Protest of Church Closing

Davydov, Olshanitsa and Protest of Church Closing. August 19, 1929


Original Source: Neizvestnaia Rossiia, XX vek (Moscow: Istoricheskoe nasledie, 1992), Vol. I, pp. 34-35.

Top Secret,

V. Urgent

To the Inform. Department of OGPU, Moscow, Regional Committee of the VKP(b), comrade Rakitov, the Reg. Control Commission, comrade EGOROV the Reg. Executive Committee, comrade KLIAVIN, the Respected Secretary of the Smolensk area committee of the VKP(b), comrade ARKHIPOV, the Resp. Secretary of the Smolensk town committee, comrade BYCHKOV

On I May of this year at a meeting in the village of Olshanitsa, Diatkovskii district, in Bryansk area, the question was raised at the initiative of the chairman of the village soviet of closing the local church and handing it over for the cultural needs of the seven-year school.

There were no objections to closing the church on the part of the citizens present at the meeting, nor were there any objections on the part of believers or at the juridical registration of its closure, as a result the municipal executive committee passed a resolution ‘to close the church’, with a two week period for complaints to the VTsIK.

The result of this was that in the course of the two week period from the day of the TEC’s pronouncement no complaints at all came in and on 7 August of this year, by order of Diatkovskii DEC and distr. committee of the VKP(b), the Head of the District Admin. Department traveled to the site of the closure of the church with the CID agent and head of the departmental militia on the guard of the Diatkovskii crystal factory. On arrival it was envisaged that the churchwarden would give them the keys of the church – the warden refused to hand over the keys and the priest of the church, by then called, appeared in a drunken state accompanied by hysterical women. As a result a heated dispute arose around the handover of the church during which two of the crowd who arrived with the priest – the woman KOLGANOVA and the old man DROZDOV in his seventies – climbed up the bell tower and sounded the alarm. At the alarm call people ran in from the fields with sickles and stakes, up to 300 350 women, who drove away the representatives who had come to close the church.

Having investigated the women’s mass resistance it has become clear: no preparatory work on the part of the local party and social organizations was conducted among the people to create the appropriate opinion on closing the church. Even the party cells themselves did not examine or even discuss this question at their party meetings and gatherings, and confined themselves just to the decision of the village soviet Plenum and raising of the question at the meeting of I May.

Now, as the closing of the church has aroused the sharpest form of opposition, representatives of the district party committee of the VKP(b), the area procurator and the area department of the OGPU have visited the site.

Dep. Lieut.-Col. of the OGPU for the western regions

Local Head of Information Department of the OGPU

Source: Felix Corley, ed., Religion in the Soviet Union: an Archival Reader (New York: New York University Press, 1996), Doc. 43.

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