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Religious situation in the territory of Belarus in days of the Great Patriotic War (on the example of Protestant faith)



 © N. BOLTRUSHEVICH., 2005

The RELIGIOUS SITUATION in the territory of BELARUS in days of the GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR (on the example of PROTESTANT FAITH)

N.G. BOLTRUSHEVICH

UO "Vitebsk State Orders of Friendship of the People Medical University",

department of the social humanities

Summary. In work the analysis of a religious situation in days of the Great Patriotic War in Belarus is carried out. Changes in the Soviet state and religious policy in the years of war are traced and features of relationship of the German occupational authorities with different faiths and, in particular, with Protestants are detected. As a result of the done work the major factors which caused considerable religious splash in the years of war were defined and formulated. And also features of development of Protestant faith during the period from 1941 to 1945 are analyzed and studied

Abstract. The work is aimed at the analysis of the religious situation in Belarus within the period of the Great Patriotic War. The changes in the Soviet state-religious policy within the years of war are retraced and the features of interrelations of German occupation regime with various religions, and, in particular, with the Protestants are revealed. Characteristics of the development of Protestant religion within the period from 1941 to 1945 are analyzed and studied. The main factors that caused a significant religious upsurge in the years of war are determined and formulated in the research.

On June 22, 1941 the Great Patriotic War began. Belarus one of the first accepted the powerful blow directed by Hitlerite Germany to the USSR. The purpose of this attack was destruction of the Soviet political and social order, transformation of the USSR to colony, full enslavement, an onemechivaniye and physical extermination of the Soviet people [1, page 180]. War became that social disaster which, zatadres for correspondence: 210023, Vitebsk, the ave. of Frunze, 27, the Vitebsk state medical university, department of sotsialnogumanitarny sciences - the senior teacher N.G. Boltrushevich

ronuv all spheres of activity of society, left behind incurable wounds.

From the first days of war Belarus appeared under occupation. Hitlerites established a so-called "new order" - the mode of invisible bloody terror, terrible mockeries and violence over the population. It was in advance developed, considered and purposeful plan of genocide for extermination of people, liquidations of the Soviet society and the political system, plunder of a national wealth and natural resources. Misanthropic theories of Nazis about "racial superiority" of the German nation over

were ideological fundamentals of this policy

other people, the ideas of expansion of "living space" for Germans, the statement of "right" for world supremacy of "the third Reich". Belarus for the centuries-old history not once fell a victim of overseas aggressors. But as it was in the last war, it did not know such ruthless occupation yet [2, page 278].

War became a critical stage in religious life of the Soviet society. After times of total destruction of all faiths in the 30th years, as a result on occupied territories there was a revival of religious life. Many facts demonstrate to it. So, according to the archpriest A. Ionov who wrote "The missionary's notes about life in the Soviet Russia" "religious awakening was the general, mass and spontaneous. The people both in the cities, and in rural areas... itself went for opening of temples, for their temporary repair and ornament" [3, page 138]. Revival of religious life was promoted by three main reasons.

First, in fascist ideological policy the religion and church held a specific place. Even prior to war with the USSR by the Nazis underlay the basic principles of the relations with different faiths [4, page 99-100]. Planning attack on the USSR, fascists expected to use actively a religious factor in the purposes. They already had vast experience of carrying out similar policy both in Germany, and in the territories occupied by them in Europe. In the system of Head department of imperial safety (SD) there was a special "church department". Its tasks included control and observation of activity of the religious organizations of all faiths, studying moods of clergy and active parishioners, introduction of an agency into church administrative and managerial structures and recruitment of an agency from the circle of priests. At the same time orientation to destruction (internal and external) the developed traditional steady church structures, "atomization" of faiths and churches was the main line in the solution of "a religious question". In Germany in the second half of 30 years temples collapsed, priests, first of all Catholics were arrested and shot. And only in July, 1941 in the territory of Germany A. Hitler the confidential order forbade for the period of war with the USSR holding any actions against church without sanction from above. It follows from this that the religious factor had in Hitler's plans at occupation of the USSR a certain strategic importance. So, the earliest of the found circulars of Head department of imperial safety which concerned religious policy in the east belongs to August 16, 1941: "About a church question in the occupied areas of the Soviet Union". This document contained personal instructions of Hitler who set three main objectives: to keep development of the religious movement (as hostile to the Bolshevism), to carry out crushing it on the separate directions in order to avoid possible consolidation of "the leading elements" against Germany and to use the church organizations for fight of the German administration in occupied territories [3, page 139-140]. More long-term purposes of religious policy of fascist Germany in the relation to the republics of the USSR were specified in the second directive of Head department of imperial safety of October 31, 1941, at the same time in it concern in mass surge in religiousness among the population was already traced: "Among the part of the population of the former Soviet Union exempted from a Bolshevist yoke the strong aspiration to return under the power of church is noticed that especially belongs to the senior generation..." [3, page 140].

It is necessary to emphasize that directly dealt with religious problems and A. Hitler considered them some of the most important in business of "management of the subdued people". On April 11, 1942 in a circle brought closer he stated the vision of religious policy in the territory of the USSR: violent crushing of churches, compulsory change of nature of beliefs of the population of the occupied areas, prohibition of "the structure of uniform churches for some considerable Russian territories". And at a meeting in the Fuhrer's rate on May 8, 1942 where there were Rosenberg and Borman, Hitler podchyorknut, "that after war he will take the appropriate measures against church, at the same time he believes what what another will be heavy to be carried out later will be able to make the authority" [3, page 142].

Much attention from the occupational authorities was paid to use of a religious subject in the ideological work. In the press it was emphasized that the new mode bears religious freedom. It "was persistently recommended" in sermons and during the church ceremonies to express faithful feelings to Hitler and the third Reich. The clergy was forced to participate in "celebration" of anniversary of the beginning of war and to that similar dates. Actively extended the corresponding literature for example, such leaflet prayer: "Adolf Hitler, you are our leader, your name directs awe at the enemy and the third your empire will come. And yes your will on the earth will be carried out..." [3, page 143].

However, since 1943, in the German official documents the doubt in correctness of a number of aspects of the chosen course of church policy was already clearly felt. Calculations on support of "a new order" from the religious organizations oppressed in the USSR were one of initial stereotypes of ideology of occupation. Ideologists of a Reich repeatedly expressed surprise at what important place was taken by church, and first of all. The orthodox Russian, in the patriotic movement in the Soviet Union. In the bulletin of Security police of May 7, 1943. "Reports from the occupied east areas" it was specified: "The Soviet promotion managed to use dexterously religious feelings of the population in the purposes. The church and masses all more are promoted. As it became known from Moscow, influx of inhabitants in church in easter days was considerable. This fact propaganda is very strongly used and finds distribution, first of all, at allies" [3, page 143].

On the basis of it in 1943-1944 any support from Wehrmacht or the German administration in opening of churches and also participation of military personnel in church services in temples was completely forbidden. Directives A were provided in the bulletin of Police of February 5, 1943. Hitler: "Not to promote and not to interfere with religious activity. Prisoners of war have to keep, certainly, away from such actions of the population... It was forbidden to allow and attract civil clergy from a Reich or from abroad in the occupied east areas... The churches destroyed at the Soviet power or during military operations should not neither be restored, nor be brought into accord with their purpose bodies of the German armed forces. It should be provided to the Russian civil authorities" [3, page 145].

In the occupied territory of Belarus the Germans sought to create visibility of the equal rights in activity of all faiths, to provide them a legal basis. So, on June 19, 1942 in Minsk the order about equal conditions to the religious organizations" was published ". Actually it put the existing religious associations into complete dependence on the general commissioner, limited their activity, "which would threaten public order or safety". All religious institutions for three months from the date of a release of the order had to "be presented to Generalkomissar in the territory of whom they were" that meant registration [4, page 102].

Thus, the Nazi church policy in occupied territories was characterized by the general attitude of Nazis towards Slavs in general and to Russians in particular: Hitlerites rejected any Christian values, a cult, outlook, and in the long term planned to liquidate all church institutes, at the same time during the war the confessional factor in the occupied territories was used by invaders with the purpose to get to themselves adherents from those population groups which religious feelings were restrained at the time by Bolsheviks. Calculation on support of "a new order" from the religious organizations oppressed in the USSR was one of initial stereotypes of ideology of occupation.

Secondly, the splash in religious moods among the population was promoted by an active patriotic position of heads of all religious associations and also ordinary believers. In the first days of the Great Patriotic War the religious organizations widespread in the USSR, actively stated the patriotic positions and joined in the national movement against fascism. Millions of believers on an equal basis with non-believers divided all burdens and adversities of war, battled on fronts, participated in the guerrilla movement. Until recently names of patriots from among representatives of all faiths were suppressed for the reason that they did not keep within a framework of the Soviet ideology. But acts of people depend not only on that, they are believers or atheists, but also from the moral, human principles, living position. So, the presbyter of community of evangelical Baptist Christians from of Belavichi of Ivatsevichsky district Ma-zheyko saved life to one Jewish boy during war, risking the life. After Mazheyko's war adopted and brought up him [5. Case 52. Sheet 107]. Thus, patriotic feelings were stronger than offenses at the unfair confessional policy of the Soviet state during the pre-war period.

Thirdly, revival of religious moods was promoted also by moods in society: fear, uncertainty in tomorrow, sufferings of wartime. Therefore in churches, churches, houses of worship unfortunate and oppressed received calm. Renewal and growth of the Protestant communities is explained by it. In particular, Baptist church which placed particular emphasis on the ideas of eternal predetermination, inevitability and even clemency of sufferings.

It is possible to allocate also one more factor,

which promoted revival of Protestant church. For disorganization, and it is possible, and in general liquidations of Russian Orthodox Church which rallies Russians "national", in occupied territories some dissenting directions were supported. Distribution of the Protestant ideas was promoted also by the German missionaries who arrived from Germany and worked mainly at the railroad as drivers, conductors. Knowing Russian, some of them attended church meetings, rendered financial support to members of community, provided them with food. So, as a result of such missionary work the Baptist community in Kalinkovi-chakh attracted in 1943 39 new members [6, page 34].

Thus, during the war abnormality and inaccuracy of state and church policy during the pre-war period especially came to light. The mass of believers which fulfilled the civic duty before the Homeland, was sure that the state has to go for normalization of the relations with the religious organizations, and first of all against those who took patriotic positions and actively battled against the enemy. And it is valid, already since the beginning of war the government took the first steps in this direction: publishing of church extended, general church fund raisings were allowed, limits for extra cult activity were lifted, obstacles to mass church services and ceremonies were not created, opened, let and without legal registration, houses of worship [7, page 103]. Completely antireligious promotion stopped, activity of "The union of militant atheists" was curtailed, however formally it was not dismissed. And already the first words of the address of I. Stalin to the people on July 3, 1941. "Dear compatriots! Brothers and sisters!" were prompted not by Marxist-Leninist ideology, and rather a church sermon. I. Stalin through A.N. Poskryobyshev's secretary recommended to "the main atheist" E. Yaroslavsky to note a new patriotic position of church publicly. That did not dare to disobey and after long doubts on September 2 prepared article "Why Religious People against of an Itler?" for the press, having signed it with the exotic hardly recognizable pseudonym Katsy Adamiani. As a result by October, 1941 practically all antireligious periodicals were closed. The leader of the Soviet atheism the Pod Marksizma Znamenem magazine began to publish articles about outstanding Russian historical figures, heroism of the Soviet soldiers, and since 1944 and absolutely ceased to exist [3, page 196]. Nevertheless, the relations of church and the state in the first years of war by true dialogue did not become yet. At this time a recurrence of the former policy, roughly administrative, violent actions were frequent.

To summer of 1942 when there was obvious a political value of a church question, the system of collection of information about activity of the religious organizations in occupied territories in borders of the USSR by the Main informant of governmental and party bodies developed there was Narkomat of internal affairs. From it the initiative of holding different actions concerning the religious organizations proceeded. The saved-up material allowed to convince at the beginning of 1943 Stalin and his immediate environment of need of holding actions for normalization of the state and church relations. However at the same time it is necessary to emphasize that the state showed significant steps and changes only in the relation to Russian Orthodox Church, considering it as a factor which has to strengthen mobilization opportunities of society in its resistance to the enemy. This sanction for carrying out in Moscow the Local Council which opened the work on December 31, 1945 is explained by Stalin it

Formation in 1943-1944 of Council for affairs of Russian Orthodox Church, led by G.G. Karpov and Council for affairs of religious cults at

became one more important action on the way of normalization of the relations between church and the Soviet state

Council of ministers of the USSR. The main objectives which faced Councils consisted in implementation of communication between the Government of the USSR and the church organizations for questions which demanded permission of the Government and also control over the correct application of the legislation on religious cults [8, page 91]. In November, 1944. Council presented to Council of People's Commissars of the offer "About an order of opening of prayful buildings of religious cults" which were approved. From now on all work on acceptance, account and preliminary consideration of the applications of believers was assigned to Representatives of Council for affairs of religious cults at Council of People's Commissars of the USSR. The final decision according to statements was provided to be taken out to Council which considered the conclusions of Council of People's Commissars of federal and autonomous republics and the conclusion of Representatives [9, page 62].

Thus, war really became an important critical stage in the confessional history of the Soviet state. It is impossible to allocate one main factor which promoted awakening of religious moods at the population, as well as to allocate the main factor which caused changes in operation of the Soviet "ideological machine" as this really complex phenomenon. The main thing that all complex of factors designated transition to a new stage in the history of different faiths and in development of the state and religious relations entirely. And, nevertheless, the principle of liberalism put in the years of war in a basis of the state and confessional relations was caused by the fact that the church, in this case, was considered as a factor which has to strengthen mobilization opportunities of society in its resistance to the enemy that did not mean ease of control of the state of church activity at all. The church during the Soviet period was not recognized by legal entity, and all new rights granted in 1943-1945 could be selected any minute.

At the same time, changes of policy of the state captured not all existing faiths. So, on Belarus, in comparison with orthodox church in the relations with which the state established dialogue, similar steps were fully not taken in the relations with a Catholic church and the different directions of Protestantism. And nevertheless, in days of the Great Patriotic War in Belarus endured a peculiar period of the Renaissance the different directions of Protestantism as fight of a Bolshevist system of the power at a boundary of the 1920-1930th against this faith led to what at the end of the 30th years of its communities practically did not exist in BSSR [10, page 118].

It should be noted that the German authorities in a special way treated Protestants. Originally in Germany, unlike Catholicism, the relations of Nazis with Protestants developed loyally. Fascist promotion skillfully exploited special provisions of Protestant dogma, spreading the idea of "Aryan Christianity", the German Messianizm. However, despite all efforts, Hitler could not create uniform church of the German Protestants, and in the summer of 1941 the Fuhrer announced church including Protestant, the enemy of the people. And nevertheless, in occupied territories, using a confessional factor by means of which support was got from local community, Hitlerites did not interfere with activity of the Protestant communities. So, since 1941-1942 in the Minsk region 7 houses of worship of Evangelical Christians and Baptists began to function. In 1941 3 communities of Evangelical Christians and Baptists in Begomlsky district appeared. In the Mogilev region of 10% of all communities of this religious direction which acted in post-war years, arose in 1942 [6, page 33]. In the fall of 1941 with the permission of the German authorities the community in Vitebsk in which there were about 40 people began to act. The community of Evangelical Christians and Baptists continued to grow in Orsha: if in 1920 - 1929 the water baptism was hosted here by 18 people, in 1930 - 1940 - 13, then in

1941 - 1944 - 10 people [11, page 230]. On August 23, 1945 the orshansky community was registered, 50 people were its part, and on holidays visited community to 250 people [12. Case 3. Sheet 3].

Among the Protestant directions in time and in the first decade after the Great Patriotic War Baptist church began to work most actively that found reflection in significant increase in number of her adherents. First, it is explained by features of its dogma and the organization. Baptist confession places emphasis on the idea of eternal predetermination, on inevitability and even clemency of sufferings. In the conditions of military and post-war troubles the sermon of fatalism, relentlessness of destiny, an appeal to obediently bear the cross which fell to lot, undoubtedly brought rest in souls of the people who tested all falsities of life bore them though some consolation. Secondly, Baptists not just preached. They created communities - united groups of adherents where each person, irrespective of age and an occupation, felt constant attention, readiness to come to the rescue. In a military situation of the ruined life, disintegration of family, personal and other habitual social relations, the increased feelings of homelessness, loneliness, abandonment such communities could not but attract the mass of people. Also the fact that for several years the management of Baptist church managed to reconstruct and restore seriously the organization is important, to expand and improve missionary activity [13, page 397]. So, at the end of 1944 from the sanction of the Brest regional executive committee the presbyter of community of Evangelical Christians and Baptists, the civil engineer of engine-building transport A.L. Alekseev organized a congress of clergy of these communities acting in the territory of the Brest region in Brest. At a congress the executive body, the so-called "Brest regional union of evangelical churches" which developed grass-roots movement on the organization of the communities for all districts of the area was elected, including in the submission even those communities which functioned in the territory of other areas and the republics, in particular the Ukrainian SSR [5. Case 2. Sheet 28-29]. All similar actions promoted religious activity and unity of evangelical Baptist Christians. In Belarus in 1945 139 communities with the number of believers in them 8006 acted already. On areas their quantity it is possible to track a pas this tables [5. Case 2. Sheet 283].

The analysis of data of the table allows to allocate top trends in distribution of evangelical Baptist Christians in Belarus in time and the first decade after the Great Patriotic War: 1) the greatest number of communities (45) and believers (2893) are concentrated in the Brest region, and the smallest - in Vitebsk, respectively 3-114; 2) in the years of war the different directions of Protestantism, after times of total destruction in the late thirties, begin to revive the activity

Thus, during the war the policy of the authorities in the relation to religion changed that promoted increase in number of the communities believing, creation of the public authorities regulating relationship between the state and church. On the other hand, happening "warming" between the state and church was forced. And it is necessary to agree with it. Changes in public policy were caused by war, need to get support of the people in fight against Nazism, to accept in

attention spontaneous church revival in the areas occupied by Germans [14, page 195]. However significant changes in the Soviet state and confessional policy did not provide ease of control of the state of church and furthermore declaration of true "freedom of conscience". It meant that the state for implementation of the purposes by means of officials of Councils for affairs of the Russian orthodox

churches of religious cults was engaged in "domestication" of church and its destruction from within. From camps and references began to release ahead of schedule attendants who were capable to cooperation with the authorities. And in September, 1944 there were harbingers of future attacks to church - the Resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU calling "for strengthening of antireligious promotion through promotion of scientific outlook". Reminded party members of need of fight against remnants of ignorance and prejudices among people. The following Resolution of the Central Committee designing to strengthen atheistic promotion in mass media appeared in 1945, soon after the end of war. However this time atheistic promotion was not followed by acts of vandalism concerning church and believers yet as it was before war. And the church in turn tried to show the usefulness to the Soviet state in affairs of foreign policy and to some extent - in internal.

Table 1

The number of communities and the believing evangelical Baptist Christians on the BSSR areas in 1945

Area Number of communities Number of believers Area Number of communities Number of believers

Brest 45 2893 Minsk 7 340

Baranovichi 13 565 Vitebsk 3 114

Pinsk 13 671 Gomel 4 300

Molodechnensky 7 469 Babruysk 10 630

Grodno 10 568 Polesia 11 420

Polotsk 5 315 In total 139 8006

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Arrived 26.04.2005. Accepted in the press of 23.06.2005

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