Boris Ignatovich: Restorers(1928)
“Workers dismantling a Russian Orthodox Church while reading The Godless”
Thanks in part to the beliefs of Marx and Lenin, the Bolsheviks soon began their quest to rid the Soviet Union of religion. In their point of view, “religion was the opiate of the masses”(1). In other words, religion was something for the people to hold onto and support. The people gave money to their religion, spent time involved with their religion, and followed the religion’s orders and beliefs. To the Bolsheviks, this meant a direct opposition to their regime; hey only wanted the people to blindly follow them. They did not tolerate opposition of any kind, and so religion had to go. A majority of Russians were members of the Russian Orthodox Church, however not all of them were opposed to the Bolsheviks decision to rid the state of religion. One main reason for this was because the church and the state were closely associated with one another. Since the church and state supported each other for so many years they were intertwined. The church was viewed as an extension of the former Russian state, so it had to go.
The Bolsheviks got rid of religion through propaganda and redistributing the land that churches owned to the people or by making them government property. They also eliminated the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church; “In the first five years of the Soviet Union (1922-26), twenty-eight Russian Orthodox bishops and more than 1,200 priests were executed, and many others were persecuted”(2). Decrees were set in place like the “the Decree of January 20, 1918 that disestablished the Orthodox Church and consigned the clergy of all faiths to second-class citizenship”(4) as well as criminal codes describing crimes regarding religion and their punishments.
The Bolsheviks began their effort to reteach the masses through various forms of propaganda including research and journals citing scientific reasoning against religion as well as many other forms of publication. Atheism was taught in schools and the continuing editions of newspapers such as The Godless were distributed. Anti-religious unions and groups were set up as well as committees such as the Anti-religious Commission. As a result of the Bolshevik’s efforts to rid the Soviet Union of religion through propaganda and crackdowns, a sense of Atheism began to sweep through the population, whether it was forced or not.
1. Religion in the Soviet Union. Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_Soviet_Union#cite_note-Lenin-6>.
2. The Russian Orthodox Church. U.S Library of Congress. <http://countrystudies.us/russia/38.htm>.
3. Violation of the Rules on the Separation of the Church and State. 1923. Seventeen moments in Soviet history. <http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1924violation1&SubjectID=1924antireligion&Year=1924>.
4.Geldern, James Von. Antireligious Propaganda. Seventeen moments in Soviet history. <http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1924antireligion&Year=1924&navi=byYear>.