Religious Education in Russia: Inter-Faith Harmony or Neo-Imperial Toleration?

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

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Religious Education in Russia: Inter-Faith Harmony or Neo-Imperial Toleration?


  • Elena Lisovskaya Department of Sociology, Western Michigan University, USA


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Abstract:  This paper explores the approach to religious education that has been instituted in Russia since 2012. The new policy’s manifestly proclaimed goals seem convergent with the values of religious freedom, self-determination, tolerance, and inter-faith peace that are espoused by Western liberal democracies. Yet Russia’s hidden religious education curriculum is far more consistent with a neo-imperial model of ethno-religious (Russian Orthodox) hegemony and limited toleration of selected, other faiths whose reach is restricted to politically peripheral ethno-territorial entities. This model embodies and revitalizes Russia’s imperial legacies. Yet the revitalization is, in itself, an outcome of strategic choices made by the country’s religious and secular elites in the course of its desecularization. Building on discourse analysis of five Russian textbooks and a teacher’s manual, this article shows how the neo-imperial model manifests itself in the suppression of exogenous and endogenous pluralism, cultivation of the ideology of “ethnodoxy”, and in essentially imperialist mythology. The paper concludes by predicting the new model’s potential instability.

Keywords:  education; ethnicity; multiculturalism; religion; Russia; hidden curriculum, neo-imperialism

Published:   19 April 2016


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v4i2.509


© Elena Lisovskaya. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.