VICTORIA SMOLKIN-ROTHROCK is Assistant Professor of Russian History at Wesleyan University (Middletown, Connecticut). She completed her Ph.D. at the University of California-Berkeley in 2010. Smolkin-Rothrock’s research has been supported by Princeton University’s Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies; the Social Science Research Council Eurasia Post-Doctoral Research Award; the Sherman Emerging Scholar Lectureship; the Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship in Religion and Ethics; and the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, and the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. Click here for her CV.
Smolkin-Rothrock’s forthcoming monograph is a history of Soviet atheism that follows the story of the confrontation between scientific atheism and lived religion in the Soviet Union. While the Soviet state waged several antireligious campaigns—most notably during Stalin’s Cultural Revolution and under Khrushchev—the state never actually managed to “overcome” religion. Indeed, religion and believers preoccupied the Soviet leadership for the country’s entire history. What role did atheism play in the Soviet project? How did the experience of “scientific atheism” affect the elite’s understanding of the state’s role in spiritual life? The book challenges the common perception that Soviet religious policy was solely destructive. Over the course of Soviet history, the battle against religion became the battle for atheism. In this sense, the book is the story of the unprecedented attempt to transform atheism into its opposite: a set of positive beliefs and practices with a spiritual center.
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