East Meets West: Charismatic Christianity and Western Missions in Soviet Union, Russia and Ukraine

Field: Religionsvetenskap
Project leader: Gunilla Gunner
Starting year: 2008
Project type: Project

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break up of the Soviet Union the peoples around the Baltic Sea have become more interconnected. A number of studies investigating the new economic and political developments have been carried out. One area that has not been given as much attention is that of interreligious relations. The aim of this project is to study relations and encounters between Protestant missionaries from Sweden and indigenous Protestant churches in the Soviet Union, Russia and Ukraine from the perspective of both the sending and receiving institutions. Among other things, the study will show how given identities and categories are called into question and established categories such as Christian/non-Christian, domestic and foreign are redefined in the encounters. One important question is to see what happens when Western Charismatic Christianity reaches an area in the midst of a late modern process of creating new national and personal identities.

The project consists of three interrelated studies. These three studies will all focus on the encounter between Western mission groups and indigenous Christian organizations and in doing so complement each other and offer a more nuanced picture of the topic. Two parts of the project will focus on the missionaries and their sending organizations from Sweden, while the third will examine a Russian Pentecostal denomination’s response to these Western missionaries. The study will show that relations between the Western mission organizations and Protestant churches in the former Soviet Union are considerably more complicated than has generally been assumed. We intend to apply theories of globalization, glocalization, and identity to our specific material, to examine their validity in the Soviet and Post Soviet contexts.