent reports of acts of mental and physical violence committed against women in the name of


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tradition, mostly by husbands or relatives. The most frequent reasons for such violence were adultery and pre-marital affairs (for example, Zabime ju! (Kill Her!)). Most articles discussing the issue of Muslims and Islam in Slovakia described and commented on the state of affairs, featuring interviews with official representatives of Islamic organizations in Slovakia and members of the country’s Muslim community, and presenting statements by experts and politicians. The most frequently featured issues included the following three: Application to obtain the status of registered church. These articles described the conditions for registering churches in Slovakia and the problems Muslim organizations face in this respect; some of them featured references to the Christian religious tradition in Slovakia. Islam as a religion. Most frequently, these articles focused on Islamic principles, describing the differences between Islam and Christianity, discussing the possibility of practising Islam in Slovakia and the issue of converting to Islam, and pointing out the absence of mosques, for example. Family life and lifestyle of Muslims in Slovakia. This type of article described Muslim family life in detail, discussing issues such as partnership, raising children, circumcision, eating habits and other traditions, presenting readers with examples of the life-stories of individual Muslims. As regards political statements on Islam, most coverage was given to parties in the government, especially the Slovak National Party, which expresses dislike of all types of immigration into Slovakia, as well as the presence of foreigners and ‘unconventional’ religion. Here we can see the way in which Muslims and Islam become the object of political debate and the exploitation of this topic to gain political advantage. Statements by political leaders featured in the articles clearly emphasized the benefits the Muslim community would gain from registration, including state subsidies to support Islamic education and other benefits the government would be obliged to provide. Many of them questioned Slovakia’s readiness for contact with

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Islamic culture and religion and compared Islam to other so-called minority churches; some pointed out the need to control Muslims and embrace the Christian tradition of the Slovaks; yet others emphasized the otherness of Islamic culture and portrayed Islam and the Muslims as a heterogeneous element in Slovakia. Representatives of the country’s Muslim community, for their part, adopted a defensive position. In their statements, they highlighted the democratic principles to which Slovakia subscribed, complaining about strict conditions for registration and advocating acceptance and possibilities of mutual coexistence. This is documented by articles bearing, for example, the following headlines: Slovenské moslimky (Slovak Muslim Wives); Islam na slovenský spôsob (Islam à la Slovak); Abdulwahab AlSbenaty: Chceme oficiálny kontakt s majoritou (Abdulwahab Al-Sbenaty: We Want Official Contact with the Majority); Slovenský bič na moslimov (Slovak Whip on the Muslims) or Vládna koalícia je proti malým cirkvám (Ruling Coalition against Minority Churches). Another category of articles was travel stories and reportage. The authors were primarily travellers, photographers and journalists, but also included a doctor who had spent some time in Muslim countries. The texts featured accounts of travel conditions, but mostly descriptions of countries and their inhabitants, their lifestyles and conditions. They were full of references to ‘peculiar’ cultural elements and characteristics which were generally portrayed as different, interesting, curious, baffling or inspiring, for instance bans on taking pictures or shaking hands with Muslim women, poor hygiene, toilets without toilet paper, cheap fuel, cultural monuments or hospitality. Examples of this kind of article include: Zlatá Barma (Good Old Burma); Všadeprítomný sultán (The Omnipresent Sultan); Ženatý s fotografiou (Married to a Photograph); Keď sa bojuje s maláriou (Struggling with Malaria). Four articles gave information on Islam and Muslims through the perspective of celebrities’ contacts with Islam. Here, the image of Islam was communicated to the reader through the experience of well-known figures, for instance a television news presenter, an international pop star or British royalty. The articles had headlines such as: Zuzana Hajdu: v Egypte má milenca (Zuzana Hajdu: A Lover in Egypt); Zuzana Hajdu: ako som skončila s Rockym… (Zuzana Hajdu: How I Finished with Rocky…);


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Michael Jackson možno konvertuje na islam (Michael Jackson May Convert to Islam); and Pôjde o život (A Matter of Life and Death). The first article was an interview run by a tabloid paper which discussed a recent love story between a well-known television news presenter and a Muslim man. The negative and ironic position on Islam was apparent from the questions posed to the news presenter, as well as from the journalist’s expressions and comments which were presented as recommendations or even warnings, for instance: ‘doesn’t the fact that he is a Muslim discourage you?’; ‘she fell for a Muslim souvenir seller’; ‘however, he is of the Islamic faith’; ‘she must be prepared for anything’; ‘difficult situations may occur that she certainly did not foresee’. The second article, on Prince Harry’s potential enlistment for the war in Iraq, presented speculation that he might be abducted or even killed by Islamic militants. The author used collocations such as ‘Harry a captive’, ‘the threat of abduction is imminent’, or ‘threats are already circulating on the Internet’, evoking feelings of threat and danger. The last article from this category was a brief story on Michael Jackson’s possible conversion to Islam. The journalist argued that by converting to Islam and possibly moving to an Islamic country, the pop star was seeking to avoid the charges of sexual abuse that he was facing. In all three cases, the issue’s attractiveness and newsworthiness was enhanced by the involvement of publicly known figures. In the former two cases, the story’s emotional charge was boosted by outlining potential threats from Islam the celebrities allegedly faced. Muslims described and shown in media news are mainly unidentified individuals, anonymous groups or even masses. They tend to be represented as groups and not as individuals, identified not by profession or age, for example, but only by their religion. The only exceptions to this rule are representatives of Muslim organizations in Slovakia, who are named or pictured following the text. In the following section, we take a closer look at the occurrence, frequency, connotations and meanings of the key words ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Koran’ and ‘mosque’ in the texts examined. We will focus on analysing their synonyms, accompanying attributes and collocations. The texts featured a great number of attributes that were either related to the key words or

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Table 19. The most frequent attributes of ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ in the Slovak press.

placed next to them. Of the total of fifty-one attributes that were placed in the immediate vicinity of the words ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’, the following were the most frequent: radical (which appeared eight times), militant (six times), British (six times), terrorism (four times) and fundamentalist (three times). The articles also used other attributes such as orthodox, extreme, conservative, fanatic, liberal, moderate, Dutch, Kashmiri and Shia. As far as the word ‘mosque’ is concerned, our research identified a total of twenty-five connotations, collocations and grammatical variations of this word, the most frequent in the following connection: mosque of mud, gunshot, gunfire, attack, evidence, ambush, bombing, prayer. Our research also identified a number of references to the location of mosques, for instance Grand Mosque, Milan mosque, Paris mosque, Tikrít mosque or Jerusalem mosque. The word ‘Koran’ appeared eighteen times, mostly in connection with and as a reference to the following: sacred book, verbatim interpretation, study, oath, teaching, verses, impossible to reform, evaluation, tear half of Koran out, allows battering wives and so on. The connotations mentioned may be loosely divided into categories, five of which we found particularly distinct:


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Describing the opposition of Islamic culture and religion to the ‘non-Islamic’ world. While this category of connotations includes a large quantity of diverse concepts, three subgroups may be easily identified: • • •

negative experience, such as attack, struggle, death, protests, storm, massacre, impossible to integrate, problems, criticism, anxiety. division of space into Islamic and non-Islamic, such as house of Islam, world of Islam, image of Islam, Europe before Islam, sacred places of Islam. number and organization of Muslims, such as movement, mass, group, minority, population, association, million Muslims, Islamic state.

Relating to practising Islam. Here, the most frequent words included conversion, Islamic clergyman, believers and practice. We also found collocations that showed the authors’ efforts to identify persons based on their religious affiliation, particularly: subscribes to Islam, he is of the Islamic faith, practises Islam. Relating to family life and lifestyle, such as wedding in compliance with Islamic law, battering is a reason to divorce, kind of Muslim headscarf, dressing of women, hijab, lunar calendar. Relating to Slovakia’s life and customs, such as registration, registered church, presence of Muslims, official, against acclimatization of Muslims, Islam – Baha’i – Scientologists, danger, connection of terrorism groups, hostile to Muslims, number of Muslims increases, wedding, mosque, differences, schools, number, rules of Islam, Islamic woman, risk, 5000 Muslims. Defending Islam and Muslims and communicating positive experiences, such as do not portray the Muslims as a spectre, they do not mock Islam, ‘normal’ Muslim, was not aimed against Islam, I defend Islam, France respects Islamic law. As previously noted, the precise localization of news is also very important from the viewpoint of media logic. Therefore, it is relevant to take a closer look at the countries and/or regions that were most frequently mentioned in the texts as the location of events or had any impact on the events taking

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place, as well as the context in which these countries were mentioned. The countries are listed according to the frequency of occurrence in the texts examined (events or issues most frequently associated with listed countries are in brackets): Iraq (military conflict); Slovakia (Muslims in Slovakia, statements by politicians and experts regarding the situation in Serbia); USA (Iraqi intervention, relations with Muslim countries, campaign against terrorism); Great Britain (terrorist attacks, Muslim minority); Serbia/Kosovo (military conflict, trials of war criminals); Egypt (terrorist attacks); Israel; Iran; Cuba (Guantánamo Bay detention camp); Australia (terrorist attacks); France (cartoons of Mohammed); Palestine; Afghanistan (terrorist attacks, Al-Qaeda); China; Libya (trial of Bulgarian nurses); the Vatican (statements by the Pope regarding Islam); Indonesia; India; Germany (Muslim minority); Spain (trials of people responsible for terrorist attacks); Bangladesh; Saudi Arabia; Morocco.

Some of the articles examined placed the events in unspecified countries or used the following collocations to describe the location: Islamic countries, Islamic world, Europe, European countries, democratic countries. Most events were located in ‘Islamic’ countries which were either directly involved in the conflicts or were related to them in some way. As far as ‘non-Islamic’ countries were concerned, the texts referred mostly to countries which were involved in the conflicts or encountered problems, and conflicts involving Muslims or Muslim communities. The texts clearly tended to categorize, generalize and simplify readers’ perception of the location into ‘Islamic’ and ‘non-Islamic’. In doing so, they often overlooked the actual ethnic, religious or political situation in specific countries and/or regions, for instance million-strong Muslim minorities in European countries, or, on the other hand, the presence of non-Muslims in so-called ‘Islamic’ countries. This manner of presentation creates an artificial division of countries and their cultures into two worlds based on religious differences as the sole criterion. From the large number of cases, we can again note the effort to create contrasts in which meaning is highlighted by verbs with a negative meaning, for instance, Frenchmen /shoot/ Saudi Arabia, Britain /fear/terror, and others. A composite image of Islam and Islamic culture as presented by the Slovak media can be constructed by identifying the media content from the


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viewpoint of its overall meaning or wording on the continuum of positive – neutral – negative. Evaluating the content of media messages from this viewpoint is strictly individual and subjective, as it is problematic to define generally accepted categories. Our evaluation was further complicated by the content of some articles which simultaneously described positive and negative situations, events and actions, as well as by a great number of political issues and contributions to discussions which are difficult to evaluate. Nevertheless, we tried to establish categories of our own which would at least partially define the positive, neutral and negative connotations and meanings of the media messages examined: negative connotations – describing and reporting on wars, attacks, conflicts, problems, death, trials and other events along these lines, as well as articles featuring negative evaluative statements; neutral connotations – describing the situation without presenting evaluations or judgments, providing hard facts on conflict-free and problem-free situations; and positive connotations – describing the situation with a favourable evaluation or judgement, emphasizing compromise, cooperation, conciliation, coexistence, acceptance, joyful and peaceful situations.

Of the total number of 124 texts evaluated on this continuum, 23 articles carried neutral or positive contents while the remaining 101 can be evaluated as negative. Our analysis shows that the representation of Islam and Islamic culture in the texts examined as well as the overall position of the media content on the positive-negative continuum is largely determined by the author of the article. Authors, co-authors and interviewees substantially influence the form and content of media messages. Particularly important in this respect are individuals who speak from personal experience: here, one can talk of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ perspectives on the issues examined. The ‘external’ perspective was typical of authors who were not familiar with the issue or simply re-ran articles from other sources (108 articles, 87 per cent). The ‘internal’ perspective, on the other hand, was typical of individuals who had their own experience of Islamic culture and/or religion. They were mostly Muslims (quoted in seven articles, 5 per cent), experts specializing in religion and Islam and partly also authors who can

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be described as ‘travellers’, that is, those who have had long-term direct experience of Islamic culture (nine articles, 7 per cent). The most frequently quoted Muslims from Slovakia were representatives of Muslim organizations, especially Mohammad Safwan Hasna, Chairman of the Islamic Foundation, and Abdulwahab Al-Sbenaty, former chairman of the Association of Friends of Islamic Literature. The category of experts was represented by a historian and an Arabist, while the category of ‘travellers’ was represented by reporters, photographers and a doctor with the international organization Médecins sans Frontières. Unsurprisingly, texts authored or co-authored by Muslims, experts in the field of Islamic culture or individuals who had a direct experience of it formed the majority of articles with a neutral or positive content. The analysis of pictures also allowed us to draw certain conclusions. Almost half of all the articles (60 out of 124) were accompanied by pictorial material. The photographs were taken either on location and directly documented the situation described in the article or were taken from other sources and were merely illustrative. According to the subject portrayed, the published photographs could be divided into the following categories: Table 20. The subjects of photographs in Slovak press coverage of Islam and Islamic culture. 1.

Pictures of war conflicts, terrorism attacks, soldiers or prisons



Pictures of persons who spoke or commented on the issue or were mentioned in the text, e.g. politicians, experts, celebrities, travellers and representatives of Muslim organizations



Pictures of Muslims, usually wearing traditional clothes or during prayers



Pictures of countries, mostly historical monuments or mosques



Pictures of veiled women



Other, mostly generic or illustrative pictures such as the U.S. flag, a battered woman, a cartoon of Mohammed, crowded airports, a picture of a man who murdered his wife, a Muslim family living in Slovakia, a Muslim table laid for a meal, the Palestinian government and so on.



Silvia Letavajová

The overview indicates that the published pictorial material portrayed Islam-related events and developments largely through emphasizing conflicts and cultural differences. The settings for many of them are prisons, military intervention, courtrooms or streets full of policemen. Another important theme is cultural differences, made visible mainly through anonymous praying Muslims or the faces of veiled women.

Conclusion Our conclusions regarding the representation of Islam and Islamic culture in the Slovak media concur with the findings of many studies that have appeared in recent years, whether in Central Europe, Western Europe or the English-speaking world. Examples would include the studies by Moore, Mason and Lewis (2008) and in the Czech Republic, Krížková (2006) and Karhanová and Kaderka (2001). The analysis of media messages in the newspapers examined shows that the image of Islam they present is predominantly negative: Islam is portrayed as the source of conflicts, problems, radicalism and danger. The messages encourage this perception of Islam through negative connotations, collocations and phrases which are related to Islam as such, Muslim headscarves, the status of women, Muslim clergymen, the issue of conversion, and so on. Most of the messages underline the otherness of Islam. The Islamic and non-Islamic worlds are portrayed as opposite to each other, as most media messages highlight their geographical, social, societal and cultural differences. This leads to the creation of binary oppositions based on contrasts: ours ↔ strange, non-Muslim ↔ Muslim, democratic ↔ fundamentalist, Christian ↔ Muslim, positive ↔ negative and others. The negative slant of media coverage of Muslims in Slovakia has to do mostly with their efforts to register their church. More positive connotations may be found in texts written by or featuring Muslims, experts in the field of Islamic culture or people who have personal experience of Islam. Although

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the general media-message presentation of the broadsheets, tabloids and semi-tabloids we studied varied (as one would expect) according to their format, they presented Islam and Islamic culture in a similar way, revealing the same stereotypical picture of the subject. Our survey suggests that the image of Islam presented by the Slovak media is similar or identical to the attitudes, views and general perception of this issue among much of the Slovak population more widely. Media texts create and reinforce stereotypes of Muslims and Islam, whether explicitly by the direct expression of attitudes or implicitly by means of hints, sentenceconstruction, emphasis and the placing of key words, or by the repetition of certain connotations. The media have the capacity to influence and cement public opinion, to change it or to prevent it from changing. In this particular case, it is plain to see that the Slovak media encourage passive and suggestible readers to embrace certain stereotypes and adopt negative positions on Islamic culture, religion and Muslims in general.

References Atkinson, R.L. (2003). Psychologie (Psychology). Prague: Portál. Čikeš, R. (2005). ‘Registrácia cirkví a náboženských spoločností verzus náboženská sloboda’ [Registration of churches versus religious freedom]. In Michaela Moravčíková and Miroslav Lojda (eds) Islam v Európe. Bratislava: Ústav pre vzťahy štátu a cirkví. 14–19. Hill, G. (2004). Moderní psychologie (Modern psychology). Prague: Portál. Holsti, O.R. (1969). Content Analysis for the Social Sciences and Humanities. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Karhanová, K. and P. Kaderka (2001). Obraz cizincú v mediích: Zpráva o projektu za rok 2001 (The Image of Foreigners in the Media: Project Report for 2001). Prague: Ústav pro jazyk český, AV ČR.


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Knapová, I. (2007). Konverzia na islam. Na príklade slovenských žien (Conversion to Islam: The Case of Slovak Women). Diplomová práca. Trnava: FF UCM (Katedra etnológie a mimoeurópskych štúdií). Krížková, M. (2006). ‘Neviditeľná menšina – analýza mediálního obrazu českých muslimů’ (Invisible minority: an analysis of the media image of Czech Muslims). Lapeyronnie, D. (1993). La France et la Grande Bretagne face à leurs immigrés. Paris: PUF. Letavajová, S. (2001). ‘Predstavy a skutočnosť o utečencoch na Slovensku’ (Representations and reality of refugees in Slovakia). Etnologické rozpravy 2001/2, 40–62. Letavajová, S. (2006). ‘Náboženská konverzia ako dôsledok globalizačných procesov (Prípadová štúdia o islamských konvertitoch na Slovensku)’ (Religious Conversion as a Consequence of Globalisation Processes. [Case study of converts to Islam in Slovakia]). In Silvia Letavajová (ed.) Reflexia globalizácie v lokálnom spoločenstve (The Reflection of Globalization in Local Society). Trnava: FF UCM. 91–133. Lukšíková, P. (1999). Moslimská rodina v slovenskom prostredí (prípadová štúdia) (The Muslim Family in the Slovak Environment (Case Study)). Diplomová práca. Bratislava: Katedra etnológie, FiFUK. Manco, U. (2000). ‘Turks in Europe: from a Garbled Image to the Complexity of Migrants’ Social Reality.’ cie/umanco/umanco5.htm McQuail, D. (1999). Úvod do teorie masové komunikace (Introduction to the Theory of Mass Communication). Prague: Portál [2002]. Moore, K., P. Mason and J. Lewis (2008). Images of Islam in the UK: The Representation of British Muslims in the National Print News Media 2000–2008. Cardiff: Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. Report.pdf Nekula, M. (1995). ‘Titulková xenofobie’ (Title Xenophobia). Čeština doma a ve světe 3: 269–270. Stemler, S. (2001). An Overview of Content Analysis. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation 7 (17). asp?v=7&n=17

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Surynek, A., R. Komárková and E. Kašparová (2001). Základy sociologického výskumu (Elements of Sociological Research). Prague: Management Press. Výrost, J. and I. Slaměník (1998). Aplikovaná sociální psychologie I. Člověk a sociální instituce (Applied Social Psychology, vol. 1: Man and Social Institutions). Prague: Portál.

Notes on Contributors

Milda Ališauskienė is a doctoral candidate in sociology at Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, where she is analysing the characteristics and development of contemporary religiosity in Lithuania. Her research interests include the sociology of religion, new religious movements and the role of religion in the post-Communist societies of East-Central Europe. She has published several articles on different manifestations of religion in contemporary Lithuania, including the Art of Living Foundation, New Age movements and Satanism. Airi-Alina Allaste is a professor of sociology and the head of the Centre for Lifestyle Studies in the Institute for International and Social Studies at Tallin University, Estonia. Her main research topics are youth lifestyles and subcultures. Her recent work includes Drug Cultures in Estonia: Contexts, Meanings and Patterns of Illicit Drug Use (Tallinn University Press, 2006). Dušan Deák is head of the Department of Ethnology and World Studies at the University of Sts Cyril and Methodius in Trnava, Slovakia. His research focuses on the hagiographical traditions of South Asia, saint-worship past and present, and the connection between religious narratives and local memory. He is also currently analysing the spread of Indian religious concepts in Slovakia, through new religious movements which claim to teach Indian religious thought and practices. Neil Foxlee is a Post-doctoral Research Assistant in the Department of Education and Social Science at the University of Central Lancashire, where he also lectures in the English Department. He has published a number of articles on the political writings of Albert Camus, and has edited a number of books on popular culture, including The Rough Guide to Punk.


Notes on Contributors

Al’bina Garifzianova holds a doctorate in philosophy. She is Senior Lecturer at Yelabuga State Teachers Training University and a member of the Scientific Research Centre Region (Ul’ianovsk). Her main research interests are in ethical issues in sociology and the role of the researcher in fieldwork. Michael Goddard is Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Salford. His current research centres on East European cinema, visual culture and popular culture, particularly in Poland. His publications include articles on Deleuze’s aesthetic and film theories, and he is currently writing a book on the Chilean-born filmmaker Raúl Ruiz. He is also researching the fringes of British popular music in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly groups such as The Fall, Throbbing Gristle and Laibach. Radoslav Hlúšek is Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Ethno­logy and World Studies at the University of Sts Cyril and Methodius in Trnava, Slovakia. His main research interests include the cultures of native Mesoamerican nations and the recreational ‘Euro-Indian’ movement in Slovakia. A historian by training, he is the author of a book on the Codex Bratislavensis and has published several articles. Tadas Kavolis is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Ethno­ logy of Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania, where he is researching skinheads in Lithuania. Maarja Kobin is a Research Assistant at the Institute of International and Social Studies, Tallinn University, Estonia, where she has been researching Estonian hip-hop subculture. Silvia Letavajová is a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Ethnology and World Studies at the University of Sts Cyril and Methodius in Trnava, Slovakia. She lectures on issues of ethnic theory, ethnic and other minorities in Slovakia, the methodology of ethnological research and studies of family and kinship. Her research focuses on ethnic relations and the Muslim minority.

Notes on Contributors


Alexander Makarov is a social analyst at the Centre for Analytic Studies and Development in Kazan (Russian Federation). His PhD focused on the representation of youth delinquency in the mass media and he is currently researching criminal gangs and skinhead groups. George McKay is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Salford, UK, where he is currently working on popular music and cultural disability studies. His books include Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain (Duke UP, 2005), Glastonbury: A Very English Fair (Gollancz, 2000), and Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance since the Sixties (Verso, 1996). His edited collections include Community Music: A Handbook (with Pete Moser; Russell House, 2005), Issues in Americanisation and Culture (with Neil Campbell and Jude Davies; Edinburgh University Press, 2004), and DiY Culture: Party & Protest in Nineties Britain (Verso, 1998). He also co-edits Social Movement Studies: A Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest (Routledge). Isabela Merila is a Senior Lecturer at Dunărea de Jos University of Galaţi, Romania and she was a doctoral student at the University of Iasi. Her research deals mainly with questions of identity and otherness in contemporary literature, especially postcolonial writers. Elena Omel’chenko is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Regional Scientific Research Centre at Ul’ianovsk State University in Russia. Her research focuses on the study of youth cultural practices, youth culture, drug use, gender and sexual identities, consumption and advertising. Her works include, as co-author with Hilary Pilkington, Moya Flynn, Uliana Biudina and Elena Starkova, Looking West? Cultural Globalization and Russian Youth Cultures (Penn State Press, 2002), as well as numerous articles, chapters and contributions to scholarly encyclopedias. Hilary Pilkington is Professor of Sociology at The University of Warwick. Her research focuses on the study of post-Soviet Russian society, especially youth cultural practice, drug use, migration and displacement, ethnic and national identity (including Muslim identity) and the rise of


Notes on Contributors

xenophobic sentiments. The findings of this research has been published in a number of monographs and edited books including: Russia’s Youth and Its Culture: A Nation’s Constructors and Constructed (Routledge, 1994); Migration, Displacement and Identity in Post-Soviet Russia (Routledge, 1998); and (with Elena Omel’chenko, Moya Flynn, Uliana Bliudina and Elena Starkova) Looking West? Cultural Globalization and Russian Youth Cultures (Penn State Press, 2002). Floriana Popescu is Professor of English Linguistics and Chancellor of the Faculty of Letters at Dunărea de Jos University of Galaţi, Romania. She teaches courses in English morphology and lexicology. She is the author of four books and over fifty articles. Anton Popov is a research fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick. His research interests are in the anthropology of post-socialist societies, ethnicity, cultural identity and migration. The focus of his current research among young Cossacks in southern Russia is sense of place, enactment of identities and nativism/ethnic revival movements. Michaela Praisler is Professor of English Literature and Vice Dean of the Faculty of Letters, Dunărea de Jos University of Galaţi, where she teaches courses on modern and contemporary literature(s) in English and the function of translation in contemporary culture. She has published books and numerous articles in the field. Martin Priečko is a Junior Research Fellow in the Department of Ethno­ logy and World Studies at the University of Sts Cyril and Methodius in Trnava, Slovakia, and the executive editor of Ethnologia actualis slovaca. Journal of Ethnographic Research. His research focuses on scattered utopian communities, a topic on which he has published several articles. Janis Priede is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Oriental Studies at the University of Latvia. A specialist in the history of religions, his research focuses mainly on contemporary esotericism and post-Christian religious movements, and on biblical theology. He has published

Notes on Contributors


translations of two deuterocanonical texts, the Book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, with a new translation of the Psalms forthcoming. Egidija Ramanauskaitė is Associate Professor of Ethnology and Head of the Centre for Cultural Studies at Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania. Her research interests are in the ethnographic research of groups of different values, religious beliefs and ethnicities, including from historical and anthropological approaches. Recently she has been interested in employing systems theory to the analysis of the behaviour of small groups of society as well as in comparative analysis of social groups. She has over twenty publications which explore subcultural communities, in Lithuanian, Russian and English languages. Her main work in this field is Subkultūra: fenomenas ir modernumas. (Subculture: Phenomenon and Modernity) (Vytautas Magnus University Press, 2004). Rustem Safin is a senior researcher at the Centre for Analytic Studies and Development (Kazan, Russian Federation). His doctoral dissertation was on ethnic identity-formation among student youth and its correlation with everyday racism. He is currently studying different manifestations of youth delinquency, focusing on the criminal activities of gang members, ethnic and racial discrimination, and radical religious youth groups. Alexander Salagaev is Professor and Head of the Department of Conflict Studies at Kazan State Technological University, as well as Director of the Centre for Analytic Studies and Development (Kazan, Russian Federation. He is the author of numerous studies, including several monographs on youth delinquency, subcultures and risk groups, and contributed a chapter to The Eurogang Paradox: Street Gangs and Youth Groups in the U.S. and Europe (2001). Alexander Shaskin is a Director of Online Marketing Investigation (Moscow, Russia). His doctoral dissertation was on the masculinity and violence, and he has worked on numerous studies, including on youth delinquency, drugs, subcultures and risk groups.


Notes on Contributors

Daniela Şorcaru is a Senior Lecturer in English Linguistics at Dunărea de Jos University of Galaţi, Romania. She teaches courses in English linguistic stylistics, syntax and translation. She is the author of over twenty articles and book chapters, including a study of the origins of Romanian hip-hop. Anita Stašulāne is Professor of Religious Studies at Daugavpils University, Latvia. Her main area of research is the history of Western esotericism, in particular contemporary theosophy and theosophical groups in Eastern Europe. She is the author of Theosophy and Culture: Nicholas Roerich (2005). J. Rimas Vaišnys is Professor of Electrical Engineering and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University (USA), and has been a visiting professor at Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania). His longstanding interests include the dynamical behaviour of ecological systems and the dynamics of evolving systems, with the emphasis in recent work on studying systems of social processes. Christopher Williams is Professor of Contemporary History in the Department of Education and Social Science, University of Central Lancashire. In the year 2000, he was awarded an Honorary degree in Political Science by the Institute of Socio-Political Research, RAN and made a member of the Russian Academy of Political Science, Moscow. Professor Williams served as Secretary of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies from 1998–2001. His recent books include Youth, Risk and Russian Modernity (Ashgate 2003); (ed.), Sotsial’naia politika: Istoriia i sovremenost´ (Social Policy: Past and Present) (Udmurtskii gosudarstvennyi universitet, Izhevsk, 2005) and Casualties of Change: The Rise and Fall of the Russian Welfare State (Ashgate, forthcoming).


1997 Russian law on Freedom of Conscience, religion 247 7th Day Adventists, numbers in Russia 234 Academy of Parapsychology survey of society’s tolerance 350 Afro-American, Afro-Caribbean hip-hop as their protest culture 104 Agni Yoga (Living Ethics) 373 Agni Yoga Society 367, 369, 380 ahimsa (non-violence) 310 alternative school for community children Záježovŵá Community 202 alternative worldviews and lifestyles 215 analysis of empirical information 161 ancestor remembrance Cossack or Slav duty 288 Ancient Russian Ingliistic Church of Orthodox Old-Believers-Ingliists 264 Anglocentrism of subcultural studies 7 anthropology, recent developments 113 anti-censorship campaign, Romanian hip-hop 118, 120 anti-cult movements 310–11 anti-semitism of Cossack groups 257, 262–3 anti-Soviet environment impact of, on hippie lifestyle 151–2 ‘Arab’, Slovakian confusion with Muslims 395

Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) 343, 361 comparison, Lithuania and Denmark 339–62 Lithuania (AOLF-L) 349–53 meets criteria for NRM 344–9 non-governmental organization (NGO) 344 religion and spirituality 357–61 Aryan dominance theory 273 Asian culture not oppressed by communist state 308 Association of Friends of Islamic Literature 415 atheism among Cossacks 260, 261 indoctrination 242 reaction against 213 Augsburg Protestant in Slovakia 307 austerity, voluntary 203 authoritarianism Chinmoy group 324 Putin government 241 babe culture for women 102–3 Banner of Peace symbol of religion, art and science 367 Baptists encouraged by Bolsheviks to weaken ROC 229 numbers in Russia 234 bearskin 281

428 beauty saving the world Latvian Roerich Society 377 belief in Rod (God) 269 bench-wrestling as ritual 288 benefits offered by religion 214 Bhagavad Gita 320, 347 Bhagavata Purana 320 bhakti devotion to deity, Krishna 318–19 bhakti saint, Chaitanya 317, 320 Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada 317 Big Beat festival, Riga 149 ‘blacks’ 49 Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna Theosophical Society 365 ‘bling-bling’ expensive clothes and jewellery 104–5 bohemian behaviour and clothing police interference about 158 Bolsheviks, separation of church and state 229 Book of Vles 265–6 breathing technique of Sudarshan Kriya 347 Brezhnev, Leonid 231 applied ‘divide and rule’ principle 232 Buddhism movements in Slovakia 314 thriving in Russia 234, 244 camping in tipis 179–80 Slovak Euro-Indians 178 cannibalism in bread and wine (Christian) 270 Catholic Christianity, Central Europe 217 Catholicism in Russia intolerance of in Russia 234–5, 242–3 targeted under Bolsheviks 229 Catlin, George paintings of Plains Indians 170

Index Caucasian people 36 prejudice against 23–4 celebrities’ contacts with Islam 409 celibacy compulsory, in Chinmoy group 324 censorship of TV in Romania 137 Centre for the Prevention of Sects (CPS) challenge to sects 310–11 Centre for the Study of Sects (CSS) Ecumenical Council of Churches, Slovakia 310 chakra, energy centre in human body 327–8 chauvinism and nationalism in Russia 300 Chechnya war, 1994 23–4 Chinmoy mission centres in Slovakia 322 Christian activists hostility to Shri Chinmoy, Slovakia 323 Christianity came later to East Central Europe 217 church attendance negligible, except festivals 355 different forms related to national identity 217 revived, post-communism in Slovakia 309 Russian principalities in Middle Ages converted 268 Ten Commandments seen as social control 270 versus Islam, Slovak press coverage 407 Christians oppressed under communism 308 survey of society’s tolerance 350 symbols seen as Satanist 270

Index Church of Scientology survey of society’s tolerance 350 church registering, for Muslims in Slovakia Slovak press coverage on 408 church-sect, sect-church theory 215 Chyra, Igor, founder and manager of PHŽ 198 clash of civilizations in American West victory of colonisers 166 clothes 4 nineteenth-century, Slovak EuroIndians 178 properly branded 48 style of skinheads 77 ‘coloured revolutions’, Russia 36 communication culture 125–6 communism collapse of 1989 growth pf NRMs 30, 333 suppressor of religion 216 Communist Party destroying churches, mosques, temples failure to create militant atheists 232 community life 190 rules of co-existence 194 community meetings disregard of, by some 196 conflict with researchers 42 consumerism, counterbalance to 191 content analysis of Slovak press 397 core values of theosophical groups, Latvia 387–8 corruption in Romanian government hip-hop criticism in songs 131 Cossacks concern to know their history 275 ethnic origin 286 hatred of Christianity 271 identity 254–5, 274 revivalist movement 254–5

429 countries where Muslims are media comments on impact in those countries 413 country music 171 creative fire 376 creativity as fundamental to human spirit 376 crime rates increase in Russia since 1989 19 criminal gangs and skinhead groups, comparison and differences 28–29 in Russia 18–20 ‘folk devils’ 26 cultures cult of light, Roerich’s definition 375–7 definition of 113 synthesis of 367 understanding of, in Latvian Roerich Society 375 Czechoslovakia Slovak and Czech 165 Danish Lutheran Church tradition bearer in Denmark 353–4 De-Christianization 290 cutting life-line in palm 294 fire at ceremony 293 re-naming ceremony 291 symbolic renunciation 292 decision-making and leadership eco-village 198 de-differentiation in spirituality 341, 346 defence of territory 82 delinquent communities, Tatarstan Republic of Russia 15–32 Denmark, spirituality in 339–64 distrust of researchers 51–2 Donaldson, Ian Stuart, Skrewdriver band 283

430 dropouts 362 in AOLF 356 drugs and alcohol to escape, Romania 117 Durkheim, Emile Elementary Forms of Religious Life 142 East-Central Europe (ECE) 211 ‘Easternization’ 111, 115 Eastern religious values and Russia Rerikh (Roerich) movement 245 East European societies 6 eco-conscious way of life 191 ecological economy 191 economic crisis, 1990s, Russia 22 eco village, Slovakia 10–11 educational system, collapse in Russia 22 education, understanding of International Centre of the Roerichs 378 elitism in Rakvere 91–2 emigration from Romania seen as too easy way out 119 emotional factors in news 400 energy (Kundalini) 327–8 entertainment from mass media 126 Erhard Seminar Training 346 escapism via drugs or alcohol, Romania 117 Estonia, political democracy 89–90 ethnic cleansing 23, 45, 46 ethnicity, sense of 254 ethnic violence, Russia 36 ethnocentrism 35 ethnographic concerns 275 etymology 287 word derivation 285–6 Euro-Indian movement 10–12 activities of 177 Czechoslovakia and Czech Republic 167, 171

Index definitions 167, 169 Slovak society 165–85 European Convention, Article 9 on religious freedom 237 Eastern Europe importance of re-appropriation of history after Soviet system 6–8 exclusion of ethnic minorities 24 families, and community bonds 205 ‘fantasy’ element of neo-paganism 298 fascism and skinhead subculture 65 female rappers103 fieldwork diaries 256 by young Cossacks 255 fighting arts demonstration 288 fighting seen as masculine 101 ‘folk devils’ label 18 follower of Roerich qualities needed for 379 Foodbank Záježovŵá Community 202 food self-sufficiency 201 fundamentalism as reaction against globalization 214 gang and skinhead subcultures rise and fall 26 gang leaders’ skills 43–4 Garda group 365, 368–9 attempts to influence government policy-making 386 core values 372–4 on homosexuality 386 politics 373, 384 Soviet immigrants, deportation 384 and understanding of politics 382–7 younger generation 369 gender balance of Slovak Euro-Indians 175 factor in religion in Russia 235

Index groups 48–9 Rakvere hip-hop 100 role notions 254 Giddens, Anthony on search for identity 61 girl members of skinhead groups 48 globalization, definition of 15–16, 213 deterritorialization 15 internationalization 15 liberalization 15 modernization 15 universalization 15 Western cultural imperialism 89 Westernization 15 glocalization, global and local 10, 16–17, 89 glocalization of subcultures Estonian hip-hop culture 105 gods and priests 279 Gorbachev, Mikhail, religious reform 232 impact of Gorbachev years 227 Govinda restaurants in Slovakia 318 Graeco-Roman-Barbarian term of diversity 310 Grand Duchy of Lithuania, formed in 1230s 152 Grandmaster Flash, on hip-hop 103 political music 129 Great Plains home of tribal American Indians 166, 171 Greek Orthodox in Slovakia 307 group ‘code of honour’ 38 group identity forging 80, 162 Guantánamo Bay, Cuba 405 guru 313 Hall, Stuart Resistance through Rituals 4 ‘Hare Krishna’, public singing 317

431 Hare Krishnas deemed ‘totalitarian sect’ 244 four regulative principles 319 abstain from dangerous behaviour, intoxication, meat eating 319 sex only for procreation 319 numbers in Russia 234 headlines with key words list 402–3 headscarf wearing by Muslim women 396 heavy metal music 47 Hebdige, Dick Subculture: The Meaning of Style 4 heterosexuality, importance of 74 hierarchical rank, symbols 78 Hinduism and neo-Hinduism 311–13 reformers of ancient doctrines 312 Hinduism in Europe 306 hip-hop culture 10, 88 identity 114–15 Rakvere, Estonia 87–110 reaction against media 128 and status 94 hip-hoppers and wannabes 93 ‘hippie’ counterculture and subculture, Kaunas 10, 144 history of Lithuania, conflict with Soviet teacher 154 history, re-appropriation of 7 Hitler, Adolf, positive attitudes to 273 ‘hobbyism’ interest in Indian culture 169–70 spreading to Europe 170 Hoggart, Richard, Uses of Literacy 4 ‘homology’ 4 homophobia and homoeroticism 48–9 hoodlum rap in Rakvere 97, 101 household facilities, Zajezovwa Community 203 Hrdlička, Aleš American anthropologist 171

432 ‘humanitarian pedagogy’ 381 humanity, common issues responsibility for earth and nature 341 ‘human potential movement’ survey of society’s tolerance 350–51 Transcendental Meditation 346 identities, multiple 113 identity and music 94 and self-identity 63 identity construction 79–80 Romania 111–24 image in skinhead identity 76 imitation of Western models 6 immigrants, violence to 82 immigration, skinheads against 70 imprisonment for criticism of Islam Slovak press coverage 406 independence for Euro-Indians 174–5 Indian-inspired NRMs and I-NRMs, Slovakia 215, 305–35, 314–16 Indians, North American, sad destiny 165 individualism and faith in contemporary Russia 294–9 individuality as important for skinheads 76–7 Indo-Aryan race 280 industrialization process in Russia 19 Influences, States and Expressions 143–4 ingliists 264 I-NRMs, attraction of Austria 314 Czech Republic 314 ‘green values’, healthy lifestyle 310 Slovakia 314–17 with Czech influence 314 interaction between hippies 155 Lithuania 157 International Centre of the Roerichs 368–9

Index beliefs of Latvian branch 378, 381 core values 372–4 education 373 respect for Teacher 378 International Readings of Humanitarian Pedagogy 381 International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) 317 Bhakti and Vedic Lifestyle 317 Hare Krishnas in Slovakia 311, 318 popularity of 315 Invisible Government 379 ISKCON see International Society for Krishna Consciousness Islam negative image in Slovakia 395 opinion of Cossacks 261–2 Islamic and non-Islamic countries 413 Islamic attributes in Slovak press, diagram 411 Islamic culture in Slovak media 393–417 ‘external’ perspective, unfamiliar with 414 ‘internal’ perspective, experience of 415 Islamic Foundation 415 Islamic fundamentalism 213 Islamic leaders, statements by, in Slovak press coverage 406 Islamic revival, increase in population, Slovak press coverage 407 isolation and exclusion 24 Istarkhov, V. Book of Vles 265–6 Udar russkikh bogov anti-Christian anti-Semitic 266–7 Jackson, Michael, possible conversion to Islam media indicate potential threats 410 Jefferson, Tony, Resistance through Rituals 4

Index Jehovah’s Witnesses 356 accused as ‘subversive’ 244 numbers in Russia 234 Jews 235 numbers in Russia 234 Judaism among Cossacks 261 communism, Christianity 268 Kazan street gang culture 20 keyword in context (KWIC) 397–8 Khrushchev, ‘savage anti-religious campaign’ of 1950s 231 knowledge and learning for theosophists 379–80 kolovrat, ancient Hindu symbol, resembles swastika 282–3 ‘Koran’, word used in Slovak media 411 Kundalini (energy) 328–9 Kundalini (Holy Ghost in Christianity) 330 Lakota culture White Buffalo Woman 176 Latvia, contemporary theosophy 365–89 Latvian Centre for Indigo Children 382 Latvian fight for freedom 385 Latvian National Front (LNF) extreme right group 368 magazine ‘DDD’ 385 Latvian Roerich Society 365, 368–9 core values 372–4 culture 373 musical and art meetings 377 public activities 377–8 law to protect Russia’s spiritual heritage 239 leadership conflict, skinheads in Russia 39, 53 League of Militant Atheists 229–30

433 legal cases against religions in Russia 238–9 LETS see Local Exchange Trade Schemes lifestyle of Muslims Slovak press coverage 407 linguistic violence of hip-hop 126 to convey message to public and government 132–4 Lithuania coat of arms, one of oldest in Europe 154 countercultural band 148 hippies, early 1970s 141, 156 historical identity 66, 153 nationalist skinhead culture 61–86 resistance to European Union 66 spirituality in 339–64 Lithuanian National Front 80 Little Horse chief of Slovak Euro-Indians 175 Living Ethics 386 Local Exchange Trade Schemes (LETS) abandonment of system 205 exchange system of commodities, services 200 Zajezovwa Community 199 locality, importance of, in rap 95–6 loyalists 362 in AOLF 353 Lutherans in Denmark 343 persecuted during Soviet period in Russia 243 in Russia, loss of leaders to Germany 244 Madal Bal shops 322–3 Mahabharata, translation 306 mahatmas, mystical human beings 379 Maheshwarananda, guru 331, 333 male bonding 48–9

434 Maliarik, Jan, Protestant priest accents Yoga Sutras (Patanjali) 307 Marxism-Leninism in communist regime 308 masculinist youth groups, Lithuania 68 masculinity expression of, in neo-paganism 298 militarism and 301 skinhead subculture 71–2 type of 21 maslenitsa (Shrovetide), festival ritual 287 Mataji in Slovakia 327 teachings of 327–30 materialism and consumerism 181 May, Karl, Museum in Radebeul 170 media agenda-setting 401 media culture conflict revealing 126 socialization effect 126 undermining political energies 126 media emphasis on dramatic 401 ‘media logic’ 399 media messages in Slovak press negative on Muslims 416 ‘otherness’ of Muslims 416 provoke reactions 402 sterotypical pictures 416 media representations, analysis 402–16 media role in shaping attitudes 399– 402 media word usage on Muslim culture Islamic and non-Islamic division 412 negative experiences 412 number and organization of Muslims 412 medieval Tatar warrior dress 289 meditation 322 meditation (dhyana), for ascetics 324 memory and attention media content 400

Index mental hospital incarceration KGB technique for deviation from social norms 150 migration to cities in Russia 19, 23 migration to Russia from Central Asia 24 militarism, extolled by young Cossacks 254 military conflict, Slovak press coverage 405 Mind and sign of Fire (Roerich) 380 modernization rejection of 215 Mohammed, cartoons of Slovak press coverage 406 Moonies, new NRM 237, 247 moral and spiritual values of religion 357 moral panic 26 elite-engineered model 17 grassroots model 17 interest group model 17 subcultures 4 Morena, pagan ritual about human sacrifice 197 Mormons numbers in Russia 234–5 Moscow, territory of ‘special rule’ 23 ‘mosque’, word usage, by Slovak media named mosques 411 ‘Mother Earth’, loss of respect for 181 multiculturalism, skinheads against 70 music importance of 47 in Rakvere 91–3 resistance to political oppression 128 Muslim community, defensive position 409 Muslims 235 defence of 412 family life and lifestyle, Slovak press coverage 408 family life, status of women 406

Index headscarves 405 holidays, pilgrimages 406 numbers in Russia 234 Slovakia 394 Muslim women, perceived oppression of 395 national identity, myths about 112–13 nationalism 64, 70, 82 and skinhead subculture 65, 84 rise in sense of 254, 310 Nationalist-Socialist ideology 273 national-patriotic movements 299 native cultures of American Indians attractions for Europeans 167 nature and American Indian, varying views on 166–7 protection of 181, 192 reconnection with 301 Nazi salute skinhead sign and pagan salute 284 Nazi symbolism 68 used by Cossacks 271 negative and ironic position on Islam 410 negative image of Muslims in Slovakia reasons for 394–5 negative, neutral or positive connotations in media Islam 403, 414 Nekrasovtsy, Cossacks of Ottoman Empire 277 neo-Hinduism (I-NRM) export religion 312 neo-paganism in Russia 253–304 absence of rules 297 Anti-Christianity 268–72 Cossacks 256 ethnic exclusivity 272–8 independent thinking 296

435 Lithuania 350 resistance to state 271–2 neo-pagan movements 212 Baltic and Slavic 211 neopagan priest, Koldun search for true belief 295 New Age movement 215, 346 new religious movements (NRM) post-Communist Russia and EastCentral Europe 211–24 Nirmala Devi (Shri Mataji) Sahaja Yoga (Yoga of Unity) 326–31 Nova Religio journal 212 NRMs dangerous ‘cults’ 224 East Central Europe fear of Western influences 246 hostility of traditional churches 218 increasing in Russia 242 negative attitudes to 220 test of level of democratization 221–2 threat to national identity and stability 219–21 typology of 346 occult character of theosophy 366 Olcott, Henry Steel, Theosophical Society 366 Old Believers 278 people who preserve true religion of Cossacks 276–7 one God, different ways to worship 361 organic eco-agriculture 192 organic farming 205 Záježovŵá Community 201 Orthodox Church Eastern Europe 217 interviews on 258–60 neopagan hatred of 269 numbers in Russia 234 otherness and identity 114–15

436 otherness of Islamic culture, mention of, in press 409 Ottoman raids in early centuries 396 paganism philosophy, not religion 265 resistance to religions to perceived oppression survey of society’s tolerance 350 pan-humanity 367 Parazitii, Romanian hip-hop artist aggressive reaction to Romanian political system 129 lyrics’ titles 115–16 media coverage on 120–3 pessimism in lyrics 116 parental neglect of children, postcommunist Russia 22 part-time membership of Zajezova Community 190 Pentecostal numbers in Russia 234 Pentecostals encouraged, Russian Orthodox Church 229 perestroika, brought Western impact 27 performativity 5 Perun, ruler of the skies 264 phobias in Russia homophobia 35 Islamophobia 35 migrant-phobia 35 photographs in press, on Islamic subjects Muslims in traditional dress 415 people speaking on issues 415 veiled women 415 of war conflicts, terrorism attacks 415 physical fitness and training, 47 PHŽ, Non-Governmental Organization 192–3 Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth sixteenth/seventeenth century 154 political repression 8

Index politicization of hip-hop music 135 polovetskie, baby symbol 285 popular culture 126–7 transnational 6 post-Communist ECE, new religious movements 213 post-modern capitalism, rejection of 215 post-modern religion 348 help for life today 358 post-socialism and subculture, Eastern Europe 6 post-subcultural theory 3–14 practising Islam 412 pre-Christian heritage of Slavic Aryan people 301 Prince Harry, speculation on safety of, in Iraq threat and danger feelings 410 Protestant Christianity Baltic Europe 217 in Russia 234–5, 243 puppet youth movement ‘Nashi’ (‘Ours’) 36 purity of race 46 Putin, Vladimir, and patriotism 300 racial targeting, extolled by young Cossacks 254 racism British society and 82 Cossack group’s views 256 everyday 23 intolerance 24 racial nationalism 69 skinhead subculture 65 radical communities in Tatarstan 15–32 Raja Yoga 367 Rakvere, Estonia rich cultural life 90 rap music in New York 87 rappers in Rakvere 93

Index rational choice theory and NRMs 214 Ravi Shankar Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) 339 breathing techniques 344, 349 message on religion and spirituality 357–8 Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and common origins of both 345 on stress 347 teaching of 353 reaction to maladies of modern society Záježka, 189 registration problems for I-NRMs 315 religion Communist legacy in Russia 228–33 confrontation with science 345 ethnic diversity in ECE, political and social challenge 222 increasing strength of, in USA 213 institutionalized 360 Russia before 1917, and Communist legacy 228–33 Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), most affected 228 Slovakia, Roman Catholic 307 Soviet abolition under Communism religion and spirituality, distinction 339–64 religions, ‘traditional’, accepted by ROC, NRMs restricted 240 religiosity, Denmark and Lithuania 339–64 religious dissent, increase in 231 religious diversity Cossacks in contemporary Russia 257 religious freedom and pluralism in postcommunist Russia, fighting for 227–53 religious leaders imprisoned in Russia 230 religious movements, new 211 religious organisations to re-register 240

437 religious revival in USSR and ECE 232–3 repetition and topicality of information 400 Rerikh (Roerich) movement art, culture and religion 245 uniquely Russian 246 ritual circle, Shrovetide ritual 289 rituals pagan, in festivals 287 with bearskins, bulls’ horns and wolf skin 281 RLV Massive, a friendship circle for music, Rakvere, Estonia 97–9 ROC see Russian Orthodox Church rock musicians, interview with in Lithuania 159–61 Rod, deity in Slavic pantheon 263 rodnoverie, ‘native faith’ 264, 298 neo-pagan movements 263 two ranks 272 Roerich, Helena 365–6 Roerich Museum, New York 367 Roerich, Nicholas 366 Agni Yoga Society 365, 367 Roerich Pact, international treaty 367 Roerichs’ message to Soviet government ‘theosophocracy’ 383 Roman Catholic Church tradition bearer in Lithuania 343, 353–4 Romania daily newspapers 115 governance, music as counter-attack 119 hip-hop message 111–24 linguistic policies, Romanian hip-hop 125–40 political scene, verbal attack on 129–31 Romanian Press associating hip-hop with violence 121–3 Romanian social and cultural issues addressing by hip-hop subculture 127 Rudzītis, Rihards, Agni Yoga Society 367

438 Russian attitudes towards NRMs 242 Russian law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations, 1997 236–41 eradication sects and cults 239 favour to ROC over other religions 236 Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) 257 accusations of collaboration with Soviet regime 238 decline being reversed in Russia 240 history of, wanted, in schools 247–8 position of, in 1917 228 religious pluralism problem 234 reopened by Second World War 230 stance on 1997 law 238–40 Russian Parliament, storming 1993 23 Russian religious xenophobia 238 Russian society, transformation 27 global to glocal 28 Russian trends since 1991 in religion discrimination against rivals to ROC 246 sacred places 279 Saddam Hussein 405 Sahaja Yoga 326, 330 Vishva Nirmala Dharma 311 Said, Edward, Orientalism 112 School of Folk Culture 190 ‘scientific atheism’, Soviet policy 308, 350 scientology, deemed ‘totalitarian sect’ 245 Scythians, roots of Cossacks 276 secularization, enforced in Russia 242 secularization theory, conventional challenged by USA, and by Islamic fundamentalism 213 self-realization, attainment of 329 self-sufficiency and self-supply 202 Záježovŵá Community 199 September 2001 in USA, events terrorist attacks in Europe 394

Index Seton, Ernest Thompson, Two Little Savages 170 sexism in Rakvere hip-hop 101 sexual abuse by Shri Chinmoy 324 sexual perversion seen in Christianity 270 shakti 348 Shaposhnikova, Ludmila 379, 382 Sharia Law Slovak press coverage 405 Shri Chinmoy, Bengali guru 306, 311 effect on Westerners 325 finding of inner peace 321 ‘missionaries meditation’ 322 Shri Chinmoy Mission concept of meditation 321–5 Shri Mataja (Nirmala Devi) 328 skingirls 73 skinhead subculture 64 analysis in Lithuania 62 Nazism and fascism 67 replacing gangster subculture 30 seen as racist and xenophobic in Russia 37, 54 ‘Slavic-Aryan’ myth 273 Slavic-Aryan people pre-Christian heritage 301 Slavic gods, pantheon of 279–80 Slavs, rodnoverie exclusive to 263 Slovak and Czech Euro-Indians social connections 182 Slovakia contact with Muslims, indirect 396 resistance to Muslim as ‘registered church’ 394 Slovak interest in Indian thought 307 Slovak National Party dislike of immigration 408 Slovak periodicals analysis of, on aspects of Islam 398 Slovak press coverage of Islam and Islamic culture 404

Index irony and derision 407 Smetona, Antanas first President of State of Lithuania 154 social class in skinheads 79 Society and Lifestyles project 353 Society for Harmonious Living 190 soil cultivation process 201 South Asian concepts guru worship, asceticism 324 Soviet state Communism’s negative effect on Christian inheritance 219 deportation of immigrants 385 expansionism after Second World War 230 failure to create enough militant atheists 232 impact of environment on hippie lifestyle 152 KGB arrests 149–50 religious policy, creating Soviet atheist Man and Woman 231 Soviet times, hippie lifestyle 146–7, 156 spirituality 181 339–64 definitions 341–2, 359–60 post-communist 305–38 religion, distinction 313 religiosity 339–64 sport and danger 101 state control and atheism 231 state discrimination against rivals to ROC 246 state regulation of NRMs 219 state violence 23 sterilization for drug-users and alcoholics 369 stone circle temples 282 street fighting 74 and masculinity 75 street gang culture, Kazan 21

439 subcultural style, ‘hipness’ 88–9 clothing choice 76 jargon 76 music, importance of 76 rituals 76 subcultural youth groups literature on 63–4 Lithuania 61 subcultures Australia, France and Russia 64 Gramscian approach 3 success-oriented society, Estonia ‘succiety’, irony 104 Sudarshan Kriya, breathing technique 349 suicide in hip-hop culture, Romania 118 sun wheel (Slavic pagan symbol) dedicated to sun god 282 Swami Maheshwarananda 306, 311 swastika, resemblance to kolovrat 284 symbolic and ritual practices pagans not following 279 symbols and imagery, neo-paganism in Russia 282–5 sewn on clothes 77–8 System, Environment, and Interactions 143–4 systems theory 142 Tallinn, Estonia European Capital of Culture 90 Tamaško, Štefan Ján, Sanskrit textbook 306 tantrikas 328–9 Tarvas, bull in town logo, Rakvere 99 Tatarstan Republic of Russia 15–32 criminal gangs and skinheads 25, 30 Teacher, veneration of 379 terrorist attacks and threats, Islamic Slovak press coverage 404


440 Theosophical Society 365–6 theosophy divine wisdom 365 form of Gnosticism, secret knowledge 366 groups in Latvia, core values 381–2, 384 post-communism merging with politics 384 urban phenomenon 368 Thoreau, H.D., voluntary simplicity 191 Todorov, Tzvetan, The Problem of the Other: the Conquest of America 112 toleration of religious diversity, problem in Slovakia 335 ‘totalitarian sects’ 244–5 totalitarian socialist regimes 7 traditionalist ROC and liberals, disagreement 248 traditionalists versus liberals in religion, Russia 239 Transcendental Meditation (TM) 339, 346 Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 345 survey of society’s tolerance 350 travel in Muslim countries experiences of Slovakians 409 trials of terrorists and war criminals 405 trust and distrust in groups 50 Ukrainian nationalism 263 unemployment 22 US baby-boom generation and religion 340–41 value system, of theosophical groups 369, 370 Vedas, concept of 319–20 Vedic gods, Indian gods 280

vegetarianism 318 Velvet Revolution, Czechoslovakia no impact on Euro-Indian movement 172 village-to-village fights 19 violence extolled by young Cossacks 254 inadequacy of 140 voluntary faith 296 Vytautus the Great ruler (fifteenth century) of Grand Duchy of Lithuania 154 ‘wall-against-wall’ Shrovetide festival ritual 289 Western liberal democracy, Russian fears of 240 growing fear of moral decay in 239 white bootlaces, skinheads 78 White Eagle, coat of arms of Poland 154 Wigmunke Oyáte 180 Euro-Indian group, Slovakia 168 group for families also 175–6 Non-Governmental Organization 172 People of the Rainbow 168 The Voice of the Eagle, journal 182 Wild West Show, Buffalo Bill 170 woodcraft movement 171 native American culture 170 working class image 76 world-affirming movements 346 xenophobic youth subcultures 33–60 Yakunin-Dvorkin case 1997 libel case on NRMs 244–5 Yeltsin, President Boris in favour of religious freedom 235 state violence in Moscow 23

Index yoga and public health 308 as gymnastics in Europe 332–3 as Indian philosophy 332 Maheshwarananda, guru 330 Slovakia has greatest number of centres 315 Yoga in Daily Life 332–3 young, rejection of Orthodoxy 297 youth culture in Russia anti-Christian 301 revival of pre-Christian traditions 301

441 youth fostering 22–3 youth movements, state-sponsored decline, since election of Medvedev 36 Záježka community life centre, Slovakia 188 Záježovŵá Community community meetings 195 list of facilities 193 round tables, quarterly 196 Slovak eco-village 187 Zaporozhe Cossacks, ancient 276

Cultural Identity Studies Edited by Helen Chambers

This series aims to publish new research (monographs and essays) into relationships and interactions between culture and identity. The notions of both culture and identity are broadly conceived; interdisciplinary and theoretically diverse approaches are encouraged in a series designed to promote a better understanding of the processes of identity formation, both individual and collective. It will embrace research into the roles of linguistic, social, political, psychological, and religious factors, taking account of historical context. Work on the theorizing of cultural aspects of identity formation, together with case studies of individual writers, thinkers or cultural products will be included. It focuses primarily on cultures linked to European languages, but welcomes transcultural links and comparisons. It is published in association with the Institute of European Cultural Identity Studies of the University of St Andrews.

Vol. 1

Helen Chambers (ed.) Violence, Culture and Identity: Essays on German and Austrian Literature, Politics and Society. 436 pages. 2006. ISBN 3-03910-266-4 / US-ISBN 0-8204-7195-X

Vol. 2

Heather Williams Postcolonial Brittany: Literature between Languages. 191 pages. 2007. ISBN 978-3-03-910556-4 / US-ISBN 978-0-8204-7583-7

Vol. 3

Andrew Hiscock (ed.) Mighty Europe 1400–1700: Writing an Early Modern Continent. 240 pages. 2007. ISBN 978-3-03911-074-2

Vol. 4

Marie-Claire Patron Culture and Identity in Study Abroad Contexts: After Australia, French without France. 332 pages. 2007. ISBN 978-3-03911-082-7

Vol. 5

Henriëtte Louwerse Homeless Entertainment: On Hafid Bouazza’s Literary Writing. 252 pages. 2007. ISBN 978-3-03911-333-0

Vol. 6

Robbie Aitken Exclusion and Inclusion, Gradations of Whiteness and SocioEconomic Engineering in German Southwest Africa, 1884-1914. 265 pages. 2007. ISBN 978-3-03911-060-5

Vol. 7

Lorna Milne (ed.) Postcolonial Violence, Culture and Identity in Francophone Africa and the Antilles. 233 pages. 2007. ISBN 978-3-03910-330-0

Vol. 8

David Gascoigne (ed.) Violent Histories: Violence, Culture and Identity in France from Surrealism to the Néo-polar. 204 pages. 2007. ISBN 978-3-03910-317-1

Vol. 9

Victoria Carpenter (ed.) A World Torn Apart: Representations of Violence in Latin American Narrative. 304 pages. 2007. ISBN 978-3-03911-335-4

Vol. 10-14  Forthcoming Vol. 15

George McKay, Christopher Williams, Michael Goddard, Neil Foxlee and Egidija Ramanauskaite· (eds) Subcultures and New Religious Movements in Russia and East-Central Europe. 453 pages. 2009. ISBN 978-3-03911-921-9

George McKay is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Salford. He has written or edited many books on popular music, and the cultural politics of alternative life­styles. He is also co-editor of Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest. Christopher Williams is Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Central Lancashire. He is a member of the Russian Academy of Political Science and was Secre­­tary of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies from 1998 to 2001. Michael Goddard is a Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Salford. His current research centres on East European cinema, visual culture and popular culture, particularly in Poland. Neil Foxlee is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of European Languages and Cultures at Lancaster University. He is a specialist in French intellectual history and the political writings of Albert Camus. He has also worked as a journalist and editor in the field of popular music, including hip-hop, punk, reggae and world music.

ISBN 978-3-03911-921-9

CIS 15

Subcultures and New Religious Movements in Russia and East-Central Europe

George McKay, Christopher Williams, Michael Goddard, Neil Foxlee and Egidija Ramanauskaite· (eds)


Cultural Identity Studies

Peter Lang

Egidija Ramanauskaite· is Head of the Centre for Cultural Studies at Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania, and has worked extensively on youth subcultural topics over the last fifteen years.

Subcultures and New Religious Movements in Russia and East-Central Europe

The studies in this collection present selected findings from the three-year EU-funded project ‘Society and Lifestyles: Towards Enhancing Social Harmonization through Knowledge of Subcultural Communities’ (2006–2008), which included partners from a wide range of post-communist countries in Eastern Europe and from the UK.

McKay, Williams, Goddard, Foxlee and Ramanauskaite· (eds)

The collapse of communism has opened up Russia and East-Central Europe to outside influences and enabled new lifestyle choices and forms of religious expression. Based on extensive ethnographic research, this collection uses a variety of theoretical perspectives and methodologies to examine some of the many subcultures and new religious movements that have emerged as part of this process, from members of utopian eco-communities, native-language hip-hoppers and nationalistic skinheads to various forms of Indian-inspired spirituality, neo-paganism and theosophy. Whether they reflect a growing sense of national or ethnic identity, the influence of globalization or a combination of the two, such groups highlight the challenge of creating a free, open and tolerant society in both Russia and new or prospective EU member states. The book seeks to contribute to academic and policy debates in this area by increasing understanding of the groups in question.

Peter Lang