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Dynamics of the Governance of Religious Diversity in Post-Communist Europe

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The governance of religious diversity is one area in which the post-communist countries of Europe have been undergoing shifts. After the end of communism, a logical direction which these states took towards governing religious diversity was liberalism marked by the emergence of pro-diversity trends as well as a general tolerance towards various religious groups. Accompanying such developments has been the appearance of various regimes for the governance of religion in these countries, ranging from states having one unofficial state religion to those with officially recognized “traditional” religions. However, in recent times, there have been changes in the pro-diversity tendencies of such states. In the aftermath of important events such as 9/11, the 2015 European migrant crisis, the war in Ukraine, local (political) actors have utilized exclusionary nationalism, at time religious in nature, to mobilize support as a way to address the perceived threat of a religious “other” and the geopolitical insecurities of the present time.

Such dynamics are paradoxical given that in many post-communist countries in Europe there has been a diminishing level of religiousness among the general population in private life, yet high levels of religious nationalism in the public sphere. How such trends influence religious collectivities in these countries as well as the approaches of these states to the governance of religious diversity are questions worth considering. Thus, this special issue seeks to provide an understanding as to how, in the face of profound socio-economic and cultural challenges, religious nationalism has impacted the governance of religion in these states.

The contributions in this special issue analyse this main question from a comparative perspective. The analyses provided in the country studies show that there are a number of common tendencies, but also significant disparities, when it comes to how religious nationalism influences these countries’ style of religious diversity governance. One of the main conclusions coming from the contributions is that religious tradition cannot be treated as accountable for recent religious nationalistic tendencies in these states. Another inference from the case studies in the special issue is that religious nationalism is more of a tool used to inscribe in-group and out-group identities than to serve as the foundation for policymaking related to the governance of religious diversity. Based on the insights from the case studies, this special issue opens up conversation for a broader exploration of the governance of religious diversity not only in post-communist Europe, but also around the globe.

The special issue is available on the Ethnicities website here.



Research for this special issue is part of the Radicalisation, Secularism and the Governance of Religion: Bringing Together Diverse Perspectives (GREASE) project (funded from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 770640).

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