Slavic neopaganism or the Slavic native faith is the contemporary continuation of the ethnic religion of the Slavic peoples (codified in the corpus of Slavic mythology). It is characterised by a pantheist and polytheist theology, a focus on Slavic culture and folklore, and the worship of Slavic deities. In English sources the religion is often called Rodnovery and its followers Rodnovers (an adaptation of Russian terms Родноверие Rodnoverie, from Russian родная вера rodnaya vera, "native faith"). The term Ridnoviry, from Ukrainian, is also in use.
Etymology of the term "Rodnovery"
Rodnovery comes from Slavic compounds adapted to English (from Rodnoverie), made up of родная (rodnaya) or родной (rodnoy), meaning "native", plus вера (vera), meaning "faith" or "truth". Rodnovers generally don't refuse to be categorised as pagans, but virtually none accept the prefix "neo-". Rodnovery can also be anglicised as Rodism or Rodianism, which drops the vera suffix, thus meaning simply "religion of the Rod", "religion of the Root(s)", "religion of the Ancestors".
According to Kaarina Aitamurto, "Rodnovery" is the most used and most appropriate term to define the ethnic religion of the Slavs because, aside from its immediate meaning, it has deeper senses related to its Slavic etymology that would be lost through translation. According to this view "Rodnovery" is a word that embodies the central concept of the Slavic native faith. The noun "Rodnovery" can be found across all Slavic languages in various forms: Bulgarian - Родноверие (Rodnoverie); Czech - Rodnověří; Macedonian - Родноверие (Rodnoverie); Polish - Rodzimowierstwo; Russian - Родянство (Rodyanstvo); Serbian or Croatian - Родноверје / Rodnovjerje; Slovak - Rodnoverie; Slovene - Rodnoverstvo; Ukrainian - Рідновірство (Ridnovirstvo).
In some Rodnover groups, Rod is at the same time the primordial and only god, the fountain that begets all the gods and all the things existing, and the kin (root or genus), the lineage or the bond to the ancestors originating itself from the One. Rodna or rodnaya is itself a concept which can denote the "nearest and dearest", and such impersonal community as one's native home or land, but not all groups of Slavic native faith believers agree on such view of Rod.
Names that come from Russian
Other names that are in use in Russia for the religion, although less popular, are "славянство" or "Slavianstvo", which in English is "Slavism" or "Slavianism", and another name is "Vedism" or "Vedaism". The first name has been used by a community in Moscow maintaining that the term "Slav" originally means "pious", "worshiper of the gods". The latter term has been employed by Alexander Aratov, editor of the Moscow radical newspaper Russkaia Pravda, identifying traditional knowledge as a scientific truth instead of a belief, claiming that the Slavs "know", "understand", "view" (vedali) rather than "believe" (verali).
Places of worship
The basic structure of a temple of the Slavic native faith (капище kapishche, or храм khram) is constituted by a sacred precinct at the centre of which are placed the images of the gods enshrined (kapy). There are many such temples throughout Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. A large, formal one is projected to be built in Khabarovsk.
The Slavic Kremlin (Славянский Кремль), a centre of the "Yarga" Rodnover religious network in the Podolsky District of Moscow Oblast, hosts a typical wooden temple among its buildings. In 2015 the Temple of the Fire of Svarozich (Храм Огня Сварожича), in the form of a wooden building, was opened by the Union of Slavic Rodnover Communities in Krasotynka, Kaluga.
In the 19th century, many Slavic nations experienced a Romantic fascination with an idealised Slavic Arcadia believed to have existed before the advent of Christianity, combining such notions as the noble savage and Johann Gottfried Herder's national spirit. In the absence of extensive written or archaeological evidence for the destroyed Slavic religions, these artistic visions were important in rebuilding interest in the lost Slavic heritage after the unmitigated condemnation of medieval Christian writers. Zorian Dołęga-Chodakowski's 1818 pamphlet O Sławiańszczyżnie przed chrześcijaństwem ("About the Slavs before Christianity") later proved to be an influential proto-neopagan manifesto with its depiction of "two cultures" in the Slavic lands; one was the original pure Slavic culture of the peasants, the other was the imported foreign culture of the nobility. Unlike earlier authors, Dołęga-Chodakowski identified Christianity as a negative influence on national character.
In addition to new artistic representations, the 19th century rediscovered many authentic fragments of Slavic religion, such as the publication of The Tale of Igor's Campaign (1800) and the excavation of the Zbruch idol (1848). It was also rife with literary hoaxes and fakes, such as the Kraledvorsky Manuscript, the Prillwitz idols (1795) and the Mikorzyn stones (1855).
As in other European countries, many Slavic nations developed their own Slavic faith movements in the first half of the 20th century (Poland by 1921; Ukraine by 1934). The German and Polish groups were often already referred to as neopagan in press articles before World War II.
Ecology and respect for nature is а prevalent theme. Piotr Wiench has claimed that nationalism is less important than ecology to most groups, describing "a movement inspired by nature-based spirituality". Many groups use extensive symbolism drawn from the natural world (trees, lightning, Sun, and Moon) and many hold their religious ceremonies outdoors in sparsely populated areas. Wiench mentions one group that dances to drums in the forest near Poznań.
Aitamurto describes a number of common themes, such as nationalism, concern for the environment, warrior themes and indigenous values. Her analysis focuses primarily on Russian groups, which she describes as heterogenous and ranging from pacifism to xenophobia and anti-semitism.
Rodnovery in Belarus has ties in politics, particularly within the pro-Russian political scene. Uladzimir Sacevič is a Rodnover leader.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
In late 2011, in Bosnia and Herzegovina a rodnovjerje association named Svaroži Krug (Circle of Svarog) formed, as a part of the Panslavic Praskozorje movement. Their aim is the promotion, research, preservation, and revival of the old Slavic tradition in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Rodnover groups in the Czech Republic include Společenství Rodná Víra (the Association of Native Faith) based in Prague.
The most influential Polish leader of Slavic native faith (Polish: Rodzimowierstwo; Rodzima Wiara), Jan Stachniuk (1905–1963) founded the magazine Zadruga (named after the Balkan tribal unit) in 1937. The magazine and its associated group embraced members with a wide variety of viewpoints, ranging from secularly humanistic to religiously Slavic native faith stances. Continuing on from Dołęga-Chodakowski, Stachniuk's own work criticised Catholicism in Poland, adding elements borrowed from Max Weber and Georges Sorel. Stachniuk fought against the Nazi occupation during the Warsaw Uprising but after the war, following a brief period of toleration, he was jailed by the Communist authorities, ending the first period of Zadruga activity. The Wrocław-based publishing house "Toporzeł" has reissued Stachniuk's works and those of his disciple Antoni Wacyk. Zadruga also inspired the registered religious organisation Zrzeszenie Rodzimej Wiary (now called "Rodzima Wiara" [RW], or "Native Faith") whose founder Dr. Stanisław Potrzebowski wrote his doctoral thesis on pre-war Zadruga in German (Zadruga - eine völkische Bewegung in Polen). Another active groups that owes a heavy ideological debt to Stachniuk is the "Association for Tradition and Culture 'Niklot'" (named after the pagan Prince Niklot, founded in 1998 and led by far right politician Tomasz Szczepański, who publishes the periodical "Trygław") and "Nationalist Association 'Zadruga'" (in polish "NS Zadruga", founded in 2005 by Dariusz Petryk in Wrocław). Niklot and NS Zadruga promotes an ideology of ethnic nationalism inspired by Jan Stachniuk.
Other Slavic native faith groups, registered with the Polish authorities in 1995, are Rodzimy Kościół Polski (the Native Polish Church) which represents a tradition that goes back to Władysław Kołodziej's 1921 Święte Koło Czcicieli Światowida (Holy Circle of Worshipper of Światowid).
Another form of formal organisation of Polish native faith under Polish law is an association. Most of associations founded by those groups have preservation of culture and traditions as their official aims. They also organise religious rites. Moreover, numerous unregistered and less formal groups of Slavic native faith exist in many cities and towns of Poland.
The Russian Rodnover movement is extremely heterogeneous. The first Rodnover association in Russia was registered in 1994. Rodnover groups in the Russian Federation include the Union of Slavic Native Faith Communities based in Kaluga. Russian centers of Rodnovery are situated also in Dolgoprudny, Pskov, and other cities. Moscow has several temples of the Slavic native faith. Most Russian Rodnovers draw their material from some combination of written medieval chronicles, archaeological evidence, 19th and 20th century fakelore, artistic invention, direct "divine revelation" and many variants of the Aryan myth, which place the source of the Slavic civilization and its beliefs as far away as the Etruscans and even Atlantis.
Some strains of Rodnovery in Russia are characterised by racist and antisemitic views. In 1992 a political party ("Russkaya Partiya") associated with Slavic native faith issued a manifesto, calling for declaration of "Christianity (which preaches the idea of God-chosen Jewish people) a Jewish ideology, and a foreign religion that aids the establishment of a Zionist yoke in Russia".
Most, but not all, Rodnovers place a heavy emphasis on some form of nationalism as part of their ideology combined with anti-Christian sentiment (they consider Christianity a Jewish superstition). In some cases, this may be limited to a commitment to preserve national tradition and folklore; in other cases, it may include chauvinism directed against other ethnic groups. Dr. Victor Schnirelmann, a cultural anthropologist at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology in Moscow, has written that ethnic nationalism, xenophobia, homophobia, racism, sexism, misogyny and antisemitism are core values of many Russian Rodnover groups, and that they base their ideology on the Aryan myth. Schnirelmann also says that the Russian native faith is prevalent among the skinhead groups in Russia.
The Moscow Bureau of the Human Rights Watch notes prevalence of xenophobic, racist, and antisemitic views among Russian native faith groups. In 2010 there were several incidents of violence by Russian native faith extremists against Orthodox Christians and non-Russians.
Roman Shizhensky, a scholar of Russian Rodnovery, states that it is a manufactured "parareligious" movement based on fabricated mythology. The scholar Victor Schnirelmann expresses a similar opinion. Russian Rodnovery has been described by the culturologist I.B.Mikheyeva as "highly politicized quasireligion" with extremist tendencies. Schnirelmann gives a similar assessment of a "quasireligion" based largely on ideology. His assessment is an interpretation of the statements of Russian Rodnover leaders.
The largest Slavic native faith group in Slovakia is Krug Peruna; it actively organizes different ceremonies throughout the country. Moreover, it has members in not only Bratislava (its headquarters) but also other cities such as Martin and Košice.
Another smaller group is Paromova Dúbrava, which draws together Slavic native faith believers from Bratislava and nearby vicinities. The most recent group is Rodolesie from Veľký Krtíš.
The new Rodnover group is Geryon, situated in Bratislava. The Geryon communicate with the other Rodnover sites or groups. The centrum of this guild is in Bratislava, but the members are in both the Slovak and Czech Republics.
Miroslav Švický (also known as ŽiariSlav) published on the subject what was quite well recognized by Slovak ethnologic academia, most notably the book Návrat Slovenov. He meets with group of people around him named Rodný kruh, fostering an unorthodox approach to Rodnovery under the name "Vedism" (Slovak: Vedomectvo). They focus on comprehending Slavic native faith themes that survived in Slovakia to this day, instead of exactly reproducing rituals as they are described in historical literature (often fragmentary and written by foreigners). The aim is to restore harmony with nature by preserving old rituals, crafts and music as well as creating new ones in the same spirit, named novodrevo, novodrevná hudba. Švický is the frontman of musical group, Bytosti, that plays such music.
The informal association, Slovenski staroverci (trans. Slovenian Old-believers), was formed in 2005 when they began actively working on the preservation of Slovenian and Slavic native faith. Old-believers in Slovenia annually celebrate holidays associated with the four seasons: Jarilo (vernal equinox), Mara (autumnal equinox), Kresnik (summer solstice) and Božič Svarožič (winter solstice). In addition to these seasonal holidays, old-believers also commemorate Veles' day and Perun's day. In 2009, Slovenski staroverci sent a public letter to the minister of education and sports, asking him to find a place for Slovenian native faith among other religions taught in public schools. That same year, in the castle Struga, Slovenski staroverci also organized an international conference for Veče rodne vere (trans. gathering of native faith). A year after the conference, a journal was published, titled Triglav: Religious Meaning Among the Slavs. A room in the Struga castle is permanently arranged as an open room dedicated to the Slovenian native faith. The room also serves as a place for exhibitions of Slavic old-belief artwork. In 2012, a statue of the Slavic god Perun was erected in the Šentjur district.
Among the new religious movements in Slovenia, the association Slovenski staroverci is the only one worshiping Slovenian native gods. Their activity can be easily compared to other Rodnover movements.
Slovenia is one of the few countries where organised, ancient, pre-Christian beliefs survived up until at least the 19th century, and in some parts of Slovenia these beliefs survived even up to the first world war due to great secrecy and a strict code of silence.
One of the most influential Ukrainian Ridnovir ideologues was Volodymyr Shayan (1908–1974). In 1934, Shayan, a specialist in Sanskrit at Lviv University, claimed to have a religious experience while observing a folk ritual in the Carpathian mountains. His brand of Ridnovira emphasised the shared roots of Indo-European culture (e.g. equated Slavic gods with Vedic gods. After the war, he was an outspoken supporter of the authenticity of the Book of Veles, and a selection of his collected papers on Slavic religion and Ukrainian culture, was published was published posthumously by his supporters in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1987 as a 884-page magnum opus Vira Predkiv Nashih (The Faith of Our Ancestors).
The largest group that currently continues Shayan's legacy is the Obiednannia Ridnoviriv Ukrayiny (Об`єднання Рідновірів України "Native Faith Association of Ukraine"), founded in 1998 by Halyna Lozko, a University lecturer in Kiev. This group is a federation of previously existing smaller groups, including Lozko's own "Pravoslavia", founded in 1993. The federation has chapters in Kiev, Kharkiv, Odessa, Boryspil, Chernihiv, Mykolaiv, Lviv and Yuzhnoukrainsk. "Pravoslavia" publishes a glossy magazine named "Svaroh" after the Slavic deity (Svarog).
Lev Sylenko (1921–) was a disciple of Shayan's before breaking with him in the 1960s and developing an alternative reconstruction of Ukrainian pre-Christian religion. Sylenko's vision is a monotheism that worships the god Dazhboh. Sylenko founded his RUNVira group in 1966 in Chicago, United States, and opened their first temple in the mother country of Ukraine only after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. The current headquarters of RUNVira is in Spring Glen, New York, USA. His 1,400-page Maha Vira was published in 1979. Smaller groups have broken off from RUNVira and mix Sylenko's teachings with other sources.
Rodnovery have taken a major role in the War in Donbass, on the side of the Russian separatists, and have been accused of harassing members of other religions, especially Protestants.
Other Slavic countries
- Emic terms in different Slavic languages, most of which are compound words of родная rodnaya or родной rodnoy, meaning "native", "indigenous", "ancestral" (derived from Род Rod, meaning "genus", "generation", "kin", "race"), and вера vera, "faith":
- Belarusian: Родноверие Rodnoverie
- Bulgarian: Родноверие Rоdnoverie
- Macedonian: Родноверие Rodnoverie
- Czech: Rodnověří
- Croatian: Rodnovjerje
- Polish: Rodzimowierstwo; Rodzima Wiara
- Russian: Родноверие Rodnoverie; Родославие Rodoslavie ("ancestral piety")
- Slovak: Rodnoverie
- Slovene: Rodnoverstvo (meaning "Rodnoverism", "Native-faith-ism"); Staroverstvo ("Staroverism", that is "Old-faith-ism")'
- Serbian: Родноверје Rodnoverje
- Ukrainian: Рiдна Вiра Ridna Vira; Рідновірство Ridnovirstvo ("Rodnoverism"); Рідновір'я Ridnovirya
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