No God but the State?

On Easter Day Nobody Skips Work! (1929)
On Easter Day Nobody Skips Work! (1929)

Religious persecution reached new levels in the 1920s culminating with the passage of the Law on Religious Organizations in 1929. The goal of the Soviet government was the removal of religious influences from society. These influences were seen as a leftover from tsarist rule and as a threat to the authority of the new regime. It was the government’s goal to undermine the importance of religion as well as create a state focused on scientific development and advancement, but the anti-religious movement did not completely suppress religion.

Even before 1920, the Bolsheviks took action to remove religious influences from the home. Bolsheviks saw the “patriarchal, religiously sanctioned family as tsarist society in microcosm” (331). Abortions were legalized, women were given equal rights under the law, and restrictions on divorce were relaxed.

By 1929, religious buildings, lands, and other assets were nationalized without compensation and the Law on Religious Organizations required congregations to register with the state in order to legally worship. The state established the Commission on Religious Questions to advocate “the eradication of religion only through agitation and education” (335). The state did not sponsor violence against religion. Instead, the Commission on Religious Questions sponsored anti-religious propaganda in publications such as Bezbozhnik. 

The Law on Religious Organizations only restricted the practice of religion and never fully banned it. Religion was still tolerated in the early Soviet Russia only if it was beneath the state.



Freeze, Gregory L.. Russia: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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