From the Russian Revolution to the beginnings of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms in the 1980s, Communist Party propagandists waged war on all the gods.
Drawing on decades’ worth of vivid, alarming, and rarely-seen anti-religious propaganda illustrations directed against what Karl Marx had once called “the opium of the people”, author Roland Elliott Brown will unfold the strange tale of Soviet atheist ideology, from its origins in 19th-century radical thought to its implosion along with the USSR and its legacy in Putin’s Russia.
Workshop format: Following the structure of Roland’s book, Godless Utopia: Soviet Anti-Religious Propaganda, the day will begin with a discussion about how the idea of “godless communism” influenced perceptions of the Soviet Union in the West. Then, using propaganda images from the book and from Roland’s wider collection, it will move on to discussions of the atheist propaganda from each Soviet period: the revolution of 1917; Stalin’s collectivisation and industrialisation campaigns; the Second World War; Khrushchev’s renewed atheist campaigns and the space age; the age of dissent under Leonid Brezhnev and his short-lived successors; the years leading up to the Chernobyl disaster (an event of religious significance for many) and Gorbachev’s glasnost. The day will conclude with insights into how Church and Kremlin officials view Soviet atheism today.
Recommended reading or viewing:
Refreshments: Tea and biscuits will be provided at the start of the workshop. Participants should make their own lunch arrangements.
Roland is a London-based journalist and arts writer and the author of Godless Utopia: Soviet Anti-Religious Propaganda. From 2013 to 2017 he was a regular contributor and editor for the London-based news site IranWire, where he covered politics and human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. His writing has also appeared in the Guardian, the Spectator, and Foreign Policy.
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