|Frequency||12 per year|
|First issue||December 1922|
|Company||League of Militant Atheists|
Bezbozhnik (Russian: Безбожник; "Atheist" or "The Godless") was a monthly anti-religious and atheistic satirical magazine, published in the Soviet Union between 1922 and 1941 by the League of Militant Atheists. Between 1923 and 1931, there was also a daily newspaper called Bezbozhnik u Stanka (Безбожник у станка; "The Godless at the Workplace"). Its first issue was published in December 1922, with a print run of 15,000, but its circulation reached as much as 200,000 in 1932.
Initially, the publication ridiculed all religious belief as being a sign of ignorance and superstition, while claiming that the religion was dying in the officially atheist Soviet Union, with reports of closing churches, unemployed priests and ignored religious holidays. Starting with the mid-1920s, the soviet government saw religion as an economic threat to the peasantry, whom, it said, were being oppressed by the clergy.
Its main targets were Christianity and Judaism, accusing rabbis and priests of collaborating with the bourgeoisie and other counter-revolutionaries (see White movement). The rabbis were accused of promoting hostility between Jews and Gentiles. Bezbozhnik alleged that some rabbis in the tsarist government's pay had helped organize anti-Jewish pogroms, while claiming that such actions had sparked similar atrocities in England, South Africa and other countries.
Priests were attacked as being parasites who lived off the work of the peasants. It reported of priests who allegedly admitted deceiving peasants and who supposedly renounced their profession. For instance, it ran a story about a certain Sergei Tomilin, who allegedly claimed 150 kilograms of wheat and 21 metres of linen for each marriage he conducted, performing over 30 marriages in just a few weeks and thus receiving the wage a schoolteacher would have earned in 10 years.
The magazine criticized the Jewish holiday of Passover as encouraging excessive drinking, because of the requirement of drinking four glasses of wine, while Prophet Elijah was accused of being an alcoholic who got "drunk as a swine".
Writer Mikhail Bulgakov once visited the offices of the Bezbozhnik and got a set of back numbers. He was shocked by its content, not only by what he saw as "boundless blasphemy", but also by its claims, such as that Jesus Christ was a rogue and a scoundrel. Bulgakov believed that this was "a crime beyond measure" and he thought that it was the work of the Jews.
Bezbozhnik used humour as part of its anti-religious atheist propaganda, since humour was able to reach both educated and barely literate audiences. For example, in 1924, Bezbozhnik u Stanka issued a brochure called How to Build a Godless Corner, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Eastern Orthodox Icon Corner. The brochure included a set of two big posters with anti-religious slogans, seven other smaller humoristic posters, six back issues from Bezbozhnik u Stanka, from which to cut other images and instructions on how to assemble it. Such corners were suggested to be made at workplaces and the owner was encouraged to spend time at them and to try to convert other workers.
By the 1930s, the Bezbozhnik began to stray away from its original subject, anti-religion and atheism and it began publishing more general political subjects. Bezbozhnik was closed down in 1941, during World War II and the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany.
Examples of issues
1929 issue showing Jesus being dumped from a wheelbarrow by an industrial worker; the text suggests the Industrialization Day can be a replacement of the Christian Transfiguration Day.
- Anna Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939, Indiana University Press, 2006, p. 150–155. ISBN 0-253-21841-1
- Milne (2004), p. 209
- Daniel Peris, Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless, Cornell University Press, 1998, pp. 75–76. ISBN 0-8014-3485-8
- Lesley Milne, Bulgakov: The Novelist-playwright, Routledge, 1996, p. 64. ISBN 3-7186-5619-1
- Milne (2004), p. 128
- Steven Merritt Miner, Stalin's Holy War: Religion, Nationalism, and Alliance Politics, 1941–1945, UNC Press, 2003, p. 80. ISBN 0-8078-2736-3
- Lesley Milne, Reflective Laughter: Aspects of Humour in Russian Culture, Anthem Press, 2004. ISBN 1-84331-119-4