Public lecture Hanna Stähle: ‘Mediated Orthodoxy’

Mediated Orthodoxy: The Russian Orthodox Church under Patriarch Kirill Facing Criticism in Digital Media

Public lecture by Russian MediaLab visiting researcher Hanna Stähle (University of Passau)

When: Monday 18 June, 14:15 – 15:45

Where: Aleksanteri Institute, 2nd floor meeting room

There is an increasing discrepancy between the image of the Russian Orthodox Church in state-controlled broadcast media, on the one hand, and in non-mainstream online media, on the other. The idealized, nation-centered, and triumphalist image of the Church in traditional Russian media is contrasted with an outlandish, ridiculous, and grotesque image of Russian Orthodoxy in digitally mediated settings. Following the notorious Pussy Riot punk prayer service in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in 2012, as well as a number of media scandals involving Orthodox hierarchs and personally Patriarch Kirill, the Russian Orthodox Church found itself at conflict with parts of Russian society.

Digital media provide evidence of rising disdain and contempt toward Orthodox authorities and the institutional Church. These phenomena are often related to anticlericalism, atheism, or anti-Church ressentiments. This talk complicates this perception and demonstrates that Church criticism is voiced not only by “militant atheists” and “aggressive secularists” but also by practicing Orthodox believers and clergy. It demonstrates how media, both mainstream and alternative ones, significantly shape and influence contemporary Russian Orthodoxy and the way it is imagined and perceived in public. Alongside political, traditional, and vernacular Orthodoxy, there emerges yet another distinct form of Orthodox religion: mediated Orthodoxy that cannot be reduced to the official Orthodox Church or to popular religious observance and deserves a serious level of understanding.

Hanna Stähle is a PhD Candidate in Slavic Cultural Studies at the University of Passau, who has recently submitted her dissertation, and former Research Fellow at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow. Her research examines the digitally mediated image of the Russian Orthodox Church in post-Soviet Russia from the perspective of Church critics, and has been published in Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media and by the Carnegie Moscow Center. She previously worked at the Robert Bosch Stiftung. She obtained her Master’s degree in Russian and East Central European Studies from the University of Passau in 2011. In 2008, she graduated from Minsk State Linguistic University with a degree in German language and literature. Her Ph.D. thesis, which she recently submitted, examines digitally mediated discourse dynamics and user interactions related to religious issues in post-Soviet Russia.

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