The Bolsheviks imagined Communism as a world without religion. The Soviet
experiment was the first attempt to turn this vision into reality. Following the 1917
revolution, the Soviet leadership used a variety of tools – from propaganda and
terror, to scientific enlightenment and education – to overcome religion. Yet
despite the secularization of the state, the party’s commitment to atheism,
and several antireligious and atheist campaigns, Soviet Communism never
managed to overcome religion or produce an atheist society. This talk
traces how Soviet atheism was reimagined through its engagements
with religion, focusing in particular on the shift from the antireligious
repression and “militant atheism” of the early Soviet period, to Nikita
Khrushchev’s turn to “scientific atheism,” and what consequences
this had for the Communist Party and the Marxist-Leninist
ideology in which it grounded its legitimacy.
Originally published at reilly.nd.edu.