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Faith and atheism in war as a socio-psychological problem

In the history of Russia, the army’s connection with the church has always been strong enough, starting with the blessing by Sergius of Radonezh of Dmitry Donskoy to the fight against the Mongol Tatars and the participation of the monks of Peresvet and Oslyaby in the Battle of Kulikovo. Faces of saints on the battle flags of the Russian armies, icons of the Mother of God in decisive battles, including the Battle of Borodino, are all facts of the same order. Under Peter I, the institute of military and naval clergy of the Russian army and navy was formed. In 1801, Paul I introduced by his decree the military department of priests. In the churches assigned to this department, along with religious relics, the banners of the illustrious units, weapons and armor of the military leaders who covered themselves with glory in the battles were kept, the dead soldiers were perpetuated. And the military priests themselves were engaged not only in liturgical activities, but also held conversations with soldiers, classes in literature, and even conducted anti-alcohol propaganda {634}.

After the 1917 revolution, the traditions of cooperation between the army and the church were destroyed, and the large-scale anti-religious campaign and the policy of state atheism led to profound changes in public consciousness, including the consciousness of military personnel. Military priests were replaced by commissars and political officers.

"Now we, the Communists, are responsible for the soul of the fighters!"

- said one of the generals of the political front {635}.

Faith in God was not explicitly provided for this soul. However, everyday religiosity in the army did not disappear, although it took on a slightly different form than previously prevalent.

Any religion is a social institution, while religiosity is an element of mass and individual consciousness, including social psychology, which is in a complex relationship with it. Moreover, even in societies with a deeply rooted confessional tradition, everyday religiosity is often not limited to its scope. Especially in societies with a destroyed or deformed religious tradition and especially with state atheism, everyday religiosity, by no means disappearing, takes on non-traditional forms (neopagan and individualized).



Pre-revolutionary Russia was characterized by the greatest spread of Orthodoxy and the corresponding forms of everyday religiosity. The spread of atheism in Soviet times did not eliminate all forms of mass religious consciousness, but it pushed religiosity beyond the framework of traditionally normative forms into the field of "everyday mysticism" (superstitions, signs, etc.).

There are certain social situations in which the scale of distribution and intensity of manifestations of religiosity increase dramatically. These include almost all social disasters and especially wars. Moreover, everyday religious consciousness in a combat situation is a direct continuation of its most common forms in the conditions of peaceful life of a given society.

Psychologically, war belongs to the category of “borderline situation,” that is, it is extremely dangerous, uncertain, unpredictable, threatening the very life of a person and almost independent of his will and mind. The less it is controlled and dependent on a person, the stronger is his tendency to search for psychological support, in an attempt to control external circumstances through irrational actions.

"The atmosphere of constant danger and death in war, as well as direct contact with nature, is so good that it directs the soul to questions of eternity, away from the garbage of life, from the dusk of everyday life" {636},

- wrote in his diary a participant in the Russo-Japanese War, division physician V.P. Kravkov.

But what are the “questions of eternity”, if not a person’s appeal to the spheres not only spiritual, but simply mystical, and in a variety of forms and forms? Uncertainty, unpredictability of events in the face of a constant threat to human life itself is the area that opens the way to belief in supernatural powers. Moreover, this faith has a very practical purpose - to obtain mystical protection, by performing certain ritual actions (reading prayers, wearing amulets, observing situational taboo prohibitions), protecting oneself from dangers.

Especially such a desire to "influence fate" is characteristic of the military situation. In the conditions of traditional religiosity, it manifests itself in the usual prayers and rituals, in turning to God, even among people who are not very believers in ordinary, peaceful life.

“We will have to meet and spend Christmas in the front positions. It’s a pity that we don’t have to go to the Vespers”,

- wrote December 22, 1914 to his sister from the front of the First World War, non-commissioned officer I.I. Chernetsov. And in his next letter he described his thoughts and feelings in the days of a religious holiday:

“Being on a Christmas Eve evening, somehow involuntarily thought transferred to you in Moscow. This evening was vividly imagined as it takes place in Moscow: first there’s bustle on the streets, then the tram stops and the street hustle stops, and finally it starts ringing in the churches, some kind of solemn, festive, beginning of the service with a great supper and, finally, all-night service. People at the end pour out of the churches and disperse in a joyful festive mood. It was completely quiet here, both among us and the Germans, and even air. night yla star and not cold, and this silence is particularly scolding sadness and isolation felt more from you "{637}.

In an atheist society, in extreme conditions of war, religiousness is also intensifying. So, during the Great Patriotic War and in the first post-war years, there was a significant influx of people into religious communities. The activity of the Orthodox Church also intensified during this period: the clergy consoled people in grief associated with losses in the war, urged them to believe in victory, patronized hospitals, and raised money and valuables for the construction of military equipment {638}. And so, at a meeting in Stalin's suburban residence on September 4, 1943, it was decided to revise state policy in the field of religion. For the first time in the years of Soviet power, some of the churches closed after the revolution began to open. If by the beginning of the war in the USSR, according to various sources, from 150 to 400 active parishes remained, then literally in several years thousands of churches were opened, and the number of Orthodox communities was brought, according to some reports, to 22 thousand. The direct persecution of believers and the sacrilegious performances of the "Union of Militant Atheists" ceased. A significant part of the repressed clergy was released {639}.



The main carriers of religious consciousness in the rear were the women of the mother, wife, sister, bride of the men who went to the front.
They prayed for the salvation of loved ones, for the victory over the enemy and the speedy end of the war, sought spiritual comfort. And on the front line, although not so explicitly, those who constantly "walked under God" turned to faith.

"- ... I remember when we buried our own people (and many young guys were accepted to the party early then), and suddenly a cross appears or frankincense ..." recalled the front-line soldier, former rocket scientist Academician G. Arbatov. Believer? Unbeliever? Or mother gave something there? And then I read with General Eisenhower that there are no atheists in the trenches.

- That is, at the front they believed in God?

- Yes! Yes! Well, as if you are turning your cry - mentally - for help, for salvation ... "{640}



In an interview with officers who went through the war in Afghanistan in November 1993, I asked the question: "Did participation in the war affect your attitude to religion?" Here is how the military journalist, Major V.A. Sokirko answered it:

"Before leaving for Afghanistan, I went to the apiary in the village, and there one grandmother said a prayer to me. In general, it is a simple prayer:" God the father is in front, the Mother of God is in the middle, and I am behind. As for the Gods, it is with me. "This must be repeated nine times at the beginning of each day. Then I did not take all this seriously, but then I was convinced by my own example that in the days when I said this prayer in the morning, everything worked out well, and when, let’s say, I forgot it, some unpleasant story necessarily happened - with shelling or something else. And I didn’t even say it on purpose once — and a not-so-pleasant story happened. I was seriously affected, in general, my attitude to religion, because even though I was from birth to resolved, but due to the conditions in which we lived, it was not something that was forgotten, but somehow unacceptable, but after Afghanistan - yes, I go to church from time to time, and got married in the church. I’m not saying that religious fanaticism appeared, but some kind of faith, not even specifically in God, but in general in the cosmic mind, which is now represented in our church organization "{641}.

According to another “Afghan” officer, a motorized rifle of Colonel I.F. Vanin,

“during the fighting I had to see people in a rather difficult situation who prayed and cried out to God. My attitude to religion has not changed, although the element of activization of religiosity among the soldiers was quite noticeable. I can’t say this about officers simply because But I didn’t do this, but a significant part of the soldiers had some religious amulets, and the soldiers spoke ironically a little ironically, saying that this was the memory of the house, that it was given by parents or one of the family members. call it an element of religiosity or simply folk customs, rooted among the Slavs - is the preservation of the bed and tucked some things with a photo of the deceased person up to 40 days "{642}.

Often the impetus for the emergence or strengthening of religious feelings in a combat situation is acute psychological stress, for example, “miraculous” salvation in a seemingly hopeless situation. There are cases when a soldier, faced with the inevitable death, from his point of view, made an oath to himself that if he succeeds in surviving, he will begin to believe in God or devote himself to serving him (he will go to a monastery, become a priest, etc. ), and after the war he kept his vow. Sometimes the attitude to religion can change under the influence of despair caused by the death of comrades or someone close. Junior sergeant, paratrooper Yevgeny Gorbunov, who served in 1984-1986. in Gardez, he said that it was in Afghanistan that he began to believe in God. This happened when he took out a wounded comrade from the battle, and he died on his back and immediately "became heavier." So a man who previously considered himself an atheist, was convinced of the existence of the soul {643}.

Of course, the specifics of the war with a deeply believing adversary also affected it. Indeed, for the Afghans, who were distinguished by their fanatical adherence to Islam, the Russian soldiers were not just enemies, but “infidels,” the war with which was considered holy, which received the blessing of Allah. In the turn of the Afghan war from a purely internal and political conflict to an external conflict with a pronounced religious connotation, the then Afghan revolutionary authorities and the Soviet leadership, who made a gross political miscalculation not only by their interference in the affairs of a foreign country, are to a large extent guilty and encouraging allies in their atheistic radicalism. An attempt to make a leap from the Middle Ages to the present, from traditional Islamic society to “socialism” turned into a powerful activation of the religious factor, the transformation of Islam into a banner of opposition to the secular regime of Kabul and a means of uniting all those who were not satisfied with the fight against “kafirs”. Neglect of the feelings of believers in a Muslim country, the desire to "push" religion into the traditionally religious society into the background, naturally provoked a "rollback reaction": the "irreconcilable" who replaced the revolutionaries in power after the USSR "left" Afghanistan, turned out to be much more conservative than the overthrown earlier royal mode {644}. But today they are being replaced by even larger Islamic fanatics, fundamentalist radicals supported by the Pakistan Taliban movement. In that situation, it was difficult to foresee such a turn of events, however, the development of the opposition’s struggle in the Kabul regime into a “holy war” - "jihad" - appeared almost immediately after the "limited contingent" of Soviet troops entered the country.

And this, of course, was also one of the reasons for the growth of religiosity among the personnel of the OKSV. The very specifics of this war contributed to the conversion of many recent atheists to faith in God - because of the need to confront a fanatically religious enemy, not only on the battlefield, but also in the spiritual realm.

However, some “Afghans” were more likely to have a “pragmatic” approach to religion. So, sergeant paratrooper Yuri E. in 1983 wrote to his mother from Afghanistan:

“I received your letters and a prayer, but, mom, you don’t be offended, but I can’t learn it, I already have one prayer, though not from the Bible or the Gospel, but from the Koran. By the way, the Koran can help more here, there were such cases when the dushmans let our soldiers go, when they read prayers from the Koran to them, they are all believers here "{645}.

It is known that many of the Soviet soldiers who were captured in Dushmani in order to survive, had to accept Islam. But that is another topic.
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