Research Papers

Militant Atheist Objects: Anti-Religion Museums in the Soviet Union



The 1920s and early '30s saw a complete reorganisation of museums in the Soviet Union. They had a new purpose: to help in the broad education of the masses, and in particular the promotion of a Marxist understanding of history, and support for the Five Year Plan. To effect this new mission museums adopted a completely new approach, involving quite new display techniques and an elaborate programme of outreach. This new museology made possible anti-religious museums, a Soviet invention that for the first time assembled religious artefacts and used them to attack both the institutions of religion and religion itself.

These were real museums, in that they collected and displayed original objects to make their points. Indeed, they adopted a deliberate policy of sacrilege, using icons and the relics of saints to expose the tricks and crimes of the clergy, and to show how religion simply reflects the underlying economic and social conditions and serves the purposes of the ruling class.

This preliminary study, based on English and French sources, will hopefully point the way to much more research in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

  • Year: 2009
  • Volume: 1 Issue: 1
  • DOI: 10.5334/pp.13
  • Submitted on 23 Jan 2010
  • Published on 22 Feb 2010
  • Peer Reviewed