Russians - Religion



The Christianization of Russia in A.D. 988 was a formal royal act that signified the continuing closeness of church and state. Even during Mongol domination, the church was exempt from taxation and enjoyed vast possessions. Through ritual, saintly example, and legal innovations, the church promoted such values as the cardinal importance of love, the respect due to parents, the obligation to give alms, and the abhorrence of suicide. Much of the customary law, including aspects of women's rights, came from the church. The veneration of icons (e.g., in the "red corner" in peasant homes) was adopted in various figurative ways by the Communist party for its own sacred imagery. Prayers and blessings by family elders on important occasions, religious processions, and fasting as a major expression of religious devotion became deeply embedded in peasant and worker culture. Christening and burial in consecrated ground have retained much of their significance, even though priests as ritualists were never very close to peasant or worker life. Such non-Christian practices as soothsaying on New Year's have persisted. Today over half of all Russians, particularly in Europe, appear to be active religious believers, their Orthodox dogma and ritual having changed very little. Weddings and other rituals still have a traditional character; Easter ritual trappings such as painted eggs and kulich cake are retained in a quasi-secular setting. The revitalization of Orthodoxy has gone hand in hand with the rapid growth of various Eastern religions, mysticisms, parapsychology, and belief in "paranormal phenomena" (some of the latter being regarded as "scientific").

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