Bolsheviks: We Believe in Nothing

Boris Ignatovich: Restorers(1928)

“Workers dismantling a Russian Orthodox Church while reading The Godless”


Thanks in part to the beliefs of Marx and Lenin, the Bolsheviks soon began their quest to rid the Soviet Union of religion. In their point of view, “religion was the opiate of the masses”(1). In other words, religion was something for the people to hold onto and support. The people gave money to their religion, spent time involved with their religion, and followed the religion’s orders and beliefs. To the Bolsheviks, this meant a direct opposition to their regime; hey only wanted the people to blindly follow them. They did not tolerate opposition of any kind, and so religion had to go. A majority of Russians were members of the Russian Orthodox Church, however not all of them were opposed to the Bolsheviks decision to rid the state of religion. One main reason for this was because the church and the state were closely associated with one another.  Since the church and state supported each other for  so many years they were intertwined. The church was viewed as an extension of the former Russian state, so it had to go.

The Bolsheviks got rid of religion through propaganda and redistributing the land that churches owned to the people or by making them government property. They also eliminated the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church; “In the first five years of the Soviet Union (1922-26), twenty-eight Russian Orthodox bishops and more than 1,200 priests were executed, and many others were persecuted”(2). Decrees were set in place like the “the Decree of January 20, 1918 that disestablished the Orthodox Church and consigned the clergy of all faiths to second-class citizenship”(4) as well as criminal codes describing crimes regarding religion and their punishments.

The Bolsheviks began their effort to reteach the masses through various forms of propaganda including research and journals citing scientific reasoning against religion as well as many other forms of publication. Atheism was taught in schools and the continuing editions of newspapers such as The Godless were distributed. Anti-religious unions and groups were set up as well as committees such as the Anti-religious Commission. As a result of the Bolshevik’s efforts to rid the Soviet Union of religion through propaganda and crackdowns, a sense of Atheism began to sweep through the population, whether it was forced or not.


Works Cited:

1. Religion in the Soviet Union. Wikipedia. <>.

2. The Russian Orthodox Church. U.S Library of Congress. <>.

3. Violation of the Rules on the Separation of the Church and State. 1923. Seventeen moments in Soviet history. <>.

4.Geldern, James Von. Antireligious Propaganda. Seventeen moments in Soviet history. <>.

Soviet State “Security”

Dzherzhinskii asks: “Comrade Lenin, when should we execute people, before or after lunch?” Lenin: “Before lunch, absolutely, and then you can give their lunches to the children of workers. Workers’ children are starving”.


The state security of the Soviets was officially established December 7, 1917. They are the precursor to all other state security systems for the Soviets, including the MGB and KGB. During the first stages, they were know as the CHEKA; All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage. They were the internal iron fist for the Soviets. They were the force that kept the Soviets in power by making sure that they had no opposition. This was done by instilling fear into the public and bullets into the opposition. The Cheka were lead by Feliks Dzerzhinskii. He would be the one who decided to increase the Cheka powers after friend and one of the Cheka leaders Jozef Unshlikht was assassinated and after Lenin’s attempted assassination. 

The objective of the Cheka was to protect the state from internal threats. They were tasked with finding and stopping anyone who opposed the state. This especially included counter revolutionary groups or activists, as well spies. More specifically, their official objectives were, “to cut off at the roots all counterrevolution and sabotage in Russia; to hand over to the revolutionary court all who are guilty of such attempts; to work out measures for dealing with such cases; and to enforce these measures without mercy. It was necessary to make the foe feel that there was everywhere about him a seeing eye and a heavy hand ready to come down on him the moment he undertook anything against the Soviet Government”(Bunyan). The increase of oppression after Jozef Unshlikht’s assassination was known as the Red Terror, in which the Cheka increased their power and arrested, imprisoned, and executed a large number of people. “Official figures for 1918 of 6300 executions by the Cheka in twenty provinces are probably an understatement”(Siegelbaum).  The Cheka were up front with who they targeted and what the penalties were; commonly being execution or prison camp.  The Chekas were also know for targeting Jews during their crackdowns in order to fill up their concentration camps. One might draw a comparison between the Cheka and the German SS.



Works cited:

 L. Krivitskii. Feliks Dzerzhinskii with children(1950). Moscow Museum of Russian Impressionism. 2001.

Siegelbaum, Lewis. State Security. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. <>

William Henry Chamberlin, The Russian Revolution, 1917-1921 (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1935), Vol. II, pp. 475-76

James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher, ed., Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1918; Documents and Materials (Stanford: Stanford University Press; H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1934), pp. 295-296.



Socialist Revolutionaries

The Socialist Revolutionaries, or the SRs were a leftist revolutionary movement that officially began in 1901. This radical group drew many of their ideals from the Populists, however they agreed with the terror tactics of the People’s Will(Freeze 246). They believed that the capitalist state was doing wrong to the people, specifically the peasants and the workers. The SRs took it upon themselves to help these people by changing the government, whether that was through legal reform or terrorism.

The disagreement on the use of terrorism, which was a large part in the beginning stages of the SRs, was one of the first party disagreements that led to their downfall. In the beginning, the SRs were unified in regards to their beliefs and objectives, but they were conflicted as an organization on what means should be used to achieve this goal.  Until 1911, the SRs had a large hand in terrorism. This was led by their combat organization which would execute assassinations of high ranking officials.

In the earlier years of the Socialist Revolutionaries, political power was consolidated and very influential in the Russian political atmosphere. They were one of the largest and widely supported parties in Russia. The SRs won 37 seats in the Second Duma, but boycotted the 1st,3rd, and 4th. Even though the SRs also won a plurality of the votes in the First Congress of Soviets in 1917, they were soon powerless due to disagreements and divisions within the party. It was soon realized that the SRs could not deliver on any of their policies.  After the First Congress in 1917, they split into the Left SRs and the Right SRs, with the left supporting the Bolsheviks and their beliefs and the Right supporting the Mensheviks. The party was split on topics like the support of the war and the provisional government. The Left SRs believed that Russia should leave WWI and that land needed to be redistributed. After the Bolsheviks took power, the Right SRs were banned from the government and the Left SRs merged with the Bolsheviks, making one of the most powerful parties in Russia disappear.


Works Cited:

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Socialist Revolutionary Party. Wikipedia. Web. 7 Sep 2014. <>.

Programme of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1905. Web.  7 Sep 2014.<>.

Simkin, John. Party of Socialist Revolutionaries. Spartacus Educational. Web. 7 Sep 2014. <>.