Volume 18, Issue 2, Autumn 2013
Svetlana M. Klimova, Elena S. Molostova
“Scientific Atheism” in Action
Soviet Sociology of Religion as an Agent of Marxist-Atheist Propaganda from the 1960s to the 1980s
This paper discusses the methodological challenges of Soviet sociology of religion in the period between 1960 and 1989, when it was charged with the contradictory task of investigating the actual standing of religion in Soviet society and, at the same time, with proposing methods through which the official
“scientific atheism,” deeply rooted in Marxism, could be imposed upon the very populations that were the subject of its inquiries. The authors propose an insight into the actual practices of the researchers, based on little-known archival materials from the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History. The materials
adduced by the authors show the various ways in which Soviet believers were surveyed and in which questionnaires were constructed, illustrating the modes of
argumentation used in atheist propaganda conducted alongside such surveys, and giving a rare glimpse into the methodological discussions that were taking place at conferences organized by the Institute of Scientific Atheism. The authors track also the sociological conceptions and typologies adopted by Soviet sociology.