Not atheist

SIR - In his letter of February 22, John Riddington Young has misunderstood the situation regarding religion in the USSR and China.

In his childhood atlas, it is likely that the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) were not indicated, or if they were, as SSR Estonia etc. SSR = Soviet Socialist Republic, which is the political state these countries were in until they were granted independence by President Yeltsin in 1991.

They actually declared independence from the USSR in 1990, but President Gorbachev responded by sending in the tanks to crush the rebellion. (Not many people in the West know that; we were more interested in the first invasion of Iraq which happened at the same time).

What John Riddington Young has failed to realise, is that these countries were not atheist. That was the official “religion” of the ruling Communist Party which was against established religion, because, as it correctly surmised, organised religion was more powerful than Communist ideology.

In fact, the Eastern Orthodox Church was allowed to operate in the Soviet Union, but under heavy restriction, and was rubbished in schools. The Soviet Union imposed Russian as the official language throughout the countries under its control in order to kill the native languages. This was part of a policy to deliberately kill off all national cultures which did not accord with Communist ideology.

However, the population continued to worship in private, and speak their languages among themselves. It is interesting to note that foreigners speaking Russian in any of the Baltic States now are likely to be ignored, but because of their common history, people in the Baltic States might use Russian to communicate with others in another of the states. English has replaced Russian language teaching in the schools.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, religion and national cultures have been re-established. The Orthodox Church has flourished in Russia, as has Lutheranism in Estonia. Latvia is divided between Lutherism and the Catholic Church; while in Lithuania, Catholicism is a major aspect of the Lithuanian identity.

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Despite being officially an atheist state, China has the sense to realise that a large part of its population is religious, so tries to control it rather than stamp it out (except where it takes a high profile opposition course).

All this goes to show that, despite the efforts of Dawkins, the National Secular Society and others to destroy Christianity in Britain, they won’t succeed.

Tony Olsson,


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