Religion and Spirituality in Russia and Eastern Europe

The Religion and Spirituality in Russia and Eastern Europe (RSREE) Study Group was established in 2009 to bring together scholars in Britain working on aspects of religion in Russia and Eastern Europe. By founding RSREE, the Convenors hoped to create and sustain links between academics and postgraduate students in Britain and beyond researching religion and spirituality in the region.

The Convenors of the RSREE Study Group are Zoe Knox (University of Leicester) and Stella Rock (Open University). Please contact Zoe to be added to the RSREE mailing list.


The RSREE Study Group is broad in its geographical, historical and disciplinary scopes: it focuses on religion and spirituality in the former Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe across all historical periods and disciplines. The rationale behind the Group is to create and sustain a network of academics, scholars and pedagogs in Britain whose research and teaching interests relate to religion and spirituality in the region of BASEES’s remit. A substantial number of researchers now work in the area of religion broadly construed. The Study Group brings together scholars from anthropological, sociological and literary disciplines as well as historians and political scientists. In line with BASEES’s aim to advance education on the region for public benefit, the Study Group will open its events to the broader public.


The Study Group arranges panels for the annual BASEES conference at the University of Cambridge and organises informal meetings of religion specialists to coincide with it. Other Study Group activities include holding seminars, workshops and symposia for researchers, postgraduate students, and the public.

Future Events

The RSREE Study Group has arranged three panels for the 2018 BASEES Annual Conference, namely  ‘Religious Heterodoxies in Contemporary Bulgaria, Transylvania & Siberia’; Eastern Orthodoxy and Politics: Historical and Contemporary Challenges’; and ‘Religion in Crisis and Conflict: Lessons from Russia and Ukraine’. The speakers include anthropologists, historians, and sociologists from across Europe. For full details of the panels (including presenters, paper titles and chairs), see the conference programme here.

Past Events

The 2017 BASEES Annual Conference featured three panels organised by RSREE, as follows: Moralities, Identities, and Religious Practices in Orthodox Countries, 'Church, State, and Belief in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia’, and 'Grappling with the Past: Religion, Reflection, and Remembrance in post-Soviet Russia'. For full details, see the 2017 conference programme.

RSREE did not organize any panels at the 2016 BASEES Annual Conference.

The RSREE Study Group organised three panels for the 2015 BASEES Annual Conference. The panels were on the following: ‘New religions and national change in Russia and Eastern Europe’; ‘Style and aesthetics in Polish Native Faith and Pagan movements’; and ‘Russian Orthodox negotiations of power and state, from the 19th century until today’. For full details, see the 2015 conference programme:

A one day workshop on 'Protestantism and the Superpowers: Mission, Spirituality, and Prayer in the USA and USSR' was held at the University of Leicester on 27 September 2014. The event provided the opportunity to discuss current research exploring the religious dynamics of the Cold War with perspectives from both sides of the iron curtain. It drew participants from around Britain, across Europe, and from the United States. The programme can be accessed here. The organisers are grateful to BASEES, the Institute for North American Studies at King's College London, and the University of Leicester for funding which made the day possible. A report on the workshop can be found here

The RSREE Study Group organised five panels on religion for the 2014 BASEES Annual Conference. The panels were on the following themes: Russian Religious Thought; Religion, Modernity, and Secularization; Historical Orthodox Pilgrimage;  Contemporary Orthodox Pilgrimage; andOrthodox Saints, Relics, and Miraculous Icons: From the Medieval Period to Collectivization. Full details can be found on the conference programme, accessible here:

The symposium ‘Visions of the Future: Religion, Apocalypse and Dystopia in Slavic History and Culture’ was held at the University of Sheffield on 8 October 2011. It addressed apocalypticism in Slavic history and culture and, in particular, the interplay between literary texts, theological doctrines, and folkloric traditions in shaping visions of the end of the world. Delegates considered why visions of the ‘end’ become particularly powerful at certain historical moments and how the language and form of apocalyptic fears has evolved over time. There were two keynote addresses, the first by Professor Steve Smith (European University Institute, Florence) and the second by Professor Maureen Perrie (University of Birmingham). The other papers were presented by postgraduate students and scholars from Britain and beyond, working in a range of disciplines. The full programme can be downloaded here. The organisers are grateful to the University of Sheffield and to BASEES for funding which made the day possible.

On 26 November 2010 Dr Philip Boobbyer presented a paper on 'Dead Souls? Spiritual Life and Death in Soviet Dissident Literature'at The University of Leicester. Much of Soviet dissident writing can be described as spiritual survival literature. The great novelists and memoirists sought to offer advice on how people could navigate through the pressures of Soviet life with their souls intact. In his paper, Dr Boobbyer (University of Kent) examined the nature of this spiritual discourse and also explored the challenges of using oral history evidence for writing about issues of conscience and spiritual experience.

The RSREE Study Group sponsored a seminar at the University of Sheffield on 30 April 2010. Professor Simon Dixon (SSEES, UCL) spoke on 'Celebrity monks in Late Imperial Russia'. The paper explored some unintended consequences of the revival of Orthodox 'learned monasticism' in the 1880s. Whereas K. P. Pobedonostsev envisaged the phalanx of zealots who emerged from Russia's theological academies over the next generation as a means of reinforcing clerical discipline, they proved instead to be an unstable influence on both the Church and wider society.  Antonii (Vadkovskii), Antonii (Khrapovitskii), Sergii (Stragorodskii), Mikhail (Semenov), and Iliodor (Trufanov) were among the individuals discussed in the paper, which concentrated on attitudes to ecclesiastical authority, populist politics and individual celebrity.

The Study Group organised a panel of speakers at the BASEES Annual Conference at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, in March 2010. 

The inaugural event of the RSREE Study Group was a seminar at the University of Leicester on 4 December 2009. Dr Stella Rock (Baylor University, USA) spoke on ‘Living chronicles of our Fatherland’: The revival of the krestnyi khod (procession of the cross) in post-Soviet Russia. The paper explored the interplay of history, piety and politics at work in the creation and recreation of pilgrimage traditions in post-Soviet Russia. Focusing on the Velikoretskii and Ekaterinburg krestnye khody, it addressed the astonishing flourishing of the procession of the cross as a form of pilgrimage. The former is a revived tradition which is promoted by the Church as being over 600 years old, the latter a post-Soviet construction which commemorates the murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Pilgrims’ perceptions were compared and contrasted with clerical representations of these pilgrimages, examining the role of historical memory in the creation of post-Soviet sacred space and ritual.