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'Â Â s agenda on religious liberalisation and plurality stems from hierarchical perceptions of the direction of change of their church'Â Â 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
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