Anti-Religious Propaganda in the Soviet Union: Could It Ever Happen Here?

I was in elementary school during the Cold War.  I remember praying the Leonine Prayers for the conversion of Russia—or, more exactly, “to permit tranquility and freedom to profess the faith to be restored to the afflicted people of Russia”.   The Soviet Union in those days was a hotbed of militant atheism, we believed; and we stood vigilant against their errors of faith.

According to Soviet propaganda in the first half of the 20th century, Christian virtues such as humility and meekness were to be ridiculed.  Rather, the Communist government, through its “Godless Five-Year Plan”, encouraged self-discipline, loyalty to the party, confidence in the future, and hatred of class enemies.

In the place of religion, the Communist regime sought to promote science.  The government sponsored anti-religious processions, newspaper articles, and lectures.  The Society for the Godless was organized to advance atheism on a national scale, while magazines such as Bezbozhnik  (The Godless) helped to spread atheistic propaganda.

By 1930, the central task of Soviet education became the spread of atheism.   Eventually, all religious education was banned, and education which had as its goal the expansion of atheistic ideals was encouraged.

ATHEISTIC PROPAGANDA POSTERS

In the first propaganda poster, a Russian triptych displays three icons:  an image of Christ in the center, with Mary, the Theotokis, on one side and a saint, possibly St. Nicholas, on the other.  A younger woman—perhaps a relative—sneers at the display of icons in the home.  The same young woman glances at a television set, where a Russian satellite is shown in orbit.  The caption reads:

The bright light of science has proved that there is no God.

Nikita Khrushchev, who led the Soviet Union as First Secretary of the Communist Party and then as Premier in the 1950s and ‘60s, said the same thing, when he announced that a Russian satellite had completed a lunar orbit, peering at the previously unseen “dark side” of the moon, and did not find God.

The second poster is titled “Down With Religious Holidays!”  It blames the church (visible in the background) for the drunkenness of the marauding men.


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