Final Blows to the Церковь (Orthodox Church) 4

churchbells

Pictured above is the destruction of Church Belles for the valuable metal that they were made of.

In the standard Russian home prior to the revolution, no matter how big or small, there was one thing that was almost always present on the wall. An Icon corner was somewhere that you could go to pray, and was usually located in the kitchen or in a room where guests would usually be congregating. Following the Revolution though, these icons were replaced with other portraits that weren’t nearly as religious. As seen from the film Bed and Sofa, a portrait of Stalin hanged over the kitchen “blessing” the house instead. The question now arises, how was this transformation from a completely religious to agnostic society able to happen so quickly? The answer is not so simple.

It all begins at the start of the Revolution with the clergy and leadership within the church. Older members of the church, especially the Patriarch, were extremely conservative in the memorandums that they passed. They were loyal to the Tzar, and really did not want to see much change at all. The same is not as true for the the younger clergy, who felt much more sympathetic to the Bolsheviks and what they stood for. The Bolsheviks used this to their advantage by effectively fueling the fire and splitting up the church from within. Next they arrested Patriarch Tikhon, and placed him in prison for six months for conspiring against the Church. He had been corresponding with Orthodox leadership outside of Russia in hopes to get some support. With him gone, the leadership within the church was severely hurt and unorganized. Also while he was in prison, a law was passed making it necessary to register every religious event that had more than fifty people in attendance. This made it impossible to have large gatherings of people in a church, therefore limiting the churches influence. Next, the Soviet government started destroying churches or using them as storage space. A great example of this is was the destruction of the once might Cathedral, Christ the Savior, in Moscow. The video below shows its demolition and pillage of precious metals.

The last real dent came in 1929 with the creation of the new work week. It was named nepreryvnaia nedelia, and was meant to completely eliminate Sunday as a “day of rest”. Instead, the week would be five days long with one day of rest, and these weeks would be on shifts so different people had separate days off. The logic behind it was to try and to make industry in Russia into a non-stop machine, that was constantly working. It would also destroy peoples sense of which day Sunday was, and would prevent them from going to church or other religious functions. It turned out to be a complete failure, but its job was successful with taking away people from church on Sunday mornings. During this time, even more churches were closed completely and police were used to enforce these closers, usually ending in hatred of the police by the people. In the end, the Soviets beat out the church. Being associated with the church often had negative connotations, so most just stayed away from it and reverted to praying within the confines of their house or taking up the States position on the matter.

 

Sources:

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1929religion&Year=1929&navi=byYear

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1924living&Year=1924&navi=byYear

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1929religion&Year=1929&navi=byYear

4 thoughts on “Final Blows to the Церковь (Orthodox Church)

  1. Reply joeconnorwilly Oct 7,2013 1:36 pm

    I think this is a really interesting and great post! I especially like that you found a video showing the destruction of a church. You do a great job of explain the progression and timeline of the Soviet attack on the Church. It is sad that the Soviets took this position on the Church, because so much of its rich history and tradition was lost or destroyed.

  2. Reply Kelsey Shober Oct 7,2013 7:41 pm

    Thanks for this really informative post! The video was a really cool addition here (and made your title literal instead of a figurative meaning). It made complete sense for the Soviets to persecute religion because it was really threatening to their ideology and condemned by Marx himself. This all reminds me of a past professor who had grown up I’m communist Hungary. She made more than one reference to resenting not having the choice growing up to have religion in her life. The soviet’s persecution of religion had an impact that lasted throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe for over half of a century and effected so many people. Thanks again for the good info!

  3. Reply Ben Midas Oct 7,2013 10:52 pm

    I’m glad religion has been a popular blogging topic because its something I’ve been interested in since I started studying Russia. On the topic of icons, I find the process of recasting icons as Lenin and Stalin very interesting. When Orthodoxy was introduced to Russia, the peasants were loathe to give up their old pagan religion. So they didn’t, they simply added a slightly Orthodox veneer to their old practices. They renamed an old pagan deity St. Nicholas and kept praying the same way. This was always an annoyance for Orthodox clergy. After the Revolution, the icons stayed, just with new faces on them. A thin veneer of Soviet-ism over a thin veneer of Orthodoxy over old pagan traditions? Just something to think about.

  4. Reply Hannah Martin Oct 8,2013 3:01 am

    I think this is such an interesting topic! I think it’s kind of comforting that Stalin was as equally intense about religion as he was about revolution. He understood the kind of power it held over the people and how easily the older order of clergy could bring his entire scheme toppling down to the ground, much like your video shoes. I also liked learning about the new system of entirely eliminating Sunday and instead giving people a rest day in shifts; that’s something I wasn’t aware of before!

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