Popular Perceptions of the Relationship between Religious and Ethnic Identities: A Comparative Study of Ethnodoxy in Contemporary Russia and Beyond
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Dr. Vyacheslav Karpov
Dr. Elena Lisovskaya
Dr. David Hartmann
Dr. Jerry Pankhurst
Religious Identity, ethnic identity, Russia, comparative sociology, sociology of religion
The relationship between religion and ethnicity is well documented. However, previous studies have usually approached the relationship by focusing on the converging of two 'objective' social categories, religion and ethnicity. In doing so, the subjectivity, or the actor's own understanding of the interplay between religion and ethnicity is typically neglected. This study fills this gap by exploring popular perceptions of group identities and the affiliation with imagined ethno-religious communities. To accomplish this, the concept of ethnodoxy, first developed by Vyacheslav Karpov and Elena Lisovskaya, is applied that captures the belief that affiliation to an ethnic group's dominant religion is essential for constructing and maintaining a group's identity. The empirical component of this study examines the scope of this belief system and how its beliefs correlate with people's socioeconomic characteristics as well as with other social, religious, and political orientations.
The study of ethnodoxy focuses on post-communist ethnic Russians. The conflation of religion (i.e., Russian Orthodoxy) and ethnicity in Russian history makes this an ideal context. However, similar ethno-religious relationships are explored among other ethnic and national groups in Russia and beyond as well, thereby providing a comparative dimension to the analysis. Data from a Russian National Survey (2005) and several cross-national survey programs (i.e., International Social Survey Programme and World Values Survey) are used to test these relationships. Two major conclusions can be drawn from these analyses. First, the belief that an individual must affiliate with their ethnic group's dominant religion is wide spread and deeply embedded among most ethnic Russians. Moreover, there is evidence of such ethno-religious linkages beyond ethnic Russians as well, spanning different religious traditions, political economies, and socio-historical contexts. Second, belief in this specific ethno-religious ideology is associated with social, religious, and political orientations that emphasize intolerance, xenophobia, and protectionism. In sum, these findings support the usefulness of the concept of ethnodoxy as a valuable explanatory tool for understanding the popular perception of ethno-religious relationships and offer insight into the role of religion in modern society.
Barry, David M., "Popular Perceptions of the Relationship between Religious and Ethnic Identities: A Comparative Study of Ethnodoxy in Contemporary Russia and Beyond" (2012). Dissertations. 52.