'Conversion to Evangelical Christianity in the Post-Soviet Russian Arctic.The Encounter between Indigenous Nenets Animists and Russian Evangelicals.

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) Gamla torget 3, 3rd floor, IRES Library
  • Website
  • Organiser: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES)
  • Contact person: Jevgenija Gehsbarga
  • Phone: 018 471 1630
  • Föreläsning

with Dr. Laur Vallikivi (University of Tartu)

This talk is about an extraordinary group of nomadic Nenets reindeer herders in the Great Land tundra plains and the Polar Ural Mountains on the Arctic border of Europe and Asia. Under socialism, they managed to avoid the Soviet state; but soon after the atheist regime collapsed, many of them became evangelical Christians. For most of the 20th century these reindeer herders, known as “the Independents” (in Russian yedinolichniki), successfully resisted colonial pressure from what was one of the most intrusive and controlling states in the world. Why did then many of them suddenly repudiate their rituals, burn their sacred objects and adopt a radical and authoritarian form of Christianity in the late 1990s and early 2000s? And why do Russian fundamentalist missionaries travel to such a remote area to persuade the indigenous families to abandon their “demonic” religion? Based on eight field trips to the Nenets region between 1999 and 2017, Dr. Vallikivi has followed the evolution of relations between nomads and missionaries from early contact to recent times. In post-socialist contexts, Christian conversion has often been analysed as part of the predicament of a socioeconomic turmoil where a general sense of moral vacuum and disorientation prevails. Dr. Vallikivi’s study challenges this view and shows that the reasons for conversion are not only socioeconomic but also ideational and rhetorical. By exploring trajectories of speech and the withholding of speech, he shows how negotiation with and over words can be seductive but can also make people sense their vulnerability to undesired consequences.

 

Laur Vallikivi is Senior Researcher at the Department of Ethnology, University of Tartu. He holds a PhD in anthropology from Cambridge University (2011). Based on one and a half years of ethnographic fieldwork in the Russian Arctic tundra, he has done extensive research on Nenets reindeer herders’ everyday life, religion and history. He has also explored Yukaghir and Udmurt cosmologies and rituals. His publications include texts in English, Estonian, French, Russian, Italian, and German (see https://ut-ee.academia.edu/LaurVallikivi) and his book on the encounter between Nenets and missionaries is in preparation.