Religion and Public Space in Post-Communist Romania

Wednesday, 23 May 2012, 4:30pm - 6:00pm, IWM library

Series “Colloquia on Secularism”

Presented and moderated by Janos Matyas Kovacs, Permanent Fellow, IWM

Since the fall of communism, Romania is constitutionally a secular state with no declared state religion. Yet the presence of the Orthodox Church officials at public events, the presence of religious symbols in state institutions, the high ratio of new churches been built, compulsory primary and secondary religious education (which until recently focus on Orthodox religious teachings), and the incorporation of religious references by state officials and elected politicians into campaigns and public discourses have firmly placed religion and the Church in the public rather than private arena. The imposed secularism of Marxist-Leninism was followed by a post-communist religious fervor. In a country facing a protracted transition to liberal democracy, opinion polls repeatedly placed the Church at the top of trusted institutions and ranked Romanians among the most religious in Europe in terms of church attendance and belief in God. While the Church sought to adapt to the realities of post-communism, this study questions whether current religious expression is not driven more by superstition rather than faith, form rather than substance. Forced into cohabitation with secularism, new Orthodoxism is the expression of a society in search of absolution and direction, promoted by a Church seeking to consolidate and grow its base and by political actors in search of legitimacy. This study examines the presence of religion in the public space by focusing upon the discoursive narrative of public actors and the Orthodox Church’s engagement in public and political debates.

Cosmina Tanasoiu is Associate Professor of European Politics at the American University in Bulgaria, Blagoevgrad

With the kind support of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF)