Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe yesterday, today, tomorrow


Tuesdays 12:00 - 14:00 (CET)
16 SESSIONS 18.10.22 - 14.02.23


The term «Eastern Europe» in this course refers mainly to the three Eastern Slavonic states that were formerly part of the USSR: Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Their inhabitants generally regard Orthodox Christianity as the traditional religion of their countries, regardless of their personal attitude towards religion. And this, for all the differences between the three countries and between the different regions within them, is indeed the case.

The Western world often looks at Orthodoxy as something in between Catholicism (long solemn services and fasts) and Protestantism (no pope and a married priesthood). Similarly, the West often sees Eastern Europe as a kind of under-Europe which is behind the "proper" Western Europe, but moving along exactly the same path.

Such a view seems to be inadequate and does not allow an understanding of the processes taking place in these countries. This understanding is particularly acute in times of crisis, especially during the war, which has already brought the world to the brink of global catastrophe. What is happening in the minds of the participants of these events, how exactly do they see and describe the world around them, what is the range of their concepts, what language can we speak to them?

The course is focused on the role of Orthodoxy in the public and political life of the three Eastern Slavic nations, which were part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, and which became independent at the turn of the 1990s. Since the common name of the empire of the three nations was “Russia” and the Russian Federation still plays a key role in their political history, the focus will be mainly on Russia, but much will also be made of Ukrainian and Belorussian Orthodoxy. Our task is to show what is common and what is different in the cultures and histories of these three nations and compare them to the other nations of Europe, to which they undoubtedly belong (even if not all their rulers will agree with us on this)


Registration is open during the course.



To provide general understanding about:

- History and role of the Orthodoxy in the public and political life of the three Eastern Slavic nations 

- Key differences of Orthodox Christianity from Catholicism and Protestantism 

- History and current situation of the Old Believers in Russia

- Current situation in Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian Orthodoxy in relation to the war in Ukraine


The preliminary syllabus can be found here. The final version will be updated soon.


Prof. Dr. Andrei Desnitsky is a Russian scholar, translator, writer and essayist. He is a leading expert in Bible translation and exegesis for the Russian-speaking audience, known for his ability to teach complicated things in simple words. He was working as the senior research fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and as a consultant at the Institute for Bible translation in Moscow. His publication list consists of six monographs and 95 peer-reviewed articles.


Dr. Nadezhda Beliakova (PhD in History), Research Fellow at Bielefeld University (Gerda Henkel Fellowship for Scholars-at-Risk). Dr. Beliakova’s research focuses on the social history of Christian communities in the late USSR, religious freedom in socialist Eastern Europe, communication networks of religious activists during the Cold War, and Religion and Women’s health.


Andrei Shishkov is a research fellow of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Tartu, a member of the research projects “Orthodoxy as Solidarity” (University of Tartu; supported by the Estonian Research Council). He is a specialist in contemporary ecclesiology and political theology. His expert interests include religion and politics in Eurasia; religion and human rights; religion and law in Russia; the Orthodox Church; ecumenical and inter-Orthodox relations; political and public theology etc.


Natallia Vasilevich, theologian, political scientist and lawyer from Minsk Belarus. After graduation and finishing post-graduate studies from Belarusian State University, taught human rights at the Belarusian Law Institute. Received M.A. in the ecumenical studies from the University of Bonn, where she is currently working on her PhD dissertation on the pre-conciliar process of the Holy and Great Council. Serves as a moderator of “Christian Vision” group of the Coordination Council of Belarus.

Dr. Nikolai V., Historian of Religions. Since 1992 he has been working at a University as a Director of the Department of Religious Studies, a Head of the Department of the History of Religions, and Editor-in-Chief of a religious journal. In 1999 he defended his thesis on ancient hermeticism. His main works are devoted to Hermeticism, Gnosticism, and the current religious situation in Russia.

Volodymyr Bureha, Vice-Rector of the Kyiv Theological Academy for Scientific Work, professor of the Kyiv Theological Academy. His main areas of research are the Orthodox Church in Czechia, Slovakia, and Transcarpathian Ukraine in the 19th – middle of the 20th centuries, History of Orthodox Theological Education in Ukraine in the 19th – early 20th centuries, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine at the turn of the 20th - 21th centuries, Theory and Practice of preaching in the Orthodox Church (homiletics).


Ksenia Luchenko is a journalist, PhD in philology, media literacy specialist, and media researcher. Until the summer of 2022, she was dean of the MSSES ("Shaninka") Media Communications Department and head of several educational programs in journalism and media studies. Author of numerous publications in Russian and foreign media on the Russian Orthodox Church and church-public relations, and expert on religious communications, the mediatization of religion, and church-public relations in post-Soviet Russia.

This course is organized with the support of Centre for Comparative Research on Democracy at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, in cooperation with Science at Risk - Akademisches Netzwerk Osteuropa (AKNO). It is financed by the German Foreign Office.