Bolshevik Party: The Antichrist?

“Religion is the opiate of the people” – Karl Marx

Beginning prior to the 1917 Revolution and lasting well beyond, several internal factions and ideological differences manifested themselves within Russia.  For example, Bolshevik officials agreed with the moderate socialist’s whom endorsed bourgeois rule, while many radical underground activists rejected the bourgeois provisional government (Freeze, 280).  Ultimately, Lenin’s motivation for revolution trumped the various factional differences and boosted the Bolshevik Party in the political sphere, due in part to his ‘April Theses’, which called for peace and an end to various continuous issues.

Another element of the Bolshevik strategy was its opposition of the Orthodox Church and intentions of breaking up the church into schisms.  According to James Von Geldern, “among the most important tasks that the Bolsheviks set themselves upon coming to power in 1917 was to emancipate Soviet citizens from the scourge of religion”.  Starting in 1920, the Orthodox Church was disestablished and members of the clergy were demoted to second-class citizenship.  Additionally, the Patriarch Tikhon was arrested and thrown in jail, several priests were executed, and various church items were seized.  Furthermore, the Komsomol, essentially an organization of Communist youth, put forth an especially distasteful mockery of religion during the Christmas of 1923.

The culmination of these events predictably exacerbated tensions between the Church and state.  Divides within the Church already existed around this time.  There were obvious breaks between the more conservative and liberal folks, as well as with the younger members.  Such chaos ultimately gave birth to the “Living Church” in 1922.  Existing internal factions, exacerbated by attack from the Bolshevik’s spelled severe problems for the Orthodox Church, which was eventually undertaken by members of the Living Church and staggered on until 1946.

The fiasco of the church during this timeframe is relevant because it touches on two of the four post questions. (1) For one, the motion to initiate anti-religious propaganda was one of several aspects of the Bolshevik Party’s shift from revolutionaries to rulers.  Following the Civil War, the Bolshevik Party initiated a “broad, systematic propaganda campaign that targeted popular religious belief” (James won Geldern).  Such attacks were not directed solely towards Christians, either.  Jews and Muslims were also on the receiving end of the Bolshevik’s anti-religion propaganda.  (2) The anti-religious propaganda also highlights that in many ways religion played the role of the victim in the initial formation of the Soviet state.


Freeze, L. Gregory. Russia: A History.


Antireligious Propaganda Images

Author: mikegjormand

Enrolled in 20th Century Russia Virginia Tech | Junior Professor: Amy Nelson

6 thoughts on “Bolshevik Party: The Antichrist?”

  1. I’m so glad you included Marx’s opiate quote! Marx’s thoughts on religion importantly inform those who utilize his political philosophy (like Lenin!) I also really like your perspective about the “war on religion” being part of the larger theme of combating factionalism within the fledgling Soviet Union. I encourage you to check out Daniel’s post this week: He uses the same image and includes the English translation for the caption. I also think you might enjoy Sarah’s post about the relationship between the Bolsheviks and the Muslim East: Great job this week!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Religion, no matter where you go be it physically or across history, has always been a hot topic. Lenin derives much of his view on religion from the work of Marx and Engels, so great job incorporating that Marx quote. You do a great job breaking down the issue and getting the relevant details out in the open. I found a site that talks about Lenin’s war on the church and presents the information in a very clear manner. Great job this week!


  3. Great post! I really like how detailed and specific you are in your examples. Your last paragrah also ties everything together nicely, and allows the reader to gain a clear understanding of what the tension with the Church meant for the State and how it effected the Bolsheviks. I touched on the issues between the Church and State in my post. I talked about how it effected the work schedule of many businesses and factories, and how the government sought to eliminate the threat it felt the Church posed.


  4. Your post really highlights in my mind the important role that the church played in the pre-revolution period. The church represented a tool of the old regime and I think you are correct in identifying the importance of removing as a possible threat to the Bolsheviks. Reading your post also made me wonder what the perspective of the common Russian peasants and workers during this period on the church was. Did they view at as a vestige of the past that needed to go or did they view it as still having an important place in their life, despite its checkered past with the Tsarist regime. Great job!


  5. I really liked reading your post. I also wrote about religion and how the Bolshevik’s closed the gap between the church and state. Religion is a sticky topic, and it played a vital role in both the Russian Revolution and the transition into a Communist regime. It really makes you wonder if an attempt to force society to disbelieve in a higher power is an appropriate approach to enforcing big government. Do you think the Bolsheviks were afraid of what power to the individual would do to their plans of complete control?
    Thank you for educating me even more on the topic. Great job!


  6. You mention how Jews and Muslims were also targeted for their faith in the large irreligion campaigns of the Bolsheviks. Jews were no stranger to persecution, not only from communists, but indeed the Imperial Russian government and its programs that had proceed the communists. I think a more thorough research project into the lives of the Central Asian Muslims of Russia would be very interesting, as this group is often forgotten about when detailing the socialist destruction of Russian Orthodox Christianity.


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