WiP: Russkii Mir and the Geopolitics of Ukrainian Autocephaly

By Tornike Metreveli, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland

Date: January 23, 2019, at 18:30 pm
Venue: CRRC Georgia, 5 Chkhikvadze Str. (Former 5 Chavchavadze ave.), I floor.

On January 6, 2019 the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew signed a decree on autocephaly that allowed Ukraine to have its own canonical independent church. This escalated the dispute between the Russian Orthodox Church and Ecumenical Patriarchate, and at the same time and gave the Russo-Ukrainian conflict a new religious dimension. Based on an ethnographic mixture of participant observation and anthropology of public policy, this project examines the geopolitical significance of Ukrainian autocephaly through the grassroots operationalization of the concept of Russkii Mir (Russian World). What does Russkii Mir mean to the Orthodox Christian communities of Ukraine that took part in the interconfessional changes? How is Russkii Mir practiced in daily life, as opposed to the conflicting ‘Unified State, United Church’ discourse advocated by Ukrainian political elites? Standing at the crossroads of symbolic interactionist and phenomenological traditions, this talk will first scrutinize how the two churches frame the narratives of the categories of practice (e.g. belonging, statehood, identity), and later critically reflect on how those categories of practice are negotiated and modified through a process of interpretation, interaction with the state, and interconfessional competition.

Tornike Metreveli is an International Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of St. Gallen. He received his doctorate in sociology (magna cum laude) from the University of Bern (2017) where he was a Swiss Government’s Excellence Scholarship holder, studying under the supervision of Professor Christian Joppke. Before joining the University of St Gallen, Tornike was a research fellow at Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University, the London School of Economics (LSE) and the House of Commons (UK Parliament). Tornike Metreveli is a student of nationalism (MSc in Nationalism Studies from the University of Edinburgh) with research interests in intersection of nationalism and religion in the geographical spaces of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. His current postdoctoral project at the University of St. Gallen brings original insight into the organizational ecology of Orthodox churches, their operational tactics and geopolitical assertions in Ukraine.

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W-i-P is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place at the CRRC office at 5 Chkhikvadze Str. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public. The purpose of the W-i-P series is to provide support and productive criticism to those researching and developing academic projects pertaining the Caucasus region.