Project description

The predominant place of Orthodox religion in Russian society and the close relationship between the Orthodox Church and political power is often cited as a striking example of return of religion onto the public stage after 70 years of state atheism. 

This phenomenon is generally dated back to the late Perestroika years, following the liberalization of religion after the 1000th anniversary of the Christianization of Kievan Rus in 1988. There has been little investigation, however, into the roots of this phenomenon.

Based on oral history interviews, archival research in Russia and abroad, memoirs and secondary literature, this project examines the religious revival which took place within the Russian Orthodox intelligentsia, starting from the late 1960s, in Moscow and Leningrad.

The project first examines the late Soviet period:

  •  the process of conversion to Orthodoxy of educated youth,
  •  religious practices and the creation of underground religious groups,
  •  the circulation of underground religious literature (samizdat and tamizdat) behind and across the Iron Curtain
  •  the role of Orthodox clergy in this process
  •  the role of Western state and non-state actors
  •  political repression of religious dissent

The project also seeks to shed light on the role of lay and religious actors who came to faith in the late Soviet era in the broader religious revival of the Perestroika and post-Soviet period:

  • attempts by clergy and laypeople to reform Russian Orthodoxy or the Russian Orthodox Church
  • the revival of parish life and Orthodox fraternities
  • the rise and fall of Christian democratic parties and the impact of Orthodox believers and clergy in post-Soviet politics
  • Other activities in the media, religious education, etc

Oral history:

For this research project, Barbara Martin conducts interviews with Russian Orthodox believers who came to faith before Perestroika and who were active in Moscow and Leningrad. If you are interested in participating, please write to