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News: Europe’s Last Pagans Defend Their Faith On the Net (Russia)

This isn't about neo-pagans, or reconstrunctionists, but rather a pagan group of approximately 100,000 current adherents in a corner of modern day Russia, that has had continuous pagan worship since at least the 5th Century of pre-Christian Europe.

Europe’s Last Pagans Defend Their Faith On the Net (Russia)
Feb 24, 2009
by Michael Cohen
All News Web

When one thinks of pagans in modern day Europe one generally thinks of teenagers rebelling against Christian upbringings or older alternative type people referred to as Neo-Pagans. Many readers would be surprised that there remains one corner of Europe where at least in some areas Christianity never took root at all and the locals remain pagans just like their parents and their parent’s parents before them.

This corner of Europe is the Republic of Mari-El (Capital city: Yoshkar Ola) in the middle Volga region of the Russian Republic. The Mari people are classified as a Volga-Finnic people which means, as the name suggest, that they are related to the modern day Finnish and possibly the Hungarians. The Mari have their own language or set of dialects which are widely spoken throughout the republic.

When Mari-el became part of the Russian Empire in the 16th century many Mari people adopted Christianity however many did not and remained loyal to the ancient faith. Some Mari fused the two religions to create the ‘Marla’ faith. During the communist years the pagan faith was terribly repressed but is making a comeback now. In the more remote villages deep in the forests little has changed and old folk worship at holy groves as their ancestors always have. Needless to say many people who come families who were once devout pagans are now atheists or non-practicing, much like any religion.

However all is not well with the Mari faith. In modern day Russia of Vladimir Putin the Russian Orthodox Church has made a spectacular return to power: and the church doesn’t like its local pagans anymore than it did prior to 1917. The Mari faith struggles to get the protection and official recognition other religions enjoy. Recently ancient and holy groves venerated were vandalised and cut down and the authorities refused to help find the culprits.

Europe’s last are now getting online and reaching out to the world to tell their story and explain their beliefs. Their website is an initiative of The Supreme Kart of the Mari Traditional Religion (MTR), and its energetic leader: Aleksandr Tanygin who represents at least 100,000 adherents.

Source: http://pluralism.org/news/article.php?id=22085


It's not the first time I've heard of families who remained pagan for generations and never adopted Christianity. A friend of mine told me there are some of those families in Greece also.