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Political Science in Europe

Desecularisation in Orthodox Europe: Causes and Consequences

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Political Theory
Comparative Perspective
Kristine Margvelashvili
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Kristine Margvelashvili
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Political and societal changes in Eastern Europe during the last decades of the 20th century had the formative effect on the region. Democratization lead to the development of secular norms in politics and overall institutional development, although at the eve of 21st century instead of growing secular tendencies, soon after the dissolution communist regimes , in Orthodox European states like Georgia, Serbia and Romania, the Churches grew strong and started to cooperate closely with state; This lead increasing influence, popularity and enforcing special status of the Orthodox Churches in each country. Various authors, including P. Berger with his rejection of secularization hypothesis and Inglehart & Norris’s thesis on reasons of the revival of religion in the world, can be used as a tool to fully explain causes and consequences of such events.

Moreover, Northmore-Ball and Evans (2016) argue that Catholic and Orthodox countries in post-Communist Eastern Europe are experiencing different trends, Catholic’s are more secular while in Orthodox societies revivals are taking place. Authors explain differences in trends with the legacies of state repression and the differing abilities of the churches to resist such repression. Namely that Orthodox church due to its nationalistic characteristic had less capacity to battle with regime. To counter these hypotheses, the case of Greece, the only Orthodox state left out of communist regime is the perfect example. Greece is experiencing the same or higher levels of religiosity nowadays as Georgia, Serbia or Romania. Thus, this study aims to inquire upon the desecularization process in Georgia, while comparing it to Serbian, Greek and Romanian cases, and shaping the narrative around Eastern European region.

Paper assumes that three factors played a major role in the formation of post-secular reality in Eastern Orthodox states: Georgia, Greece, Romania and Serbia. First and foremost, Byzantine heritage of the Orthodox church, with conservative characteristics of the theological dogmas, while remaining unchanged affected the development where Justinian tradition of Symphonia is still prevailing in Orthodox countries. Furthermore: Sustainability of the Orthodox church itself and its institutional strength serves as an important indicator, and cultural accommodation (Papanikolau 2003) of Orthodox dogmas by each country results from it. And last: Everlasting battle with infidels, modernization, globalization and other profane phenomena, transforms church as an institution at the same time close ally of the state and on the other hand preserves its oppositional power.
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