Only Known as ‘Soviets’

A question that has come to mind after reading some of the aftermath effects of the Soviets coming into power, is was the revolution truly worth it and were the people ultimately happier with the Soviets than a tsar? Prior to Soviet power, Russia would have seen moderate changes with the succession of tsars, but the fundamentals of the government remained similar. However, with a whole new governmental system being set into place brought along with it radical changes to all aspects of the peoples lifestyles. Two factors that played a significant role in the formation of the Soviet State were religion and nationality. At first glance these two factors may seem as though they could not be connected, but in the Soviet State they were very much connected. It does not seem like it would pose a problem of having strong national ties as well as religious ties because of the country and time period we live in today. Soviets, however, had a very different belief in the matter.

The Soviets were very supportive of an anti-religious movement and removing religion from the state. The Ivanovo-Voznesensk Governorship Committee of the Russian Communist Party was involved with the anti-religious campaign. Clergymen would travel to specific industrial cities and give lectures to working class and also peasants in order to see where the population stood as a whole. The older generation of peasants showed vast support of the clergy and church with one man saying “let us have our God, don’t touch this.” However, working men and especially the youth became disillusioned with the clergymen and the church. This lack of interest in religion was important, but even more important that it was occurring among the youth of the Soviet State.

Why was this lack of religious interest significant to the Soviets? This situation has repeatedly happened in history where religion is seen as obstructing the path to pure nationality and loyalism. For example, Queen Elizabeth I believed that her subjects could not be loyal to the state and their religious if the leaders were two individuals. This led her to name herself as the head of the Church of England. This is the same basic principle as seen here in the Soviet State’s formation. The Soviets did not believe that its people could be loyal to the state and be true to nationalism with their religion also being held in high regards. This is why the youth of the nation’s lack of religious interest was so important to the formation of the Soviet State. The youth would then become part of the nationalistic movement from a young age and pass this ideology down to future generations. The people would see themselves as Soviets and nothing else. The realization that “there is no more doubt that youth has escaped the sphere of religious and clerical mystification” came about from the lectures conducted by the Ivanovo-Voznesensk Governorship Committee. This allowed for a strong military (given the loyalty of the youth) and  the eventual banning of religion in the Soviet State. The picture above captures the beginning of this banning, it was propaganda used in 1924 with the translation being “Ban Religious Holidays!”








  1. The lack of religious interest certainly is significant to the Soviets, as well as a few others of the Communist anti-state-religion policy. It is interesting to think about how difficult it would be for something like that to occur in the United States.

  2. While you are right in saying that lowered religious sentiment served to increase the State’s power, it is also important to note the position of religion within Lenin’s political philosophy and in Marxist thought in general. Specifically, as illustrated in the famous “religion is the opiate of the people” quote from Marx, religion was seen as counter to Communism in that it prevented people from realizing their revolutionary power. That is, when people are focused on things like the afterlife and “storing your treasures in heaven” there is less motivation to rise up against earthly suffering. This characterization of religion plays an important role in understanding why the Soviet government was so adamantly opposed to religion.

  3. This was a really interesting post. I didn’t read too much up on the anti-religious movement when writing about the Muslims of Russia, but I did see a source about it that I will definitely check out now. I really liked the example with Queen Elizabeth, I think that made the situation a little clearer for me and also showed how this has happened throughout history.

  4. I love the image you chose, and think you pose a really important (if unanswerable) question at the outset: “Was it worth it” and were people happier???? Given how closely intertwined Russian Orthodoxy was with the state before the revolution, and in light of the Marxist concerns about religion in general, it’s not hard to imagine why the Bolsheviks were so determined to displace religion from the fabric of social life.

  5. This was a very interesting read. I believe the “under God” portion in the pledge of allegiance was added around this time period to try and separate the U.S. ideals with that of the soviets in order to help stop the spread of socialism in the states. I never really knew why that phrase was added at that time, but after reading this article it makes sense.

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