«Issues of Religion in the USSR are the Central Target…» The paper by P.V. Makartsev at the Council for the Religious Affairs of the USSR, February 2, 1977

Belyakova N.A.


The given publication brings to light the transcript of the speech by the Deputy Chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs of the USSR, Peter Makartsev, during the organization’s meeting in Vilnius in 1977. This transcript is of special interest, since it brings the reader into the context of Soviet religious policy during the Helsinki Hearings. This speech was considered by contemporaries as quite extraordinary and open. Part of it was published in the Samizdat. Yet later on, it was kept in the archives of the Council for Religious Affairs. The concept of the Council for Religious Affairs, which Makartsev tried to attract the audience with, can be summarized as follows: the churches and their management in the USSR were loyal to the government; moreover, socialist values were shared by the major part of religious thinkers. Thus, there was no reason to consider religious institutions as enemies of the socialist system. Moreover, the desire to use the factor of Soviet religious persecution, brought to light by certain parties during the Cold War as an argument against the USSR, must drive the Soviet State to keep neutrality towards religious institutions. Within Soviet society, the process of secularization was inevitable and must be gradual. Yet the desire to show the progress of secularization in the country of «triumphant socialism», manifested by the reduction of religious communities and the decrease of religious rituals, led to opposite effects. Makartsev tried to show his Lithuanian colleagues a new concept that legalization and de-politicization of religious life provided with new opportunities of control and gradual neutralization of religious influence on society. Meanwhile, the attempts of Lithuanian authorities to fight religious figures only led to growing protests and incitement of religious feelings, slowed the process of secularization and turned religious structures into strength of opposition. The use of administrative resources in the fight against religion led to the growth of fanaticism and extremism. During the previous decades, the Soviet administration had been developing the conditions, under which Catholic parishes could exist in the USSR, however, the Vatican influence was brought down to a minimum. The goal of the Council for Religious Affairs was not to allow religious organizations in the USSR to become a factor in the Cold War.


religion; Church; Cold War; religious policy of the USSR; Lithuania; Helsinki process; the Council for Religious Affairs of the USSR; the Vatican.

DOI: 10.31249/rsm/2019.03.07

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