COVID-19 Pandemic Challenge and Religion: Ontology vs Politics

COVID-19 Pandemic Challenge and Religion:
Ontology vs Politics

Mchedlova M.M.,

Peoples Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University), Moscow, Russia; Institute of Sociology of the Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia,

elibrary_id: 569349 | ORCID: 0000-0002-4635-1741 | RESEARCHER_ID: A-4465-2017

Kazarinova D.B.,

Peoples Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University), Moscow, Russia,

elibrary_id: 613327 |

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2021.04.11

For citation:

Mchedlova M.M., Kazarinova D.B. COVID-19 Pandemic Challenge and Religion: Ontology vs Politics. – Polis. Political Studies. 2021. No. 4. P. 148-162. (In Russ.).

The article is published in the framework of the RFBR grant № 20-011-31777 “Religious institutions in an era of social upheaval: strategies, transformation of legitimacy and society’s expectations”.


A big challenge which the COVID-19 pandemic put the spotlight on was religion and specifically the deep foundations of religious meanings and religious institutions present in public spaces: in particular, the bases of their legitimacy, regulatory uncertainty, and the emergence of new practices and structures that are religious, multi-vector, and even diametrically opposed to public expectations. In the reflexive search for an answer to the COVID-19 challenge, there is more polemic than interpretive instrumentalization. In political pragmatics, there is more of an intrusion of politics into the previously closed religious sphere itself than the formulation of the principles of the new status quo of the secular and religious. The pandemic actualized the ratio of modern to traditional, translating this problem into the scope of the limits of applicability of online opportunities, blurring and changing the very essence of traditional religious practices and foundations. Numerous newly emerging numerous phenomena within the Church and in the space of its supporters have led to the traditional sociology of religion being questioned, insistently offering to pay attention to acquiring the relevance of approaches from other fields of religious knowledge; these are already seen in the logic of possible transformations, possibilities of splitting in the future, and the need for new tools, such as heterogeneity. Religious institutions in the context of the modern global challenge demonstrate the blurring of direct subjectivity, while uncertainty implies a drift to various tactics of specific representatives, raising questions of ontology and stability. The diversity and ambiguity of the behavior strategies used by religious institutions, religious leaders, and religious practices in Russia actualize a pool of different trends that lead to different opportunities for redistributing the balance between religion, society, and politics, between Faith and institutions, and between axiology and modern pragmatics. The methodological message of the article is based on the recognition of the multidimensional multiplicity of forms of religious presence that are not reducible to a single explanatory scheme. It actualizes and complements many concepts of social development that have become ineffective and have a linear character. To verify speculative positions, the authors turned to the heuristic potential of discourse analysis, as well as to the formation of a reference base for the event series. 

big challenge, COVID-19, pandemic, transformation of religiosity, religious institutions, religious practices, state-confessional relations, online religion, virtual religion, ROC, religious leaders.


Baker J.O, Marti G., Braunstein R., Whitehead A.L., Yukich G. 2020. Religion in the Age of Social Distancing: How COVID-19 Presents New Directions for Research. – Sociology of Religion. Vol. 81. No. 4. P. 357-370.

Christianity and the Limits of Materiality. 2017. Ed. by M. Opas, A. Haapalainen. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Davie G. 2007. The Sociology of Religion. New York.

Douglas K.M. 2021. COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories. – Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. Vol. 24. No. 2. P. 270-275.

Lindquist G., Handelman D. 2011. Religion, Politics, and Globalization: The Long Past for a Grounding the Short Present. – Religion, Politics, and Globalization. New York.

Molteni F., Ladini R., Biolcati F., Chiesi A.M., Dotti Sani G.M., Guglielmi S., Maraffi M., Pedrazzani A., Segatti P., Vezzoni C. 2021. Searching for Comfort in Religion: Insecurity and Religious Behaviour during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Italy. – European Societies. Vol. 23. No. sup1. P. S704-S720.

O’Leary S. 1996. Cyberspace as Sacred Space: Communicating Religion on Computer Networks. – Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Vol. 64. No. 4. Р. 781-808.

Possamai A. 2005. Religion and Popular Culture: A Hyper-Real Testament. Peter Lang Publishing Group.

Schwab K., Malleret Th. 2020. COVID-19: The Great Reset. Geneva: World Economic Forum.


Galaeva Kh. 2019. Virtual’noe prostranstvo i religioznye organizatsii [Virtual Space and Religious Organizations]. – Sotsial’naya real’nost’ virtual’nogo prostranstva. Materialy I Mezhdunarodnoi nauchnoprakticheskoi konferentsii [Social Reality of Virtual Space. The I International Scientific and Practical Conference Proceedings]. Ed. by O.A. Polyushkevich, G.V. Druzhinin. Irkutsk: Irkutsk State University. P. 33-38.

(In Russ.)

Kapustin B. 2020. Civilization of Bluff. – Russia in Global Affairs. No. 3. (In Russ.) URL: (accessed 22.05.2021).

Lunkin R.N. 2020. Social and Political Consequences of the Pandemic for the Russian Orthodox Church. – RUDN Journal of Political Science. Vol. 22. No. 4. P. 547-558. (In Russ.)

Hervieu-Leger D. 2015. In Search of Certainties: The Paradoxes of Religiosity in Societies of High Modernity. – Gosudarstvo, religiia, tserkov’ v Rossii i za rubezhom. No. 1. P. 254-268. (In Russ.)

Medvedeva E. 2009. The Problem of the Formation of Religious Identity in Cyberspace. – Nauchnye vedomosti. No. 8. P. 72-78. (In Russ.)

Mitrofanova A.V. 2019. Povsednevnye praktiki v tsifrovuyu epokhu – postanovka problemy [Everyday Practices in the Digital Age–Problem Statement]. – Khristianstvo kak integriruyushchii faktor mirovoi kul’tury. Sbornik dokladov XXIV mezhdunarodnykh Kirillo-Mefodievskikh chtenii [Christianity as an Integrating Factor of World Culture. The XXIV international Cyril and Methodius readings Proceedings]. Minsk: Christian

Educational Center named after Saints Methodius and Cyril. P. 461-464. (In Russ.)

Petrova O. 2011. Religion in the Context of Virtual Reality. – The Bulletin of the Volga Region Institute of Administration. No. 4. P. 179-183. (In Russ.)

Pochta Yu.M. 2020. State-Confessional Relations in Russia in a Pandemic: Challenges and Answers. – RUDN Journal of Political Science. Vol. 22. No. 4. Р. 559-578. (In Russ.)

Poteryaeva E. 2016. Virtual’nye religii kak istochnik ugroz v sfere religioznoi bezopasnosti [Virtual Religions as a Source of Threats to Religious Security]. – Strategii razvitiya sotsial’nykh obshchnostei, institutov i territorii. Materialy II Mezhdunarodnoi nauchno-prakticheskoi konferentsii [Strategies for the Development of Social Communities, Institutions, and Territories. The II International Scientific and Practical Conference Proceedings]. Ekaterinburg: Ural Federal University named after the First President of Russia B. N. Yeltsin. P. 172-175. (In Russ.)

Religiya v sovremennoi Rossii: konteksty i diskussii [Religion in Modern Russia: Contexts and Discussions]. 2019. Ed. by M.M. Mchedlova. Moscow: RUDN. (In Russ.)

Religiya v sovremennoi Rossii: konteksty i diskussii [Religion in Modern Russia: Events and Discourses of the Pandemic]. 2021. Ed. by M.M. Mchedlova. Moscow: RUDN. (In Russ.)

Smirnov M. 2019. Digitalization as “Zeroing out Religion”. – Pushkin Leningrad State University Bulletin. No. 3. P. 137-146. (In Russ.)

Tsygankov A. 2020. Saving the Power: What to Rely on in the World Transition. – Russia in Global Affairs. No. 3. (In Russ.) (accessed 22.05.2021). 

Content No. 4, 2021

See also:

Kargina I.G.,
Religion as an adaptation factor for immigrants: peculiarities of the U.S. case. – Polis. Political Studies. 2014. No2

Sardaryan G.T., Alekseyeva T.A.,
Secularization and Religiousness in the Optics of Constructivism. – Polis. Political Studies. 2020. No4

Chebankova E.A.,
New world order: restoration or moral revolution?. – Polis. Political Studies. 2023. No3

Habermas J.,
Religion, law and politics. – On political justice in a multicultural World-Society. – Polis. Political Studies. 2010. No2

Mchedlova M.M.,
Sociocultural Meanings of Politics: New Logic of Interpretation and Religious References. – Polis. Political Studies. 2016. No1



   2024      2023      2022      2021   
   2020      2019      2018      2017      2016   
   2015      2014      2013      2012      2011   
   2010      2009      2008      2007      2006   
   2005      2004      2003      2002      2001   
   2000      1999      1998      1997      1996   
   1995      1994      1993      1992      1991