Persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union

Throughout the history of the Soviet Union (19171991), there were periods when Soviet authorities brutally suppressed and persecuted various forms of Christianity to different extents depending on State interests.[1] Soviet Marxist-Leninist policy consistently advocated the control, suppression, and ultimately, the elimination of religious beliefs, and it actively encouraged the propagation of Marxist-Leninist atheism in the Soviet Union.[2] However, most religions were never officially outlawed.[1]

Demolition of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow on the orders of Joseph Stalin, 5 December 1931

The state advocated the destruction of religion, and to achieve this goal, it officially denounced religious beliefs as superstitious and backward.[3][4] The Communist Party destroyed churches, synagogues,[5] and mosques, ridiculed, harassed, incarcerated and executed religious leaders, flooded the schools and media with anti-religious teachings, and it introduced a belief system called "scientific atheism," with its own rituals, promises and proselytizers.[6][7] According to some sources, the total number of Christian victims under the Soviet regime has been estimated to range around 12 to 20 million.[8][9] At least 106,300 Russian clergymen were executed between 1937 and 1941.[10] Religious beliefs and practices persisted among the majority of the population,[11] not only in the domestic and private spheres but also in the scattered public spaces which were allowed to exist by a state that recognized its failure to eradicate religion and the political dangers of an unrelenting culture war.[12][13]