”Formative Tendencies in Near Eastern Religions and Ideologies” Workshop in Beirut, 15-16 April 2019

15.4.2019 - 16.4.2019

Event description

”Formative Tendencies in Near Eastern Religions and Ideologies” Workshop in Beirut, 15-16 April 2019


Organised by the Centre for Oriental Studies, University of Tartu and Finnish Institute in the Middle East (Beirut).


Venue: Finnish Institute in the Middle East, c/o Consulate General of Finland in Beirut, Badaro street, (5th floor meeting room


Participants:  Peeter Espak (Tartu), Raija Mattila (Beirut), Sebastian Fink (Helsinki), Gebhard J. Selz (Vienna), Andreas Johandi (Tartu), Vladmir Sazonov (Tartu), Sirje Kupp-Sazonov (Tartu), Art Johanson (Tartu), Urmas Asi (Tartu), Margus-Tarmo Pihlakas (Tartu).


Conference presentations will be published in a special issue of the Theological Journal (Tartu, indexed in Scopus, https://usuteadus.ee/?lang=en ) in print and in open access (including Google Scholar) on the webpage of the journal.


The workshop organized by the Centre for Oriental Studies of the University of Tartu and the Finnish Institute in the Middle East (Beirut) aims at analyzing some key perspectives considering the developments of Mesopotamian and East Mediterranean cultures in their multicultural or parallel cultural frameworks. In earlier research, religious change was often explained by the arrival of new people with new religious ideas and especially monotheistic tendencies were ascribed to the arrival of Semites in southern Mesopotamia. To some part, this explanation is still valid as foreign invaders bring their gods with them. However, it could be shown that Mesopotamian culture was multicultural from very early times onwards. Therefore, we cannot postulate a pure Sumerian versus a pure Semitic religion and oppose them to each other. Exchange of gods, ideas and religious concepts surely took place before we have any written documentation.

We aim to discuss some features of the earliest forms and formative tendencies in the panthea and mythologies in their parallel development in Mesopotamia and East Mediterranean in order to understand the genealogy of different ideas and how different religious concepts interact with each other and produce new ideas. One of our main questions is, if we actually can identify the drivers of religious change. Are these drivers ”ethnic” separate cultures in the third millennium Near East or are we simply witnessing the developments in scribal culture and organized religion and ideology? Therefore, we try to understand local developments (city) and larger developments (kingdom, league, empire) and their interconnection and suggest to study changes in religion also as a response to altered social and political circumstances.


15th of April

First section:

Instability and security issues: from ancient times to modern issues

11.00-11.15 Margus-Tarmo Pihkalas (ThinkTank EURUS, TartuIntroduction

11.15-12.00 Peeter Espak (University of Tartu) The nature of theology of war

12.00-12.45 Vladimir Sazonov (University of Tartu  / Estonian Academy of Security Sciences) Instability: From Fall of ’empire’ of Akkad until modern security challenges in Iraq after fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Moderator: Andreas Johandi (University of Tartu)

12.45-14.30 Lunch

14.30-15.15 Art Johanson (Tartu) Syria and Lebanon as ancient battlefield – case study of the Battle of Issus

15.15-16.00 Urmas Asi (Tartu) Middle eastern influences on European security: Estonian example

Moderator: Andreas Johandi

16.00-17.30 Round table discussion ”Instability and Security Issues in the Middle East: from ancient times to modern issues”

Dr. Peeter Espak, Dr. Sebastian Fink, Dr. Vladimir Sazonov, Andreas Johandi, Art Johanson, Urmas Asi

Moderator: Margus-Tarmo Pihlakas



16th of April

Second section:

Formative Tendencies in Near Eastern Religions, Mythologies and Literatures: Multicultural and Parallel-Cultural Perspectives

11.00-11.15 Introduction

11.15-12.00 Gebhard J. Selz (Vienna) How and Why Did Mesopotamian Religions in the Third Millennium BCE Change? Between Political Ideology, Theological Speculations and Ritual Practices.

12.00-12.45 Peeter Espak, (Tartu) The Sumero-Akkadian Understanding of ”Nation” and ”Ethnicity”

Moderator: Vladimir Sazonov

12.45-14.00 Lunch

14.00-14.45 Sebastian Fink (Helsinki), From Enlil the almighty to Enlil the coward

14.45-15.30 Andreas Johandi, (Tartu), Was There Anything in Common Between the Gods Marduk and Martu (Amurrum)?

15.30-16.15 Vladimir Sazonov and Sirje Kupp-Sazonov (Tartu) Some words about the possible Near-Eastern origin of M. Bulgakov’s charming vampire Hella (Gella), Azazel and other demons of Ancient Near Eastern origin

Moderator: Peeter Espak

16.15-17.00 Discussion

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