Russia after the War: Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957

By Elena Zubkova; Hugh Ragsdale | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Religion and Politics: The Revival of Religious Belief

The war years witnessed retreats from official ideology that seem strange at first sight yet are fully understandable in the circumstances. The propaganda machine, which had until recently expended enormous energy unmasking the evil past of prerevolutionary Russia, began to work in an apparently diametrically opposite direction. The Soviet regime, whose ideology was constructed in the main on the principle of opposition to the old world, to whatever existed before 1917, suddenly began to place bets on Tradition. This turnabout was manifested in the restoration of officers' epaulets, the celebration of old Russian military leaders, the establishment of new decorations evoking the glory of Russian arms, and a new presentation of historical figures, especially conspicuous in the case of Ivan the Terrible and Peter I. The appeals to patriotic feelings began to crowd out the former calls for proletarian internationalism. In his speech on the Day of Victory, 9 May 1945, Stalin addressed himself not merely to "Soviet citizens" and "comrades" but to "fellow countrymen and countrywomen."

Among these conspicuous changes of political style, one of the most remarkable was the policy of the state toward the Russian Orthodox Church. 1 During the war, the clergy used its sermons to give moral support to believers and to lift the spirits of the army. The church offered state and society great material assistance, organizing, for example, fund-raising campaigns for the Red Army and extending alms to orphans and to the families of soldiers killed in action. These activities were one reason for the liberalization of the state's policy in religious questions. The church was viewed in these circumstances as

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