ARTICLE TITLE: From the Red Belt to the Bible Belt: historical roots of the shift in Russian political geography
AUTHORS: Shcherbak A. , Ukhvatova M.
ABSTRACT: The paper aims to explore the relationship between religion and politics in Russia from a spatial perspective. The rise of political influence of the Russian Orthodox Church can be partly explained by the alliance of the Church and the Kremlin: the latter openly declares its commitment to traditional values and the former demonstrates unconditional loyalty to the regime. Unsurprisingly, one can observe the increase of Vladimir Putins electoral support among the most religious Orthodox regions in the recent elections. Paradoxically, new Russian Bible Belt is made of formerly red, communist regions. We argue that it is not a coincidence. Using a comparative historical approach, we demonstrate that those regions of Central, South and Volga Russia belong to the historical core of the Russian state. Thus, the rejection of communism in the Center would lead to the rejection in the core as well; the Kremlins conservative agenda was first of all accepted right there. The comparison with the most studied Bible Belt in the protestant regions in the US South reveals very similar historical background in the making of the religious belts: belonging to the historical core, prevalence of exploitive labor, the Civil Wars cleavage and political realignment. Finally, we examined some recent social-demographic indicators and revealed how political religiosity may affect not only electoral behavior but also highly debated family, marriage and sexual education policy in those belts.
KEYWORDS: religion , political geography , Bible Belt , elections , historical approach