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Stalinist Ritual and Belief System: Reflections on ‘Political Religion’


politics religion & ideologyJournal abstract

This article offers a critical assessment of the Political Religion Theory on the basis of a comparative analysis of the Orthodox and Stalinist belief systems and ritual. The theory works under the assumption that sacralisation of secular objects endows these objects with a transcendental, divine aura. This article argues that the theory fails properly to distinguish between the sacred on one hand and the transcendental and divine on the other. Heroic belief systems such as Stalinism do not deify their leaders, which is why they should not be classified as political religions. Also, the belief systems and rituals spawned by heroic, innerworldly sacralisation differ fundamentally from those emerging in a religious context. The Stalinist leader cult spawned loyalty rituals rather than the kind of rituals of communion that are at the heart of Orthodoxy. Stalinist ideology represented a faith-evidence hybrid rather than a purely faith-based system.

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