Dr. Irina Papkova onThe Orthodox Church Under the Soviet Regime
On Thursday, March 21st 2013, Dr. Irina Papkova, a Research Fellow at the Georgetown University Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, gave a fascinating and enlightening lecture on the topic of “The Orthodox Church Under the Soviet Regime” in the Haigazian University auditorium for this month’s Cultural Hour.
There to welcome the audience on this occasion was Dr. Arda Ekmekji, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science. Dr. Ekmekji recalled the fall of the Soviet Union with a memorable quote: “It seems that in the long fight between Lenin and God, the score is now clear. God 1, Lenin 0.”
Dr. Papkova, who has written extensively about the Orthodox Church in Russia, introduced her topic by stating that the history of the Church during the communist period was a “very complicated and messy one.” She then proceeded to give an in-depth talk on the struggles the Church encountered during this time, beginning in 1917 just before the revolution and concluding with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
With the help of photographs to make this decades-old history come alive, Papkova delineated the repressive policies of the communist regime and their consequences for millions of believers. “The Bolsheviks saw the Church as a competitor to their communist ideology and had a clear-cut agenda to get rid of it,” she explained. This included taking away their civil and legal rights as well as more violent measures.
Papkova also discussed the still-controversial strategies adopted by the Orthodox leaders, including Patriarch Sergius of Moscow, to avoid complete destruction, and how this divided the believers. There was, however, a “grassroots renaissance” of belief among the people in the 1970s at a time when the official church looked like it was dying.
Concluding with a discussion on whether or not religious life has fully recovered after the many years of persecution, Papkova left the floor open for questions. The audience was then invited to enjoy further discussion and refreshments in the Mugar hall.