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Keywords:

  • Religious education;
  • Anthropology of Religion;
  • Orthodox Church;
  • Christianity;
  • Russian Teacher Education

This article provides an ethnographic account of the tensions arising from the different ways of building authority as teachers and the role of higher education in establishing teachers' legitimacy in Russia through the specific example of religious education. After state atheism was abandoned in 1991, an unprecedented demand for religious knowledge appeared in Russia, in particular in relation to Russian Orthodoxy. Since the Russian context of Orthodox education lacks shared standards, there is considerable latitude in the criteria determining norms and rules. Seeking to increase its influence, the Russian Orthodox Church aspires to have Orthodox catechism taught in a systematic way both in parishes and in secular schools. In practice, the Church is encouraging professional pedagogues to submit their curriculum proposals that would be suffused with Orthodoxy and at the same time be eligible for adoption in all settings and institutions. Thus, in order to educate teachers of religion, the Church has made available multiple, diverse sources of religious knowledge (self-learning, various courses offered by the eparchies, Spiritual Academies, and other institutions of higher education). But the legitimacy of these sources is often questioned, for instance by asking whether the institution that delivers diplomas of religious higher education has been granted formal state recognition. The teachers' quest for being acknowledged as competent technicians of religious education leads to competing claims for the authenticity of the sources of their training.