Trouble with the Church

“Opium of the People”. This is what religion was for the Bolsheviks. They saw it as a means to oppress the people and control them from seeing the real world. A religious society would be blind to what is really happening. For these reasons, the Orthodox church and the Bolsheviks naturally had many fundamental disagreements and never got along with one another. It is no surprise then, that with the Revolution, one of the main social changes that would occur would be the eventual dissolution of almost all church authority and influence on the common people.

Starting with the transfer of jurisdiction of church schools to the government and the Law on the Freedom of Conscience, the church and state relationship quickly began to degrade. With the election of Patriarch Tikhon who was extremely critical of the Bolsheviks, and the passage of a law that allowed the transfer of military church units to non church units relations continued downhill. As church property was being seized, the clergy was told to resist the best they could without turning to violence. They would excommunicate local Bolsheviks and preach against their agenda. Hardly concerned with being excommunicated and decrying their teachings as ‘hostile propaganda’, relations continued to struggle.

Once a law was passed that completely separated church and state, things really went south. Church property was nationalized, education was secularized, and civil ceremonies that were traditionally controlled by the church were turned over to the Bolshevik government. With the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, church holidays were replaced by secular holidays that held significance to the new Bolshevik government. Just when things seemed as though they could not get any worse, Patriarch Tikhon declared an anathema on the Bolsheviks, effectively dooming them to hell and anyone who associated with them the same fate.

A critical aspect of the new society that Russia would become, the sour relationship that the church and state had during the Revolution would have long lasting social repercussions. Russian society would never be the same, and its safe to say that such a public and troubling struggle between the church and state only served to further confuse a peasantry that was already having to endure a World War, Revolution, famine, and tough economic times, to name a few of the issues.