Analysis of contemporary negative image of the Orthodox Church formed in the Soviet Union from the mid-1950s until the early 1960s.

  1. Lemma
  2. Анализ некоторых современных негативных представлений о православной церкви, сформированных в Советском Союзе в середине 50-х – начале 60-х годов ХХ в.
  3. Russian
  4. Asliturk, Miriam
  5. Conflict - Ecumenism and dialogue > Education - Antagonism - Culture and national identities
  6. 14-12-2016
  7. Чаусов, А. И. [Author]. Анализ некоторых современных негативных представлений о православной церкви, сформированных в Советском Союзе в середине 50-х – начале 60-х годов ХХ в.
  9. Russian Orthodox Church - anticlerical propaganda - Church statistics - Orthopraxy - Soviet Union - Higher Education - Youth - Propaganda - History of the Russian Orthodox Church
  10. 2008
    1. <p>Чаусов, А. И. (2008). Анализ некоторых современных негативных представлений о Православной Церкви, сформированных в Советском Союзе в середине 50-х начале 60-х годов XX в. <em>Вестник Новгородского государственного университета им. Ярослава Мудрого. </em>Retrieved from: <a href=""></a> </p>
    1. Contemporary Russian society can be divided into four groups depending on their attitude to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC): the so-called “churched” believers who practice the ritual of communication and confession regularly and live according to the dogmas of the Orthodox Christianity; the nominal Christians, the “passers” who come to light a candle in a church and do not have thorough knowledge of rituals and dogmas; the sympathizers who live without contacts with the Church but who recognize the importance of Orthodox Christianity for Russia; finally, ardent antagonists of the Church and of Orthodox Christianity in Russia. 

      The latter anticlerical group has two critical points as far as the Church is concerned. Firstly, they criticize orthopraxy: moral judgment of the daily lives of the clericals and believers. Their second criticism concerns orthodoxy: they point out the incompatibility of Church dogmas with science, and the harm of the religious mindset for the modern lifestyle.

      The anticlerical propaganda campaign during Khrushchev’s and early Brezhnev’s years created the negative image of the Russian Orthodox Church among Russians. Between 1917 and 1943 the Soviet state terrorized and eliminated clericals, episcopates, and believers; closed monasteries, churches and other properties of the ROC. In 1908 Russia had 61,959 churches, 20,610 chapels, 523 monk and 408 nun monasteries; 48,879 priests, 14,361 deacons, 43,361 church servants, over 72,000 monks, nuns, and novices; 146 schools for clericals. In 1941 the USSR had 3,723 churches, 46 (nun and monk) monasteries, not a single active chapel; 5,665 clericals, 4,886 nuns and monks including novices; 10 schools for clericals.[1] This decline occurred in the 1920s and 1930s when the ROC officially proclaimed its loyalty to the Soviet state. The Bishop Tikhon (Belavin), the first Patriarch of the ROC after the Synod period, forbid any attack on the Soviet regime in his article published in Izvestia and Pravda on 27 July 1923 where he said: “[I am] not an ardent partisan of the Soviet regime… nor a counter-revolutionary… I condemn any attacks on the Soviet regime from any party…” 

      The Church enjoyed a semi-legal status until Stalin’s meeting with the hierarchs of the ROC in September 1943, which ushered the so-called period of the Concordat, the era of relatively peaceful existence of the ROC in the USSR. After the war and especially in the 1950s, Soviet authorities took new measures against the Church, while the rest of Soviet society enjoyed more social freedoms. On the one hand, many priests were amnestied and could return to their parishes. On the other hand, many churches were closed, and the priests were thus obliged to look for work elsewhere. In 1958 the Soviet State council on ROC affairs introduced a heavy taxation of Church incomes.    

      In the late 1950s, Soviet authorities launched an anti-clerical propaganda campaign, including attacks in the press, organization of manifestations, legal processes based on false claims, forced incarcerations in psychiatric asylums for the most stubborn clericals. The most effective measure was the use of former clericals who renounced their belief in god. Around 200 of them participated in the campaign, in which A. Osipov, former professor of the Leningrad Religious Academy, was a key figure.[2] Many clerical schools were shut down in order to decrease the intellectual level of clericals. Authorities hindered the access to these schools to people with higher education; some of them were openly threatened. At the same time priests’ incomes were higher than those of average Soviet citizens. This situation pushed many indecent people to join the Church. These new corrupt priests were especially loyal to the Soviet regime. Their greediness and lack of spirituality reinforced the negative image of the Church in the eyes of the Soviet public.

      The anticlerical campaign targeted mainly Soviet youth as it had the objective to cut the Church off from newcomers. Schools and universities held seminars on the incompatibility of modern science and religious mindset. Soviet schooling for children, especially history courses, propagated anti-religious ideals. For example, schoolbooks pointed out the violent Christianization of the Russian state, and the repressive nature of the Church towards Russian people afterwards. Contemporary historians of the Church, Konyaev and Kartashev, strongly criticize this narrative.[3] From school age, students developed the understanding that Orthodox Christianity represented intellectual disorder and that the Church was a means of manipulation of the uneducated. These young people are adults now but their attitude to the Church remains the same. Although nowadays the school curriculum includes courses on the Principles of Orthodox Christian Culture, Russia still experiences the negative influence of the standardized history and literature courses that produce new cohorts of anti-clericals.










      [1] Archpriest Tsypin V., Istoriya Russkoy Pravoslavnoy Tserkvi: Sinoidalny i Noveyshy periody (Moscow Patriarchy Publishing: 2007), 793-795.

      [2] Istoriya Russkoy Tserkvi. Kniga devyataya (Svyato-Preobrazhensky Valaam Monastery Publishing: 1997), 379-385.

      [3] Kartashev A.V., Ocherki po istorii Russkoy Tserkvi (Eksmo: 2005), 911. Konyaev N.M., Podlinnaya istoriya Doma Romanovykh (Eksmo: 2006), 672.