Mar 30, 2022, 4:30 pm6:00 pm
019 Bendheim Hall for Campus members; Zoom for all
  • Open To Public
  • RSVP Required



Event Description

Wolfgang Danspeckgruber, Founding Director of LISD, is pleased to invite you to a virtual lecture by Professor José CasanovaSenior Fellow at the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, and Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University.  The lecture is part of the PORDIR and GDSC Seminar Series, and is open to all on Zoom.

Princeton students, faculty, and staff who are permitted on campus are welcome to attend the event in person in the Cyril Black Conference Room, 019 Bendheim Hall. Due to Princeton University Covid restrictions, we are obligated to keep a record of every person that attends. Therefore, in order to attend the event in person, you must RSVP.  A tea reception will follow the talk.

There will be a Zoom link provided for those who RSVP and would like to join remotely.

The lecture will offer an overview of the two very different systems of state, church, nation and civil society relations in Ukraine and the Russian Federation after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and a critical analysis of the religious-political ideology behind the war.

  • After WWII, following the annexation of Polish- controlled Western Ukraine into the USSR, the other two historical churches of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) and the Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church (AUOC) were liquidated, severely repressed and forced underground.  
  • In 1987 when glasnost arrived belatedly in Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) was the only officially recognized church in Soviet Ukraine. 
  • The new relaxation of state controlled of religion brought by glasnost and confirmed by the new Ukrainian constitution allowed the emergence of four competing churches in Ukraine: the UGCC, the AUOC, the UOC-KP and a much diminished UOC-MP. 
  • Independent Ukraine developed an open, pluralist and tolerant pattern of religious denominationalism unique in all of Europe, but similar to the one that emerged in the US after independence. 
  • In the Russian Federation, progressively, constitutional amendments and new legislation have led to a regulated religious system made up of three different tiers: 1) the symphonic alliance between an increasingly autocratic state and the Russian Orthodox Church which is recognized as the national Church of the Russian Slavic people; 2) religious toleration for the “traditional” religions of the Russian empire (Jewish, Muslim, Baptist, and Buddhist), understood as “ethno-religions”, and 3) restricted exercise for the “new” religions, since independence, which may have difficulty registering as legal religious communities,  are classified as “foreign agents,” or are simply criminalized and persecuted (Jehovah’s Witness).
  • Since 2010 the Putin regime and the Moscow Patriarchate have developed jointly the russkii mir (Russian world) ideology. The russkii mir Manichean political theology is used to justify the war as a “Holy War” and as a “metaphysical conflict between good and evil”, to liberate Kievan-Rus from “fascists” and “nazis.”

At this time, the “Special military operation” by Russia – really a war of aggression ordered by its President – against Ukraine seem to enter a second phase.  The recent announcements by Russian defense officials indicate a change from Russian military operations around Kyiv, its north east neighborhood and Ukraine’s south, to predominantly east.  Obviously this will permit Russia to focus on the wider Donbass but also restructuring, re-orientation and re-armament of its units deployed and possibly new units to be sent into theatre.

Domestically this will permit to argue, at least in a limited way: “mission accomplished” i.e. Ukraine military installations decimated and overall demilitarization achieved.  Meaning : all those who were originally opposed to the president’s idea for this “special operation” were wrong – meaning, there might be a domestic cleansing of Russian society. Certainly against all those who oppose, or worse, who backstab. All that can contribute to serious stabilization and maintenance of power and will permit to silence any and all opposition.  

In addition to all that, Vladimir Putin can feel the support of Russia’s Patriarch. Recently Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church has [painted] the war as an apocalyptic battle against evil forces that have sought to destroy the God-given unity of Holy Russia”. 

José Casanova is one of the world's top scholars in the sociology of religion and a senior fellow at the Berkley Center, where his work focuses on globalization, religions, and secularization. He is also professor emeritus at Georgetown University, where he previously taught in the Department of Sociology and the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. During 2017 he was the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the North at the U.S. Library of Congress' John W. Kluge Center, where he worked on a book manuscript on Early Modern Globalization through a Jesuit Prism. He has published works on a broad range of subjects, including religion and globalization, migration and religious pluralism, transnational religions, and sociological theory. His best-known work, Public Religions in the Modern World (University of Chicago Press, 1994), has become a modern classic in the field and has been translated into several languages, including Japanese, Arabic, and Turkish. In 2012, Casanova was awarded the Theology Prize from the Salzburger Hochschulwochen in recognition of his life-long achievement in the field of theology.