Down with God! How the Soviet Union took on religion – in pictures


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An image from Godless magazine in 1934 depicting the Pope as a spider

‘THE TRUE FACE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH’ Books on the fire: Marx, Lenin, Darwin Godless magazine, Issue 6, 1934

Marx said religion was the opium of the people – and in the Soviet Union, atheism became government policy, enforced by the state and encouraged by anti-religious posters and magazines. These have been collected in Roland Elliott Brown’s new book from Fuel called Godless Utopia: Soviet Anti-Religious Propaganda

Godless at the Machine magazine, 1923 Godless at the Machine was one of two anti-religious propaganda magazines distributed by the Soviet state, which included satirical images and articles taking aim at the faithful. This image, called Red Flood, depicts the holy family assailed by the might of the state

Red Flood: A voice from heaven: A flood down below, a flood up above. There is nowhere for a chicken to run. Godless at the Machine magazine, Issue 5, 1923

Godless at the Machine magazine, 1924

Titled The Imperishable Ones, this image shows God saying: ‘You’ve let me down, my minions. I’m ashamed to be seen on Earth now!’ to a group of skeletons dressed in religious garb

‘The Imperishable Ones’ ‘God the Father: You’ve let me down, my minions. I’m ashamed to be seen on Earth now!’ Godless at the Machine magazine, Issue 1, 1924

Undated poster

The words on this anti-religious propaganda poster, which would have been posted on walls around the USSR, read: ‘A prison for heart and mind’

Text: ‘A prison for heart and mind...’ On the buildings: Cinema; Club; Theatre; Library Poster (undated)

Poster, 1975

The most prominent cosmonaut atheist was Gherman Titov, whose flight in August 1961 followed Yuri Gagarin’s that April. In 1962, he told an audience at the Seattle world’s fair that he had seen no gods or angels in space, and that he believed in mankind’s strength and reason. This poster – titled There Is No God! –commemorates him

‘There Is No God!’ Poster, 1975

Cover of the poster collection In True Light, 1962

The cover of this collection of anti-religious posters shown in a Leningrad exhibition includes a fighting pencil and the light beam of truth exposing a babushka holding a bottle of holy water, a praying man with the Jehovah’s Witness magazine The Watchtower, a vodka-sipping priest, a man on his knees with a bottle of ‘holy tincture’ and a bottle of cognac

Cover of poster collection ‘In True Light’ 1962 Logo: Fighting Pencil On the bottle held by the babushka: Holy Water. On the newspaper under the arm of praying man: Watchtower, Kingdom of Jehovah. On the bottle held by the priest: Vodka. On the tall bottle by the man on his knees: Holy tincture. On the smaller bottle: Top quality cognac. Album-exhibition ‘Artist of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic’ Leningrad, 1962. Cover of poster collection In True Light, 1962

Godless magazine, 1934

Titled The True Face of the Catholic Church, this depicts a skeletal spider-pope overseeing the burning of books by Marx, Lenin and Darwin

‘THE TRUE FACE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH’ Books on the fire: Marx, Lenin, Darwin Godless magazine, Issue 6, 1934

Poster, 1930

This image depicts a priest climbing on a slumbering drunk in order to saw an electricity pylon with a crucifix. The slogan says: ‘Everybody understands that where work is being done – the priest and the drunk are both doing harm’

‘Everybody understands that where work is being done – the priest and the drunk are both doing harm.’ Poster, 1930

Poster, 1977

In this poster, the radio is broadcasting Ave, Maria, Slander of the USSR, Anti-Sovietism and Our Father – conflating religion with political attack. The caption reads: ‘Another gullible sectarian is glad to hear prayers from “over there”. They are, as a rule, stained with outright anti-Sovietism!’

‘Another gullible sectarian / is glad to hear prayers from ‘over there’. / They are, as a rule, stained / With outright anti-Sovietism!’ Radio broadcast: Ave, Maria..., Slander of the USSR, Anti-Sovietism, Our Father Poster, 1977

Poster, 1981

The cover of a 1981 poster collection called Light Against Darkness shows a boy trying to wrest himself away from a babushka pulling him to a shadowy church

Light against darkeness, 1981

Kingdom of Jehovah Poster from the collection In True Light, 1962

The Soviets regarded Jehovah’s Witnesses as subversive agents. Newspaper Izvestia described them as an ‘international political organisation … deployed against communism … the sect of the Jehovists … carries out espionage activities on the directives of the USA.’ This poster depicts a witness with spying equipment in his eyes and ears, and whose caption reads: ‘Don’t believe in his meekness, he doesn’t care about the soul. Such a witness of Jehovah is a traitor to the motherland, a spy!’

Text: ‘Jehovah’s Witness’ Don’t believe in his meekness, / he doesn’t care about the soul. / Such a witness of Jehovah — / is a traitor to the Motherland, a spy! Text top right: ‘In the name of Jehovah, the international political organisation, ‘The Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses’, has been deployed against communism. In our country the sect of the Jehovists exists illegally and carries out espionage activities on the directives of the USA. (From the newspaper Izvestia) ‘ Magazine: Watchtower, Kingdom of Jehovah Poster from the collection In True Light, 1962

Poster from the collection In True Light, 1962

Titled In ‘Holy’ Blinkers, this poster depicts two crafty figures leading an innocent third, using their Bible to prevent him looking right or left. As Izvestia put it: ‘The Soviet people are, with all determination, exposing the anti-people nature of the sectarians, no matter what god they may hide behind. For reasons of their own, sectarian preachers and their acolytes, cowering in remote and fetid holes, morally and physically deform people, tear them away from working and social life, and corrupt the youth’

‘In “Holy” Blinkers’ Book cover: Gospel Buildings: Theatre, Cinema, Museum, House of Culture Text top right: The Soviet People are, with all determination, exposing the anti-people nature of the sectarians, no matter what god they may hide behind. For reasons of their own, sectarian preachers and their acolytes, cowering in remote and fetid holes, morally and physically deform people, tear them away from working and social life, and corrupt the youth. (From the newspaper Izvestia) Poster from the collection In True Light, 1962

Godless magazine, 1940

This image contrasts ‘God’s slaves’ on their knees and in the dark with the Soviet ‘masters of life’

‘God’s slaves / Masters of life’ From Constitution of the USSR Godless magazine, Issue 9–10, 1940

Cultural Goods Poster, 1984

This poster depicts Jesus as a capitalist hawking his wares. The caption reads, ‘Under the shop window this weasel has set himself up nicely. There’s a foolish fashion that means they’ll snap his junk right up’

‘Under the shop window this weasel / Has set himself up nicely / There’s a foolish fashion that means / They’ll snap his junk right up.’ Shop sign: Cultural Goods Poster, 1984

Women’s Emancipation Poster, 1977

It wasn’t only Christianity the Soviets attacked. This poster takes aim at Islam, depicting a Muslim man and his donkey riding on the back of a downtrodden woman. The caption reads: ‘The essence of his character is clear: it operates on two levels. Up above, he’s showing off his paper, down below, he’s true to Muhammad’

‘The essence of his character is clear: / It operates on two levels. / Up above, he’s showing off his paper, / Down below, he’s true to Muhammad.’ Newspaper: Women’s Emancipation Poster, 1977

Planetarium Poster, undated

Here, the creepy man’s shadow becomes a cross with ‘religion’ written across it. In his pocket is a Bible. The caption reads: ‘Step across the ominous shadow and join the crowd in the joyful bustle of the day!’

‘Step across the ominous shadow and join the crowd in the joyful bustle of the day!’ Shadow: ‘Religion’, in his pocket: ‘Bible’ Buildings: Theatre, Club, House of Pioneers, Planetarium Poster (undated)

CREDIT:- The Guardian

https://tinyurl.com/y4utn47k

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