Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History, Middle Tennessee State University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of North Carolina / Chapel Hill
Faith on the Margins: Jehovah's Witnesses in the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia, 1945-Present

My dissertation will explore Soviet religious policy and religious life after World War II and its transformation in the post-Soviet period through a case study of the Jehovah's Witnesses. I seek to answer two fundamental questions: How does the study of one marginal religious organization shed light on larger issues in postwar Soviet and Russian history? In particular, what do the Witnesses tell us about the boundaries of religious pluralism, personal autonomy, and democracy both in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia? The history of the Jehovah's Witnesses provides a unique perspective on the shifting boundaries of religious toleration in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia. In the Soviet Union, the Witnesses distinguished themselves from other religious organizations by actively recruiting new members, by refusing to serve in the military or to vote, and by maintaining underground communication with their compatriots abroad. After the Soviet Union's collapse, the Witnesses emerged as one of region's fastest growing religions, while court battles over their right to practice in Russia placed the Witnesses at the center of a legal debate over the proper boundaries of religious freedom. My dissertation will focus on understanding why the Soviet and Russian states responded as they did to the Witnesses, and how the organization and its members negotiated their own place within satiety in light of both their beliefs and changing social and political conditions. To answer these questions, my project will draw on archival materials and published sources from Russia, and from Moldova and Ukraine, the two regions of the Soviet Union with the highest concentration of Witnesses. By combining materials from three countries