In the spring and summer of 1921, a catastrophe struck Soviet Russia — drought and devastating famine engulfed vast areas of the Volga region, the Ural region, the North Caucasus, Ukraine, and the Crimea. Over 33 million people were affected by this disaster, several million died of starvation.
Under the chairmanship of Patriarch Tikhon, the All-Russian Public Committee for Starving the Hunger (Pomgol) was formed in the country, which included prominent public figures, mostly former Cadets: Prokopovich, Kuskova, Kishkin (the committee immediately received the name of Prokukish among the people "- by the first letters of the names of its organizers). The Starving Assistance Committee raised funds and distributed aid from abroad. At the end of August 1921, the Pomgol was dissolved in its place, the "Central Commission for Starving the Hunger" of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee appeared. Despite this, the Church continued to raise funds for the victims. For its part, the Soviet government gave instructions to the places that "not to put any obstacles to church gatherings." The collected money could be surrendered to parishes "either directly to local financial departments or sent at the request of the parishes at the disposal of their higher organs."
In mid-February 1922, Patriarch Tikhon called on the parish councils to donate to the needs of the starving people precious jewels that did not have liturgical use. Following this, on February 23, 1922, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee adopted a decree "On the procedure for seizing church property in the use of groups of believers." The implementation of the decree, which began, led to bloody clashes between government officials and believers. The Politburo of the Central Committee of the RCP (B.) Was forced to decide on the temporary suspension of the seizure of valuables. However, already on March 19, V.I. Lenin prepared a letter for members of the Politburo, stating that "it is now, and only now, when people are eating in people of the country and hundreds, if not thousands, of corpses are lying on the roads, we can ( and therefore they must) carry out the seizure of church valuables with the most furious and merciless energy. " The letter emphasized that under the circumstances, "the vast majority of the peasant masses will either be for us, or in any case will not be able to support a handful of the Black-Hundred spirituality." Lenin’s directive, therefore, pursued two main goals: to provide assistance to the starving regions of the country and at the same time undermine the importance of the Church, reducing its influence on the population.
The seizure of church property was accompanied by numerous excesses. As a result, in April-May 1922, 54 priests and laity of the Russian Orthodox Church, accused of refusing to give up valuables, were tried in Moscow, where 11 people were sentenced to capital punishment. Immediately after the tribunal issued its decision, L. B. Kamenev introduced the question of annulment to the Politburo. In relation to 6 convicts, it was decided to mitigate the punishment. Kamenev continued to insist on pardon and the rest of the accused. A written proposal to the Politburo was recommended to be submitted to L. D. Trotsky. On May 14, 1922, he presented a conclusion in which it was stated that there were no grounds for mitigating the fate of five convicts. A few days later the Politburo agreed with this conclusion. Patriarch Tikhon, who was a witness at the trial, at that moment did not risk bringing to justice.
Insisting on harsh punishment of the organizers of anti-government speeches, the Soviet leadership at the same time sought to enlist the support of ordinary clergy. In a secret directive addressed to the party and Soviet bodies of the Petrograd Gubernia "About the attitude to the sections and policies regarding religious groups in general," it was explicitly stated: "In no case should special events be applied to ordinary clergy, such as especially hard, dirty work, like cleaning the latrines. "
One of the main tasks of the Bolshevik leadership in the early 1920s. became undermining the influence of the ROC in the masses. On March 25, 1922, a secret circular telegram of the Central Committee of the RCP (b) was sent to the field signed by the secretary of the Central Committee V.Molotov, which indicated ways to solve this problem: "It is necessary to split the priests or, rather, deepen and sharpen the existing schism." Indeed, in 1922, a split in the Orthodox Church became a fact. A group of Petrograd priests: A. I. Vvedensky, A. I. Boyarsky, E. Belkov and others — in May 1922 demanded that Patriarch Tikhon leave his patronal throne.
Renovationists (the renovation trend in the Russian Orthodox Church took shape in the pre-October period) called for organizing the trial of the "culprits of church devastation" and announced the creation of the Supreme Church Administration (VTU), which on May 15 assumed responsibility for all church affairs in Russia. At the same time, the renovationists convened a constituent assembly of their supporters and proclaimed the formation of a group called the Living Church. The activities of the Living Church were secretly encouraged by the authorities, which officially declared their non-interference in the internal affairs of the clergy. The center of the fierce struggle of Renovationism with the ROC was the center of the split - Petrograd. In 1923, out of 123 temples in Petrograd, 113 belonged to Renovators.
The fact that the leaders of the Bolshevik Party paid great importance to "church work" is evidenced by the fact that Trotsky, in one of his letters to members of the Politburo in May 1922, criticized the insufficiently active work of the Pravda and Izvestia newspapers, : "The smallest Genoese rubbish occupies entire pages, while the backyard of newspapers is set aside for the deepest spiritual revolution in the Russian people." Lenin, having familiarized himself with the letter of Trotsky, emphasized this phrase and made a postscript: “True! 1000 times true! Down with rubbish!”
Attempts to dismember the Church began as early as 1919, when the Executive Committee for the Clergy, the so-called Islolkomdukh, was formed. However, in the opinion of the Chekist leadership, he "took a false direction" and began to adapt the ROC to the new conditions, for which he was dissolved. The Cheka’s attempts to split the Church through some spiritual leaders, such as, for example, Vladimir Putiata (Penza), turned out to be untenable in this respect. In the autumn of 1919, after an unsuccessful attempt at reconciliation with Patriarch Tikhon Putyata, he headed the Free National Church and announced a break with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Active work on the decomposition of the Church launched the Secret Department of the Cheka. At the end of 1920, the head of this department, T. P. Samsonov, reported to F. E. Dzerzhinsky that "no other apparatus will be able to destroy religion, except the apparatus of the Cheka." This path was considered correct for the reason that "lower priesthood, freed from the wolf claws of the big church wolves," sometimes quite sincerely worked with the Soviet authorities.
Those clergymen who refused to join the Renovationists and enjoyed the popularity of the broad masses of the people were often awaited by a sad fate. Thus, in the summer of 1922, a trial on the case of church values took place in Petrograd. This time 86 defendants appeared in the dock. According to the authorities, they were somehow involved in the unrest that occurred during the seizure of valuables from the Petrograd churches. The main witness for the prosecution was Protoi V. Krasnitsky. The tribunal sentenced Metropolitan Veniamin, Archimandrite Sergius (Shein), Professor KL Novitsky, I. Kovsharov to death. Part of the convicts received various terms of imprisonment, and 22 people were acquitted. On the night of August 12-13, 1922, the sentence of four convicts was carried out. 70 years later (in 1992), Metropolitan of Petrograd and Gdovsk, Benjamin was counted among the Russian saints.
After the Petrograd process in 1922, the struggle against the Tikhonov Church was continued. On October 13, the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the RCP (B) considered the establishment of a commission on anti-religious propanda (anti-religious commission). After its registration, this commission worked out rules on the import into the country of religious literature, established the procedure for registering religious societies. "Every two weeks, the chairman of the commission was to submit to the Politburo a report on the work done.
Questions of anti-religious propaganda were the subject of a special discussion and at the XII Congress of the RCP (b) in April 1923. The resolution "On the formulation of anti-religious agitation and propaganda" envisaged an increase in the publication of popular science books and brochures, the expansion of oral propaganda, the introduction of anti-religious education in the school system. By this time, the main forms of anti-religious work had already taken shape. Since 1919, the magazine Revolution and the Church has been published. * In 1922, the publication of the popular newspaper The Atheist began. In 1925, the Union of Atheists was created, which in 1929 would become the Union of Militant Atheists. the same years, the Society of Militant Materialists, the Petrograd Scientific Society of Marxists, and other organizations reversed their activities.The newspapers of that time published entire collections of proverbs and conversations revealing the "true" attitude of the people to the servants of the Church: "Priests that bugs" , "Pooh and damn one wool", "Envious that pop vskie eyes "," Popovski not fill the belly "and so on. d.
Patriarch Tikhon refused to leave Russia in the face of unfolding persecutions of the Church, despite the offers of people close to him. From December 1918, he was under the home arrest of his compound, in the lower floor of which there were 3 Red Army men. On June 16, 1923, Ti-hon was released from custody. A statement appeared in the press, in which he repented of "anti-Soviet actions." In his message of July 1, the patriarch noted: "Conscious of his guilt before the Soviet government, expressed in a number of our passive or active anti-Soviet actions, that is, in resisting the Decree on the seizure of church property in favor of the starving, anathematized Soviet power, opposition to the Brest peace, we repent and mourn the sacrifices made in a number of these anti-Soviet activities ... The church is apolitical and does not want to be either a white or a red church. "
At the end of 1924, Tikhon’s health deteriorated sharply. On April 7, 1925, after the dental surgery took place not long before this, the patriarch died (he was canonized by the Russian saints in 1989). In his testament, Tikhon called on everyone "not to hope for the return of the monarchical system and to make sure that Soviet power is indeed people's workers 'and peasants' power, and therefore durable and unshakable."