Critiquing “Double Belief” in Russian Paganism
Consider this a follow-up to yesterday’s post on Russian dream rituals, which linked to an article whose author totally accepted the idea of spiritual practices with “very deep roots in pre-Christian culture.”
I had not realized this, but Routledge published a book critiquing the idea of “double belief” (dvoeverie) three years ago: Stella Rock’s Popular Religion in Russia: ‘Double Belief’ and the Making of an Academic Myth.
From the catalog:
This book dispels the widely-held view that paganism [sic] survived in Russia alongside Orthodox Christianity, demonstrating that ‘double belief’, dvoeverie, is in fact an academic myth.
Scholars, citing the medieval origins of the term, have often portrayed Russian Christianity as uniquely muddied by paganism, with ‘double-believing’ Christians consciously or unconsciously preserving pagan traditions even into the twentieth century. This volume shows how the concept of dvoeverie arose with nineteenth-century scholars obsessed with the Russian ‘folk’ and was perpetuated as a propaganda tool in the Soviet period, colouring our perception of both popular faith in Russian and medieval Russian culture for over a century. It surveys the wide variety of uses of the term from the eleventh to the seventeenth century, and contrasts them to its use in modern historiography, concluding that our modern interpretation of dvoeverie would not have been recognized by medieval clerics, and that ‘double-belief’ is a modern academic construct. Furthermore, it offers a brief foray into medieval Orthodoxy via the mind of the believer, through the language and literature of the period.
From what I have seen in current Pagan studies, the concept is indeed widely accepted by today’s Russian Pagans and by some scholars as well. I may need to read this book.
UPDATE: From a review in Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review by Kaarina Aitamurto:
The validity of the myth has been increasingly called into question in recent decades. Rock’s contribution, however, is ground-breaking in its extensive and methodologically solid approach.