The conference "The Varieties of Russian Modernity: Rethinking Religion, Secularism, and the Influence of Russia in the Modern World" took place at RANEPA June 7-9, 2013
This conference devoted to the discussion of questions concerning interdisciplinary theoretical approaches to religion, secularism and modernity brought together scholars and experts in the humanities and social sciences from the United States, Canada, Russia, and various European countries.
Opening the conference, the rector of The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Vladimir Mau, noted its significance for RANEPA: "In spite of the fact that the academy is not a classical university but a mixture of management schools for public administration and for business both of them should be based on the knowledge and understanding of civil history and applied humanities. That’s why I do believe that this topic The Varieties of Russian Modernity is crucially important".
The conference's primary focus was on rethinking religion and secularism in the history of Imperial, Soviet and post-Soviet Russia; with respect to Russian-Jewish experience and other religious minorities; and with respect to the twentieth-century Russian emigration; in part in order to uncover new understandings of Russian influence in the modern world.
Taking into account that religion has never fully retreated from the public sphere in many parts of the world and has resumed a significant role in it in Russia and elsewhere, the members of the conference looked for the relevance of Russian historical experience for discussions of religion and secularism and sought to bring Russian studies into broader dialogue with studies of religion and secularism focused on other contexts.
According to conference organizer Christopher Stroop, "In exploring religion and secularism in the context of Russian experience, we are hoping not only to open new directions in Russian studies, but also to get the attention of scholars outside of the field of Russian studies."
As Stroop noted, "If you look at the field of Russian history, particularly how we do it in the English language, there hasn’t been much influence yet of this big interdisciplinary literature about rethinking religion and secularism."
On the other hand, as a number of conference participants noted, Russian contributions to important twentieth-century tendencies, particularly with respect to religion and secularism, seem to have been frequently forgotten.
The conference brought together participants in the fields of history, art history, literature, culture, philosophy, sociology and politics. Despite (or perhaps because of) this variety of perspectives, the international and interdisciplinary discussions generated by the conference achieved a remarkable coherence and richness. Ana Siljak and Stroop, who organized the conference along with Alyssa DeBlasio, intend to seek the publication of an edited volume based on the papers and presentations contributed to the conference.