‘Real Orthodox men’: religious masculinities and the new Russian culture of military patriotism

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Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, radical nationalist and quasi‐fascist movements defining themselves in opposition to the Russian government dominated the country's paramilitary scene. This trend was almost completely reversed in the 2010s, with the relative decline of grassroots Slavic ethno‐nationalism and the emergence of a statist military‐patriotic culture centred on ‘traditional values’ and Orthodox faith. Drawing on field research with members of a Moscow‐based military‐patriotic club, this article shows how Orthodoxy emerged as an attractive ideological framework to give meaning to individual and communal practices of moral and physical self‐cultivation among patriotically oriented young middle‐class men. I argue that rather than a process of militarization of a religious public, the establishment of the Orthodox military‐patriotic milieu in the late 2000s is better understood as the Orthodoxization of the Russian paramilitary sphere, driven by young militaristically minded men's search for a sense of purpose and belonging. This post‐Soviet Orthodox paramilitary scene that combines militant masculinities with promotion of law abidance and civic values effectively works to curtail more extreme forms of ethno‐nationalism and thus invites us to rethink conventional wisdom on the relationship between religion, militarism, and violent radicalization.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
VolumeEarly View
Early online date21 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2023


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