End of organised atheism. The genealogy of the law on freedom of conscience and its conceptual effects in Russia

Galina Oustinova-Stjepanovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In the current climate of the perceived alliance between the Russian Orthodox Church and the state, atheist activists in Moscow share a sense of juridical marginality that they seek to mitigate through claims to equal rights between believers and atheists under the Russian law on freedom of conscience. In their demands for their constitutional rights, including the right to political critique, atheist activists come across as figures of dissent at risk of the state's persecution. Their experiences constitute a remarkable (and unexamined in anthropology) reversal of political and ideological primacy of state-sponsored atheism during the Soviet days. To illuminate the legal context of the atheists’ current predicament, the article traces an alternative genealogy of the Russian law on freedom of conscience from the inception of the Soviet state through the law's post-Soviet reforms. The article shows that the legal reforms have paved the way for practical changes to the privileged legal status of organized atheism and brought about implicit conceptual effects that sideline the Soviet meaning of freedom of conscience as freedom from religion and obscure historical references to conscience as an atheist tenet of Soviet ethics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600-617
Number of pages18
JournalHistory and Anthropology
Volume31
Issue number5
Early online date11 Nov 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • freedom of conscience
  • atheism
  • Marxist ethics
  • dissent
  • juridical marginality

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