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I will die Orthodox: Religious and Secular Ceremonies in Socialist Romania and Bulgaria Simina B ă dic ă Researcher, Romanian Peasant Museum, Bucharest.

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Presentation on theme: "I will die Orthodox: Religious and Secular Ceremonies in Socialist Romania and Bulgaria Simina B ă dic ă Researcher, Romanian Peasant Museum, Bucharest."— Presentation transcript:

1 I will die Orthodox: Religious and Secular Ceremonies in Socialist Romania and Bulgaria Simina B ă dic ă Researcher, Romanian Peasant Museum, Bucharest PhD student, Central European University, Budapest

2 Marking Transitions and Meaning across the Life Course: Older Peoples Memories of Religious and Secular Ceremonies in Eastern and Western Europe http://www.southampton.ac.uk/mrasc Research project supported by the AHRC/ESRC Religion & Society Programme 2010-2011 BOOK: 'Ageing, Ritual and Social Change: Comparing the Secular and Religious in Eastern and Western Europe (ed. by Peter Coleman, Daniela Koleva, Joanna Bornat) Ashgate, forthcoming end of 2012

3 Project team PI Peter Coleman, psychology, social gerontology Co-I Daniela Koleva, oral history, social anthropology Consultants: Joanna Bornat, oral history; Ignat Petrov, psychiatry, gerontology Researchers: Hilary Young, oral history; John Spreadbury, psychogerontology (UK) Galina Goncharova, cultural history; Teodora Karamelska, sociology of religion (BG) Simina Badica, history of communism; Sidonia Grama, oral history; Ileana Benga, folklore (RO)

4 Research questions What have been the changes in use of ritual that older people remember and how were they experienced? What are the consequent benefits as well as losses perceived by those who have witnessed the changing trends in ritual? What is the character of alternative secular forms of ritual which have been produced as meaningful sense of occasion for life transitions? What is the remaining attraction of religious ritual for those who have little or no explicit religious belief and practice?

5 Are you religious? (EVS 2008) http://www.europeanvaluesstudy.eu/ http://www.europeanvaluesstudy.eu/

6 How important is God? http://www.europeanvaluesstudy.eu/ http://www.europeanvaluesstudy.eu/

7 Is a church service important to mark death? http://www.europeanvaluesstudy.eu/ http://www.europeanvaluesstudy.eu/

8 Points of discussion From believing without belonging (Davie 1994) to belonging without believing Belonging to what? Orthodox community or national community? The importance of ceremonies in asserting religious commitment (common joke: Orthodox Romanians visit the church three times in their lives: for baptism, marriage, and feet first before being buried) The introduction of secular/civil ceremonies: only for wedding in Romania, for baptism, wedding and funeral in Bulgaria The traditional overlapping of Orthodox identity and national identity was reinforced by the socialist state in Romania and weakened in Bulgaria.

9 The historical argument. Socialist politics and religion. (Romania) Orthodox funeral ceremony for Nicolae Ceausescus mother (1977).

10 The historical argument. Socialist politics and religion. (Romania) Orthodox funeral ceremony for Nicolae Ceausescus mother (1977).

11 Bulgaria. The introduction of civil ceremonies BULGARIA19621980 Newborn baptised52%40,7% Religious marriages36%4,5% Religious funerals80%47,9%

12 Margareta, a Romanian Orthodox atheist Orthodox parents, baptized Catholic, religiousely married Greek-Catholic We sat there at the gate of the hospital together [with her sister] and it was then that I first wondered [she holds back her tears], This God, why doesn't he look upon us? And I think that was the moment when I became an atheist. I consider myself an Orthodox, all my life I had been an Orthodox. Well, you just said that you are baptized in the Catholic ritual, and married as a Greek-Catholic. Yes, but I lived as an Orthodox all my life. Requested to be cremated.

13 Florinas childhood in the 1930s And we kept Easter, Christmas, I mean all the traditions in the house. Always, we would cook what we had to, what the tradition was, it was respected. These were always respected. And the holidays. There was Saint Elias (Ilie) or some other saint when we had a free day. They would keep these. But somehow formally, it seemed to us. But we knew we had to respect those. We knew it. Thats how it was.

14 Florina in Bucharest during the 1950s. Getting married. When did it become possible to have a wedding without the religious ceremony? After communism was installed. Although you should know that even then the majority of weddings were done with a religious ceremony. That they did it secretly… I do not remember any wedding, even if it was done by high-rank party members… for them to suffer because they married their children religiously. I was not a believer. But it was a custom. I mean I cared for respecting these customs. There were some colleagues of mine who got married before, but I think we were the only one who had the religious ceremony. So in 1950, one or two years afterwards, the priest closed the doors of the church out of fear that someone might come and see he is doing a religious wedding. And he had the ceremony with closed doors.

15 Florina on being Orthodox Everybody in our family ( neam ) was an Orthodox, and I will die also an Orthodox. That was very clear to me. I will never accept another religion. Or any other name you want to call it. * Neam = kin, extended family. I was baptized, wed. They will bury me with an Orthodox priest... because we knew that all of our children, in our family, they were baptized also. Never, you know... There are some things, I don't know, that run in your blood, you know? You can't, how could you? In the end, I say that you can't go without a religious wedding either. In the end. That you go with one or another, thats something else. But a marriage that will result in having children, it seems only normal to have a religious wedding, without being a religious person.

16 Negotiating religious ceremonies Performing baptism and marriage at home Going to remote churches without guests Performing religious ceremonies behind closed doors Celebrating religious holidays on different dates (Christmas)

17 Secular ceremonies as non-ceremonies Florina (b. 1928, Bucharest) recalls the only secular funeral she attended Did you ever attend a funeral that did not have a religious ritual? No matter what faith? Yes, I think I did. I did attend once a funeral, that went without priest almost the entire day. What do you mean by almost? Well, the priest was more of an assistant. There were some friends of ours, that, I don't know why, they were afraid to call the priest. It was back in the fifties or the late fifties I think. I attended, once. It seemed pointless to me. But that was the situation. That's what they decided. […]

18 Secular ceremonies as non-ceremonies Ion (b. 1924, Bucharest) doesnt recall any secular ceremonies And all through this period, I mean the 50s and 60s, did you know people who would mark these important moments, like baptism, wedding or even funeral, without a religious ceremony? No, no. I know everybody had them. Now I cannot… If they didnt, I did not know of it! I only know those who did… Some would do the baptism at home. [...] Why were they doing the baptism at home? I couldnt say. Maybe also because some were hiding it. What do I know, they were something with the Party or I dont know where and they were hesitant to stay in the church. It was for the better… but they never forgot to do it! Yes. Why do you think they did it? Maybe out of tradition, especially, or the family tradition they could not forget… this is what I think. What do I know, maybe also from some sort of faith, maybe, actually.

19 The secret everyone knew: hidden religious ceremonies Zahari (b. 1924, Shumen, Bulgaria) Did you and your wife get married in church? No, shes got a communist background. Her uncle was a political prisoner, her father was a party secretary. […] What about your children, are they baptized? Yes. We might have got into a lot of trouble with the older son. We got him baptized when he was in first form. And we are travelling to a village called Kochevo. While we are travelling, theres a priest on the bus and my son starts shouting, Daddy, daddy, this is the priest that baptized me! Everybody stared at us. So I say to myself, Oh, we got lucky today!. But we got away with it… My wife became a god-mother of a lot of children. Not many people were willing to be god-parents at that time.

20 The secret everyone knew: hidden religious ceremonies (Milena, b. 1931, Targovishte, Bulgaria) When were you wed? The wedding, wait a minute, Ill tell you. It was in 195… ( she wonders ) So, it was after the 9 th of September [1944]. Yes, it was after that. Werent you worried? Why should I worry? Even the Party Secretary was wed in church. Do you know what we did? We were clever and we went to Dryanovo. We have cousins there. We went to have our wedding in the church there. Not in Targovishte? Do you know what might have happened in Targovishte? He would have been removed immediately.

21 The secret everyone knew: hidden religious ceremonies When the children were born, did you baptize them? The kids? Of course … And did you baptize them in church, or at home? In church, of course, how could we not? Wife intervenes: No, they were baptized in church, but in a discreet manner … we took Adrian to Ploiesti, and Nusa, yes we went to a little church that was hidden. (Viorel, Bucharest)

22 Negotiating religious ceremonies The Christmas tree, for example we never made it on Christmas day. We would make it closer to New Years Eve. So she couldnt be asked and tell. And everybody made it like this. I mean everybody kept the holidays, respected the rituals, but slightly moved them, a bit ahead or a bit behind. (Florina, Bucharest) Was it difficult to celebrate Christmas and Easter during communist regime? Yes, because you had to celebrate it secretly. Within family. Family and nothing else. Didnt go to church, no... (Miron, b. 1924, Bucharest)

23 Orthodoxy as identity. The importance of dying Orthodox. I was born in Orthodoxy, I will die in this. (Mirela, Bucharest) How would you define yourself? Would you say you are Orthodox Christian? Absolutely. Im Christian; Ill die Christian. Ive told my children that when I die, theyll have to bury me according to Christian rites – with a priest, in my mothers grave. (Evlogi, Sofia) Before their death, did you speak with them, about their wishes, how would they liked to be buried, what ritual to follow? Not a single moment. Like, it was understood? We did what we believed was right for a Christian to do. Orthodox, like all of my family. But they never said anything. (Florina, Bucharest)

24 Conclusions belonging without believing: religious practice, performing religious ceremonies at key moments in life, such as birth, marriage and death, paired with a strong reluctance to declare oneself a believer and with disregard for other forms of religious practice. A particular symbiosis of religious and national identity with a strong respect for tradition makes Romanian elders one of the most religious groups in Europe. Socialist secularization – not a crucial factor when discussing religiosity in Eastern Europe.

25 FORTHCOMING 2012 (Ashgate) Ageing, Ritual and Social Change: Comparing the Secular and Religious in Eastern and Western Europe (ed. by Peter Coleman, Daniela Koleva, Joanna Bornat)


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