The Revolutions of Russia, 1917
"Mother Russia is on the move, she can’t stand still, she’s restless and she can’t find rest, she’s talking and she can’t stop. And it isn’t as if only people were talking. Stars and trees meet and converse, flowers talk philosophy at night, stone houses hold meetings. It makes you think of the Gospel, doesn’t it? The days of the apostles. Remember St. Paul? You will speak with tongues and you will prophesy. Pray for the gift of understanding."
- Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago
The Russian Revolutions of 1917, unlike the state vs. church French Revolution or the later Christianity vs. a revived paganism in Hitler’s Germany, enacted on the grandest stage possible the emerging contest between those who denied and those who asserted the very existence of God. For the first time ever, under Lenin’s orchestration, Marx’s philosophical scientific atheism with its assertion that “religion is but the false sun revolving around man while he is not yet fully self-aware” was to be practically implemented, first by intimidation and then by raw terror. This exhibit instructionally portrays the secularization process by which the politically-motivated Bolsheviks sought to replace the prior monarchist, divine right, religiously-founded culture of Russia with the Marxist/Leninist utopian worldview possessing its own “salvation” incentives, cultural expressions (calendar of holidays, artwork, clothing styles, service decorations, etc.) and communist order.
In hindsight of course, despite all the advantages of supreme authority and power, the Soviet regime ultimately proved itself utterly incapable of extirpating the “genetic, philosophical and mystical sources of religious faith.” (Paul Froese, The Plot to Kill God: Findings from the Soviet Experiment in secularization.” U of California Press, 2008.) As the Commissar of Enlightenment intimated in 1928, “Religion is a sharp nail, the harder you hit it, the deeper it goes.” The Russian Area Studies Program, in sponsoring this commemoration the100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, seeks to promote not only the knowledge of bare facts, but true understanding of Russia in a manner resonant with the conviction of Nicolas Zernov: “A nation can be best understood in the light of the three main factors which shape its character; these are the geography of the land it inhabits, the history it has experienced and the religion it has embraced.” (The Russians and Their Church, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1994.)
On a related topic, you can listen to the Mail Call podcast, featuring news and stories from the First World War. In particular, Episode 7 covers the first of the 1917 Russian Revolutions, with articles spanning January to May 1917.