Since the fall of communism, Russia has seen a rebirth of religious worship, especially in the once so powerful Russian Orthodox Church. But the Russian Federation is home to a vast diversity of cultures, with their own languages and religions. Some of these are now being revived after centuries of repression. While younger generations tend to see these ancient traditions as folklore, the older generations see them as religious rites.
As part of the Saint Petrovo’s Day rite among the Finnic-speaking people of the Mari-El Republic on the middle Volga, for example, bearded men in embroidered cloaks and women in traditional attire gather in the forest to sacrifice a sheep and bring an offering before a tall birch tree.
The Russian Orthodox Church denounces these practices, but some of these local groups are hoping for more understanding and support from the authorities, perhaps even official recognition of their so-called “pagan” and shamanist beliefs. Bill Gasperini plumbs the depths of the situation in “Pagans and Patriarchs”.
Producer: Bill Gasperini
Broadcast: March 28, 2006