The God that Failed: Communism as Secular Religion from Maxim Gorky to Arthur Köstler

Title (other)Бог, потерпевший неудачу: коммунизм как светская религия от М. Горького до А. Кёстлера
Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: Italian Institute of Culture in Saint Petersburg
Address: Russian Federation, Saint Petersburg
Journal nameISTORIYA
EditionIssue 8 (94)

The article focuses on testimonies by members of the Communist Party who describe communism as an actual religion, including the six authors who contributed to the collection of essays “The God that failed” published in 1949, and it goes back to the roots of the phenomenon in Russia. The author makes references to some of M. Gorky’s and A. Lunacharsky’s works, which in the early twentieth century, inspired by L. Feuerbach’s “religion of humanity”, theorized the need to transform communism into a truly secular religion. M. Gorky was the first to use the term bogostroitel’stvo (God-building) in his Novel Ispoved’ (Confession), published in 1908. From a conceptual point of view, reference is made to the theories on political religions, posited by the French sociologist Jean Paul Sironneau in his book Sécularisation et religions politiques (1982), and to the definition of this phenomenon given by the Italian historian Emilio Gentile in his essay Politics as Religion (2006). Both were pioneers in this field and defined the concept of the sacralization of politics and totalitarianism. Emilio Gentile, especially, examines the phenomenon of “sacralisation of politics”, trying to identify the different ways in which different political regimes have depended, like religions, on myths, rites, and symbols.

KeywordsCommunism as religion, M. Gorky, A. Köstler, I. Silone, Political religion, secularization
Publication date30.09.2020
Number of characters35574
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