The collapse of the Soviet Union marked the end of seventy years of anti-religious policies—of a period in which religious expression was severely curtailed and religious institutions were always controlled, at times co-opted, and at other times brutally repressed, with the aim of effecting the demise of religion, an aim which was never fully realized. The post-1991 era was radically different, at least in those newly independent countries that adopted and implemented liberal laws regarding religious expression and organization. It might be expected that religious leaders and practitioners would have a straightforwardly positive view of this widening scope for religious activities, but this turned out not always to be the case.Read the rest of Contradictions of religious freedom and religious repression.
Mathijs Pelkmans is senior lecturer in anthropology at the London School of Economics. He is a specialist in the anthropology of the Caucasus and Central Asia and has conducted extensive field research in Georgia and in Kyrgyzstan. He is author of Defending the Border: Politics, Religion, and Identity in the Republic of Georgia (Cornell UP, 2006) and editor of Conversion after Socialism: Dirsuptions, Modernisms and Technologies of Faith in the Former Soviet Union (Berghahn, 2009) and, most recently, of Ethnographies of Doubt: Faith and Uncertainty in Contemporary Societies (I.B.Tauris, in press).