Religious protectionism in the former Soviet Union : traditional churches and religious liberties
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Religious freedoms in the countries which were once part of the Soviet Union have gradually been on the decline since the mid 1990s. Reflective of de-democratisation trends in many states, religious market liberalisation has lost momentum. Governments have increasingly used methods to restrict non-traditional religious organizations similar to those used in protecting national industries. These range from subsidies for traditional churches to regulatory barriers and even outright bans on non-traditional groups. This drift towards a restrictive religious playing field has coincided with traditional dominant churches being more vocal in the debate over religious institutional design. In this thesis I examine the motives of traditionally dominant churches in either advocating legal restrictions on non-traditional religious entities or promoting a religious free market. Variation in attitudes and policies across traditional churches suggests explanatory variables are at play. A multi-methodological approach is used to understand policy formulation within the hierarchical establishments of traditional churches on religious liberties and religious pluralism. In addition to utilising path-dependent modelling to account for churches' Soviet existence, assumptions drawn from recent scholarship in applying rational choice methodology to the study of religion is used to conceptualise present-day market features. Findings from three churches suggest that a church's agenda on religious liberalisation and plurality stems from hierarchical perceptions of the direction of change of their church's relative influence in society. That perception is heavily rooted in the intersection of Soviet experience and transitional market place dynamics. This thesis adds a case-study contribution to the growing academic discourse on institutional change in transitional societies. In particular, it identifies the mechanisms by which institutional transformation and the creation of a vibrant civil society can stagnate in transitional societies.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2022-05-23
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 23rd May 2022
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