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Religion, Politics and Memory in Eastern Europe: Case of Ukraine

Workshop organised within the framework of conferences and workshops supported by CBEES conference grants.

In the studies of religions, there have been already a rich discussion on how theories of social memory can be used for understanding social dimension of religion and how religious communities are constructed through memory. In memory studies, though, there is a lack of understanding of the role of religion because the scholars often oversee the cultural dimension of religion and its influence on the secularized societies. In the workshop, we want to open discussion on what the focus on religion can bring for interdisciplinary studies of culture and memory which are connected to problems of secularization and modernity, critique of Messianism, and political theology. We see that religion plays an important role in the political and cultural life in Eastern Europe and through our discussions we hope to come closer to understanding of the main mechanisms and motivations that stand behind the omnipresent role of religion in almost all social spheres.

Organiser: Yuliya Yurchuk, postdoctoral researcher, School of History and Contemporary Studies, Södertörn University (

Organising Committee: Yuliya Yurchuk (Department of History), Lena Roos (Department of Studies of Religions), Kateryna Zorya (Department of Studies of Religions).

Confirmed speakers and the topics of their presentations:

Per-Arne Bodin, Stockholm University: “Soviet Past in Contemporary Orthodox Iconography and Hymnography

Tymofii Brik, Kyiv School of Economics: “Religious resurections in Ukraine, 1991-2018: national narratives, social insecurities, and church competition”.

Agnieszka Halemba, Polish Academy of Sciences: “Suffering for and against the church. Memory of suffering and repression in the Mukachevo Greek Catholic Eparchy”.

Teuvo Laitila, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu: “Antisemitism and Ukraine in The Jerusalem Post since the annexation of the Crimea”.

Alla Marchenko, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Warsaw): “A new President of Ukraine in the Spotlight: How Collective Memory and Religion Intertwined with Politics.

Michal Wawrzonek, Jesuit University Ignatianum in Kraków: “Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and Politics in the Post-Soviet Ukraine”.

Abstracts of Presentations and Short Information on Speakers

Soviet Past in Contemporary Orthodox Iconography and Hymnography

During seventy years from 1917 the Russian Orthodox Church was persecuted with the same strength and cruelty as the early Christians were subjected to in the Roman Empire. After the fall of the Soviet Union the Church has canonized around 2000 martyrs for given their life for their Christian faith. As a commemoration of these saints vitae and hymns have been written as well as icons painted depicting the saints and their deeds. In this paper I will focus on The Gathering of the New Martyrs from the year 2000 being a collective icon showing various aspects of martyrdom in Soviet Union. I will analyse the icon and the hymns pertaining to it and show the means used to describe the revolution and its immediate consequences for the church: the election of a new patriarch, the murder of the tsar family, the death sentence against metropolitan Veniamin, the attacks on religious processions. Art forms from the Middle Ages are used for modern memory making. I will also appeal to other examples of modern Russian orthodox art depicting the revolution and the suffering of the Church in early Soviet time. The texts and the images will be analysed in relation to the notion of religious language and as different kinds of memory and identity strategies. The use of these texts and images will be seen both as a reconsideration of the Soviet past and as a reconciliation with it.

Per-Arne Bodin is professor of Slavic literatures at Stockholm University. His main research interests are Russian poetry, Russian cultural history (especially the importance of the Russian orthodox tradition) and Polish literature after the Second World War. His most recent book are Language, Canonization and Holy Foolishness: Studies in Postsoviet Russian Culture and the Orthodox Tradition, Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, Stockholm 2009 and Från Bysans till Putin: Historier om Ryssland, Norma, Skellefteå 2016.

Antisemitism and Ukraine in The Jerusalem Post since the annexation of the Crimea

The presentation discusses how The Jerusalem Post describes the changing attitudes towards the Jews in Ukraine (and Russia) due to the annexation of the Crimea and the escalation of war in Eastern Ukraine. I map out, what is said about the Jews, who is speaking and to whom, and for what purpose.

Teuvo Laitila have studied comparative religion, cultural anthropology and (Orthodox) church history. Currently he teaches Orthodox church history and comparative religion at the University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu. Most of his publications are in Finnish. His current interest includes history of Jews, particularly the Holocaust, in the Eastern Europe; religion and politics in Eastern Europe and the Balkans; and folk religion in Karelia (Finnish and Russian).

A new President of Ukraine in the Spotlight: How Collective Memory and Religion Intertwined with Politics

In my presentation, I focus on coverage of the elections of a new President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, in the most influential international newspapers. These elections provoked a splash of international interest to Ukraine, and one of the reasons was the background of Volodymyr Zelensky. Specifically, he is a Russian-speaking professional comedian who was born in a Jewish family in Eastern Ukraine. His main rival, ex-President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, used the message: „Army! Language! Faith!” as his main slogan during the campaign. Moreover, questions of integrity and independence of Ukrainian Orthodox Christianity, as well as „de-Communization” in memory politics have become particularly important during the presidency of Petro Poroshenko. I would seek answers to such questions: how did international media touch the topics of collective memory and religion in representing the outcomes of the elections? What argumentation was used in providing information about ethnic and/or religious background of Volodymyr Zelensky, and what place did it occupy among other aspects of his background? I selected materials during the period between the second round of the presidential elections in Ukraine (21 April 2019) until inauguration of Volodymyr Zelensky as the President of Ukraine (20 May 2019). I used content analysis and critical discourse analysis as main research methods.

Alla Marchenko is a sociologist. She got her Candidate’s Degree (equivalent to Ph.D. degree in Sociology) from Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University (Ukraine). Since 2017, she has been a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Warsaw). The topic of her doctoral thesis is “Comparative analysis of the Hasidic pilgrimage effects upon the local frames of memory in Poland and Ukraine.” She is a researcher in the project “ReHerit: Common Responsibility for Shared Heritage”, implemented by the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe (Ukraine).

Religious resurections in Ukraine, 1991-2018: national narratives, social insecurities, and church competition

In my presentation I review religious revival in Ukraine from its independence till 2018. Following the collapse of the USSR traditional religious groups resurrected (e.g. Orthodox and Greek Catholics) and new ones entered the stage (e.g. various Protestant and Evangelistic organizations). In contrast to many post-Communist societies, Ukrainian religious landscape became extremely diverse. Three Orthodox jurisdictions, Greek and Roman Catholics, traditional minorities of Jews and Muslim Tatars together with new Protestant and Evangelistic groups have contributed to the pallet. I religious market framework to discuss religious consumption (respondents) and supply (religious organizations). Novel data about religious communities registered at regional level suggest that religious pluralism and the competition between the Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdictions have been a pivotal facet of religious revival in Ukraine.

Tymofii Brik is PhD in Social Science (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid). Before moving to Spain, Tymofii obtained a research master degree in Sociology and Social Research in Utrecht (the Netherlands) and a master degree in Sociology in Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University (Ukraine). His research interests include sociology of religion, social stratification and mobility, and economic history.

Tid och plats

27 september 09:00-18:00


Room MA 796, CBEES, Södertörn University, hitta hit


Arrangeras av

The Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES), Södertörn University



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