Russian Celebrations: Soviet Attitudes toward Religion and Traditions

Figure 1.--

Religion of course plays an important part in holiday clebrations. Here the athiest campaign of Soviet Communism has a great impact on Russian holiday celebratons. Soviet attitides toward religion varied over time.

A Russian reader provides us some information about religion during the Soviet era. He writes, "The policies of the Russian communists toward religion and other traditions varied over time.

Early Soviet Era

In the first period, everything that concerned traditions and religion was denied, from military ranks to children books. The word "patriot" was forbidden. Anything reminding about religion, and traditions and historical memory was almost illegal. The Union of Fighting Atheists (SVB) was established to stamp out religion. Churches were blown-up. Maybe you can't believe, but organizations of Soviet Children Writers tried to forbid even fairy tales, claiming that "future fighters of world revolution don't need tales about kings and princes". Famous Russians war and political leaders were considered as "imperial servants". The fact that "progressive revolutionay" Napoleon was defeated in 1812 by "serfdom defender" Kutuzov, was considererd as negative. New Year celebrations were not official, a Fir-tree - "white guardian", "obsolete" and even "counter-revolutional" tradition... And so on... Thousands of facts... For example USSR never took party in international sport contests like the Olimpics in the early Soviet period.

Stalinist Era

Stalin canceled the ideological chaos. He understood, that to build strong emprie he must stop this te assault on patriotism. In 1930-1933 he ended the SVB, the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP) and other such organizations. In 1936-1937 he had given direction to increase patriotism, to take movies about strong Russian tsars (Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great) and military commanders (Kutuzov, Suvorov, and Alexander Nevsky). Celebrating of New Year become more official, Father Frost "returned" to children. Later, in 1941, after NAZI invasion, Stalin even gave some limited freedom to the Orthodox Church. Christmas wasn't official celebration, but all it's non-religious attributes (like fir-tree, Father Frost, gifts for children, family feast) "shifted" to New Year celebration. Traditional silver or gold "Christmas star" on the top of the fir-tree became red. Well, after the war in 1946 USSR already was classical "brilliant" empire - with military traditions, generals and marshals, well organized "factory" of movies and cartoons, Russian soccer team that visited London (1946) first time since 1917, New Year fir-trees in Kremlin for children and so on and so on. When I was a child I couldn't even imagine, that the star on the top of the tree differed from star on USSR coat-of-arms. We children were sure, that in "capitalist" countries like USA there're no stars on fir-trees at all. When I saw a white New Year star the first time, I was really shocked. I was sure dome one forgot to psint it. When I've heared the word "Chrismas" first time I was absolutely sure that it is just "old name" of the New Year celebration. It was after Gorbachev became the USSR leader, I was 8 or 9 years old.


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Created: 5:38 PM 11/27/2005
Last updated: 5:38 PM 11/27/2005