Found out something interesting today. In the Russian republic of Mari El there exists an indigenous pagan tradition which is not a reconstruction. That is, the pagans of Mari El trace their practice in an unbroken line back to their ancestors, as the Christianization during the period of Ivan the Terrible (the 16th century) was only partial. Other European pagans are by necessity neo- and must reconstruct their system of beliefs and rituals from extant records and folk traditions. The Saami were pagan until the 18th century, and with that I had assumed that all pre-Christian traditions had died. This falsifies that, though some might quibble that the European nature of the cult of Mari El is a matter of geographical technicality (that is, Orthodox Russia’s status as a European nation are somewhat ambiguous to begin with). Here is an article about the pagan revival:
Unlike in western Europe, paganism among the Mari constitutes an unbroken tradition rather than a New Age construction. Mari anthropologist Nikandr Popov points out that pagan prayer meetings were permitted by decree during the Second World War – with collections being made for the front – and survived subsequent Soviet attempts to suppress them. Today Mari pagans gather together for approximately 20 festivals annually, at which they offer animal sacrifices in specially designated sacred groves. There are now 360 such groves in the republic and around 120 karts (pagan priests), according to one of the claimants to the title of head kart, Aleksei Yakimov.
We forget that Russia is one of the most ethnically diverse nations in the world. Much of this is simply due to the fact that the settlement of Siberia by Slavs is a relatively recent and half-measured affair, and the indigenous tribes have no been absorbed into the national identity. But even in European Russia to the west of the Urals the Slavic speaking farmers who expanded into the forests of the hunting & fishing peoples to the north and east did not sweep away all before them. In contrast such relics are rare in central and western Europe; one case may be the Sorbs in eastern Germany, who are what remains of the Slavic people who once dominated the lands on the eastern side of the Elbe. Another are the Vlachs of the Balkans, Romance speaking herders who are probably the remains of the peasants of Pannonia & Illyircum who once sent Emperors to Rome (e.g., Diocletian). In this case Russia is more like China or India than the rest of Europe. The dominant cultural dispensation is numerically preponderant and can assert hegemony within the bounds of the geographic extent of the civilization, but numerous residual peoples with distinct identities remain “undigested.”