Citizens with rights, or crazed hysterics?: 'believers' in the Soviet imaginary post-1945

Citizens with rights, or crazed hysterics?: 'believers' in the Soviet imaginary post-1945

Monday, 15 May 2017 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm
Venue: 
Nissan Lecture Theatre
Speaker(s): 
Dr Miriam Dobson (University of Sheffield)
Convenor: 
Dr Claire Knight (St Antony's)
Series: 
Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre Monday Seminar

Religion, it has been argued, is essential to the construction of modernity: by dictating the place and nature of acceptable religious behaviour the modern state displays and reaffirms its own power and establishes a dichotomy between the rational and enlightened nature of secular governance and the dangers of untamed, uncontrolled religiosity. In the Soviet case, the assertion of modernity – packaged as ‘progress’ – was absolutely central to the regime’s claim to legitimacy and the binary with religion especially prominent. Paradoxically, the Soviet party-state needed believers, even as propagandists, state officials, and social scientists ostensibly laboured for their extinction. I explore here two quite different roles the 'believer' played in the Soviet imaginary as a result of these conflicting pressures, one based on rights, the other on demonization. I also argue that the dynamics of the Cold War were instrumental in consolidating the believer's ambivalent and contested place in the Soviet imaginary after 1945.