Sep 22 2014
G-d Bless You!
This was just one of many hundreds of images that were published during the anti-religious push that occurred while the Bolsheviks were attempting to rebuild Russian society.
The Bolsheviks knew that if their revolution was to be successful, society had to unify into one, cohesive whole. Therefore, the Party created organizations such as the Komsomol (geared towards children) to reorganize and re-educate people on the new societal norms (Freeze 330).
One of the most prominent things in the way of this total unification of society the Bolsheviks wanted was religion. Religion allowed people to put their faith and trust in a higher power (specifically, something that wasn’t the central government), and therefore had to go.
One of the first steps they took was legalizing divorce. Under tsarism, divorce was almost impossible as a result of the combination of both secular and church law. However, in 1918, divorce was made legal, and the process streamlined, which directly attacked the church’s power over the people and caused the Soviet divorce rate in cities to be the highest in the world by 1930 (Freeze 331 and 333).
Also in 1918 came the separation of Church and State, along with the confiscation of Church property without compensation. These churches then fell victim to roving militants, who eagerly dismantled and destroyed them (Freeze 335).
Another contributing factor was the Marxist idea that only what could be seen could be considered reality, which meant religion was simply superstition, and therefore had no place in a progressive Russian society. It served only as a distraction and a hindrance (Freeze 335).
However, the State’s attack on the Church eventually eased a bit, for the Bolsheviks knew that if they continued it would only serve to alienate the peasants, which would make their revolution impossible. Therefore, the State began advocating against religion “only through agitation and education,” instead of passing laws against it (Freeze 335).
It was obvious that the Bolsheviks felt that religion had no place in the society they were trying to build. It served only as a distraction from work and gave the people someplace other than the central government to put their faith and trust. If the Bolsheviks’ revolution was to be successful, they needed complete and total compliance from all of society, which meant there was no room for any distractions, no room for any other source of influence. They did all they could to eliminate revolution and yet still win over the public, and their efforts eventually culminated in a revolution that can be considered one of the most successful in world history.
Photo Credits (in order as they appear in the post):
1. Bezbozhnik u stanka. Moscow: M.K.R.K.P.. 1923.
2. Grigori Chudakov, Olga Suslova, and Lilya Ukhtomskaya, eds.: Pioneers of Soviet photography. New York: Thames and Hudson. 1983.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2009. Print.
September 22, 2014 @ 6:58 pm
Great tie-in between your title and the propaganda photo, very clever. But on a more related note, it’s interesting to read how religion, or the lack of religion, played such a major part Bolshevik ideology. I also feel that this is a topic that can be applied to many contemporary states…
September 22, 2014 @ 9:57 pm
Throughout history relgion is almost always the first thing to go when someone is trying to control the public. As you said in the post, how can the public follow a new leader 100% when they have their faith in a higher power? At least thats the idea behind the attempted elimination of religion.
September 23, 2014 @ 1:44 am
I think you hit the nail on the head with why the communists wanted to get rid of religion. They want the government to be the ultimate authority. It makes me want to dig deeper and find out about their view on the family. Maybe they wanted to replace the parents as authority figures.
September 23, 2014 @ 3:20 pm
I think the Communists in Russia were awesome in general about taking out other entities that could take away their legitimacy. Religion is definitely something that has actively worked against governments in the past. What is unbelievable is that the Bolsheviks actually mobilized the Russian people against the church. As far as I know, a movement like that with a group as young as the Bolsheviks has never happened. Truly amazing.