17 SES 08, Paper Session
Having violated international treaties and having sent Red Army soldiers, the Soviet Union occupied the Republic of Lithuania on 15th of June 1940. The real executive power was exercised by Vladimir Dekanozov, a soviet emissary, who arrived to Lithuania from Moscow. As early as 17 June 1940, a marionette “People‘s Government“ was formed, which immediately got involved in destruction of the Lithuanian society, political institutions and paved the way for strengthening of the Communist Party in the country.
During the first years of soviet occupation the educational system in Lithuania was reorganised, schools were reformed. The schools were detached from the church by law. Religion lessons were abolished, religious symbols were removed from schools, and the children and youth organizations (Catholic Youth Federation “The Future”, Catholic Youth Federation “The Spring”, Children Union of Guardian Angel, Scouts, Union of Lithuanian National Youth “Young Lithuania“, Union of Young Farmers Circles, etc.) were prohibited, changes in curriculum were made. Even though numerous aspects were changed in schools, the changes in people were much slower. The changes were also stopped by the Second World War.
In the summer of 1944, the Soviet Red Army re-occupied Lithuania and Joseph Stalin re-established the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. The mechanism of sovietisation and atheisation were switched on again. The church and the partisans continued to resist. The families did not bow to the long sovietisation either. Lithuanian families in rural areas were seen as particularly conservative, where, according to soviet sources, “deep-rooted prejudices” prevailed and nobody believed in “bright tomorrow of communism”. The school, which had resisted to smaller or bigger extent for some time (Kašauskienė, 2002), had to become an indoctrination mechanism and a frontrunner of atheistic propaganda. Even prior to the school year of 1954-1955, the Ministry of Education of LSSR had issued an order to strengthen atheistic upbringing of secondary school learners and had prepared a special plan of antireligious means. However, real atheistic indoctrination at school enhanced only in the beginning of the 1960s (Streikus, 2004). The school was offered numerous means of “antireligious fight” and atheistic propaganda. Next to the course of atheism that was obligatory in all forms, all the subject teachers were also demanded to emphasise atheistic aspects. Accordingly, school learners were offered "young atheists’ societies", "atheists’ wall newspapers", "conventions of atheistic school learners", "programmes of anti-religious amateur arts activities", “atheistic posters, stands and other visual means", "atheistic readings" after lessons, "atheistic morning activities" on weekend mornings to prevent school learners from participation in masses, "film showings", etc.
The variety of means proves what William van den Bercken once said: “Soviet atheism is a categorical and radical atheism”. Describing the attributes of Soviet atheism, he states that “Soviet atheism is not a private opinion, the result of scepticism or existential doubts, but organized unbelief. <…> Soviet atheism, therefore, does not recognize religion as a private matter: even the individual's belief in God, even a church which has withdrawn from society in pietism and liturgical cult, do not fit in the ideological monoculture of Soviet society” (1985, p. 278).
Nevertheless Soviet mono-culturalism, requirement to be as everyone else in the society as well as in school, there were always people who did not obey the official ideology
Therefore the main question of this presentation: what does it mean to be a believer child in an atheist school? In order to answer this question, various research methods are used: analysis of scholarly literature, historical sources (works of soviet pedagogy, pedagogical press, the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, etc.) and qualitative interview. According to V. Bezrogov (2006), life stories and childhood memories are the best means to research religious socialisation and its disturbances.
The initial analysis of data shows that the position of believers in school was not easy. Those who were not members of pioneers or young communist league organizations, also those who were believers, were left on the outskirts of out-of-school education activities, did not participate in class or school events. Such learners would be approached applying different tactics. Public reprehensions of “religious fanatics”, “prudes”, “young people without any morality” were quite frequent. They were publicly mocked and punished. Such schoolchildren were threatened to be expelled from school, to get negative characteristics, which would prevent them from further studies or better jobs, etc.
Bezrogov, V. (2006). Mezhdu Stalinym i Christom: religioznaja socializacija detej v sovetskoj I postsovetskoj Rosii (na materialah vospominahii o detstve) [Between Stalin and Christ: the religious socialization of children in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia (based on memories of childhood)], Antropologicheskii forum, 4, 130-162 Kašauskienė, V. (2002). Lietuvos mokyklos sovietizaciją ir priešinimasis jai 1940-1964 metais [Sovietisation of Lithuanian schools and resistance to it (1940-1964)], Vilnius: Lietuvos istorijos instituto leidykla Streikus, A. (2004). Antireliginė propaganda Lietuvoje 1944-1970 metais [Antireligious propaganda in Lithuania (1944-1970)]. Lietuvos istorijos studijos, 14, 88-99 Van den Bercken, W. (1985). Ideology and Atheism in the Soviet Union. Religion in Communist Lands,13 (3), 269-281.
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