Russian Orthodox Pilgrims' Longing for Authenticity
This chapter explores both the production and the consumption of authenticity, which in the sphere of religious travel is an object of negotiation among different agents. The principal agents are the organizers of religious travel (both official pilgrimage agencies and independent activists); the participants; and the keepers of the shrines, including local clergy. It attempts to “develop a view of pilgrimage as a realm of competing discourses brought to the shrine by different categories of pilgrims, by residents and by religious specialists, that are constitutive of the cult itself.” It shows that authenticity is central to discourses about the sacred in contemporary Russian pilgrimage. Although the discussion of this concept originated in tourism studies, numerous anthropologists have begun to explore the affinities between tourism and pilgrimage both in ideology and in practice. Both kinds of travel involve interaction between hosts and guests, a trip to some desired destination, and a search for the authentic. Moreover, the genealogy of contemporary Russian-organized pilgrimage shows that post-Soviet religious travelers drew directly on their Soviet experience of domestic heritage tourism.
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