Christ after Communism

Spiritual Authority and Its Transmission in Moscow Today


by Rev. Dr. Stephen C. Headley

Paperback (August 2010)

ISBN: 978-1-933275-44-4

Price: $25.95 + S&H (USD)


"The fate of religion in the post-communist societies of eastern Europe remains one of the single most important issues in the comparative sociology of religion. No country is more important to that study than Russia. A gifted scholar of religion in both eastern Asia and Russia, Stephen Headley provides a sensitive portrait of Orthodoxy in Russia during the post-Soviet period. Headley tells the story of Russian Christianity from within — and with an eye for religious devotion as well as church reconstruction. The result is a beautiful, informative, and exquisitely rare book." (Dr. Robert Hefner, Director, Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs, Boston University)


"Anthropologists are more and more these days coming to recognize the need to understand Russian Orthodoxy if they are to develop a rounded understanding of the nature and variability of the Christian tradition. In Christ After Communism, Headley has produced a deeply anthropological portrait of Russian Orthodoxy. He attends in fine detail to general themes such as the transmission of spiritual authority and the creation of historical continuities. More than this, through detailed discussions of the histories and current situations of three Moscow parishes, he gives us a window on how Russian Orthodoxy works as a lived religion. With a strong focus on prayer and other aspects of ritual life, he helps us grasp the rhythms by which cosmology and human action fuse. His arguments about value, modernity, and individualism make the study as a whole a valuable case for comparison with anthropological discussions of other forms of Christianity throughout the world. Those wanting to learn more about Russian Orthodoxy, or already engaged in studying the rapidly growing body of anthropological work that takes it as a focus, will not want to miss this book." (Joel Robbins, Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego, Author: Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Melanesian Society)



  • Bedside Table: A Catholic Reading List by Bruce Clark, Religious Affairs Correspondent, The Economist
  • Recension: Stephen C. Headley, « Christ after Communism. Spiritual Authority and Its Transmission in Moscow Today » by Jean-Claude Larchet (in French)



Fr. Stephen Cavanna Headley, born on August 5, 1943, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, is a social anthropologist and a priest in the Orthodox Church.

He is best known for his books on the anthropology of prayer and the enthnography of central Java in Indonesia. He writes in French and English.

Fr. Headley earned a B.A. degree in Oriental Studies (Chinese and Sanskrit) from Columbia University in 1965, where he studied under Anton Zigmund-Cerbu. He obtained an M.A. degree in Buddhist Studies from Columbia University in 1969 and continued his studies in Paris with a diploma in Sanskrit philology at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (1972) and a doctorate in social anthropology under Geroges Condominas at the Sorbonne in 1979.

He also studied theology at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (Crestwood, New York, 1966–1969) and at the St Sergius Institute of Orthodox Theology in Paris (1969–1973).

Fr. Headley worked at the French National Center for Scientific Research from 1981 to 2008; between 1998 and 2008, he was working with a research team founded by the anthropologist Louis Dumont. Between 1973 and 2005, Fr. Headley did extensive fieldwork in central Java, and between 2006 and 2010, he taught in Moscow and undertook field work on parish life.