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The Oxford Handbook of Russian Religious Thought. Caryl Emerson, George Pattison, and Randall A. Poole, eds. (2020)


This chapter examines the fate of the Russian Orthodox Church—as an institution and community—during Russia’s years of revolution, from the reign of Nicholas II through the 1917 February Revolution and subsequent Bolshevik coup. It argues that Orthodoxy’s legal status as a ‘primary and predominant’ faith, and the state ascription of the ‘Russian people’ to Orthodoxy from birth under imperial rule, were in large part responsible for Orthodoxy’s institutional turmoil during these years. Further, the chapter challenges the use of the term ‘secularization’ with respect to the Bolshevik regime’s anti-religious policies. In the span of weeks, the Bolshevik regime not only homogenized Orthodoxy into the mix of ‘traditional faiths’—all pinpointed for eradication—but also relegated Orthodoxy to the position of least desired and most hazardous within that mix. Accordingly, this work argues that, from any observant believer’s perspective, Bolshevik efforts to cultivate the New Soviet Person—which included initiatives targeting the disestablishment, denigration of ‘liquidation’ of religious leaders, and the nationalization, destruction, and museumification of sacred objects, as well as widespread ‘re-education’ in ‘scientific material ism’—are better understood as a form of ‘internal’, spiritual colonization, and a qualitatively new chapter of Russia’s history.


antireligious, atheism, Bolsheviks, freedom of conscience, internal colonization, Lenin, Nicholas II, Russian Orthodox Church, Russian Revolution of 1917, secularization




© Oxford University Press, 2018.


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