Tradition as a Homeland to Return to: Transnational Religious Identity of the Post-Soviet Orthodox Jewry


This article highlights the outcome of a long-term field research into the transnational identity of the post-Soviet Orthodox Jewry. It analyzes biographical interviews taken between 2015 and 2018 in St. Petersburg and Minsk to define the religious identity and day-to-day practices of post-Soviet Orthodox Jews. In this article, I argue that the modern post-Soviet Jewry is a new socio-cultural phenomenon with no historical prototypes. As to the research methodology, it was a combination of the transnational approach, random choice case-study targeting post-Soviet Orthodox communities of Orthodox Jewry in large cities, and the biographical method. The backbone of the post-Soviet Orthodox communities of different strains of Judaism was formed in 1990–2008. It is made up of three generations of men and women born in the late 1940s–1960s, mid-1960s–early 1970s, and the 1980s. Each of these generations is characterized by its own unique pattern of observance, the formation of which is directly conditioned by the circumstances of involvement in religious Jewry. The transnational pattern of observance of the Post-Soviet Orthodox Jews involves the model they confronted at the very beginning of their journey, the model they learned in overseas educational institutions or through incoming envoys and rabbis in the country of residence, and the model of balance between the required and possible in the modern post-Christian and post-atheist environment.

Author Biography

Elena A. Ostrovskaya, Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Elena A. Ostrovskaya is a Professor in Sociology at Saint Petersburg State University. Her primary line of research focuses on processes of institutionalization, globalization and mediatization of traditional religions with a secondary line of research on the methodology of sociological field work. Her latest research projects cover the media practices of Russophone Orthodox Jews, digital Buddhist creatives, Russian Orthodox priests’ blogs. Ostrovskaya is the author of 9 books and more than 60 book chapters and articles on Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan transnational religious network, Russian-speaking Buddhist convert communities, Russophone Orthodox Jewry, sociology of religion, methodology and methods of sociology.


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How to Cite
Ostrovskaya, E. (2021). Tradition as a Homeland to Return to: Transnational Religious Identity of the Post-Soviet Orthodox Jewry. Changing Societies & Personalities, 5(2), 201–219. doi:10.15826/csp.2021.5.2.129