Confession in Modern Russian Culture

Nadieszda Kizenko, State University of New York, Albany

June 26, 2007

Confession in Modern Russian Culture


Religion and its attendant rituals have characterized much of Russian public and private life. Of all the forms religious practice has assumed, few embody the elements of psychology, conscience, and faith more directly than the sacrament that links the individual to the divine in a rare act of choice—confession. Indeed, from the seventeenth century onwards, confession in Russia has been a staple of autobiography, a literary genre, a political tool, even transformed nearly beyond recognition in the television talk show. Legal codes, theological treatises, artistic representations, and written confessions of the past, along with present-day innovations in practice, demonstrate the unique and persistent importance of confession in modern Russian religious and political culture. Confession in modern Russia reflects, and helps form, the paradoxes in Russian political and religious culture. From the middle of the seventeenth century onwards, state and church authorities have sought to use the sacramental confession as a means of learning about, teaching, in short controlling the inner lives and public actions of their flocks. Orthodox Christians in modern Russia have continued to find their own ways of approaching confession and thus themselves control their spiritual lives.

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