On the outskirts of St. Petersburg, nestled amid trees and snow, sits a church. Near the church’s entrance a man, who looks as if he probably comes from Central Asia, is begging for money. A parishioner casts an unfriendly glance his way before entering the church, where she hurriedly approaches some women who work there.
“This is outrageous! How can there be a Muslim begging at the entrance to an Orthodox church? This simply won’t do, especially here, at Kulich and Paskha!” she exclaims, using the affectionate nickname people have given this eighteenth-century church.
Post-secular Russian reality is fraught with paradoxes, the by-products of a tangled web of pagan mysticism, Soviet materialism, Christian ethics, reverence for the punitive power of the law, and other highly incompatible credos. The same people who seek the savior’s mercy and forgiveness for their own sins use Russia’s law against “offending religious sensibilities” as a weapon against anyone they don’t like. Meanwhile, the Communist Party leader publicly attends church, and Easter sometimes coincides with Space Day.
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