Article

A ritual of death or life? The case of Radonitsa in the Smolensk Region, Russia

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Abstract

The author describes the ritual of radonitsa in the Smolensk region of Russia. The ritual is a remembrance holiday taking place usually on the first Tuesday after Russian Orthodox Easter. People meet at the cemetery and act out a particular ritual with offerings including food and alcohol at the graves of their deceased family members. The goal of the article is to find out the origins of the ritual and explore its continuity, meaning and framing at present. This article uses historical and anthropological perspectives which, in comparison to other scientific publications on this rite, focus on analysis of contemporary ritual performance in a particular place. It also presents a historical transformation of the rite from pre-Christian times to the 21st century. The analysis of the ritual also features a cross cultural approach: the influence of radonitsa can be observed among other religious and ethnic minorities living in the Smolensk region today. The ethnographic data was gained through participant observation and interviews in the Smolensk region in 2016.

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Der Ritualbegriff steht für eine distinkte Handlungsform, die sich aufgrund folgender Merkmale von anderen Handlungsformen unterscheiden: Verkörperung, Förmlichkeit, Rahmung, Transformation und Überhöhung (Transzendenz). Komplex sind rituelle Handlungen, insofern sie kulturell spezifische Aktionseinheiten integrieren und auf gesellschaftliche Beziehungen verweisen. Ihre Beharrlichkeit geht auf Erwartungen zurück, die u.a. mit der Suche nach Sicherheit und Kontinuität zusammenhängt. Gleichwohl verändern sich Rituale durch die Intervention innerer und äußerer Kräfte und stellen die betroffenen sozialen Gruppen vor die Wahl, den Wandel hinzunehmen, Reformen einzuleiten, das Alte abzuschaffen oder etwas Neues zu 'erfinden'.
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