Inventing a Saint: Religious Fiction in Post-communist Russia

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This article deals with the narrative of a Russian Orthodox priest, Father Arseny-a Soviet era martyr in the eyes of his adherents-whose memories are said to be collected by some of his followers. However, the origins of the story (first published in the 1990s) remain controversial. Russian Orthodox supporters, in conjunction with the translator of Father Arseny's hagiography, have been at the forefront to give credibility to the memory of Father Arseny. At the same time, critical voices have constantly disputed the biographical reality of the saint and the fictional character of his book. Remarkably, some who deny the reality of Father Arseny value the narrative for its spiritual quality. In this article, we describe the processes of authentication that are at work in this case. We show that the different truth claims which are at stake here point to different ideas of what true religion is and what it should offer people. © 2013 The Author.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-119
Number of pages50
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Religion
Issue number1
Early online date6 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014


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