Joseph Stalin Reestablishes The Russian Orthodox Church

The catastrophic course of combat in the beginning of World War II forced Stalin to mobilize all the national resources for defense, including the Russian Orthodox Church as the people's moral force.

Without delay churches were opened for services, and clergy including bishops were released from prisons. The Russian Church did not limit itself to giving spiritual and moral support to the motherland in danger. It also rendered material aid by providing funds for all kinds of things up to army uniform. Its greatest contribution, however, was expressed in financing the St. Dimitry Donskoy Tank Column and the St. Alexander Nevsky Squadron.

To increase popular enthusiasm for the war, Stalin reshaped his domestic policies to heighten patriotic spirit. Nationalistic slogans replaced much of the communist rhetoric in official pronouncements and the mass media. Active persecution of religion ceased, and in 1943 Stalin allowed the Russian Orthodox Church to name a patriarch (see Glossary) after the office had stood vacant for nearly two decades. In the countryside, authorities permitted greater freedom on the collective farms. Harsh German rule in the occupied territories also aided the Soviet cause.

During the Second World War, Stalin was too busy with the war to keep up his attacks on religion. Moreover, he needed the support of the Russian Orthodox Church in his attempt to culturally unify the whole of the Soviet Union through Russification. In 1943, Stalin signed a concordat with church officials that led to the state-approved revival of the Moscow Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church resulted in even repression of regional religious communities, as their property was confiscated and given over to Russian Orthodox leaders, and local clergy were forced to give allegiance to Moscow.