The Opium of the People

And then there were two…

“Any participation in the publication of this legislation, hostile to the Church, and in attempts to carry it out in life is incompatible with belonging to the Orthodox Church and draws upon the guilty a penance up to excommunication from the Church (following Canon 73 of the holy Apostles and Canon 13 of the 7th Ecumenical Council).”

-Orthodox Church in response to Bolshevik anti-religion law

February 1917: Bolshevik law separates church and state. Starting with the February Revolution, the contention between the Orthodox Church and the Bolsheviks escalated. The Bolsheviks who came into power after the 1917 October Revolution were atheists who considered religion to be “opium of the people,” working against the interests of the Church by transferring power from the Church to the state. Private schools run or owned by the Church were turned over to the Ministry of Education, church lands were confiscated, marriage switched from a religious to civil ordinance, and the Law on Freedom of Conscience was established, “the right to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship or atheistic propaganda” (Bucknell). The monopoly of the Orthodox Church was now dissolved and the offensive campaign against the Church had begun.


Propoganda poster: “Love Live the Socialist Revolution”                                        Source: American Orthodox Institute

The rise of the Communist party after the 1917 Revolutions led to disastrous persecutions of the Orthodox Church in years following. Bishops and priests were murdered and thus, the Church was highly repressed. Despite warnings from the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and even the implementation of an anathema against the Bolsheviks, the conflict continued.

Interviews about the persecution: Watch here


“Conflict with the Church.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 29 Dec. 2015,

“1936 Constitution of the USSR, Part 1.” Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , Bucknell University,

Severance , Diana. “Bolsheviks Bore Down on Orthodox.”,

Jacobse, Johannes. “Russian Orthodox Church Urges Political and Legal Treatment of Crimes Committed by Bolsheviks.” The American Orthodox Institute ,

The Russian Orthodox Church. U.S. Library of Congress,

4 thoughts on “The Opium of the People

  1. The Bolsheviks’ hostility toward religion is well-known and this is a succinct discussion of a really important topic. But that video of St. Nicholas Day 1918 (linked at the end) is really amazing. The footage itself is really interesting, but the You Tube channel even more so. The anti-semitism on the site (evident even in the title of the video) is pretty breathtaking. Wow.


  2. I am glad you wrote about religion in the new Soviet regime! Despite how hard the Soviets will try, some people will always remain faithful to their religion. Great job breaking down this subject!


  3. Thank you for writing about religion! I find it so fascinating learning about how religion effects history. I knew the Soviets didn’t like the Orthodox church but I didn’t know the extent of how much they hated it. Your blog post was very interesting and I would like to learn more about it and specific incidences of the Soviets stepping in to limit the church.


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