Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2018 Volume 14 :: Article 16
2018 Volume 14, Article 16
Heads Down, Hearts Up: How Ukrainian Baptists Make Meaning from Their Memories of Soviet State-Sanctioned Religious Persecution

Author: Gregory S. Morrow (Future Leadership Foundation Jefferson City, Missouri), Mary E. Grigsby (University of Missouri Columbia, Missouri)

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This research describes and analyzes the ways in which adult Ukrainian Baptists who lived under communist rule interpreted and made meaning of memories of state-sanctioned religious persecution they experienced as children. A case study approach provides the framework for the qualitative study. Qualitative methods employed include in-depth interviews, fieldwork in settings where Ukrainian Baptists discussed their experiences under Soviet rule, and content analysis of documents pertaining to persecution toward Baptists by Soviets. Respondents in interviews and fieldwork settings consistently described state sanctioned persecution that sought to dominate and intimidate them and their sense of alienation from the dominant Soviet culture. Documents analyzed came from the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, Adolf Klaupiks Collection, and the Albert Wardin Files. Themes of intended domination, intimidation, and exclusion of Baptists were mirrored in the document content analysis. Interviews and fieldwork revealed that setting tight boundaries of inclusion enabled Baptists under Soviet rule to construct worthy identities within their group based on adherence to their faith and survival. Baptist adults acknowledged childhood memories associated with state-sanctioned religious persecution resulted in survival strategies oriented towards close bonds with other Baptists and tight group boundaries associated with high levels of religious bonding capital. Adults reported greater caution when describing contemporary interactions with Ukrainian non-Baptists in their efforts to create ties of religious bridging capital. Past memories of religious persecution, however, failed to inhibit Baptist adults totally from engaging in building relationships outside of their group, building bridging capital, and envisioning a significant role for Baptists in caring for others. We found that individuals and tightly bonded groups of Baptists carried their beliefs and ideas through the era of Soviet rule. These beliefs and ideas today foster the resilience and cautious but steady construction of bridging capital with others beyond the bonded circle of already faithful Ukrainian Baptists.

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