An ‘Interlude’: From 1941 to Stalin’s Death

  • Dimitry V. Pospielovsky


Massive persecutions were halted or at least made much less conspicuous after the annexation of the western territories by the USSR between September 1939 and summer 1940. Rather than offend the nearly twenty million newly acquired Christians by a frontal attack on the Churches and by the negation of the Lord’s Day through the five-day-week calendar introduced in 1929–30, the regular seven-day week with Sunday as the official day of rest was reintroduced in 1940. This was followed by the closure of all antireligious periodicals by the end of 1941, soon after the German attack, officially ‘on account of paper shortage’.1 This process of Church — State rapprochement continued through the war, motivated by Stalin’s realization of the need for the Church to arouse a sense of patriotic sacrifice in the nation (which the Communist Party was powerless to do), as well as by the much more positively tolerant attitude of the German occupiers to the religious desires of Soviet citizens. It culminated in the 4 September 1944 meeting of the three senior hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church with Stalin, and in the subsequent election of one of them, Sergii, as the Patriarch of All Russia less than a week later. It was thereafter that thousands of churches could reopen and many of the surviving priests and bishops returned from the camps and prisons.


Occupied Territory Hard Labour German Occupation Soviet Citizen Frontal Attack 
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Chapter 4: An ‘Interlude’: From 1941 to Stalin’s Death

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    Pospielovsky, RussianChurch, vol. 1, chs 4 and 5, Ep. Afanasii, ‘Dni i etapy moei zhizni’, Vestnik RSKhD, no. 81 (1966) pp. 13–17; N.V.T., ‘Ep. Afanasii’, Vest. RKhD, no. 139 (1983) pp. 195–217Google Scholar
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    M. Polsky, Novye mucheniki rossiiskie, vol. 1 (Jordanville, 1949). In Regelson’s Tragediia there are biographies of at least five other bishops who had survived into the 1940s without ever being allowed to return to their episcopal duties. Two of them, Metropolitan Kirill (Smirnov) of Kazan’ and Bishop Amphilokhii (Skvortsov) never made peace with the Sergii-Alexii administration. The former died in prison or exile either in 1941 or 1944, the latter in retirement in 1946. The other three, Bishop Arkadii (Ostalsky), Archbishop Feodor (Pozdeevsky) and Bishop Gavriil (Abalymov) either made peace with the Patriarchate or had never been in opposition; yet none of them was allowed to function as a bishop: Arkadii died in the camps or exile in the 1940s, Feodor in retirement in the late 1940s, Gavriil as dean of the Balta Monastery in 1958. None of them at the time was older than many ruling bishops. Regelson, pp. 560, 566–7, 576, 577 and 604.Google Scholar
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    N. Mikhailov, ‘Kommunisticheskoe vospitanie molodezhi — glavnaia zadacha Komsomola’, Bol’shevik, no. 23–24 (December 1946) pp. 11–15. He doesn’t directly attack religion, but calls for an active ideological upbringing of youth, criticizing the Komsomol for relegating this function to schools and the school for limiting itself to strictly educational (informationally) functions.Google Scholar
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    Also, Mark Popovsky, Zhizn’ i zhitie Voino Yasenetskogo (Paris: YMCA Press, 1979) pp. 414–21. By 1954 the number of open churches in Crimea was reduced to 49, despite Luka’s energetic and desperate struggle. Popovsky, p. 469.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dimitry V. Pospielovsky 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dimitry V. Pospielovsky
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Western OntarioCanada

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