As the Romanovs abdicated the throne in the beginning breaths of 1917, and the new governing bodies took their places in this shaky society, many things changed. The Provisional Government was doing its best to sort out the ocean of affairs that were left untouched by the Autocrats preceding them, while still working with the Petrograd Soviet, fighting a war, and dealing with a moderate famine. With that groundwork being lain, there is a lot to talk about in this time period, but I’d like to focus on a problem left behind from the Autocrats: The Eastern Orthodox Church.
During the rule of Tsar Nicholas II, and the Romanovs preceding him, the church had obtained a very important position. Not only did the church provide “justification” for the Tsar to rule, (claiming that he was able to interpret God’s will, and no one else could) but also was the basis for the every day Russian’s education. This combined, allows for a lot of bad things to happen to the people. So! When the Provisional Government takes power, and the church has just had it’s leader removed from the governing position, many questions are brought to the table. Some, with slightly more relevance than others, such as, “Who will run our schools?” and “What are we going to do with the massive tracts of land the church owns?” Especially since the Bolsheviks controlling the very powerful Petrograd Soviet were secular by nature, and constantly pressuring the government to do their will. The result? The PG decides to say that the church would be removed from the school system, and that it would have no play in the role of education. On the ruling of land, the government decides to take it all and label it as basically, “Public Property.”
The short term results are kind of easy to read here, in the fact that the church is going to freak out, and start a religious “anti-bolshevik” campaign. So posters, and propaganda such as the image shown here, start to flood the religious sects of Russia.
The basic idea behind the anti bolshevik campaign led by the church was that the Bolsheviks, here embodied by the Red Guard pushing the people to the front lines, were doing the work of Satan, and that the faithful should avoid them at all costs, lest they be devoured by the movement.
I suppose the long term effect of this societal change can only be pondered. The general opinion of the church was bad enough that the public wouldn’t have had any objections to this turn of events, but I doubt that many common people would believe that this would in time lead to the outlaw of religion altogether. I find it slightly ironic that the laws establishing a Freedom of Conscience for the Russian people would result in a soviet nation so oppressed.
Sources for these facts:
Russia: A History, by Freeze pgs. 269-306
and the image is from: