Orthodox Church In The USSR Essay, Research Paper
Two factors to bear in mind: The Orthodox Church was one of the greatest supporters of the Czarist system of autocracy. According to Marxist doctrine (incorporated into the official state ideology of the USSR) religion is ‘the opiate of the masses’. The Situation 1917-1940: 1918: Decree concerning ‘the separation of Church and State and the separation of the Schools from the Church’ with the aim of: To bring to an end close identification btw Church and State that had existed w/ the czars. Exclude the Church from any role in education. This was done by: Forbidding all Church participation in the life of state. – Church could not control hospitals, etc. and was cut off from its ‘charity’ role. Taking away control of schools. Churches could only remain open upon Gov. approval. Freedom of conscience was declared, but in practice people who attended church services were persecuted. Result: Many anti-orthodox outbursts. Church property confiscated. Number of priests fell. Number of churches, monasteries, etc. fell Church schools and institutions closed. Patriarch imprisoned. Note: the existence of compulsory lessons in atheism in all schools and factories. Reaction of the Church: Ordered faithful to obey the orders of the new Gov. as long as not opposed to the faith. Took no active part in politics / avoided siding with the ‘whites’ in Civil war. Patriarchs professed loyalty to new state (even tough emprisonned at times) The partial recovery of the Church 1941-1959: W/ the threat of Nazi Germany Stalin saw the value of a national church in uniting the people behind the authorities in the coming struggle. The attention of the Soviet leaders was directed away from the Church after the war: expansion of power in E.E., post-war reconstruction, death of Stalin à
power struggle… Results: Increase in number of priests Reopening of churches. Seminaries allowed to open. Church organization based on the dioceses w/ bishops allowed. To control this, the Gov. created the ‘Narkomopium’ Minister of Opium (nickname for department to control religious affairs) The Situation since 1959: Began to deteriorate again. The constitution and criminal codes of the USSR have reduced the religious rights of citizens in practice whilst seeming to guarantee them. Areas of State control: All places of worship must be registered. Authorities have the right to refuse or withdraw authorization w/out explanation. Authorities must approve all appointments of Church governors. Pressure on internal Church appointments. Authorities decide which activities are acceptable and not. Note: apart from the holding of religious services in churches, all other forms of religious activity is banned by the ‘Law on Religious Association’. The Position 1985: Seems to have survived (about 40 million members) Still a lot of tight government control. Association w/ the Orthodox Church would result in ‘difficulties’ (i.e.: low priority for housing, lack of promotion) Church leaders are subservient to the government (no criticism) For soviet leaders the ideal is a ‘phantom church’ which maintains the outward form of the church (useful in projecting images to the rest of the world) but to have real membership inside the USSR decline rapidly.