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The Colliver Lecture: A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism

Thursday, November 21, 2019 7:00pm to 8:30pm

720 Presidents Drive, Stockton, CA 95211

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Historian Victoria Smolkin from Wesleyan University will discuss the findings of her recent book "A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism" in this year's Colliver Lecture. 

Smolkin's talk will explore the meaning of atheism for religious life, for Communist ideology and for Soviet politics.

Drawing on a wealth of archival material and in-depth interviews with those who were on the front lines of Communist ideological campaigns, Professor Smolkin argues that to understand the Soviet experiment, we must make sense of Soviet atheism. Smolkin shows how atheism was reimagined as an alternative cosmology with its own set of positive beliefs, practices, and spiritual commitments. Through its engagements with religion, the Soviet leadership realized that removing religion from the "sacred spaces" of Soviet life was not enough. Then, in the final years of the Soviet experiment, Mikhail Gorbachev—in a stunning and unexpected reversal—abandoned atheism and reintroduced religion into Soviet public life.


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