Religion, Customs and Local Identity: bi-spirituality in rural Ukraine

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Identity is a complicated matter in the religiously diverse Ukraine.
Based on long-term anthropological fieldwork carried out in a
village in Odessa province, I explore the association between
spirituality and identity. The focus is on the relationship between
institutionalised religion (namely the Orthodox Church and the
priest as its representative) and local customs (attributed to the
Bulgarian heritage of the population). The distinction between
‘customs’ and ‘religion’ – an emic one to which both villagers
and their priest subscribe – divides their spiritual loyalties and
often creates tensions in the community. Such tensions, I suggest,
are not a threat to community integrity as much as a means by
which collective identity is managed. Bi-spirituality provides a
means of belonging, contributing to the community’s ethnic minority
status in an emerging Ukrainian nation-state.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-155
JournalReligion, State and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2018


  • Religion
  • customs
  • identity
  • rural Ukraine
  • ethnic minorities
  • bi-spirituality


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