No God, No Family, Only For Country

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Soviet Russia Anti-Religious Poster

As Soviet Russia began to make shape and create it’s identity after the revolution an important tasks for the Bolsheviks was to “emancipate Soviet citizens from the scourge (or as Karl Marx put it, the “opiate”) of religion (Geldern).” By doing so they engaged with a literacy campaign in attempt to assist them on reducing institutionalized religion within Russia. The state had encouraged anti-religious propaganda and advocated it through agitation and education (Freeze pg. 285). On January 20th 1918 a decree disestablished the Orthodox Church and made all clergy of faiths reduced to second-class citizens among the criminals, former members of the police, and merchants. The campaign to reduce religion continued… they engaged in a systematic propaganda campaign that targeted the major religions within Russia. An event called the Komsomol Christmas of January 6, 1923 as James Geldern describes, was an event where students and working-class youth travel around burning religious items dress as clowns. This event forced dramatic changes provoking people to reduce their religious affiliation.

The major religions that the Bolsheviks focused on were the Russian Orthodox, Jews, Islam, and Catholics. They continued to focus on Anti-Religious movements, creating a commission that created a newspaper called the Bezbozhnik. In 1924 there was a “Society of Friends” Atheist movement that was created within Moscow that published within newspapers and journals that spread around the country. By 1925 congress had created the Union of Militant Atheists. This union focused on propaganda and confiscation of places of worship. By 1929 the NEP ended and the state enacted new laws that “restricted religious activity only to registered congregations, banned all religious instruction and proselytizing…(Freeze pg. 287)” Ultimately, in the 1920s, religion was dramatically reduced and by 1937 only 57 percent of the population identified themselves as believers.

The central paternal family throughout Russia had dramatically changed as well. We saw the shift in paternal dominate roles and the ability for the mothers/women in society to work and thrive within the Soviet society. Equality between men and women, legalizing divorce, and availability to abortions had completely changed how families had been built. There had been an increase of fathers leaving the family leaving the children with the mother destroying the typical nuclear family we had seen in the past. Most religions had supported that way of life and the structure that most families had. Marriages were given away from churches and given to the state. In the picture below, you can see women going to work in the fields. This is a good representation of the change in culture that arose out of the 1920s after the revolution. The family was still there but it was owned by the state.

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Women to work in Soviet Russia

I found this campaign very shocking, though, interesting. As a religious young person today in a country where there is freedom of religion and I have to ability to practice my religion in any location at anytime. This anti-religious campaign to reduce the freedom Russians had within the mass population of the country is extremely shocking. It’s amazing the amount propaganda can do in terms of changing how people think across the entire population. Obviously I love freedom of religion but the ability to limit that freedom towards meeting a political goal, I do find it interesting. The Bolsheviks running a communist style government had a mindset to control the populous and change it in a way that was beneficial to the economy. They changed how families were structured to create a whole new working class, women. This dramatically effected how families had been structured in the past. Europe and the United States also saw this shift as well but how Russia went about the process was different towards the fulfillment of a political goal to create the “perfect” communist society by creating the “New Man.”


10 thoughts on “No God, No Family, Only For Country

  1. Hi Austin, this is an intriguing post on how religion in Russia changed under the Soviet Union, and how the conception of family changed with it! To me, it’s fascinating that, under a system meant to be entirely atheist, 57% of the population identified as believers. What are the implications of this for Soviet society? Overall, this is a thought-provoking post, though in the future it might be good to include and analyze more primary sources, like the texts of specific decrees/laws, newspaper articles, etc!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What Emma said! I’m intrigued that more than half the population identified as believers at a time when it was dangerous to do so. Your focus on the family is also really interesting and raises important questions around what female emancipation meant after the revolution. We talked a lot about “new men and women,” and I’m wondering how you see those discussions at work here.
      Do make sure to cite your sources — we need to know where your images come from (include a link if at all possible). And it might be worth giving that last paragraph another run through in terms of proofreading. Thanks for this post!


  2. Hello Austin! I really liked your post on propaganda against religion under the Soviet Union. I actually was not aware of this before I read your blogpost, so thank you! I really liked the poster you used, as well. It’s very provoking and shocking.


  3. Good post. I like the title. I also really like the quote you used from Marx. I also find it interesting as others have said how many stayed religious when their lives were on the line. Crazy to think what more the soviets could’ve done if that didn’t work.


  4. Austin, I actually think that 57% of the Soviet populace identifying as believers is an unusually high number… given the circumstances. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of Soviet people identified as believers throughout the entire course of Soviet history.


  5. Hey Austin! Great post! I really liked how much detail you put into it, especially the images you chose to include. I find it interesting how almost liberal (not sure if this is the right thing to call it) Russia was in this decade. Belief in religion is typically seen as a more conservative value. And then there’s also the destruction of the nuclear family, equal rights, abortion, and divorce. I was very surprised to see these were all taking place when the U.S. at this time hadn’t even conceived such thoughts.


  6. Hey Austin, I think this is an intriguing post about how Soviets reacted to Bolshevik religious policy. It is interesting to see how people were willing to back the party, but breaking through with effective religious policy was a touchy subject for many who were devoted to the institution.


  7. Hi Austin! I really enjoyed reading your post. I really liked how you did not just focus on religion and tied in some of the other societal factors that were changing. Also it blows my mind that 57% of the population was still religious, that is really fascinating.


  8. I really like your title! And yea, I agree that it was super shocking that the Russian people really did not have a freedom when it came to specific things that the government felt threatened by, such as religion.


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