The Concept of Mladostarchestvo as a Tool for Criticizing Religion in Modern Russia: An Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies
This article analyzes the history of the term mladostarets/mladostarchestvo [young elder/young eldership], and at the same time classifies strategies of critical rhetoric within which it is used. The notion in question established itself as a particular type of “clerical” pejorative in the 1970–1980s in church circles in the Russian emigration. At the end of the 1990s, it gained popularity after Patriarch Aleksii II began to use it. Most worthy of note is the use of this term in the context of a pastoral rhetorical strategy, in which abuses in the practice of confession are exposed. Nonetheless, in the 2000–2010s mladostarets/mladostarchestvo began to be used in a series of other rhetorical strategies. Within the context of a socio-critical strategy in particular, this concept is used as a tool of criticism of post-Soviet religiosity as a social fact. In its contemporary phase, the notion is also included in an anti-hierarchical strategy, within which it is applied in a parodic vein. As a result, on the one hand, a sort of “oversaturation” of the term with meanings takes place, and, on the other, there is an intricate interlacing of intentions according to which it is used. The latter may indicate a kind of exhaustion of the semantic resources of the term.