Page 5, 17th October 1941

17th October 1941
Page 5
Page 5, 17th October 1941 — The following balanced account of the fate of the Orthodox

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Locations: Moscow, Novgorod


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The following balanced account of the fate of the Orthodox

Church in Russia since the Revolution is by a well-known authority. The analysis goes some way to explain the contradictory views now current about religion in Russia.

eligion in Russia


No religious teaching is allowed in any school: state, municipal or private, and. no one under 18 may be a member of the religious organisation. Finally the free circula tiotso 9 f ith. seriously e clergy is seously restricted by


The Godless Union, on the other hand, is fully supported by the state, though it is technically a private organisation. The different Soviet Ministries support the Godless activity in factories, schools, offices, villages, and in the Red Army. Although very much smaller than it used to be a few years ago, the Godless Union, nevertheless, is a formidable society, numbering thousands of cells, and millions of members. In its peak year of 1932 the Godless Union numbered 80,000 cells with seven million members, to whom 1,500,000 Godless children should be added, says T. De Divert de la Sandee in Communism and Anti-religion. The same year the circulation of the Godless paper, Bezbojnik reached 500,000 copies. The review Anti-religiousnik hada a circulation of well over 30,000 copies.


All this Godless activity is fully in accord with Article 13 of the Communist ,programme. " With regard to religion, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union does not confine itself to the already decreed separation of chuireh and state and of school and church, i.e.. measures advocated in the programmes of bourgeois democracy, which the latter has nowhere consistently carried out to the end owing to the diverse and actual ties which bi,u1 capital with religious propaganda.

" The Communist Party of the 'Soviet Union is guided by the conviction that only conscious and deliberate planning of all the social and economic activities of the masses will cause religious prejudices to die out. The Party strives for the complete dissolution of the ties between the exploiting classes and the organisations of religious propaganda, facilitates the real emancipation of the working masses from religious prejudices and organises the widest possible scientific, educational and anti-religious propaganda. At the same time it is necessary to carefully avoid giving offence to the religious sentiments of believers, which only leads to the strengthening of religious fanaticism," Says Lm. Yaroslavsky in Religion in the U.S.S.R.

Nevertheless, since 1934, there was a considerable and growing slackening of the antireligious drive which coincided with the final establishment of the personal dictatorship of Stalin and the mass execution of the old Bolsheviks, who elaborated the official Communist programme. For the new Soviet rulers, whose porte parole Stalin became. the old Marxian fetishes were of little interest or consequence. The dreams of the World Revolution, which excited Trotzky, meant

little to them, but they were anxious to establish the Socialist State in their own count's, and still more to retain the power in their hands. The Party remained on paper Marxism, Godless and International, but in reality it became Nationalist, pantheistic and Stalinist. To study its transformation will require several volumes. Anton Ciliga described it very ably in his remarkable book, The Russian Enigma. Eugene Lyons in his Stalin is equally interesting. Both men know Soviet Russia well, having lived there for several years.


The mass executions of Communists between 1934 and 1937, transformed the Party, filling it with the personal followers of Stalin. The new Bolsheviks were very different from those who were shot. They were no more cosmopolitan intellectuals but the Russian nationalists, interested not only in the Russian future but in the peat as well. Accordingly the formerly despised Russian national heroes, literature art, history, science, became popular. The films about Alexander, Nevski, and Peter the Great, were produced, old classics returned to the libraries, ancient churches started to attract the attention and the wonderful ikon of Novgorod and Moscow schools were rediscovered. The vary manuals of history were rewritten.

As the Russian history is inexplicable if the Church is to be ignored the new generation became interested in it as well. Anton effigy stated as far back as 1937 that the Church succeeded in adjusting itself to Soviet conditions. is the greatest social force in the country after the Stalinist Party and the Red Army. He predicted then that Stalin will be forced to look for an understanding with it if he is to preserve his re'ginte in the emergency.

In any case the Stalinist Constitution, though changing little, outwardly, the position of the Church, restored to the clergy the sivil rights taken away from them as long ago as in 1917. The priests became the full citizens of the Union, entitled to elect and to be elected to any position. Gradually, following the rapid growth of the nationalism, many more concessions were granted to the churchmen, including, in June 1940. the restoration of compulsory observance of Sunday.


It is extremely difficult to state how well religion is faring now in the U.S.S.R. In 1932 the Godless Alliance hoped .confidently to see all religious associations dissolved by 1937 and all ecclesiastical buildings destroyed or taken over for different purposes by the same year. According to Soviet War News of Aug. 22 last, published by the Soviet Press Bureau in London, there are still 30,000 religious units in Russia. Yaroslavsky stated the same number in 1937. There was no decrease in those units, though the incorporation of the new territories must he taken into account. On the other hand there was a great decrease in the number of buildings, not since 1937, but since 1917.

The position will become clear if we consider the statistics for the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1937, according to the Fenffiet of Paris Dominican Centre of Russian Studies (October 1936) the Russian Empire possessed 30,000 parishes of the Orthodox Church. As the Orthodox form two-thirds of the Soviet believers and there are 30,000 religious societies in the Union, the Orthodox must have about 20,000 units. The drop is equal to one-third only. But these are mostly parishes without churches and clergy.

According to the Godless paper BezboMik (January. 1935) the Russian Church possessed in 1917 46,457 churches and 21,747 chapels, served by 50,960 priests and 15,210 deacons. The Soviet Bulletin assigns to the Orthodox Church in 1940 only 4,225 churches, served by 5,665 priests and 3,100 deacons. The decline is between 80 per cent. to 90 per cent.. This enormous drop was produced long before the Stalinist Constitution, chiefly during the coBectivization drive.

During the last few years the position was stationary and even improving. Moscow has now 25 parishes instead of 15 in 1919, according to reliable data. The Godless Movement, in spite of all official support, just vegetates,


The Soviet churchmen are generally loyal to the regime and have many converted Communists in the clergy, including the brother of the Marshal Voroshilov, a MI of the Commissar Lunacharsky, etc. They expect the gradual removal of all restrictions imposed on religion by the Soviet legislation. The war will probably accelerate the progress. Nevertheless the alteration of the Article 124 of the Constitution and the Article 13 of the Bolshevik programme arc very serious for all Bolsheviks and highly objectionable to the old generation.


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