In this paper I explore the theme religious power and resistance in contemporary Moldova. In the history of Christianity, marginalised and peripheral religious communities have played a key role in the critique of mainstream religious and political power. The Inochentite movement that emerged in the first decade of the twentieth century in Moldova presents a case of small-scale persistent resistance to and rejection of mainstream religious and political culture. This apocalyptic and charismatic movement, inspired by the Moldovan Orthodox monk Ioan Levizor, is portrayed as both religiously heretical and politically subversive. Members of the movement have challenged the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Tsarist imperial regime and more recently the democratic and economic structures of the Moldovan state. As a marginalised and persecuted minority during the Soviet era, the movement went underground and on a number of occasions was reported by the Soviet press to have been eliminated altogether. However, Inochentism has proved a tenacious presence on the religious landscape, gradually re-emerging into the public domain in the post-Soviet era. From their position on the margins of rural and urban society in the Republic of Moldova, followers of Inochentie negotiate a position between engagement with and withdrawal from the official Church, critiquing both clerical power and the political and economic system.
In addition to these established groups of Inochentists, in the changed political context of the post-Soviet era a new transnational audience for Inochentie’s message has emerged. The fiercely pietistic and conservative movement has an online presence and modern publishing and media have facilitated the spread of Inochentie’s teachings beyond their traditional constituency of Moldovans and Romanians, most notably to a Russian audience.
Based on interviews with followers of Inochentie conducted between 2006 and 2011 and an analysis of contemporary discourses on Inochentie and Inochentism online, this paper will take a fresh look at the practice of Innochentism and examine how the message and meaning of the movement is reinterpreted in the radically changed and globalising context of the twenty first century. I focus in this study on micro discourses of power and resistance within the Inochentite movement that reveal a political cosmology shaped by the liminal position of Moldova and Moldovans in contemporary Europe.