Persecution of Christians in the Eastern Bloc

After the October Revolution of November 7, 1917 (October 25 Old Calendar) there was a movement within the Soviet Union to unite all of the people of the world under Communist rule (see Communist International). This included the Eastern bloc countries as well as the Balkan States. Communism as interpreted by Vladimir Lenin and his successors in the Soviet government required the abolition of religion and to this effect the Soviet government launched a long-running campaign to eliminate religion from society.[1] Since some of these Slavic states tied their ethnic heritage to their ethnic churches, both the peoples and their churches were targeted by the Soviets.[2][3]

Across Eastern Europe following World War II, the parts of the Nazi Empire conquered by the Soviet Red Army, and Yugoslavia became one party Communist states and the project of coercive conversion to atheism continued.[4][5] The Soviet Union ended its war time truce against the Russian Orthodox Church, and extended its persecutions to the newly Communist Eastern bloc: "In Poland, Hungary, Lithuania and other Eastern European countries, Catholic leaders who were unwilling to be silent were denounced, publicly humiliated or imprisoned by the Communists. Leaders of the national Orthodox Churches in Romania and Bulgaria had to be cautious and submissive", wrote Geoffrey Blainey.[6] While the churches were generally not as severely treated as they had been in the Soviet Union, nearly all their schools and many of their churches were closed, and they lost their formally prominent roles in public life. Children were taught atheism, and clergy were imprisoned by the thousands.[7] In the Eastern Bloc, Christian churches, along with Jewish synagogues and Islamic mosques were forcibly "converted into museums of atheism."[8][9] According to some sources, the total number of Christian victims under the Soviet regime has been estimated to range around 12-20 million.[10][11][12]