Spirituality, Health and Food within Post-Soviet Nature-based Spiritualities: The Ideas of Vegetarianism in the Vissarion and the Anastasia Movements

The paper focuses on two nature-based spirituality movements which emerged in Russia in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and since have spread to Central and Eastern Europe and beyond: the Vissarion and the Anastasia movements.

The paper discusses the ideas and expressions of vegetarianism (as well as veganism and raw-foodism) within both movements. Vegetarianism for Vissarionites is a part of a spiritual practice, whereas Anastasians do not explicitly link vegetarianism with a possibility for a spiritual development, but they tend to practice it and consider it as a part of natural and healthy life style. On the other hand, similar social (social resistance) and transcendental aspects (seek for unity with nature and God) are characteristic to alternative diets of both movements. Equally the philosophies of both movements, which are considered to be an urban phenomena (urban dwelers is the majority of the involved ones), quite romanticize the life in nature. A possibility to live with home grown food is romanticised here respectively. The paper explores the meaning of religious identity and how it influences – and is influenced by – local and global cultures ultimately producing a religious subculture. Particular attention is given to the role of these dynamics in the development of the Western New Age spirituality cultic milleu and the post-Soviet cultural heritage in Eastern Europe, as well as in the communication of Western cultural influence on the religiosity in the region. The presented findings are based on data obtained from the fieldwork in 2004-2016, including participant observation and interviews with respondents in the Baltics, Russia and Ukraine.