The Russian Orthodox Church during "Khrushchev’s Thaw"

  1. Lemma
  2. Положение русской православной церкви в период “хрущевской оттепели”
  3. Russian
  4. Asliturk, Miriam
  5. Conflict - Culture and national identities - Ecumenism and dialogue > Education
  6. 24-01-2017
  7. Сосковец, Любовь Ивановна [Author]. Положение русской православной церкви в период “хрущевской оттепели”
  8. Вестник Томского государственного университета. История
  9. Russian government - Russian Orthodox Church - Soviet education - Religious education
  10. Click Here
    1. <p>Сосковец, Любовь Ивановна (2011). Положение Русской православной церкви в период «Хрущевской оттепели». <em>Вестник Томского государственного университета.</em> Retrieved from: <a href=""></a> </p>
    1. The Thaw period (or Khrushchev’s era, 1953-1964) is characterized by liberalization and democratization of social life in the USSR. Surprisingly, at the same time the Russian Orthodox Church suffered from a new wave of anticlerical campaigns. The author argues that anticlericalism was natural for Khrushchev. It justified his alternative vision of Soviet society in response to Stalin’s support of the ROC which began in 1943.

      The author points out another factor for this trend, namely Khrushchev’s belief that communism would be achieved very soon in the USSR. Therefore all archaic institutions such as the Church were to be abandoned. In 1958 the Central Committee of the Communist Party criticized the ineffectiveness of anti-clerical propaganda in the Soviet Union and especially focused on the fact that the ROC had strengthened its positions in society after the Second World War. The new regulation demanded: to reduce the number of monasteries and parishes, to weaken financial and material bases of the Church, to reduce the number of religious schools and strengthen control of secular authorities over the Church.

      The campaign took full action in 1959. Before the 1917 Revolution, Russia had 77 767 religious institutions. In 1961 their number had been reduced to 13 008, and in 1968 to 7 420. In the 1960s, 28 monasteries out of 40 were closed, including the thousand year-old Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra. Another measure prohibited pilgrimages to religious sites, such as Lavras or Pustyns. Religious pilgrims had to listen to lectures against pilgrimages or were even forced to leave trains while on the way to the sites. Often authorities would start construction works on religious sites or make access to them difficult. Monasteries were not allowed to open new prayer houses or buy property (houses, vehicles). In 1961 the Council of the Soviet government ordered to establish strict control and surveillance of religious organizations and parishes by different Soviet organizations, for example by the Young Communist League, the Komsomol. Activists of the Komsomol would make reports about the property of parishes and their activity. In case of closure of a parish this property would be confiscated by the state.

      The government also issued a new ruling on the ROC in 1961 in accordance with which priests lost control over the finances of parishes. Their salary was to be decided by the community of a parish. An assignee of the community would control finances and other aspects of daily life of a parish. In such a way the community was turned into a consumer of services provided by the priest. This measure, according to the author, was to break the hierarchy of the Church and its domination over the followers. The government justified it by the defense of Soviet democratic values. The author admits that these measures, especially the closure of churches and pray houses, was met with massive complaints from ROC followers. Consequently the Soviet government had to make a special ruling in 1964 in order to react to this resistance. However, this resistance did not improve the ROC’s situation and not a single Church closed during the Khrushchev Thaw was reopened until the 1980s.