Anti-religious Propaganda: Taking Control of the Soviet State

Throughout history, religion has been a fundamental ideology that is seen is almost every culture around the globe. This is no different for the Soviet Union however it comes with some unique challenges.

The decree of January 20, 1918 caused the dissolve of the Orthodox Church and the Bolsheviks also made sure that the clergy resigned their positions and were then set to be second class citizens [1]. During this time of dissolve there was a lot of conflict. The introduction of the communist state required the abolition of major religious sects as it blocked the ability of people to realize “class consciousness”. In order to maintain control of the people and create the ideal communist society, religion must be set to a minimum and the state must remain a priority. The Bolsheviks realized this and set out on a campaign to degrade religious sects.

The propaganda photo above has the caption, “Religion is the Opiate of the People” [2]. This was one style of propaganda that was designed to show people the level of control that religion has on an individual and how the good feeling obtained from faith is a mask. While it does make you think, it is quite hypocritical when considering the alternative the Bolsheviks were promoting. As said before there were significant conflicts in different religious communities. Both the Jewish and Catholic communities did not the propaganda very effective as both regimes (Communist/Tsarist) were very hostile to them during times of power. Same goes for the Islamic communities through Central Asia [1].

These communities sparked conflict as resistance was faced during times of Atheist propaganda. The campaign pursued however with more programs becoming available. At this time in 1924, the Anti-religious Commission had been established and created a newspaper by the name of Bezbozhnik [1]. They would constantly post articles and journals that pushed this narrative.

This propaganda push was crucial in securing the state for the Communist narrative. To create a state where the government was first was unconditional as religion put a higher priority on God than matters on earth. By controlling the conscious decisions of the people the Bolsheviks would create a more sustainable communism in Russia. By essentially demonizing major religious sects they would have greater control of the Soviet State. This like other factors would become crucial farther down the line in Russia’s modern history.

Source 1:

Source 2: Image:×1011.jpg

4 replies on “Anti-religious Propaganda: Taking Control of the Soviet State”

Thanks for this perspective, Paul! Your post raises an important point that we talked about on Zoom this morning — namely that the church was a political as well as a religious institution. I am really sorry your post didn’t get picked up by the digest (sending you a clarification / apology on Slack). I’m adding it to the review doc for this module and hope you’ll check out the related posts by Josh and Matt:


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