Common past: how Stalin used the Church to win the war

Knowledge of its history is not only a question of education and culture. It is also an essential Foundation for creating a common future of people living in one country. RBC together with the Free historical society continues a series of publications about the major events that became turning point in our common history — the history of Russia.

Among the tactical twists and turns of Stalin’s concerns came after the terror of the 1930s, the so-called new course in Church-state relations. It originated in 1941, shortly after the outbreak of war, and actively carried out after the famous meeting of Joseph Stalin in the Kremlin with three metropolitans at night on 5 September 1943 In response to the Patriotic position of believers, the government went into partial legalization of the Church. Were restored the Patriarchate, the Synod permitted the Episcopal councils, and then local Council, established by the diocese and opened many parishes and churches, allowed monasteries, candle factories, the Church received back the relics of some saints. Many surviving clergy were returned from camps and prisons. Appointed bishops, were ordained priests. Many Church communities, previously driven by persecution underground, now legalized. Important was the provision of religious organizations the right to “opt out” of the legal person”. There are now some religious schools (ROC many years later again got the opportunity to prepare their “cadres”), was allowed to publish the liturgical books and the only Church journal. A significant decline in persecution of believers. Since the war was terminated anti-religious propaganda.

The election of a “new deal” was not due to the sentimental sympathies of the leader of the religion, but purely on pragmatic calculations. Was considered active Patriotic position of the Russian Orthodox Church: the Church’s preaching inspired the population, among the believers was going sometimes a lot of money in the defense Fund. This spiritual “lever” it would be foolish not to use in extreme situation of war. Stalin also had plans of foreign policy use of the Church — religious figures could be skilled agents of Soviet influence in the world, especially in Europe. It was considered correct to meet the allies, who demanded from the Union of tolerance in respect of religion. Was the struggle for influence on religious organizations in the occupied territories. The Nazis often did not interfere with marching “bottom” revival of the Church. It was necessary to recruit to their side the population of the liberated areas, to show him that the Soviet is no longer a persecutor of religion.

It seemed that the Church absolutely came to life after the endless strip of constraint and repression and can now expand their operations. However, this Stalinist “liberalism” had its rigidly defined borders. Thus, the greatest growth has given the Church, open in the occupied territories that were allowed for tactical purposes by the German command. The Soviet people opened in the occupation of thousands of temples, massively close again which was still inappropriate. Regulations on the procedure of opening churches 1944-1945 system has been established for the process of Church revival became very difficult: “sieve” local authorities strongly resisted the initiative of the faithful. A lot of different conditions is not allowed to open the Church. Stalin on the report of the Council for Russian Orthodox Church, in 1944-1947 were allowed to open only 1270 churches, which was 4576 petitions of the faithful (22,7% of the total number of applications). Rejected was 15 567 applications (76,3%) on 4418 churches.

A similar situation arose with the monasteries. Almost all open during the “new deal” of the monastery was previously occupied territories. The only exception was the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. The Soviet government under Stalin did not give the Church no printing, no land, no significant property, no full-fledged legal status. The initiative of Patriarch Alexy associated with the empowerment and influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, were ignored. The network allowed religious schools to the extent of the country was scanty and quite insufficient for the reproduction of the priests who studied there a few units. Many were screened out. The Patriarch complained that the priestly jobs had to take uneducated, casual and questionable behavior by people. Has not been resolved, the ROC missionary activity and charity stopped with the end of the war, when no longer needed assistance to the front. Power using the KGB and the party apparatus kept a sharp eye to “clergy” did not affect the education and upbringing of the youth, had not penetrated schools and clubs, not “poisoned” the minds of the Soviet workers, Communists and Komsomol members. The clergy and laity within the framework of Stalin’s “new course” many were entangled by the constraint and limitations. They continued to be under suspicion of the authorities as unreliable elements, lived under the eye of the secret police.

Contrary to expectations, did not stop Stalin’s policy of “new deal” and after achieving victory over the enemy. The use of the Church occupied an important place in ambitious foreign policy plans of the leader, 1945-1948 Supported by officials, he wanted to convene in Moscow, a new local Council, which could declare the Moscow Patriarchate is the center of world Orthodoxy that was important to expanding the influence of Stalin’s Soviet Union. However, the plan failed due to the refusal of some Orthodox patriarchs to support it. After this fiasco Stalin to the Church had cooled noticeably. And was followed by punishment — from 1948 until the death of the leader of the government is not allowed to open any Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union, as no houses of worship of other faiths. The temples continued in large numbers close. To 1949 of people employed in the occupation years under the Church and house of prayer 1701 buildings were seized 1150 (67.6 per cent). In 1950, as compared with the previous year, the number of Orthodox churches in the USSR decreased by 410 units, in 1951 and by another 177. Intensified repression of swedenconsulate on trumped-up charges of “anti-Soviet activities”. According to the historian M. V. Shkarovsky, “If in 1948, the public security organs was arrested on religious Affairs 3296 people, including 357 of the clergy, in 1949 — 6456 and 571, respectively, in 1950 — 6072 and 455, in 1951 5477 and 273, and in 1952 and 1953 — still 5187, including 130 of the clergy (the vast majority of them were Orthodox believers)”. Were conducted other “restrictive measures” against the Russian Orthodox Church. Prohibits the Commission required at home, religious processions from village to village, the prayers in the fields, selling items of worship outside temples, etc. Suppressed all the activities of the Church over the Church fence.

The above evidence suggests that Stalin after the war, behaved with the believers in his usual treacherous scenario. Promised at the meeting with the hierarchs of the Church life without barriers has not been implemented. Stalin had allowed his structure under a rigid press of a totalitarian state. Deliberately deprived of getting feedback from society, they were in the grip of a kind of “ghetto”. As noted by priest Alexander Borisov, “Stalin took the modest role of the Church historical reserve, supporting Patriotic feelings and, at the same time, secure for his regime safe Harbor for pensioners”. Therefore, to speak of “Church revival” in the Stalin years no probable cause. The new deal did not considered Stalin as a permanent policy in the future. The Soviet Communist state was atheist and did not intend in the future to abandon the new anti-religious offensive, and Stalin “thaw” was it opportunistic tactical turn. And occurring after the Khrushchev persecution became a natural development.

Free historical society (VIO) was created in 2014 by combining historians and specialists in social Sciences and Humanities, who believe it necessary to counter the falsification of history last time and are ready to fight for the honor of professional of the scientific community. During this year the VIO repeatedly criticized the decisions of the authorities. So, it acted in support of the MGIMO Professor Andrei Zubov, who was fired for criticizing Russian foreign policy towards Ukraine. Was also openly supported by academician Yuri Pivovarov, the charges of negligence in connection with a fire at the INION. Criticism from VIO repeatedly subjected to statements of the Minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky, who advocated the propaganda myths of the Soviet era, and said that historians and archivists should be doing what the state pays them money, not to explore related jobs”.

The authors ‘ point of view, articles which are published in the section “Opinions” may not coincide with ideas of editorial.