In the late 1920s, the newly formed Soviet Union had trouble establishing its own identity. The majority party was creating fractures within itself because of its unfounded attitudes towards its previous foes and allies. This split in the party created a divide between the old and the new soviets, the wary and radical. Their ideas differ on economic policy that resulted in the bloody conflict of collectivization and on the role of religion in society with Karl Marx saying “religion is the opiate of the masses” (A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Paragraph 4), but having traditional rural Russians on their side.
In the years 1918 and 1929, the soviet state established harsher restrictions on the church and other religious gatherings, clamping down on local autonomy for many rural areas. It was clear that the state was going to have very little dissent with the heartland of Russia. The state then pressured the local soviets to close down their community church or place of religious gathering (i.e. synagogues, mosques) to increase productivity with the new economic policy of nepreryvnaia nedelia. Nepreryvnaia nedelia (abbreviated to nepreryvka) was the establishment of the uninterrupted work week, with keeping factories open and machines running throughout the year, even on days of worship and religious holidays with churches being the biggest opponent to the new policy. The nepreryvka policy also created scheduled system for cultural events and meetings, enable for the factory to always be occupied. The church property was also confiscated and churches were either demolished or converted in other facilities like warehouses.
There is reports of protesters on both sides of this argument. There have been riots of anti-religion protesters that have climbed the walls of church to tear it down and knock out the church’s bell. There have also been local resistance to the closing of their community churches. Like in the village of Olshanitsa, the village soviet had a meeting to close the local church within a two week period. The Head of the District Administration Department came down to the village collect the keys of the property from the churchwarden. The drunken churchwarden refused and was accompanied by a group of hysterical women in protest. Two of which, climbed the bell tower and rang the alarm. At the sound of the alarm, up to 300 – 350 women ran from the fields with sickles and drove away the representatives that had come to close the church.
Citations in order of use:
- Focal Point – http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1929-2/churches-closed/
- https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_saviour_explosion.jpg (Title picture)
- *(Primary Source) https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm
- https://www.imdb.com/videoplayer/vi1383970841?ref_=ttvi_vi_imdb_1 (Video clip)
- *(Primary Source) http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1929-2/churches-closed/churches-closed-texts/law-on-religious-organizations/
- http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1929-2/churches-closed/churches-closed-images/#bwg63/462 ( 2nd Image)
- *(Primary Source) http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1929-2/churches-closed/churches-closed-texts/protest-of-church-closing/
- http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1929-2/churches-closed/churches-closed-images/#bwg63/465 (3rd Image)