Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Dr J. A. Kapalo
European Association for the Study of Religions
Between Orthodoxy and Heresy: The Innochentite Movement One Hundred Years On
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields

This paper revisits the Innochentite movement that emerged out of the Russian Orthodox Church in south western Ukraine and Bessarabia in the early twentieth century. Roughly one hundred years since the Moldovan monk Inochentie Levizor inspired a group of followers to abandon worldly affairs and prepare for the End of Days small groups of Innochentites continue to follow his teachings which are condemned by both the Russian and Romanian Orthodox Churches as heretical. Recently there have been calls for the Romanian Orthodox establishment to rehabilitate Inochentie in order to secure for him a place in Romanian historiography and hagiography as an important symbol of spiritual resistance to Russian imperialist suppression of Romanian religious and national identity.

Serious scholarly attention has been restricted to a single article that focuses on the Moldovan ethnic character of the movement in the context of the Russification campaign of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. However, in the changed political context of the post-Soviet era, a new transnational audience for Inochentie’s message has emerged not only amongst Moldovans and Romanians but also Ukrainian, Russian and Gagauz Orthodox. Based on interviews with followers of Inochentie and an analysis of contemporary discourses on Inochentie online, this paper will take a fresh look at the meaning and practice of Innochentism and examine how his message is interpreted in the radically changed circumstances of the twenty first century.

The religious field in Moldova today is characterised by its liminality, both in religious terms in relation to competing Russian and Romanian Churches but also between two poles of gravity politically. This division does not operate on simple ethnic or linguistic lines. The persistence Innochentism is a mirror of Moldovan society.