During the elective course “Religion in Contemporary Russia” at the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg, undergraduate students discuss the relevance of various classic definitions of religion. Then they are asked to speculate about “minimal religion” in Russian society. The stories about meetings with the sacred which they tell are usually about dead relatives who visited them or members of their kin in a dream shortly after their death. Typically, these dreams are interpreted by the family as an alarming message from the deceased who feels neglected and wants to communicate. As a result, the dreamer goes to church to do her minimal religious work, that is, to light a candle.
Jeanne Kormina holds a candidate of sciences degree in Ethnology from the European University in Saint Petersburg and is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Secularization at the Higher School of Economics, Saint Petersburg. She has conducted research on ritual and pilgrimage in Russian society, in particular on popular forms of Russian Orthodoxy and their intersections with business and alternative religiosity. Her publications include Sending off Army Recruits in Reform-Era Russia: An Ethnographic Analysis (in Russian, 2005) and numerous articles and book chapters on popular and dissident Orthodoxy in English and Russian.