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.
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.”