Awkward Secularity between Atheism and New Religiosity in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan
The term “chaos” has the dubious honor of being one of the terms that has been used most frequently to characterize the post-Soviet condition of the 1990s, both by those who lived through the period and by those who observed and wrote about it (e.g. Manning, 2007; Nazpary, 2002; Pelkmans, 2012). In the post-Soviet Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, where I have carried out several research projects over the past 15 years, the locally preferred term was bardak, which the dictionary translates as chaos but also as brothel, thus nicely allowing moral judgment to be woven into expressions of frustration. When people used the term chaos they were often talking about post-Soviet conditions: the declining standards of living, the deteriorating infrastructure, the privatization of law, and the monetization of patronage networks, or blat (cf. Ledeneva, 1998). But apart from highlighting existential uncertainties and dissatisfactions, the term also pinpointed epistemological conundrums. The official truths that together represented “communist ideology” had lost their institutional backing and were challenged by new sets of ideas. In order to illustrate the destabilizing character of this process let me cite from a conversation in the late 1990s with a befriended academic and former communist party member, someone who presented himself as being “not religious.”
KeywordsSoviet Period Religious Movement Soviet Time Soviet Society Religious Affair
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