FEMINISM AND ATHEISM in ‘GODLESS’
The cover of this edition of the USSR’s primary anti-religious propaganda magazine refers to the position of women in Soviet society. The woman behind the desk is the president of the village Soviet. A priest is sitting to her right, exclaiming:
You work in miraculous ways, God! Long ago a woman had no soul, long ago they thought she was not a human but a devilish vessel! But now – look! – she is president of the village Soviet and her secretary is reading her a report about my petition for the lowering of taxes.
Indeed the church was hit with increased demands for taxes from the State. However it was not alone. In 1926 the country was still almost bankrupt and finance to invest in the maintenance of the crumbling infrastructure was scarce. Everyone was affected. This cartoon is saying to the women of the population, who like the church are being over-taxed, that they are now guaranteed authority and status in society. It contasts the out-of-touch, unfashionable priest, with his long beard and walking stick with the neat, modestly-dressed, effecient modern village woman, who is attended by a male secretary.
ATTACK ON IMAGERY
Page 14 of this issue carries an illustration of two religious miniatures. It comments:
Old minatures from the 15th. century are used by students to cover their certificates. ‘Science and religion – two peas in a pod!’ – that’s what they said, and that’s what the holy fathers continue to say. In the bourgeois regime, science and religion were always the ubiquitous slaves of capital.
The Bolsheviks considered the church to be one of their prime enemies. They officially blamed the church for the backward nature of the country and the generally unimpressive educational achievements of the peasantry. The church was publicly ridiculed and criticised as being a mafia-style organisation that swindled money and devotion out of the poorest individuals and offered nothing other than fear and guilt in return.
Propaganda and agitation was not the only way the state attacked the church. Although not ‘officially’ supported by Stalin (who had himself studied to be a priest), the Bolsheviks oversaw the destruction of many churches throughout the USSR and the imprisonment and sometimes execution of priests and those associated with them. It was only when the Germans invaded in 1941 that Stalin, in a desperate position, decided to use the unifying nationalist power of the church to rally the people against the aggressor. An uneasy truce with the church then ensued, only for it to be attacked forcefully again by Khrushchev in the 1960s.
Bezbozhnik was the publication of Союз воинствующих безбожников - The Union of the Militant Godless. The Union was headed by Emelian Yaroslavsky, the sycophantic Stalin-worshipper and editor of the very first History of the Bolshevik Party (available here). Yaroslavsky is called ‘Stalin’s Bloodhound’ and appears as that dog in the caricature to the right