Secularism Soviet Style

Secularism Soviet Style

Teaching Atheism and Religion in a Volga Republic
Sonja Luehrmann
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/24/2011
Format: Paperback 14 b&w illus., 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-22355-5
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Sonja Luehrmann explores the Soviet atheist effort to build a society without gods or spirits and its afterlife in post-Soviet religious revival. Combining archival research on atheist propaganda of the 1960s and 1970s with ethnographic fieldwork in the autonomous republic of Marij El in Russia’s Volga region, Luehrmann examines how secularist culture-building reshaped religious practice and interreligious relations. One of the most palpable legacies of atheist propaganda is a widespread didactic orientation among the population and a faith in standardized programs of personal transformation as solutions to wider social problems. This didactic trend has parallels in globalized forms of Protestantism and Islam but differs from older uses of religious knowledge in rural Russia. At a time when the secularist modernization projects of the 20th century are widely perceived to have failed, Secularism Soviet Style emphasizes the affinities and shared histories of religious and atheist mobilizations.

Author Bio

Sonja Luehrmann is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Simon Fraser University and author of Alutiiq Villages under Russian and U.S. Rule.


“Well conceived from start to finish and likely to become a benchmark in its field. . . . This deeply thoughtful book should appeal to a wide range of readers.”
 — Bruce Grant, New York University

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Note on Translation, Transliteration, and Names

Introduction: Atheism, Secularity, and Postsecular Religion

I. Affinities
1. Neighbors and Comrades: Secularizing the Mari Country
2. "Go teach:" Methods of Change

II. Promises
3. Church Closings and Sermon Circuits
4. Marginal Lessons

III. Fissures
5. Visual Aid
6. The Soul and the Spirit

IV. Rhythms
7. Lifelong Learning

Conclusion: Affinity and Discernment


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