Power and the Sacred in Revolutionary Russia: Religious Activists in the Village

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Penn State Press, 1997 - Religion - 307 pages
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After the 1917 Revolution in Russia, the Bosheviks launched a massive assault on religion. Although we know a great deal about how the Bolsheviks went about doing this&—propaganda, persecution of clergy and laity, seizing church property&—scholars have not devoted much attention to the other side of the story: the people who were being persecuted and how they responded to their persecutors.

Glennys Young shows how ordinary Russian peasants devised ways of asserting their religious faith during the difficult period of New Economic Policy, 1921&–28, when the Party-state was ideologically obsessed with eradicating religion. Faced with persecution, torture, and the creation of antireligious organizations such as the League of the Godless, Orthodox clergy and laity organized themselves against the Bolsheviks. They revived factional politics, even using the village soviets, the intended cornerstone of Soviet power in the countryside, to defend their religious interests. When they achieved some degree of success in their resistance, the Bosheviks were forced to respond and adapt their strategies&—a conclusion that scholars have not put forward previously.

Based on extensive research in archives and published sources, Young's book will force historians of Soviet Russia to confront religious issues as central to rural politics. Her work also draws upon cultural anthropology and theories of peasant politics, making it of great interest to any scholars studying the processes of secularization and desacralization in other cultures.


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Page 283 - To slacken the tempo would mean falling behind. And those who fall behind get beaten. But we do not want to be beaten. No, we refuse to be beaten! One feature of the history of old Russia was the continual beatings she suffered for falling behind, for her backwardness. She was beaten by the Mongol Khans.
Page 284 - One feature of the history of old Russia was the continual beatings she suffered because of her backwardness. She was beaten by the Mongol khans. She was beaten by the Turkish beys. She was beaten by the Swedish feudal lords. She was beaten by the Polish and Lithuanian gentry. She was beaten by the British and French capitalists. She was beaten by the Japanese barons. All beat her — for her backwardness: for military backwardness, for cultural backwardness, for political backwardness, for industrial...
Page 283 - Robert C. Tucker, Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1928-1941 (New York: Norton, 1990). 11. Marx, "Contributions to Hegel's Philosophy of Right,

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About the author (1997)

Glennys Young is Assistant Professor of History and International Studies at the University of Washington.

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