Religion In Stalinist Russia

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The Persecution of Religion in Stalinist Russia

Throughout history, religion has played an important role in shaping culture, government and the economy, but it is important to also consider times when the absence of religion has done the same. Under the control of Joseph Stalin and the Communist party in the early 1920s, Russia became the first nation to institutionalize atheism. Propelled by the ideals of communism and the example of his predecessor, Stalin sought to secularize the nation and to bring an end to religion in Russia. This paper will explore the tensions between religion and politics in Stalinist Russia, focusing particularly on how Stalin’s political agenda affected his religious policies.

In order to understand the Russian
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In his determination to minimize the appeal of reli- gion, Stalin ordered the executions of tens of thousands of clerics as an example of what would happen to those who opposed the communist regime. Those who weren’t killed were sent to work camps, known as Gulags, in which captives were forced to work in abhorrent conditions and often died from overexertion. The effect that this had on the religious community was staggering - by 1939, the number of active parishes in Russia had dropped from 50,000 to less than 500, and it is estimated that as many as 20 mil- lion people were killed as a result of Stalin’s totalitarian regime (Bociurkiw, …show more content…
Stalin held his power over religious institutions by promoting communism and discrediting religious practice, and aggressively persecuting anyone who did not agree with his policies. It would be interesting to explore the effects this has had on Russian culture, government and economy today - has Russia remained a primarily secular state, or has religion been granted more legitimacy over time? Further research will be focused on the various elements which make up the politico-religious interface, as well as the connections between the Stalinist regime and modern-day Russian politics. For example, under Stalin’s rule, atheism was compulsory for all party members. Has this ideology carried over to electoral politics in Russia today, or is religion no longer a factor in the selection of political candidates? Similarly, how has legislation changed in order to accommodate or limit religion compared to the Bolshevik decrees of the early 1930s? By asking these important questions, it may be possible to gain a better understanding of how the tensions between religion and politics have shaped the reality of Russia

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