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.