Peterburgian Vedism (Russian: петербургский ведизм), also called Pagan School of Saint Petersburg (Russian: питерская языческая школа), or more broadly Russian Vedism (Russian: русский ведизм) and Slavic Vedism (Russian: славянский ведизм), is one of the earliest branches of the Slavic Native Faith (Rodnovery) and one of the most important schools of thought within it. The earliest Vedic organisations were established in Saint Petersburg by Viktor Bezverkhy, between the late 1980s and early 1990s. The use of the term "Vedism" to refer to Slavic religion goes back to Yuri Mirolyubov, the writer or discoverer of the Book of Veles.
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Besides Bezverkhy's organisations, the term "Vedism" is adopted by many other leaders within Rodnovery, for instance Aleksandr Asov, who equates it with the term "Orthodoxy" as belief in the Rod (supreme God), affirming that it is a primordial religious knowledge that later gave rise to various regional traditions, including Indian Vedism; Russian Vedism, in his view, is that which has transmitted Vedic teachings in the most genuine way.
Theory and terminology
Viktor Bezverkhy borrowed the term "Vedism" (itself already used to refer to the historical Vedic religion) from Yuri Mirolyubov and his interpretation of the Book of Veles. In Bezverkhy's thought, it defines the worldview of ancient Aryans, building upon empirical observation of the phenomena. He asserts that the word "Vedism" comes from the verb "to know" (vedat)—a semantic root which is shared in Slavic and Sanskrit languages alike—, and it expresses the difference between sight or knowledge and dogmatic belief (verit), the latter being typical of non-Vedic doctrines. According to one of the contemporary leaders of the Peterburgian Vedic movement, Roman Perin, "Rodnovery" defines the practised religion, while "Vedism" defines the philosophy or knowledge at its core.
Vedism therefore is not a religion but pure knowledge. According to Bezverkhy, dogmatic religions such as Christianity, but also Brahmanism (the successor of Vedism in India), were created in order to control the masses. Bezverkhy codified his ideas in a series of eleven books, namely Rigveda, History of Religion, History of Philosophy, Philosophy, Physics, Astrology, Anthropology, Sociology, Ethics, Aesthetics and Philosophy of Religion.
According to its theorists, Vedism is the fundamental philosophical core common to all Indo-Europeans (i.e. Aryans). The Slavic Native Faith (Rodnovery) is one of its expressions, among others, so that in their view Vedism increasingly resembles an overarching category encompassing many local religions, just like Orthodox Christianity encompasses a number of autocephalous churches.
History and organisations
Viktor Bezverkhy graduated in philosophy at the N. G. Kuznetsov Naval Academy of Saint Petersburg (then Leningrad) and later taught at Leningrad State University and in military academies. In 1986 he founded the "Society of the Mages" (Общество Волхвов, Obshchestvo Volkhvov; or Союза Волхвов, Soyuza Volkhvov) and in 1990 the "Union of the Veneds", the earliest Vedic organisations.
His promotion of nationalism and conservatism led Bezverkhy to have troubles with Soviet authorities on various occasions, and he received an official warning from the KGB. In the early 1990s he was prosecuted for inciting hatred towards Jews, but he was found not guilty.
Among other organisations that employ the term "Vedism" there are the "Krasnodar Slavic Orthodox Community—Vedic Culture of Russian Aryans", the "Satya-Veda Aryan Gentile Community" founded by Ilya Cherkasov (volkhv Veleslav), and the "Khara-Khors Slavic Vedic" movement (which is also active in Ukraine). Also the Ringing Cedars' movement started by Vladimir Megre calls itself "Vedic".
The early Union of the Veneds
The early "Union of the Veneds" (Союз Венедов, Soyuz Venedov), founded by Bezverkhy himself, emphasises down-to-earth ideas, to the point of defining itself an "assembly of grain cultivators". The organisation incorporates elements of Ivanovism, a movement of natural living and healing started by the mystic Porfiry Ivanov. After the fall of the Soviet Union, in the Yeltsin era, the Union of Veneds outspokenly supported right-wing and conservative political currents.
Other Unions of the Veneds and other groups
After the death of Bezverkhy, the early Union of the Veneds split into two organisations of the same name. They continue to follow the ritual calendar of the first organisation and to recognise Bezverkhy as their spiritual founder. At the same time, the original organisation is still operational in Saint Petersburg, led by Oleg Gusev and Roman Perin, known for their many publications including Za Russkoe Delo and Potaennoe.
Skhoron ezh Sloven
Skhoron ezh Sloven (Схорон еж Словен; acronym: СеС, SeS) is categorised by the scholar Igor Popov (2016) as an organisation of Slavic Vedism. Skhoron ezh Sloven was founded in 1991 in Saint Petersburg by a former member of the Union of the Veneds, Vladimir Y. Golyakov, born in 1968. The original community was named "Step of the Wolf" (Шаг Волка, Shag Volka).
Skhoron ezh Sloven recognises Victor Bezverkhy as a spiritual authority. Golyakov claims that the ashes of Bezverkhy are buried at the temple of the organisation in Saint Petersburg. According to Aitamurto (2016), Skhoron ezh Sloven may not be considered as one of the offshoots of the Union of the Veneds, since it is largely based on the family tradition of Golyakov. However, Golyakov may be regarded as a legitimate heir of Bezverkhy for having initiated much of the new generations of Peterburgian Vedists after Bezverkhy's death.
In the books of Skhoron ezh Sloven all the gods are considered manifestations of a single God, the pantheistic concept of Vsebog (Всебог). The organisation is engaged in nationalistic politics and has affiliated communities in Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Tyumen, Vladivostok, Belarus and Ukraine.
- Aitamurto 2016, p. 35.
- Shnirelman 2017, p. 100.
- Aitamurto 2016, p. 60.
- Aitamurto 2016, p. 36.
- Mitrofanova 2005, p. 71.
- "Organizations Found by Russian Courts to be Extremist". SOVA Center for Information and Analysis. 5 July 2008.
- Shnirelman 2007, p. 53.
- Ivakhiv 2005, p. 23.
- Aitamurto 2016, p. 52.
- Popov 2016, Славянская народная религия (Родноверие) / Slavic indigenous religion (Native Faith).
- Aitamurto, Kaarina (2016). Paganism, Traditionalism, Nationalism: Narratives of Russian Rodnoverie. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 9781472460271.
- Ivakhiv, Adrian (2005). "In Search of Deeper Identities: Neopaganism and "Native Faith" in Contemporary Ukraine" (PDF). Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. 8 (3). pp. 7–38. JSTOR 10.1525/nr.2005.8.3.7.
- Kutarev, O.V. (2017). "«Союз Венедов»: история и воззрения славянской неоязыческой общины (1990—2017)" ["Union of the Veneds": history and views of the Slavic neo-pagan community (1990–2017)]. Colloquium heptaplomeres (in Russian) (4): 66–72.
- Mitrofanova, Anastasia V. (2005). The Politicization of Russian Orthodoxy: Actors and Ideas. London and New York: ibidem-Verlag. ISBN 9783898214810.
- Popov, Igor (2016). Справочник и новости всех религиозных течений и объединений в России [The Reference Book on All Religious Branches and Communities in Russia] (in Russian).
- Shnirelman, Victor A. (2007). "Ancestral Wisdom and Ethnic Nationalism: A View from Eastern Europe". The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. 9 (1). pp. 41–61. doi:10.1558/pome.v9i1.41.
- ——— (2017). "Obsessed with Culture: The Cultural Impetus of Russian Neo-Pagans". In Kathryn Rountree (ed.). Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, and Modern Paganism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 87–108. ISBN 9781137570406.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)