An ‘Interlude’: From 1941 to Stalin’s Death
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.
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Chapter 4: An ‘Interlude’: From 1941 to Stalin’s Death
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