Staunton, Nov. 28 – Overwhelmingly what people know about paganism comes from those who attack that traditional faith as a sect that breeds extremism. Now, however, in a new book, Russia’s pagans have the chance to speak for themselves and to describe the pressures they are under in that country at the present time.
The new book, Contemporary Paganism (in Russian; Moscow, 2021, 190 pp., full text online at tradition.foundation/112021/ftr_book_download/) includes articles by specialists on pagans and by pagan activists as well as surveys of pagans themselves. It has now been reviewed by Credo.ru’s Gedeon Yang (credo.press/239950/ and credo.press/239961/).
The Traditional Religious Foundation is devoted to the current problems of paganism in Russia, Yang says. It was established by Yevgeny Nechkasov, a paganist himself; and he is the author of most of the materials in the book, including documenting vandal attacks and harassment of pagan groups in the Russian Federation.
Other articles in the new volume focus on the demonization of paganism by anti-Sectarian activists and commentators who regularly insist that “paganism is the direct path to extremism” and that “pagan extremism is on the rise,” assertions they make without providing evidence, the book says.
Official data do not confirm their claims, the book says. Only about two percent of the materials listed in the government’s list of prohibited terrorist and extremist organizations have any connection to pagan groups, it continues. And of those, two-thirds are pseudo-pagan groups rather than genuine ones.
The authorities do have problems with the pagans. The latter don’t want their children to study Orthodox culture in schools and seek the introduction of an option to study “Foundations of Traditional Religions” instead. No such course is yet available, but the book describes some of what its content should be.
Russian pagans say they don’t engage in missionary activity, something Moscow has suggested they do. But their biggest problem right now is that when pagans find themselves in prison, the authorities do not allow pagan religious leaders to visit them because paganism does not have a legally recognized center. Only groups that do can send representatives to prisons.
The book insists that “followers of the ancient gods are in their majority not sectarians, extremists or ‘foreign agents.’ On the contrary,” it says, “they often are more worthy citizens of Russia than other false patriots who go on about their ‘official’ ties and the government awards they have received.