After Patriarch Tikhon had completely condemned the Bolsheviks in 1918, church and state relations were at their lowest. With the new regime in power it was a bold move on the part of the church considering they were now living under the power of those they had claimed would be doomed to hell, which wouldnt sit well with most people, let alone those in charge. Lenin and the Bolsheviks wanted to completely wipe out any authority of the church as well as that of the Muslims and other religious minorities.
The Bolsheviks recognized the fact that there were already some major disagreements within the church itself between new and old age clergy, and they sought to exploit them. Patriarch Tikhon was imprisoned (he would later also be stripped of his position, and the church would be without a Patriarch for quite some time after) and any religious group with more than 50 members was to get registration to gather from the state, and if the state refused to give the registration, which was often the case, the group could not gather and thus entire congregations were prohibited from practicing. Also, some of the more liberal younger clergy formed a new church dubbed the ‘Living Church’, which further divided the already fragmented congregations. It would not prosper however, and its main significance was to undermine the Orthodox church’s effort to stay relevant.
With the famine of 1921-22, Lenin was searching for a way to purchase foreign grain to feed his large population. Knowing that the church was completely packed with precious and valuable materials, he sought to take and sell these artifacts to feed the masses. Initially, the church refused to comply, and the Bolsheviks used this as an excuse to say that the church was responsible for people starving as they held all the money and a means of ensuring that people didnt go hungry. This of course did not sit well with the masses, and it caused them to believe the scapegoat and take most of the deserved blame off of the Bolsheviks. When the church eventually relented, they were stripped of virtually all their serious wealth and lost a great deal of influence.
In terms of the formation of a new Soviet state, religion served as a scapegoat and a way for the government to unite the people against the institution of religion. The clergy were painted as selfish to the needs of the many and completely opposed to change and the revolution. With the masses already being swept up in the social change and the church wishing to keep things the way they were, they were fighting quite an uphill battle.
Church being destroyed in 1929 in Murom due to Soviet anti-religion policies.
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