- Slavic Neopaganism
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Slavic Neopaganism (also known as Slavianism or Rodnovery; Russian: Родноверие / Rodnoverye, Родославие / Rodoslavie; Ukrainian: Рiдна Вiра / Ridna Vira, Рідновірство / Ridnovirstvo, Рідновір'я / Ridnoviriya; Serbian: Родноверје / Rodnoverje, Родна вера / Rodna vera), Belarusian: Роднавераваннe / Rоdnaveravanne; Polish: Rodzimowierstwo) is a modern fakeloric, polytheistic, reconstructionistic, and Neopagan religion; its adherents call themselves Rodnovers (Ukrainian: Ridnoviry), and consider themselves to be the legitimate continuation of pre-Christian Slavic religion.
Rebirth of Slavic spirituality
The pre-Christian religions of the Slavic peoples probably died out slowly in the countryside after the official adoption of Christianity (Moravia in 863, Poland in 966, Kievan Rus' in 988). Those Pagan religious practices that were not adopted into Christian folk practice were probably stamped out by the 15th century; however, some modern Rodnovers make use of 19th century folk practices that may be altered survivals of the earlier religion.
In the 19th century, many Slavic nations experienced a Romantic fascination with an idealised Slavic Arcadia that was believed to exist before Christianity arrived, which combined such notions as the noble savage and Johann Gottfried Herder's national spirit. In the absence of extensive written or archaeological evidence for the destroyed Slavic religion, these artistic visions were important in rebuilding interest in the lost Slavic heritage after the unmitigated condemnation of medieval Christian writers. Zorian Dołęga-Chodakowski's 1818 pamphlet "O Sławiańszczyżnie przed chrześcijaństwem" (About the Slavs before Christianity) would later prove to be an influential proto-Neopagan manifesto with its depiction of "two cultures" in the Slavic lands; one was the original pure Slavic culture of the peasants, the other was the imported foreign culture of the nobility. Unlike earlier authors, Dołęga-Chodakowski identified Christianity as a negative influence on national character.
In addition to new artistic representations, the 19th century was a period which rediscovered many authentic fragments of Slavic religion, such as the publication of the Tale of Igor's Campaign (1800) and the excavation of the Zbruch idol (1848). It was also rife with fakes, such as the Prillwitz idols (1795) and the Mikorzyn stones (1855).
As in other European countries, many Slavic nations developed their own Rodnover traditions in the first half of the 20th century (Poland by 1921; Ukraine by 1934; compare with neighbours Germany by 1925; and Latvia by 1926). The German and Polish groups were often already referred to as Neopagan in press articles before World War II.
Most, but not all, Rodnovers place a heavy emphasis on some form of nationalism as part of their ideology combined with anti-Christian sentiment (they consider Christianity a Jewish superstition). In some cases, this may be limited to a commitment to preserve national tradition and folklore; in other cases, it may include chauvinism directed against other ethnic groups. As Dr. Victor Shnirelman, a cultural anthropologist at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology in Moscow, has written, ethnic nationalism, xenophobia, racism, and antisemitism are core values of many Russian Rodnover groups. He has also pointed out recent translations into Russian of "racist and antisemitic teachings" by the Italian fascist Julius Evola and the antisemitic Theosophist Alice Bailey which are evidence of this tendency. The promotion of the Panslavist and specifically russocentric ideas by right-wing associations of the Russian Rodnovery groups have led to inferences that these groups promulgate Russian imperialism.
Ecology and respect for nature is another shared theme. Piotr Wiench has claimed that nationalism is less important than ecology to most groups. Many groups use extensive symbolism drawn from the natural world (trees, lightning, Sun, and Moon) and many hold their religious ceremonies outdoors in sparsely populated areas.
Most Rodnovers draw their material from some combination of written medieval chronicles, archaeological evidence, 19th century fakelore, artistic invention and direct "divine revelation". In Russia and Ukraine, many Rodnovers use the Book of Veles as a sacred text. Meanwhile this work, a 20th century literary forgery, does not enjoy widespread popularity in Rodnover groups in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It must also be pointed out, that Black metal music has played an important role in fueling the interest of the Slavic youth in Rodnovery.
Rodnover groups in the Czech Republic include Společenství Rodná Víra (the Association of Native Faith) based in Prague.
The most influential Polish Rodnover ideologue, Jan Stachniuk (1905–1963) founded the magazine Zadruga (named after the Balkan tribal unit) in 1937. The magazine and its associated group embraced members of a wide variety of viewpoints, ranging from secularly humanistic to religiously Rodnover stances. Continuing on from Dołęga-Chodakowski, Stachniuk's own work criticised Catholicism in Poland, adding elements borrowed from Max Weber and Georges Sorel. Stachniuk fought against the Nazi occupation during the Warsaw Uprising but after the war, following a brief period of toleration, he was jailed by the Communist authorities, ending the first period of Zadruga activity.
The continuing legacy of Zadruga in Poland may be seen in the Wrocław-based publishing house "Toporzeł" (which has reissued Stachniuk's works and those of his disciple Antoni Wacyk). Zadruga has also inspired the registered religious organisation Zrzeszenie Rodzimej Wiary (ZRW, the "Association of Indigenous Faith") whose founder Dr. Stanisław Potrzebowski wrote an influential book on pre-war Zadruga. Another active group which owes a heavy ideological debt to Stachniuk is the periodical "Trygław" (first published in 1997) and its associated study group "Niklot" (founded in 1998).
Other Polish Rodnover groups, such as the Rodzimy Kościół Polski (the Native Polish Church) represent a tradition that goes back to Władysław Kołodziej’s 1921 Święte Koło Czcicieli Światowida (Holy Circle of Worshipper of Światowid). The Native Polish Church, along with a third Rodnover organisation, Polski Kościół Słowiański (the Polish Slavic Church) were registered with the Polish authorities in 1995. Most Rodnover groups in Poland, however, are small and informal and do not belong to one of the officially-registered religious organisations.
An "Association for Tradition and Culture 'Niklot'" (Stowarzyszenie na rzecz Tradycji i Kultury Niklot) was founded in Warsaw in 1997, led by far right politician Tomasz Szczepański. Niklot promotes an ideology of ethnic nationalism inspired by Jan Stachniuk and Friedrich Nietzsche.
Rodnover groups in the Russian Federation include the Slavic Communities Union based in Kaluga. The largest cult is that of the great god Rod. Lesser deities include Perun and Dazhbog. Russian centers of Rodnovery are situated also in Dolgoprudny, Pskov and other cities. Moscow has several pagan temples.
The largest pagan group in Slovakia is Krug Peruna; it actively organizes different ceremonies throughout the country. Moreover, it has members not only in Bratislava (its headquarters) but also in other cities such as Martin and Košice.
Another smaller group is Paromova Dúbrava, which draws together pagans from Bratislava and nearby vicinities. The most recent group is Rodolesie from Veľký Krtíš.
The new Rodnover page is Geryon, situated in Bratislava. The Geryon communicate with the other Rodnover sites or groups. The centrum of this guild is in Bratislava, but the members are over both the Slovak and Czech Republics.
Miroslav Švický (also known as ŽiariSlav) published on the subject what was quite well recognized by Slovak etnologic academia, most notably the book Návrat Slovenov. He with group of people around him named Rodný kruh fosters unorthodox approach to neopaganism under Slovak name vedomectvo. They focus on comprehending pagan themes that survived in Slovakia to this day, instead of exactly reproducing rituals as they are described in historical literature (often fragmentary and written by foreigners). The aim is to restore harmony with nature by preserving old rituals, crafts and music as well as creating new ones in the same spirit, named novodrevo, novodrevná hudba. Švický is frontman of musical group Bytosti, that plays such music.
One of the most influential Ukrainian Rodnover ideologues was Volodymyr Shaian (1908–1974). In 1934, Shaian, a specialist in Sanskrit at Lviv University, claimed to have a religious experience while observing a folk ritual in the Carpathian mountains. His brand of Rodnovery emphasised the shared roots of Indo-European culture. He was involved in a short-lived Rodnover movement in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, before emigrating to London at the end of the Second World War. After the war, he was an outspoken supporter of the authenticity of the Book of Veles, and his own 900-page magnum opus on Slavic religion, Vira Predkiv Nashih (The Faith of Our Ancestors), was published posthumously by his supporters in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1987.
The largest group that currently continues Shaian’s legacy is the Obiednannia Ridnoviriv Ukrayiny (Об`єднання Рідновірів України "Native Faith Association of Ukraine"), founded in 1998 by Halyna Lozko, a University lecturer in Kiev. This group is a federation of previously existing smaller groups, including Lozko’s own Pravoslavia, founded in 1993. (The name Pravoslavia is a sort of pun which means both “speaks the truth” and Orthodoxy in the Ukrainian language.) The federation has chapters in Kiev, Kharkiv, Odessa, Boryspil, Chernihiv, Mykolaiv, Lviv and Yuzhnoukrainsk. "Pravoslavia" publishes a glossy magazine named "Svaroh” after the Slavic deity.
Lev Sylenko (1921- ) was a disciple of Shayan’s before breaking with him in the 1960s and developing an alternative reconstruction of Ukrainian pre-Christian religion. Sylenko’s vision is a monotheism that worships the god Dazhboh. Sylenko founded his RUNVira group in 1966 in Chicago, USA, and only opened their first temple in the mother country of Ukraine after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. The current headquarters of RUNVira is in Spring Glen, New York, USA. His 1,400-page Maha Vira was published in 1979. Smaller groups have broken off from RUNVira and mix Sylenko’s teachings with other sources.
Other Slavic countries
Some smaller religious groups also exist in other Slavic countries such as Croatia and Serbia, but there is a Black Metal and Folk Metal scene with bands promoting Paganism through their music. Some acts from the ex-Yu area are: Stribog (Croatia), Svarica (Croatia), Kult Perunov (Croatia), Samrt (Serbia), Arkonian (Macedonia), Maras (Macedonia). In April 2011, after a few years of existence, the first Croatian organization related to the Ancient Slavic culture and Slavic mythology religion was officially formed, named Perunova Svetinja - "association for promotion of the ancient Slavic culture".
- ^ http://images.rca.org/docs/mission/country-profiles/Russia.pdf
- ^ Kavykin O.I. "Rodnovery". Samoidentifikatsiia neoiazychnikov v sovremennoi Rossii: Monografiia. Moskva IA RAN, 2007. ISBN 9785912980176
- ^ English form promulgated by the largest Russian organization is Rodnovery.com
- ^ Хто такі рідновіри?
- ^ Harle, Peter. Neo-Pagan Sacred Art and Altars: Making Things Whole, Journal of American Folklore - Volume 117, Number 463, Winter 2004, pp. 104-105
- ^ V.Shnirelman "Неоязычество и национализм", Восточноевропейский ареал // Исследования по прикладной и неотложной этнологии. № 114. ИЭА РАН, 1998 г.; Неоязычество на просторах Евразии. «Библейско-богословский институт св. апостола Андрея», Москва, 2001, pp. 68, 102, 177, 168.
- ^ M.Vasiliev, Review: Неоязычество на просторах Евразии. М., 2001 // Славяноведение. 2002. № 4. С. 102
- ^ The 2007 International Conference - Russian Rodnoverie (Aitamurto)
- ^ (Polish) Neopogaństwo, rodzimowierstwo i pseudorodzimowierstwo...
- Hauer, Wilhelm Jakob, Heim, K. & Adam, K. (1937). Germany’s New Religion. New York NY: Abingdon Press
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- Okraska, Remigiusz (2001). W kręgu Odyna i Trygława. (In the Circle of Odin and Trygław) Biała Podlaska: Rekonkwista
- Potrzebowski, Stanisław (1982) Zadruga. Eine völkische Bewegung in Polen, Bonn: Institut für Angewandte Sozialgeschichte
- Shnirelman, Victor (2002). “‘Christians Go Home!’: A Revival of Neo-Paganism Between the Baltic Sea and Transcaucasia (An Overview)” in Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 17, No.2
- Shnirelman, Victor (1998). “Russian Neo-pagan Myths and Antisemitism“ Acta no. 13, Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism; The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism; Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 
- Simpson, Scott (2000). Native Faith: Polish Neo-Paganism At the Brink of the 21st Century, ISBN 83-88508-07-5
- Wiench, Piotr (1997). “Neo-Paganism in Central Eastern European Countries” in New Religious Phenomena in Central and Eastern Europe, ISBN 83-85527-56-7
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