The Soviet Union,
To: Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
I was directed to your site and decided to read some of your letters, as I am usually amused by letters of that sort, whether they be exchanges between anti-communists and communists, microsoftians and open source advocates, or etc.
At any rate, I read your exchange with James Royal on his letter "Positive Atheism!? What About Those Killed Under Atheistic Communism?"
In your letter, you accuse James of having no knowledge of Russian history. This of course is correct, but you also display a lack of knowledge of Soviet history.
He [Stalin] did not start out as the Premier of Russia but grew up as a boy and advanced his way through the Soviet military. During any phase of his growth, education, military service, and political leadership, for him to admit any religious faith could have been fatal to his goals, fatal to his leadership, and probably even fatal to his body at one point. If he was religious, then he, like virtually all who suffered under that regime, kept his mouth shut tight.
History of Stalin's Life Clarified
Firstly, Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili studied at the Orthodox Theological Seminary in Tiflis. At that time, it was a place that would be similar to a modern western "Liberal" church, where youth were allowed to, and even encouraged to, explore intellectual writings and philosophy, of which some was Marx. At age 15, the young Stalin joined the Revolutionary movement with Marxists from Transcaucasia, one of whom gave him (what was at that time illegal) Marxist literature (see J. V. Stalin, Interview Granted to the German Writer, Emil Ludwig, Russ. ed. 1938, p 9.). He begain hosting Marxist study groups in the seminary at about age 17 -- and was eventually kicked out of the seminary -- and at about 19 he joined the Tiflis organization of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (from which the Bolshevik Party would later spawn).
Stalin (at that time known as Koba) became an active Revolutionary, and took part in organizing strikes and robbing trains to fund the Bolshevik Party (the revolutionary section of the Social-Democratic Party, the other section being the Mensheviks).
A short Biography of Stalin can be found at
however it is written from a Trotskyite perspective and much better biographies can be found elsewhere (such as, Stalin: A Short Biography, Red Star Press, London. 1975).
Stalin, Atheism, and Religion
Stalin certainly became an Atheist, as he fully embraced the materialist conception of history and understanding of science (Dialectical and Historical Materialism) put forward by Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Stalin was a Marxist-Leninist, and certainly one can pour through the many volumes of their works and find many writings on Religion and Atheism.
You can also examine the many works of Stalin in his 13 volumes; I would suggest his Dialectical and Historical Materialism as a good start.
Another important thing is to make clear that religion was not as oppressed in the Soviet Union as anti-Communists suggest it was. There are many books, pamphlets and writings available that were written from the late 1920s to the 1980s that illustrate this (a good one is Soviet Union: Questions and Answers, Progress Publishers, Moscow).
People could practice religion if they liked. There were Churches built in the Soviet era by the Soviet government. The difference is that Church and the state was separated.
Did Stalin Kill Millions?
Now, as for "millions of people" being "slaughtered" in the Soviet Union as James and yourself implied, we have to firstly examine if this is even true, let alone imply that this had anything to do with people practicing religion. The archives were opened in Russia a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and bourgeois "scholars" rushed to gather proof of their claims that millions of people were executed in the Stalin era. What they found instead was that the prison population was never higher than in the U.S., executions in the Stalin era never went over 700,000 and that the life expectancy and scientific advancement was higher during the Stalin era than any other time.
I would be more than happy to assist you in researching this if you feel inclined.
Committee Coordinator, Rebel Youth Network -- http://rebelyouth.ca/ General Coordinator, Young Left -- http://ylgta.rebelyouth.ca/
Candidate for Toronto-Danforth, Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada -- http://cpcml.ca/
Executive Committee Member, Canadian Friends of Soviet People -- http://www.northstarcompass.org/