Migration and Religion
The special focus on religion and migration, despite the initial vacuum, emerged as a distinctive field in the 1990s. Jacques David Eller underlined (2014, 26) that, despite the different approaches, anthropological and other, there is a common agreement that, “the key for us [social anthropologists] is that religious being(s) and/or force(s) are almost universally ‘social’”. As the examination of the main philosophical and sociological ideas above studied religion in the context of social organisation and cohesion. They predominantly considered religion as category through which societies manage to reaffirm their social ties or distinctions and solidify membership in the community. In this way, religion contributed drastically in the production of communities. On the contrary, these approaches did not consider issues of mobility and migration.
Traditionally, religion in the context of migration was connected to push factors such as suppression of religious rights and freedoms, persecutions, discrimination and oppression. All these factors led individuals, communities or groups to different forms of chosen or forced dispersion and migration (Kuper 1979; Horowitz 1965). At the same time, religion was often tied to pull factors and the process of integration in the host country. For example, the choice of settlement due to religious affiliation or religious tolerance, mobilisation for more religious rights and visibility of religious practices could test the boundaries of membership in the host society (Herberg 1955; Glazer and Moynihan 1963; Gordon 1964). Furthermore, religion was deeply involved in the ways ties to the homeland were preserved or to the degree integration in the host society was succeeded or not.
In the 1990s, there was also a rise of interest in different forms of mobilities (migration, diasporas and transnational migration) as already discussed above. It became clear that these different types of mobilities entailed different regimes of mobility, forms of reception, inter or intracommunity relations (migration or citizenship laws, policies of integration, cultural assimilation or differentiation) (see Hannam et al. 2006). This proliferation made necessary the examination of how these different forms of moving away from home connect to religion.
In the following chapters, the various forms of migration will be unravelled in relation to the Black Sea region. Let us here raise some central issues regarding these migrations. Migration is the generic category that includes moving away from home for different reasons (see Brettell and Hollifield 2007). Since the early 1990s, the study of migration has been heavily influenced by new approaches arising from cultural studies, qualitative sociology, anthropology and social geography. Migration is no longer studied in isolation, but scholars and researchers are making an effort to reframe questions pertaining to movement and mobility within the wider study of social change and social transformation (Castels 2010; Faist 2010; Portes 2010).
In his discussion of the distinction between migration, diasporas and trasnationalism, Steven Vertovec (2000, 12) underlined that migrations “involve the transference and reconstitution of cultural patterns and social relations in new setting, one that usually involves the migrants as minorities becoming set apart by ‘race,’ language, cultural traditions and religion”. For Vertovec, migration entailed relocation from one place to another and is characterised by the subject’s concomitant need to remake her/his life-world within the new context (2000, 12). Migrant groups are usually marked as different in their new locality in terms of race, language, culture and religion (ibid., 12). Migration was often tied to labour mobility and the integration processes in a new country. In this framework, religion often acted as a process of forming immigrant communities, perpetuating ties to the place of origin, but also, religion was part of an agenda that immigrant communities often developed in order to obtain more rights and recognition in the host society. At the same time, different generations and gender issues contributed to the variation of the experience. Moreover, new takes on migration which considered it a more complex process than a unidirectional movement, often involving circular and interrupted patterns, complicated a clear-cut definition. These new consideration of migration that challenged narrower explorations and connected the category to transnationalism are examined in the second part of the book. Instead, the first part of the volume draws attention to another category of mobility that of diasporas.
Diaspora was one of the most dynamics fields where the connections between the two categories of religion and migration were tested. Diaspora was often tied to identity and cultural issues connected to a place of origin—lived or imagined—various and dispersed places of settlement and an imagined community, in other words a group of people that recognise its belonging and ties to homeland and the places acting as hosts. Religious rituals and practices, food and taste, music and forms of arts reinvented diasporic identities in regards to gender and age, class and education (see Quayson and Daswani 2013). Religious spaces became meeting points for communities, connected to language and ethnic education or brought different ethnic but co-religious groups together. Religion also motivated travel back home as a form of pilgrimage (see Eickelman and Piscatori 1990) and produced sacred geographical spaces which forged ties beyond borders and created imagined communities. It seems that diasporas had much to do with forging and keeping bonds between places and people recognised as members of a group. To sum up, the defining quality that sets diasporas apart from immigrant communities, Vertovec maintains (2000, 3-9), is the continued consciousness of a connection, whether real or imagined, to a land of origin and to other fellow co-ethnics around the world. These issues are developed in the first part of the book, which examines different diasporic communities from the region and their development in countries like Greece since the 1990s. In particular, the chapters follow the formation of the Armenian diaspora in Thessaloniki and the Greek diaspora in Georgia, postulating problems of definition, transnational ties and national as well as transnational policies. Diasporas can become transnational when social, economic and political flows between the land of origin and the diasporas are sustained. Today more than ever, such flows are facilitated and accelerated through globalisation and advances in communications technology (McLoughlin 2005).
Interest in diaspora and transnationalism has grown as part of the postmodern project of resisting the nation-state, which is perceived as hegemonic, discriminatory and culturally homogenizing. The alternative agenda—now associated with the notion of diaspora—advocates the recognition of hybridity, multiple identities, and affiliations with people, causes and traditions outside the nation-state of residence. (Vertovec 2000, 5)
As far as the religious identity of diasporic communities is concerned, dia- sporic subjects often express religious sentiment through multiple connections to various groups and practices that blur the distinction between destination and origin. Moreover, religion in diaspora often acts as a catalyst in the community’s integration process within their new surroundings. From solidifying local communities and administering charities, to welcoming newcomers into large and foreboding cities, religion is shown to occupy a pivotal role in stories of human dislocation and resettlement. Most importantly, issues pertaining to faith and religious practice increase the visibility of immigrant communities within the new national context, and are among the main arguments put forward in claims for political recognition in the host society. The improvement in transportation and communication technologies, produced a space of “actual ongoing exchanges of information, money, or resources, as well as regular travel and communication” among immigrants and their places of origins, generating “globalised ethnic communities” (Vertovec 2000, 12) and encouraging a transnational way of living.
The transnational approach to migration studies has shown that migrants often identify with multiple nation states and/or communities (Levitt 2003) and their practices instigate the development of new types of social formations within a transnational social space. The proliferation of studies in different transnational communities drew out attention to the fact that transnational immigrants’ networks and contact did not limit themselves to national communities bounded to national territory, but they were extended to cities, villages or neighbourhoods of origin (Datta 2013). As a result, they could represent different nuances of what was considered national by dominant or high culture. In this context, religious beliefs and practices rather resonate translocal connections more than transnational.
Often transnationalism was interpreted in the beginning with reference to economic ventures and entrepreneurial initiatives. For example, Vertovec (ibid, 12) defines it as, “actual, ongoing exchanges of information, money and resources—as well as regular travel and communication— that members of a diaspora may undertake with others in the homeland or elsewhere within the globalised ethnic community”. However, this was a rather narrow approach, as transnational life patterns can be richer and fuller if other aspects of social life, such as religion, would be taken into account (Levitt 2003, 2009). In this volume, we use as generic category migration in order to examine its different expressions through the various chapters and to discuss how these variations are entangled with religion. The second part of the book stresses these points, exploring the boundaries and connections between immigrant networks and transnationalism. What the chapters also stress is how these transnational ongoing networks and contacts have a strong impact on the place of origin.
According to Alejandro Portes and others, the definition of transnationalism includes that “these activities are not limited to economic enterprises [such as sending and receiving remittances, or setting up a business ‘back home’], but include political, cultural and religious activities as well” (1999, 25). Consequently, proponents of a transnational perspective have had to shift emphasis away from the binary ‘place of origin’/‘place of destination’ and towards an understanding of mobility as the cross-border dynamic movement of peoples, cultures, beliefs and practices. It has, subsequently, become apparent that migration does not only have an impact on those who move, and is not necessarily linked with return, but even people who stay behind are exposed to influences through social networks and are shaped by the flow of both economic and social remittances.
Religion has always had a global aspect that transcended national borders and boundaries. World religions were always connected to the politics of colonialism and imperialism. These politics also intertwined with migratory movements and communities. However, the spreading of different religious dogmas like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and so on, which pointed out to a global resonance, did not guarantee religion’s truly global character in terms of open-ness and tolerance to different religious practices and understandings (McLoughlin 2009). The legacy of this colonial past, and its relation to global religions, such as Christianity or Islam, is much present in the Black Sea countries today.
In the Black Sea region, the diversity of religious faiths is tightly connected to migrations of various forms since antiquity, as underlined above. The Greek colonisation in the seventh century BC brought in contact the Twelve Olympian Gods with the so-called cultures of the Kurgan1 and the religious traditions of Anatolia, something that historians and archaeologists have started to study in the last years (see Koromila 1991; Tsetskhladze 2008; Hovell-Minns 2011; Spaeth 2013). These encounters were interwoven with various movements of populations due to geological changes, wars and trade (King 2004). The diversity in the population and the cultures found near the shores of the Black Sea is underlined by the Byzantine historian Procopius, in the sixth century AD. Procopius referred to the local inhabitants “Romans who are called Pontics” (quoted in Meeker 2002, 94-95).
The Byzantine Empire was only one of the empires that would emerge in the region, turning the Black Sea into a significant, strategic zone. The Byzantines would systematise and operationalise the use of religion as a category with political, administrative and diplomatic significance (see, for the Byzantine period in the Black Sea: Arhweiler 1966; Vryonis 1971; Laiou 2002; for the Ottoman Empire: Toledano 1982; Braude and Lewis 2013; Faroqhi 2006; Shami 2000, for the Russian Empire, Grant 2009; Hosking 1997). These imperial legacies are discussed in the third part of the book in relation to regional and minority identities. The section addresses, among other issues, questions such as how they were formed in different pre-modern periods of time and in what ways European modernity, imperial nationalism and the formation of nation states changed their modes of identification. Religion was one of the modes that had to be renegotiated.
The modernisation project of the Ottoman and Russian Empires in the late nineteenth century challenged the role of religion, especially the role of Christian Orthodoxy and Islam, by strengthening the bond of the latter with the national and ethnic identities that were concurrently under formation. Until then, the distinction between religion, culture and politics was quite vague and the boundaries quite blurred. Modernisation, however, came hand in hand with the strengthening of state bureaucracies and governing practices through the new technologies hence available (census, maps, demography, etc.). Industrialisation also played a role, as well as cultural homogenisation under state monitoring, especially through the development of mechanisms such as national education. As a result, religion gradually was instrumentalised within imperial politics and retreated from the traditional strongholds of the political power to more private spheres without, though, becoming obsolete (Gellner 1983; Anderson 1991; Foucault 1991)As Talal Asad has underlined (2003, 192):
In the context of early modern Europe these problems [the gradual opposition between religion and secularism] were perceived as the need to control the increasingly mobile poor in city and countryside, to govern mutually hostile Christian sects within a sovereign territory, and to regulate the commercial, military, and colonizing expansion of Europe overseas.
However, this description became relevant for the region of the Black Sea (see Hobsbawm 1987) much later and rather coincided with the process of state/imperial nationalisms or the rising of indigenous nationalist movements.
Even though nationalisms in the Black Sea region aspired to the formation of secular bureaucracies, they did not overlook the power of religions as a category that fashioned communities and, thus, as factor of coherence for the young nation states. The role of the Church in case of the Greek nation state in 1830s and that of Bulgaria exemplified this attitude (see Matalas 2002). Similarly, religious independence from Moscow and the Russian Church was one of the demands of the Georgian nationalists in the beginning of the twentieth century (Vardosanidze 2001). Former imperial religious identities were repositioned under the pressure of nationalist movements, like in the case of Islam in the emerging Turkish state (Meeker 2002). In his study of the Eastern coast of the Black Sea (district of Of), Meeker examines the forces of centralisation and decentralisation that formed local elites and shaped their relations to central power. In his words:
The project of the nation features [interpersonal relations] similar qualities insofar as it is a repetition of the project of the Empire. The fractures in the state society of the Empire—officials with and against aghas but also aghas with and against hodjas—reappear as fractures of the Republican period— Kemalists with and against local elites but also local elites with and against Islamists. The splits and divides in national public culture, such as I have described them in the district of Of, can therefore be seen as indications of the transformative and inventive potential of the old imperial devices in the environment of modernity (Ibid., 28).
In this framework, the passage from an imperial regime where the boundaries between the religious and political powers were not clearly divided to a nation state with secular orientation seemed to be more ambiguous and less straightforward. At the same time, this passage was also marked with the cleansing of other religious communities and nations, like the
Armenians or the Rums (the people who belonged to the Patriarchate of Constantinople). Similar processes took place in the Russian Empire, for example, the muhajirism (1864), which included expulsion of the Muslim populations of the North Caucasus (the Circassians Abkhaz, Chechens, Ubykhs) (King 2007, 37-94).
At the same time, movement of populations became gradually part of this changing imperial political order, as well as a feature of economic blooming, as suggested by the example of the North Caucasus. Very different forms of mobility—and the term is used here in a very broad sense that includes slavery, exiles, massive deportations—were the dark side of the often underlined vernacular cosmopolitanism of the Black Sea. This cosmopolitanism was interpreted as a rooted feature of the historical diversity encountered in the Black Sea ports and the wider areas and which was generated by economic opportunities for trade and commerce.
The period of the Cold War and the formation of new ideological West/ East borders also affected religion and migration in the region. Eastern Christianity was cut off from its western counterpart, despite the dogmatic and historical differences, something that would influence the way the study of Eastern Orthodoxies was shaped in the West and the stereotypes concerning its backwardness that were produced. The political changes (the Soviet and socialist national engineering projects as well as Kemalist secularism) tried with different means and ideological agendas to marginalise religion from public space, substituting many religious symbols with the national one. However, this agenda of compartmentalisation of religion did not erase centuries of religious beliefs and practices, although it resignified them in various ways (see Ramet 1987; Tapper 1994). For example, Galia Valtchinova (2007) discusses the case of Vanca the Seer in Bulgaria and underlines that during socialism the official rhetoric of atheism created a space where older religious practices or symbols freed from the label of religious were embraced as national culture. Similarly, in secular Turkey, religious practices performed by women were reinvented as secular, stressing the unfinished project of Kemalism, but also challenging the Western perceptions of Islamic fundamentalisms as single and discrete (Tapper and Tapper 1987).
At the same time, mobilities were reshaped by the boundaries imposed by the Cold War, but the human movement did not stop. The Sovietisation of society in the former USSR was combined with massive deportations as well as a strict monitoring of resettlement and residence, but also labour migration, especially of white collar Russians to other parts of the country. At the same time, socialist alliances brought to the Soviet Union immigrants of similar ideological background from other parts of the world and different religions (see West and Raman 2008). At the same time, exiles from the Revolution of 1917 and dissidents of the socialist regimes created Eastern Orthodox niches, in particular, Russian Orthodox, Armenians and Georgians in various Western countries. Similar immigrant communities were formed in North Europe, especially in Germany, by Turks who either belonged to the more politicised niches of the Turkish society, or minorities like the Kurds or the Allevis (Shankland 1999, 2007; Sokefeld 2008). A different trajectory was followed by the Islamic communities under socialism, especially in the former Soviet Union (see for Bennigsen and Wimbush 1985; Allworth 1998).
Religious identities in the Black Sea were contextualised by the change of the regime and a new nation state building where religion became part of the new social engineering. Religion also participated in the discussions regarding the reception of new migrations from the area towards other European countries. An issue that was part of these discussions concerned Eastern Orthodoxies. The fall of the Berlin Wall and its political and social consequences led to massive migrations not only from East to West within Europe, but also towards European peripheries, which until that point played a minor role in diplomatic affairs. This redistribution of human capital led to new questions regarding the definition of Europe, its borders and its identity.
The reception and integration of these migrants in their host countries was often a task that took place in tandem with the integration of host societies—which often were new-founded nation states—within the EU. Fundamental elements of the latter were their religion and especially their adherence to Eastern Orthodoxy whose study was either neglected or was often deeply embedded in Cold War stereotypes, which also followed the migrations from the area.
At the same time, the countries of the Black Sea were forced to reinvent their past in order to enter a new phase of their history, and this past was connected to religion (see Walters 2004, 2007). As Pelkmans (2014, 437) has underlined:
The post-Soviet liberalizations of the religious sphere have [...] shown that “freedom” affects religious groups in many ways, producing not only opportunities but also new constraints, and creating new inequalities.
This meant a re-establishment of religion as part of official politics and rhetoric despite the socialist past of pushing religion in the sphere of culture and the ideology of atheism. For example, as Papkova states (2011, 669), the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in the 1990s tried to regain its position among believes and vis-a-vis other religions.
The Patriarchate has sought the restitution of pre-Revolutionary church properties, including not just churches but also existing buildings associated with them prior to 1917; the introduction of an “Orthodox” element to education in all levels of public schooling, from kindergarten to the university; the introduction of Orthodox chaplains into the armed forces; and finally, the restriction of competition from the ROC’s rivals in the religious field, particularly religious organisations with foreign sources of support.
As the Patriarch Aleksii II observed, “the church is separate from the state, but it is not separate from society” (quoted from Ibid., 669). Similar processes are found in different states as well in variations. These new realities led to the marginalisation or minoritisation of some religious identities, the exaltation of others or the adoption of new ones (see Pekmans 2006; Pelkmans 2014; Ismailov 2015, Antonyan 2015, Janelidze 2015). Moreover, these shifts contributed to the formation of new national identities. For example, the study of Rousselet (2015) conducted in different Russian regions (pilgrimage sites, fairs, patriotic associations) during Putin’s era showed that the new Russian patriotism developed in a critical but not opposing way to the state. As Rousselet emphasizes (Ibid., 66), “The patriotism of believers is multifaceted: while this same patriotism echoes official calls, in some respects it also diverges from these calls”.
Changes, however, did not only take place in the context of post-socialism or post-Soviet. For instance, since the 1980s, Turkey faced an unprecedented political stability, after years of dictatorships, as well as economic liberalism. These shifts were combined with a gradual paradigm shift in terms of the position of Islam in the public sphere and in state. Yael Navaro Yashin (2002) has argued that the years of Kemalist secularism led to Ataturk being fetishised by the public. His image, his ideas and the practices introduced by him led to a secular ritualism. Yet the latter started to become contested in the past decades and Islam was reintroduced in the state and public culture, although as Elchinova in this volume has suggested, Islamism should not be considered as a unified body of religious dictum and practice. These shifts provoked frictions and reactions both from the supporters of the Kemalist traditions but also from other supporters of different Islams that existed in
Turkey, for example, the Alevis (Shakland 2007). Some of the voices who asked for more rights and recognition in the 1990s came from the Alevi transnational communities living in Germany. Many of them belonged in the second generation of immigrants who obtained a recognised EU membership, something that stressed the connection between religion and migration at different scales (national, transnational or supranational) (Sokefeld 2008).
Not only were new Muslim communities, originating from the Black Sea, formed in new spaces, but also, new immigrants from the Black Sea, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union formed new Orthodox religious communities in the West, or strengthened the population of already existing ones. As Nicolas Kazarian underlined, an “Orthodoxy of emigration” started to be formed with the exilic communities for the former Tsarist Empire. Emigration was followed by new waves of people relocating following the political upheavals of the twentieth century (Greek- Turkish war and exchange of populations, World War II, dissidents from the Communists regimes). The exodus culminated with the fall of the Berlin War and the break-up of the Soviet Union (1989-1991) (Kazarian 2015, 244-261). These processes caused challenges for Orthodoxy in new (transnational) contexts (see Roudometoff and Markides 2010).
It is important that people in the West realize that the Orthodox countries of Eastern Europe have a right to make their significant cultural contribution to the building of a common European home. The specifics of the Orthodox world view should be reflected in the European project— only then will it become attractive for the Eastern Christian world as well. (Alfeyev quoted from Walters 2015, 3)
At the same time, immigration towards the Black Sea countries and the encounter between religions that ensued in the Black Sea area provided a new context of study (see Mckey 2009). As Poplavsky (2012, 118) has stated, “[t]he 1990s in Russia were characterised not only by the activities of foreign religious missions but also by intense evangelisation campaigns organised by young Christian communities”. Poplavsky directed attention to the emerging antagonism for power in the post-Soviet emerging states, an antagonism that was marked by the involvement of the Russian Church, as well as other Churches of the region, in the geopolitical power struggle (see Suslov 2015, 43-63; Elenskii 2015, 63-89).
The launch of the European Neighborhood Policy in 2004—the year that the big Eastern European enlargement was finalised—demonstrated the EU’s goal to prevent the emergence of new dividing lines between the EU and its neighbours. Keeping in mind all these transformations tied to religions and migrations, we set our goals to produce a collection of essays which will address a current scarcity of academic research on the repercussion of political reform, migration and modernisation in the areas surrounding the Black Sea and the pivotal role of religion in current cultural contestations taking place in this strategic region.
The papers presented in the following chapters are not representative of the Black Sea in a sense that they try to demarcate it. Instead, they discuss examples of religious pluralities and mobilities that form connections between different groups living or originating from the Black Sea and the world. The chapters do not try to become distinctive cases of each Black Sea state, but they give how religious and immigrant communities are connected to religious traditions and histories as well as migrations connected to the Black Sea, postulating its diversity and relevance to issues significant for the cultural and political understanding of today’s societies. This diversity is also found in the methods used by the authors of this volume, which include ethnographic fieldworks, historical research and interviews in multiple languages. As the Black Sea region represents Europe’s borders to the East and also the space where European identities and borders have been challenged through various types of migrations as well as enlargement, we hope this collection of essays becomes a useful tool for all those interested in contemporary politics—and EU politics more specifically.