State Secularism and Lived Religion in Soviet Russia and Ukraine is a collection of essays written by a broad cross-section of scholars from around the world that explores the myriad forms religious expression and religious practice took in Soviet society in conjunction with the Soviet government's commitment to secularization. The implementation of secularizing policies invariably shaped the forms of religious expression that emerged in Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine. Religious practices across confessional groups over time reflect the waves of intensification and relaxation of repressive practices.

During the post–World War II period, which most of the essays in this volume address, repressive tactics shifted from raw coercion and violence to propaganda and agitation as the main means to suppress religious practice and belief in the public sphere. Unlike other studies that have focused on such forms of repression, the authors in this volume consider how some communities and individual believers were able to adapt their practices and beliefs to the social, political, and ideological constraints of Soviet society so as to pursue their beliefs. The volume thus offers a new perspective on Soviet secularization that moves beyond the formation of policies and decrees to consider two additional dimensions.

First, the essays engage how governing mandates to suppress religion and promote a secular society were experienced by believers. Second, this approach allows the authors to illustrate the variety of secularizing policies and how they were invariably implemented across regions, over time, and in response to perceptions of local religious practice. By considering the intersection of religious practice and Soviet secularizing policies, this collection expands our understanding of religiosity in the region and illustrates how specific denominations and the believers within them adapted to the conditions set by socialist modernity.

Catherine Wanner is Professor of History, of Anthropology, and Religious Studies at Penn State University.


Catherine Wanner

1. Subversive Atheism: Soviet Antireligious Campaigns and the Religious Revival in Ukraine in the 1920s
Gregory L. Freeze

2. From the Red Cradle: Memories of Jewish Family Life in the Soviet Union
Anna Shternshis

3. Christianity and Radical Nationalism: Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky and the Bandera Movement
John-Paul Himka

4. The Revival of Monastic Life in the Trinity-Sergius Lavra after World War II
Scott Kenworthy

5. “They Burned the Pine, but the Place Remains All the Same”: Pilgrimage in the Changing Landscape of Soviet Russia
Stella Rock

6. Sacramental Confession in Modern Russia and Ukraine
Nadieszda Kizenko

7. A Time and Space of Suffering: Reflections of the Soviet Past in the Memoirs and Narratives of the Evangelical Christians–Baptists
Olena Panych

8. Preaching the Kingdom Message: The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Soviet Secularization
Zoe Knox

9. A Multireligious Region in an Atheist State:Unionwide Policies Meet Communal Distinctions in the Postwar Mari Republic
Sonja Luehrmann

10. The Revival before the Revival: Popular and Institutionalized Religion in Ukraine on the Eve of the Collapse of Communism
Viktor Yelensky


“The wide variety of sources that the contributors use—published, archival, oral histories, etc.—is a testament to the vibrancy and imagination of the project and serves as a showcase of some of the best scholars working in the field today.”—Robert H. Greene, University of Montana

“The stories told here are testimony to the enduring appeal of religion, even in very difficult circumstances. The quality of the volume, based as it is on very thorough and thoughtful research, helps to create a significantly more nuanced understanding of how religious belief evolved in this period. It is an outstanding book—a rich resource for researchers and teachers alike.”—The Russian Review