Polit Buro and the Church

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  Politburo And The Church, Kremlin Archives

N. Petrovsky, S.G. Petrov

L. D. Trotsky's note to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the RCP (b) on policy towards the church. March 30, 1922

No. 23-29 28

March 30, 1922



1.                   The October Revolution has come to the church only now. Reasons: ideological weakness of the church and its servility. Transition from "autocratic" to "faithful provisional government". During the transition to Soviet power, the separation of church from state helped the spineless church hierarchy to adapt and keep silent. But there is no doubt that during the Soviet era, the church hierarchy, feeling “persecuted” (because it was unprivileged), was preparing and is preparing to take advantage of the favorable moment. Around her, certain counter-revolutionary cadres and political influence through religious influence.

2.                   The European Church has gone through a stage of reformation. What is Reformation? Adapting the church to the needs of bourgeois society. It was preceded by sects among artisans and peasants. A sect is the religious guerrilla of the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie in general. The bourgeoisie raised the sects to the level of the Reformation, having bourgeois religion and the church, and thus gave it more vitality and stability (England).

3.                   Our opposition against church bureaucracy did not go further than sects. The bourgeoisie was too insignificant to create a reformation (like a democratic regime). The intelligentsia was a freak in the religious field - each in its own way. The Church remained formal, bureaucratic and, as it was said, inserted into its ritual instead of the "most autocratic" - "noble provisional government."

4.                   Thus, the church, all saturated with feudal, bureaucratic tendencies, which failed to carry out the bourgeois reformation, now stands face to face with the proletarian revolution. What could be her future fate? Two trends are outlined: clearly, openly counterrevolutionary with the Black Hundred monarchist ideology and - "Soviet". The ideology of the "Soviet" clergy, apparently, like Smenovekhovskaya, that is, bourgeois-conciliatory.

5.                   If the slowly emerging bourgeois-conciliatory Smena Vekhi wing of the church developed and strengthened, it would become much more dangerous for the socialist revolution than the church in its present form. For, assuming a patronizing "Soviet" coloration, the "advanced" clergy thereby opens up for themselves the possibility of penetrating into those advanced strata of the working people who constitute or should form our support.

6.                   Therefore, Smena-Vekhov's clergy should be regarded as the most dangerous enemy of tomorrow. But precisely tomorrow. Today it is necessary to bring down the counter-revolutionary part of the churchmen, in whose hands the actual government of the church. In this struggle, we must rely on the Smenovekh clergy, not being politically engaged, and even more so on principle. (Shameful editorials in the party newspapers that "the Mother of God is more pleased with the prayers of fed children than dead stones", etc.).

7.                   The more decisive, harsh, stormy and violent the break of the Smena-Vekhi wing with the Black Hundred wing assumes, the more profitable our position will be. As said, under the "Soviet" banner, attempts are being made to bourgeois reformation of the Orthodox Church. It takes time for this belated reformation to take place. We won't give her this one time, forcing events, preventing the Smenovekh leaders from waking up.

8.                   The campaign about hunger is extremely beneficial for this, for it sharpens all the questions on the fate of church treasures. We must, firstly, force the Smenovekh priests to completely and openly link their fate with the issue of confiscating valuables; second, to force them to bring this campaign within the church to a complete organizational break with the Black Hundred hierarchy, to their own new council and new elections of the hierarchy.

9.                   During this campaign, we must give the Smena-Vekhi priests the opportunity to speak openly in a certain spirit. There is no more rabid scolding as opposition pop. Already now, some of them in our newspapers denounce bishops by name of sins of Sodom, etc. I think that they should be allowed and even instilled in the need for their own organ, say, a weekly to prepare for the convocation of a council at a certain time. Thus, we will receive invaluable propaganda material. It may even be possible to put several such publications in different parts of the country. Until the end of the withdrawal, we focus exclusively on this practical task, which we continue to pursue exclusively from the perspective of helping the hungry. Along the way, we deal with the counter-revolutionary priests responsible for Shuya, and so on, using KGB methods.

10.                By the time the council is convened, we need to prepare a theoretical and propaganda campaign against the renewed church. It will not be possible to simply leap over the bourgeois reformation of the church. It is necessary, therefore, to turn her into a miscarriage. And for this it is necessary first of all to arm the party with a historical and theoretical understanding of the fate of the Orthodox Church and its relationship with the state, classes and the proletarian revolution.

11.                It is necessary now to order one program-theoretical brochure, perhaps with the involvement of MN Pokrovsky in this case, if he has the slightest opportunity.

30 / ІІІ 22


1.  Conduct an agitation campaign on the largest scale. Eliminate both tearful piety and mockery.

2.  Split the clergy.

3.  Withdraw values as they should be. If connivance was allowed, correct it.

4.  Deal with Black Hundred priests.

5.  Encourage the Smenovekh priests to decide and speak openly. Register them. Support informally.

6.  Theoretically and politically prepare for the second campaign. Allocate for this one party "specialist" in church affairs.

L. Trotsky

- L. 73-74. Typewritten original, signature - facsimile. Below the text are handwritten notes about the survey, autographs:

"For - Molotov";

"For Zinoviev";

"- Stalin";

"For L. Kamenev" 29 .

On l. 73 at the top is a stamp on the document's belonging to the office work of the Politburo meeting, minutes No. 8, item 11 of May 26, 1922 (No. 23-49). In the lower right corner of the same sheet there is a stamp of the Secret Archives of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks with an inventory number.

Notes and Comments:

1   * The document below is erroneous and.

2   * The signature is illegible.

28                                         Draft minutes No. 8 of the Politburo meeting of May 26, 1922 (APRF, f. 3, op. 1, d. 277, l. 18) contains a note with the text: “from Comrade Trotsky . Received on 30 / ІІІ 17 hours 35 hours By today's meeting of the secretaries of the provincial committees. 30 / ІІІ. <...> 2 * ". At the top of the litter with the hand of VM Molotov: “Interview the members of the PB. V. Molotov. 30 / ІІІ ".

29                                         The results of this poll, conducted on March 30 at the meeting of the secretaries of the gubernia party committees and the chairmen of the gubernia executive committees, which took place on the same day, were formalized by a Politburo resolution, minutes No. 117, item 5 of April 2, 1922 - see No. 23-34.