chapter  1
28 Pages

Servant of the state or faithful ally?

Church–state relations in modern Russian history
WithSophie Kotzer

This chapter focuses on the analysis of the interrelations between Russian national sentiment, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and state authorities during the Soviet pre-perestroika period. It emphasizes the influence of Russia’s geopolitical situation on church-state relations, which became even more apparent when Russian Orthodoxy was replaced by a new secular ideology. Marxist dogma regarded religion as the “opium of the people” and a direct weapon of capitalism. According to Lenin, religion “serves to defend exploitation and stupefy the working class.” During World War II and in the early post-war period, the Soviet government, for the needs of propaganda, used both Russian nationalism and the Church. Towards the end of the war and in the early 1950s, the ROC was particularly useful as an aid to Soviet foreign policy. The years when Khrushchev was at the height of his power were characterised by a renewed aggression against religion in general and the ROC in particular.