The brutal art of early Soviet antireligious propaganda posters, 1920-1940

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

God is responsible for plagues.

These posters were published in the Soviet anti-religious magazine, Bezbozhnik (“The Godless”) from 1922 to 1941. The main purpose of the magazine was to thwart any religious beliefs that were supposedly too distracting for the working class.

The magazine was founded by the League of Militant Atheists, an organization of the Soviet Communist Party members, members of its youth league, workers, and veterans, and technically it was not state-sponsored satire.

The publication included works by cartoonists N. F. Denisovsky, M. M. Cheremnykh, D. S. Moor, K. S. Eliseev, and others. The circulation of “Bezbozhnik” reached 200 thousand copies in 1932.

The magazine actively denounced all religions, hence, rabbis and priests were a basic target for attacking. Often accusing them of collaborating with the rich, as well as the counter-revolutionaries, they were blamed for corruption, laziness, and as a tool used by the rich to control the masses.

Even holidays and traditional celebrations were attacked and ridiculed. The publishers criticized the Jewish Passover holiday as an excuse for excessive drinking, the Jewish prophet Elijah was accused of being an alcoholic who got “drunk as a swine”.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

“Christmas”. The imagery contrasts the pilgrimage of the Three Kings and other privileged figures toward Bethlehem in the East (above), with the movement of workers, peasants, and Red Army troops toward the Red Star of the revolutionary cause (below).

State atheism (gosateizm, a syllabic abbreviation of “state” [gosudarstvo] and “atheism” [ateizm]) was a major goal of the official Soviet ideology.

The Communist Party engaged in diverse activities such as destroying places of worship, executing religious leaders, flooding schools and media with anti-religious propaganda, and propagated “scientific atheism”.

It sought to make religion disappear by various means. Thus, the USSR became the first state to have as one objective of its official ideology the elimination of the existing religion, and the prevention of the future implanting of religious belief, with the goal of establishing state atheism (gosateizm).

As the founder of the Soviet state, Vladimir Lenin, put it: Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Gods of the Abrahamic religions being crushed by the Communist 5-year plan.

The Bolsheviks were particularly hostile toward the Russian Orthodox Church (which supported the White Movement during the Russian Civil War) and saw it as a supporter of Tsarist autocracy.

During the collectivization of the land, Orthodox priests distributed pamphlets declaring that the Soviet regime was the Antichrist coming to place “the Devil’s mark” on the peasants, and encouraged them to resist the government.

Political repression in the Soviet Union was widespread and while religious persecution was applied to numerous religions,[60] the regime’s anti-religious campaigns were often directed against specific religions based on state interests.

Anti-religious and atheistic propaganda was implemented into every portion of soviet life from schools to the media and even on to substituting rituals to replace religious ones.

Though Lenin originally introduced the Gregorian calendar to the Soviets, subsequent efforts to reorganize the week to improve worker productivity saw the introduction of the Soviet calendar, which had the side-effect that a “holiday will seldom fall on Sunday”.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

“Christianity always was a morbid religion”.

Within about a year of the revolution, the state expropriated all church property, including the churches themselves, and in the period from 1922 to 1926, 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and more than 1,200 priests were killed (a much greater number was subjected to persecution). Most seminaries were closed, and the publication of religious writing was banned.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which had 54,000 parishes before World War I, was reduced to 500 by 1940. Overall, by that same year, 90 percent of the churches, synagogues, and mosques that had been operating in 1917 were either forcibly closed, converted or destroyed.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Even Buddha gets his share of hate

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Luring the people to church with music.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

The struggle against religion is the struggle for socialism.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

The communist Tatars chasting out the imams.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Barbarians at the gate.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Hail to continuous week. The fight against religion is a fight for socialism.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Communist women, liberated from domestic slavery and the prejudices of religion, cleaning up the mullahs, mosques, and Korans.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

The Pope, with Jesus and the Bible astride a cannon, aimed at the 35 million European unemployed.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Above, God: “Do you feel better now, Granny?” Below, Granny: “Yes, I do, dear Lord. I can’t feel my legs at all, they’re frozen.”

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Image depicting a lynching in America with the mocking title, “God’s country”.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

A soldier literally skewering god. The books under his arm read “Lenin” and “Technology.”

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Into the socialistic offensive along the entire front, 1930.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Religion: Industrial waste.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Jesus being dumped from a wheelbarrow by an industrial worker; the text suggests the Industrialization Day can be a replacement of the Christian Transfiguration Day.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

To the 13th anniversary of the Red Army.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Let’s go forward to complete the collectivization of the entire USSR.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Fifth-anniversary issue of the journal Godless (1927), featuring the three-headed giant of monotheism, the Islamic Prophet Mohammed, God the Father from Christianity, and a Jewish Kabbalist.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

“God Bless You!”

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Religion is a brake on the development of agricultural machinery.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Priest, sectarian preacher, mullah, rabbi – all of them preach the “doctrine”, which is alien to communism. Do not be deceived – get rid of the religious drug!

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

An illustration depicting Jesus Christ as a misdemeanor, giving alcohol to the workers.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

The description says: “Ban religious holidays!”.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

This bespectacled old man wears both the turban of a mullah and the vestment of a Christian.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

“He took off his blindfold, and on it there was an image of “Spas” [the Savior Not Made by Human Hands]”.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

“Christ: “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened!” Women: “Our diligent Protector, you are our Father.” Kulak [wealthy farmer] and bourgeois (speaking out of Jesus Christ’s pockets): “While their Protector turns their heads, we’ll ride in the Lord’s pocket.””

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Good and Evil are Crying Together. “Women used to support us quite a lot, but now even they went over to the Soviets”.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Everything is in the Hand of God. (Text below) Baptist / The Merchant [Ivan Andreevich] Goliaev: “One’s own cart is not a burden. All of us are brothers to our God.”

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Everyday life. Text in image, upper left: Drunk citizens are not sold anything.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Above: In Cultured Europe. Below: My children, you’ll be hanged tomorrow— Glory to You, O Lord! But today, in the name of our merciful Jesus Christ, you must reconcile with the authority against which you had rebelled. Take Communion and enter into eternal life.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

Above: Kulaks [wealthy farmers], NEPmen [Russian businessmen during the New Economic Policy], profiteers, and others have appointed their representative. Below: They have appointed a decent deputy for communication with foreign kingdoms.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

“Confession was not invented for nothing. It is through your confession that your every thought will reach the ears of the district policeman.”

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

A short poem noting that a capitalist has a house of God under the glass, which seems to imply that he controls the church to his own ends.

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

“The Lord created the Heavens and the Earth in six days, and on the seventh day he created a priest. And then Lord rested, while the priest finished the rest.”

soviet antireligious propaganda posters

“So many womenfolk and not one of them is praying. What is this place I’ve come to?”

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Fishki.ru / TheCharnelHouse.org / Some poster translations taken from MCBCollection.com).