Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless
A member of the first generation of scholars allowed access to formerly closed Soviet archives, Daniel Peris offers a new perspective on the Bolshevik regime's antireligious policy from 1917 until 1941. He focuses on the activities of the League of the Militant Godless, the organization founded by the regime in 1925 to spearhead its efforts to promote atheism and he presents the League's propaganda, activities, and personnel at both the central and the provincial levels. On the basis of his research in archives in rural Pskov and industrial Iaroslavl', as well as in the central party and state archives in Moscow, Peris emphasizes the transformation of the ideological agenda formulated in Moscow as it moved to its intended audience.
Storming the Heavens places the League within the broader context of a Bolshevik political culture that often acted at cross purposes to undermine the regime's stated goals. The League's lack of success, argues Peris, reflects the bureaucratic orientation of Bolshevik political culture, particularly in how it pursued the radical social vision of 1917. His book provides a framework for undertanding secularization in revolutionary contexts as well as contributing to the on-going reassessments of the Bolshevik era.
(back cover reviews)
"Storming the Heavens provides a graphic picture of the development
of the League of Militant Atheists and, especially,
the stark and often farcical realities behind the 'anti-religious
campaigns.' By showing the limited effectiveness of this bureaucratized
secularization, Daniel Peris is able to suggest that
the real patterns of religious behavior—both the residual piety
and evidence of indifference—derived more from broader dynamics
than from Bolshevik propagandists and coercive antireligious
—Gregory L. Freeze, author of The Parish
Clergy in Nineteenth-Century Russia
"Written with much wit and grace, Storming the Heavens eschews
an older tradition of scholarship that focused on Churchstate
relations, and analyzes the regime's confrontation with
popular religious belief, emphasizing the complexity and diffuseness
of this struggle. Daniel Peris provides a comparative
framework for understanding the peculiarities of secularization
in the Soviet context, the differences between atheism and
antireligion, and the rites and rituals of the new political culture."
—Lewis Siegelbaum, author of Soviet State and
Society between Revolutions, 1918-1929