The War on Orthodoxy

The government’s relations with the Orthodox Church in 1929 were not pleasant. To fully understand the declining relations between the two, we need to go back a few years.

In 1918, the Soviets declared that there was a separation between state and Church. They also decreed that church land was nationalized property and could be seized at anytime without compensation. That was not even the worst of it. Militant forces destroyed religious buildings and churches, in addition to killing priests and bishops. Buildings were then converted to cinemas, libraries, clubs, or factories.

Many people also began to convert to other religions. The Baptist Church particularly gained many new members. Other liberal break offs from the church were more appealing than the Orthodox Church.

1929 was a particularly tough blow to the Church. The state passed a law that “restricted religious activity only to registered congregations, banned all religious instruction and proselytizing, and presaged the still more brutal assault on the Church soon to come” (Freeze, 336). The war on religious was renewed with new vigor. The authorities used violence towards the Church far more readily than they had before. Church property was continually seized. The church bells were taken and melted down for the great industrialization project.

Church bells are taken and melted for their metal
Church bells are taken and melted for their metal

A new workweek was also introduced in 1929. The nepreryvka was put into place to try to raise productivity and keep the machines running through the whole year. The “five-day week” was then introduced. The employees worked for four days and then had a one day break. This was in order to take any special meaning away from Sundays and religious holidays. This five day workweek was to happen during the entire year, except for one period of five days that celebrated revolutionary holidays.

On Easter Day Nobody Skips Work
On Easter Day Nobody Skips Work

Therefore, the workers were supposed to slowly lose their interest in religious holidays. However, with the continuous work schedule the machines began to break down and it decreased productivity. In 1931, Stalin adopted back the 6-day week to try to increase productivity.

Works Cited:

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

Destruction of Church Bells (1929)Felix Corley, ed.: Religion in the Soviet Union: an Archival Reader. New York: New York University Press. 1996.

On Easter Day Nobody Skips Work! (1929)Hoover Political Poster Database. 2007.

Freeze, Gregory. (2009). Russia, A History. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.

3 thoughts on “The War on Orthodoxy

  1. Lots of people used the image of church bells being melted down for their metal this week. This was not the first time Russia’s bells were melted. Peter the Great, for example, ordered church bells to be melted down in order to make artillery for his various wars. The Bolsheviks melted the bells to fight a war on “backwardness.” I thought the parallel was interesting. Those poor Russian church bells.

  2. The introduction of the five day work week also ties into the emphasis on industrialization at this time. From Stalin’s point of view, religion got in the way of productivity, which would slow down the completion of the Five Year plan. Anything that took away from industry was put down by Stalin, and religion was one of those ‘obstacles’ in bringing (or rushing) the Soviet Union into the scientific/technology savvy world.

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