Northern Illinois University Press


The Dangerous God

Christianity and the Soviet Experiment

Edited by Dominic Erdozain

“This thoughtful and accessible collection of articles is a valuable contribution to the growing scholarly literature on the fate of religion under communism. It will interest anyone studying the clash between religion and atheism in the twentieth century, and how spirituality evolves in response to persecution.” —Philip Boobbyer, University of Kent

At the heart of the Soviet experiment was a belief in the impermanence of the human spirit: souls could be engineered; conscience could be destroyed. The project was, in many ways, chillingly successful. But the ultimate failure of a totalitarian regime to fulfill its ambitions for social and spiritual mastery had roots deeper than the deficiencies of the Soviet leadership or the chaos of a “command” economy. Beneath the rhetoric of scientific communism was a culture of intellectual and cultural dissidence, which may be regarded as the “prehistory of perestroika.” This volume explores the contribution of Christian thought and belief to this culture of dissent and survival, showing how religious and secular streams of resistance joined in an unexpected and powerful partnership.

The essays in The Dangerous God seek to shed light on the dynamic and subversive capacities of religious faith in a context of brutal oppression, while acknowledging the often-collusive relationship between clerical elites and the Soviet authorities. Against the Marxist notion of the “ideological” function of religion, the authors set the example of people for whom faith was more than an opiate; against an enduring mythology of secularization, they propose the centrality of religious faith in the intellectual, political, and cultural life of the late modern era. This volume will appeal to specialists on religion in Soviet history as well as those interested in the history of religion under totalitarian regimes.

October 2017 277 pp., 6x9
ISBN 978-0-87580-770-6
$39.00s paper

Dominic Erdozain is a research fellow at King’s College London and an honorary research fellow at the University of Queensland. He is the author of The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx and The Problem of Pleasure: Sport, Recreation and the Crisis of Victorian Religion.

Table of Contents


INTRODUCTION 3
The Rhythm of the Saints
Dominic Erdozain

1 EMPOWERING THE FAITHFUL 12
The Unintended Consequences of Bolshevik Religious Policies
Scott Lingenfelter

2 COMBATING GOD AND GRANDMA 32
The Soviet Antireligious Campaigns and the Battle for Childhood
Julie deGraffenried

3 PERSECUTION, COLLUSION, AND LIBERATION 51
The Russian Orthodox Church, from Stalin to Gorbachev
Michael Bourdeaux

4 “I AM A FIGHTER BY NATURE” 74
Fr. Gleb Iakunin and the Defense of Religious Liberty
Wallace Daniel

5 “AN INWARD MUSIC” 97
Revolution and Resurrection in Doctor Zhivago
Dominic Erdozain

6 “THE PEARL OF AN UNREASONABLE THOUGHT” 117
Religion and the Poetic Imagination
Josephine von Zitzewitz

7 “I HASTEN TO ESTABLISH A COMMON LANGUAGE WITH YOU” 138
Orthodox Christian Dissidents and the Human Rights Movement
Lauren Tapley

8 THE ORTHODOX LITURGY AS POLITICAL RESISTANCE 158
John P. Burgess

9 “AND I WILL TELL OF THE BEST PEOPLE IN ALL THE EARTH” 170
Faith and Resilience in the Gulag
Xenia Dennen

10 “THERE ARE THINGS IN HISTORY THAT SHOULD BE CALLED BY THEIR PROPER NAMES” 187
Evaluating Russian Orthodox Collaboration with the Soviet State
Geraldine Fagan

11 THE USEFUL GOD 210
Religion and Public Authority in Post-Soviet Russia
James W. Warhola

AFTERWORD 226
Whether in Words or Deeds, Known and Unknown
Roy R. Robson

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ISBN: 9780875807706
paper $39.00