Sergey Sergeevich Boyko,

Postgraduate Student, Institute of History of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk, Russia, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



The Newspaper Bezbozhnik as a Source on the History of Anti-Religious Propaganda (1922–1925)


 DOI: 10.31518/2618-9100-2024-2-13

 The newspaper Bezbozhnik was a mass printed anti-religious organ that was published practically without interruption from 1922 to 1941. The newspaper was weekly and small in volume – from 4 to 6–7 pages. Its circulation reached 210,000 by the mid-1920s. The creation of the newspaper coincided with a change of course with regard to religion, the end of the so-called “storm and onslaught” period and the transition to a certain softening of anti-religious policy, aimed at a slower but systematic scientific propaganda. Most interesting are the notes “from the field” on religious topics that came to the editorial office. These materials indirectly refute the conclusions of the correspondents themselves about the widespread spread of atheism, unwittingly spelling out the real state of affairs. Other reports paint a picture of sectarian and Old Believer psychology and their ability to socially mimic the slogans of Soviet officialdom. Many of the reports demonstrate the rejection of militant atheism among the educated part of the population, primarily teachers and doctors. At the same time, there were also many reports indicating the mass adoption of atheistic ideas and anti-religious actions at the initiative of the population. For the editorial staff of the newspaper, this was a way of constructing a special “godless reality” and was the most important propaganda task. The newspaper’s publicity, as well as the notes of the secularists, conveyed a contradictory point of view. Some of them painted a picture of the complete collapse of the church, which had lost all support among the masses. The other, on the contrary, portrayed in their articles a “broken, but not destroyed enemy” who was only lurking and gathering strength. The artistic part of the materials had the character of satire and pamphlet. The social role of religion was simplified to primitive exploitation and self-serving deception, the psychological aspects of personal faith were narrowed down to ignorance and stupidity. During 1923–1924 the newspaper covered in detail the preparation of the trial of Patriarch Tikhon. Many articles criticising “Tikhonovism” and the patriarch personally were published on behalf of figures of the Renewal movement in the church. The political component of publicism was dominant in the 1920s. Materials of a natural-scientific nature appeared in Bezbozhnik very rarely. In fact, during the period under study the newspaper did not carry out natural-scientific propaganda of atheism. The conclusion indicates that the newspaper did not have any elaborate system of atheistic “education” of the masses. Despite repeated demands for caution in conducting anti-religious work, including from the pages of the newspaper, Bezbozhnik could not get out of the rut of vulgar denigration of religion and the Church. The scientific potential of numerous (both published and archived) notes and letters to the editorial board of the newspaper in the context of studying Soviet religiosity and the peculiarities of the population’s perception of anti-religious propaganda is particularly noted.

Publishing: 28/04/2024

The article has been received by the editor on 03/04/2024

Original article >

How to cite: Boyko S.S. The Newspaper Bezbozhnik as a Source on the History of Anti-Religious Propaganda (1922–1925) // Historical Courier, 2024, No. 2 (34), pp. 192–203. [Available online:]

The article was made on the topic of the state assignment “The Past in the Manuscript Sources of the 16th–20th Centuries: Preservation and Development of Traditions” (FWZM-2024-0006).

Links: Issue 2 2024

Keywords: Bezbozhnik newspaper; anti-religious propaganda; atheism; church; believers; reports; notes; editorial policy