Ecclesiastical Politics of Leonid Brezhnev: 1965-1982
Keywords:Brezhnev, Soviet Union, Church, Dissident
The religious policy of the Soviet government is particularly urgent in modern Georgian, Russian and Western scientific literature. Special investigations, aimed at the study of the state of religious organizations in the Soviet Union and, particularly, of the Orthodox Church, are being developed. It is noteworthy that alarge part of the existing research includes the study of the ecclesiastical policy of the Soviet government in the 20s and 60s of the last century. Only in recent monographs do we find attempts of the scientific study of the relationship between church and state in the Soviet Union of the 1970s and 1980s. The study of religious policy issues of the Soviet period is being successfully conducted in Georgian scientific reality, however, the chronological framework of the research herein only includes the period of 20-60s of the XX century. More specifically, the upper limit of this period is defined to be the final years of Nikita Khrushchev’s rule, namely the first half of the 1960s. Less attention is paid to (and is actually not investigated) Leonid Brezhnev’s ecclesiastical policy and its development tendencies.The aim of our paper is to elucidate the bases of the ecclesiastical policy of the Soviet government during the rule of Leonid Brezhnev, its main aspects, domestic and foreign factors and the consequences of their influence; to analyze and evaluate the works of modern Russian, European, American and Georgian historiography, written and visual historical sources and published and unpublished archival documents.In terms of research methodology, the work is based on historical cognitive, content analysis, historical-typological, comparative, biographical, retrospective, historical-genetic and systematic research methods, which needless to say envisages a comprehensive historical study of the historical sources around the issue; it is also an attempt to restore the images of historical past.
The results of the research can be chronologically divided into 2 stages:
- A) The ecclesiastical policy of Leonid Brezhnev from the second half of the 1960s to the second half of the 1970s;
- B) The ecclesiastical policy of Leonid Brezhnev from the second half of the 1970s to 1982.
Each stage is characterized by different tendencies, internal and external challenges, orientations and results that the Soviet Union used to face. For example, if at the beginning of his rule Leonid Brezhnev’s government considered it a priority to condemn Nikita Khrushchev’s repressive ecclesiastical policies and to take a relatively compromising approach to relations with religious organizations, from the second half of the 1970s, under the intensification of the dissident movement, the rapprochement of the society with the Church, and the success of Western states diplomacy, the chosen course was being changed and Brezhnev’s sophisticated policies became more radical and rigid. The transformation of the form (and not the content) of the ecclesiastical policy of the government was obviously preconditioned by certain reasons and was serving the respective purposes. In the paper, we discuss the above-mentioned reasons, goals, measures taken by the official authorities in the field of religion, both at the legislative and social levels, and the way of transforming its course from the second half of the 60s to the beginning of the 80s. Naturally, it is impossible to settle this complex issue within one paper, however, we think that this research will contribute to the development of further studies in Georgian scientific world.
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