Heavenly Father, We Want Gold

This post was awarded a “red star” from the editorial team.

Elaborate Church headgear sequestered from Russian Orthodox clergy

As the Bolsheviks rose to power after prevailing in the Russian Civil War, The new ruling class was quick to seek a way to dispose of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Bolsheviks were quite obsessive in “their feverish attempt to construct a new symbolic world-with new icons, new language, new festivals-to bestow legitimacy on the new order” (Freeze, 305). The regime adopted new forms of culture such as embracing the Gregorian calendar, [and modernizing] the alphabet,” but there was on very controversial symbol that the Bolsheviks adopted (Freeze, 306). The Bolshevik name began to become synonymous with “God-Builder” as they became their own religion and a “a cult of Lenin” (Freeze, 306).

When Lenin and the Bolsheviks introduced the New Economic Policy in the 1920’s, it was deemed an “evolutionary, gradualist plan” (Freeze, 301). However, when it came to the church, the the Bolsheviks were excessively harsh. This could be related to the aspect that the Russian Orthodox Church enjoyed a high position of authority in the autocratic state when the 1917 Russian Revolution rolled around. Therefore, the party likely wanted to get rid of any power that could threaten their own.

Political Poster that translates, “What can the church gold give us? Russia could be fed for this year and the next!”

The Russian Famine of 1921-22 was the result of a perfect storm due to World War I, the 1917 Russian Revolution, and the Russian Civil War. Therefore, when the Bolsheviks rose to power and were looking for a way to rid themselves of the Russian Orthodox Church, they used the famine to their own advantage. When Lenin introduced a new food policy that “turned into a full-scale food supply dictatorship,” the Bolsheviks turned to the Church in order to pay for the grain that they could only buy abroad (Freeze, 301). The Bolsheviks demanded the gold, jewels, and other metals that made up religious and holy objects to be handed over, so they could buy the supplies needed to aid the famine. The Bolsheviks also cast sole blame on the Russian Orthodox Church. By throwing the Church into more than an unfavorable light, the Bolsheviks caused the Church to fall from its pedestal and alter church-state relations for decades to come.

By July 1, 1922, the Bolsheviks had confiscated “26 poods, 38 pounds, and 8 zolotinks” of gold; “33,456 stones weighing 10 zolotinks and 1,313 karats” of diamonds; “21,137 poods, 11 pounds, 85 zolotinks” of silver; the list goes on. In 1922, in a “Protocol of the Meeting of the Politbiuro,” one can understand the hostility towards the Church as a harsh remark was made accusing the clergy of behaving with a “criminal, stingy attitude to the valuables.” All in all, the Bolsheviks set out on a campaign to knock the Church down, and they succeeded. The Bolsheviks painted the Russian Orthodox  Church with the blame for the famine and seized their holy valuables for economic purposes so as the stop the 1921-1922 famine.


Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

“1921: Confiscating Church Gold.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed September 21, 2014. http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1921church&Year=1921&navi=byYear.

“Russian Famine of 1921.” Wikipedia. Accessed September 21, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_famine_of_1921#Political_uses.

“Anti-Religious Campaign during the Russian Civil War.” Wikipedia. Accessed September 21, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-religious_campaign_during_the_Russian_Civil_War.

“Religion in the Soviet Union.” Wikipedia. Accessed September 21, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_Soviet_Union.

Church Headgear Image retrieved from: http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1921church&Year=1921&navi=byYear.

Political Poster Image retrieved from: http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1921church&Year=1921&navi=byYear.





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4 Responses to Heavenly Father, We Want Gold

  1. gracehemmingson says:

    The state’s attack on the church relates to what I was researching this week, the attacks on bourgeois literature and art. I think you made a good point that by going after the old world, the Bolsheviks could shift some of the blame that they deserved onto their opponents. Good post!

  2. jenniferh says:

    Our posts definitely compliment each other well, the Bolsheviks aim to rid the hold of religion in society and create a religion centered around Lenin was important. They couldn’t change society and social norms with the deep role of religion in Russia in the old regime. I think that one’s social consciousness can’t change with all of the old memories of religion.

  3. Caitlin Rose says:

    I wonder why the public was so ready to believe the Bolsheviks on blaming the church for the famine. It would be interesting to know if/how the church fought back in trying to retain their gold and power. It was clever of the Bolsheviks to get money to address the famine and at the same time cause the church’s power to dissolve, interesting post!

  4. Kelly Cooper says:

    Caitlyn Rose, I don’t think the majority of the public necessarily believed that the church was to blame. However, the Bolsheviks severely damaged the church’s reputation and struck fear into the heart of those involved with the church; the church and state relationship was damaged for years to come. I agree with you that this would be an interesting topic to delve further into, many people ended up posting about the Bolsheviks and religion in some fashion!

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