Victoria Smolkin, "The Science of Soviet Atheism"

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. 

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