Submerged in atheist state control, the Soviet media propaganda penetrated society, idealizing the communist teaching that Marxism would bring happiness and peace to all.
Central to the communist ideology was the idea that traditional religion must be exterminated. So, why are multitudes in contemporary Russia turning away from communism and embrace traditional conservatism, as recently pointed out by professor Glenn Diesen in his new book, “Russian Conservatism“?
In the Western public sphere, we do not sufficiently comprehend the Soviet experience, except maybe for the words of its dissidents, who were able to escape the communist “paradise.” Free speech – or the concept of allowing an honest public discourse that respects differences of opinion – was forbidden in the Soviet Union. So, of the Orthodox religious revivals we know little.
The mere critical mention of Stalin’s “mustache” in private letters resulted in years in the Gulag prison camps, such as what happened to the famous novelist and Christian philosopher, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.
People were later disillusioned by the totalitarian hypocrisy found among its communist leaders. Any objection to the one permitted mainstream media worldview quickly resulted in the harshest reaction by the iron-fisted Soviet authorities, often resulting in Gulag imprisonment. Many gradually understood that communism was not the freedom it claimed to be.
Thus awoke the dissident souls, who were thrown in prisons and exported to years in the Gulags. If not killed there by harsh labor conditions, suicide, hopelessness or ruthless winters, their spirits were crushed to silence when returning to civil society. They knew that there was no freedom to be found anywhere in the USSR – and silence was the only option.
Some opposed the system even then, many of whom were exiled to places far from Moscow, such as 1970 Nobel Prize laureate Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, who was forced to live for many years in Kazakhstan.
From this place of total repression was born the religious rebirth of Russia and the returning belief in the conservative values that were crushed by Lenin in 1917 and onward.
The despair that arose from realizing that communism was not the solution to human suffering fueled the Russian Orthodox religious awakening. The discrepancy between the ideals about a free classless society and the gruesome reality of the Gulag for whoever spoke up, illustrated the true nature of the corrupted elites. Precisely this realization caused many to turn to Orthodox Christianity.
The dissident Yuri Mashkov explains, as told by the Russian Orthodox priest and monk Seraphim Rose in “God’s Revelation to the Human Heart“: “The boring Soviet life and spiritual dissatisfaction gave me no peace, and somewhere at the end of 1955, in my 19th year, there occurred an event: I understood what kind of society I was living in. Despite all the naked Soviet propaganda, I understood that I was living under a regime of absolute rightlessness and absolute cruelty.”
This experience caused him to speak up, which led to him being arrested and given the highest punishment for anti-Soviet agitation and many years in prison.
Mashkov spoke about these experiences in a Russian conference in New Jersey in 1978, shortly after being permanently exiled from the Soviet Union. He explains how the totalitarian experience with atheist Marxism led him to embrace Christianity, like so many others inside the totalitarian system. None of this was, of course, reported on in the strictly controlled Soviet media.
Mashkov explains that the metaphysical revelation of God as reality elevated his soul fundamentally to another whole level of existence, and was to him as if a door opened from a dark room and into a sunny street.
Rose recommends “The Gulag Archipelago” by Solzhenitsyn to anyone who wishes to understand atheism as it was practiced in Russia and what it does to the human soul. He states that the Gulag prison systems is the natural expression of the atheist experiment in Russia, because once you believe that there is no God who will judge humanity, the evils in man’s nature no longer face the moral boundaries of the conscience. Everything becomes permissible, and new levels of cruelty are born out of the rejection of God.
Read Hanne’s The Herland Report.
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