1917: An UnOrthodox Revolution

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:


4 thoughts on “1917: An UnOrthodox Revolution

  1. This was a really good idea for a post. Religion was another integral part of Russian culture to undergo massive change during the Revolutionary Years. Tying the will of God to a bad leader can really go against religious legitimacy.. especially if you are a starving peasant. It is not surprising that the Russians began to turn against religion. I liked the propaganda poster that you included. Its always important not to envelope all Russians under one revolution and remember that there were counter-revolutions too. I agree that it is very ironic that the people were supposed to be gaining freedoms and eventually had that freedom outlawed. You did a great job here with a topic that is often overlooked during this time period. Thanks!

    1. This was one of my favorite post for the week! I think your first paragraph nicely introduced your focus on the problem with the Autocrats. Also how you noted the church was bound to unravel and start a religious “anti-bolshevik” campaign. I think the image you included nicely flowed with the blog post. It clearly illustrated the propaganda that was overflowing at this time.

  2. I really enjoyed your post. I liked that it took a complex concept like the church during the revolution and explained it in simple terms. I also enjoyed learning about how the church dealt with its loss of power. Why do you think the Bolsheviks choose to alienate the church rather then use its power and influence to their advantage?

    1. Call me a dreamer, but I think the reason that the Bolsheviks didn’t use the church to gain more power may have just been good intentions. Since the church had been used against the serfs and workers to justify the intentions of a self centered Tsar for the past few decades at least, they may have not wanted to risk hurting the common man anymore. Some other good reasons behind this though may have been the naturally atheist nature of Marxism, or the ties of the church to the corrupt government that was only so recently abdicated. But personally, I like to think the Bolsheviks empathized with the masses here, and just didn’t want the church to have the opportunity to oppress the everyday citizen ever again.

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