The War on the Church

In the early 1920’s, the newly solidified government of Russia began seeking to consolidate its gains and secure its future as the sole ruling group in Moscow. One of the primary objectives they set before themselves was the destruction of the Eastern Orthodox church, thus began years of anti religious campaigns, church closings and occasional, violent clashes with villagers fighting for their religion. While Communist party and Marxist rhetoric does preach a creed of strict atheism, the attacks on the church went above and beyond what was called for, and occurred far too rapidly, building a great deal of resentment amongst the rural villagers with whom the urban party leaders had such a large disconnect. In some examples, local police would shut down a church against the resistance of locals, and religious activism to save the church was widespread and vigorous. In spite of this, urban party leaders and communist intellectuals pressed the attack, not realizing that they were alienating the largest single economic and social class in Russia at the time. Examples of this include Leon Trotsky’s article “Vodka, The Church and Cinema” which exemplifies the superiority complex, and patronizing attitude towards peasants that was endemic in Moscow during the years of the NEP, when the attack on the church was at its height. Trotsky’s view of peasants as simpletons who were entertained by repetition and sensual stimulation demonstrates the clear and profound misunderstandings of the party leadership regarding the complex and and deep seated relationship between the rural farmers and the Orthodox Church. The result of this deep misunderstanding was ultimately the loss of support from the rural population for the communist government, which contributed in turn to the ultimate fall of the Soviet Union.



Churches Closed