Director of the Visiting Fellows Programme
Anna Korhonen
Head of International Affairs
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Eeva Korteniemi
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Location & Connections


Visiting Fellows 2016-2017

Katya Tolstaya, VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands
“Theology after Gulag”
(mid-May - mid-July 2017)

Katya Tolstaya is Founding Director of the Institute for the Academic Study of Eastern Christianity (INaSEC, 2010), Associate Professor at the Faculty of Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and Visiting Professor at Lev Gumilyov Eurasian National University, Astana, Kazakhstan. She specializes in the revival of the Russian Orthodox Church and the impact of the Soviet legacy on post-Soviet Orthodoxy. Her main aim is to develop a post-Soviet theology with a Theology after Gulag as the first phase. Tolstaya was laureate of the prestigious VENI-grant (2009-2012) from The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for studying the transformation and (re-)invention of Orthodox theology and practice in Russia and Ukraine. Tolstaya collaborates with a range of universities, scholars, NGO’s and stakeholders in the post-Soviet space and beyond. Currently she leads two research groups: an NWO-funded international network project ‘Orthodox Kaleidoscope’, and an international research group on ‘Theology after Gulag’ (see

Short description of ongoing research:
In most post-Soviet countries, and primarily in Russia, there is still no broad societal and theological reflection on the Soviet legacy. This has direct geopolitical consequences. The long-term goal of my INaSEC (see is to initiate the totally new field of post-Soviet theology that will contribute to processing the past and present in these countries.
As a first step, I am initiating a ‘Theology after Gulag’ (ThaG). ThaG focuses on the unprocessed Soviet past, on the broad array of mind-sets, religious, political, and socio-historical factors, which engendered the camps and now hinder reflection on their causes and implications. My aim is to map the societal, academic, and theological conditions for ThaG – i.e., why it has not yet emerged, and what is required for its emergence. In support of this research I lead two international network projects within INaSEC, one on methodology in post-Soviet and Orthodoxy studies, and one on ‘Theology after Gulag’.

My research combines a spectrum of fields, amongst others Western and Orthodox theology, literature, philosophy, formal logic, and microstudies. The main question for ThaG is: what theological model will work in post-Soviet contexts to contribute to processing the past? My research explores conditions for a viable model in four main directions:

1. By learning from ‘theologies after’ - the interdisciplinary and interreligious theologies, e.g. Theologie nach Auschwitz, post-apartheid theology. Theologies-after engage with the ‘ultimate’, i.e. most difficult, questions: societal (victim-perpetrator-bystander, guilt) and theological (God’s existence and religious experience after radical evil).
2. By developing a model ‘tailored’ to post-Soviet contexts, ThaG poses own ‘ultimate’ questions for the specific theological, socio-political, and academic post-Soviet context.
3. By directly engaging with stakeholders.
4. By methodological research for a new approach to the study of religion.

During my visit at Aleksanteri I will work on publications on ThaG and consult the excellent Aleksanteri library. Also I intend to formally and informally encounter with colleagues from relevant disciplines and research fields.

Email: k.tolstaja[AT]

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Elina Kahla, Kaarina Aitamurto