Submerged in atheist state control, the Soviet media propaganda penetrated society, idealizing the Communist teaching that Marxism would bring happiness and peace to all.
Central to the Communist ideology was the idea that traditional religion must be exterminated. So, why are multitudes in contemporary Russia turning away from Communism and embrace traditional Conservatism, as recently pointed out by professor Glenn Diesen in his new book, Russian Conservatism?
In the Western public sphere, we do not sufficiently comprehend the Soviet experience, except maybe for the words of its dissidents, who were able to escape the Communist “paradise”, writes historian of comparative religions and author, Hanne Nabintu Herland.
Free speech – or the concept of allowing an honest public discourse that respects differences of opinions – was forbidden in the Soviet Union. So of the Orthodox religious revivals, we know little.
The mere critical mention of Stalin’s “mustache” in private letters produced years in the Gulag prison camps, such as what happened to the famous novelist and Christian philosopher, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.
The Soviet Experience: Atheist Marxism produces Slavery: In the Soviet Union, children were taught, much like students in the West today, that atheist Marxism leads to a classless brighter future without racism or injustice towards minorities.
People were later disillusioned by the totalitarian hypocrisy found among its Communist leaders, as the public discourse allowed only state determined propaganda, also much like the Western mainstream media today.
Any objection to the one permitted narrative or worldview quickly resulted in the harshest reaction by the iron fist Soviet authorities, often resulting in Gulag imprisonment. Many gradually understood that Communism was not what it claimed to be.
Thus awoke the dissident souls, which only produced for the individuals who engaged in critical speech, that they were thrown in prisons and exported to years in the Gulag prison camps. If not killed there by harsh labor conditions, suicide, hopelessness or ruthless winters, their spirit was crushed to silence when returning to civil society.
They knew that there was no freedom to be found anywhere – and silence was the only option.
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Some opposed the system even then, many of whom were exiled to places far from Moscow, such as the deeply Christian man, Nobel Prize laureate 1970, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, who was forced to live for many years in Kazakhstan.
From this place of total repression was born the religious rebirth of Russia and the returning belief in the Conservative values that were crushed by Lenin 1917 onward.
The despair and suffering arising from realizing that Communism as the solution to human suffering simply did not produce the promised land of justice, fueled the Russian Orthodox religious awakening.
The discrepancy between the ideals about a free classless society and the gruesome reality of the Gulag for whoever spoke up, illustrated the double tongue of the corrupted elites.
Precisely this realization caused many to turn to Orthodox Christianity.
The dissident Yuri Mashkov explains, as told by the Russian Orthodox priest and monk, Seraphim Rose in God’s revelation to the Human Heart, that: “The boring Soviet life and spiritual dissatisfaction gave me no peace and somewhere at the end of 1955, in my nineteenth year, there occurred an event: I understood what kind of society I was living in. Despite all the naked Soviet propaganda, I understood that I was living under a regime of absolute rightlessness and absolute cruelty.”
This experience caused him to speak up, which led to him being arrested and given the highest punishment for anti-Soviet agitation and many years in prison in the Gulag.
Mashkov spoke about these experiences in a Russian conference in New Jersey in 1978, shortly after being permanently exiled from the Soviet Union.
He explains how the totalitarian experience with atheist Marxism led him to embrace Christianity, like so many others inside the totalitarian Soviet system.
None of this was, of course, reported on in the strictly controlled Soviet media.
Yet, the birth of the massive Russian revival and turning to Conservative values was born here: “Under a profound analysis, we discovered that Marxism in its essence is a complete teaching of totalitarianism, that is, an absolute slavery, and any Communist party, having undertaken the Marxist program will be compelled to repeat what the Moscow Communists have done. Having understood this simple truth, we lost the ideological basis, we fell into a spiritual vacuum what drew us into an ever profounder crisis.”
It was through his suffering under the Communist regime, that the chief question of worldview consumed Mashkov: “What am I living for if there is no way out?”
He found that the belief in God elevated his soul fundamentally to whole other level of existence, explaining why humans engage in tyrannizing one another and why the very Marxist system produced total slavery of the human mind.
He explains as the greatest miracle in his life, the metaphysical revelation of God as reality in which he grasped the rational explanation of why the world suffers, was to him as if a door opened from a dark room and into a sunny street.
Thus his spiritual life began, exemplifying the millions in contemporary Russia that experience the same type of religious rebirth today.
Mashkov came out undefeated by yet thirteen more years in the Gulag after this experience, before he was finally exiled from the Soviet Union.
Seraphim Rose recommends The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn to anyone who wishes to understand atheism as it was practiced in Russia and what it does to the human soul.
He states that the Gulag prison systems is the natural expression of the atheist experiment in Russia. Because once you believe that there is no God who will judge humanity, the evils in man’s nature no longer faces the moral boundaries of the conscience, everything becomes permissible and new levels of cruelty is born out of the rejection of God.
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