ANTIRELIGIOUS PERIODICALS

One of the primary methods for disseminating antireligious propaganda was through printed periodicals. The first antireligious monthly magazine, Revolutsiaa I tserkov (Revolution and the Church) was published in 1919, followed in 1922 by the short-lived Nauka I religiia (Science and Religion), which was replaced that same year by Bezbozhnik (The Godless). Bezbozhnik was published as a weekly newspaper between 1922 and 1934 and from 1938 to 1941, and as an illustrated journal from 1925 to 1941. Bezbozhnik was produced and distributed by the Society of the Friends of the Godless, founded in 1923, which became the Godless League in 1925 and the League of the Militant Godless in 1929. The League had three major goals: to demonstrate that religion in all its forms had always been an enemy of the workers; to prove that natural science explains everything, leaving no room for religion; and to convince people that socialism and religion are ethically incompatible, so religious observance was disloyal to the state.

A competing publication, Bezbozhnik u Stanka (Godless at the Workbench) was produced by the Moscow branch of the Communist party between 1923 and 1931. This publication was blunt in its tactics, and featured crude illustrations. (Many of the posters in this exhibition were originally published in Bezbozhnik u Stanka). The goal of Bezbozhnik u Stanka was to “expose the clergy as corrupted, religious ritual as unwarrantedly costly, and sacred arts as propagandistic.” Accordingly, it featured heavy use of caricature and stereotypes to create negative views of religion and religious figures.

Dmitri Moor, the leading Soviet caricaturist, was the artistic director of Bezbozhnik u Stanka. Moor recommended that artists study religious icons in order to emulate their forms to subvert as well as co-opt their visual power. Moor was also interested in the popular print (lubok) developed during the early seventeenth century. The bold colors, rough contours, and flattened perspective of lubki were emulated in propaganda posters.

There were many other antireligious publications, including Antireligioznik (The Antireligious, 1926-41), Derevenskii Bezbozhnik (The Godless Peasant, 1928-1932), and Yunye Bezbozhniki (The Young Godless, 1931-1933).