League of Militant Atheists

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

League of Militant Atheists


a mass voluntary organization of working people in the USSR that existed from 1925 to 1947. The formation of the League of Militant Atheists was a manifestation of the antireligious movement that developed in the USSR after the victory of the October Revolution of 1917. It was founded during socialist construction as part of the work of the Communist Party in the cultural and ideological enlightenment of the people.

The newspaper Bezbozhnik (Atheist, 1922^11), with its broad network of correspondents and reading groups, played an important role in the founding of the league. Adherents of the newspaper organized the Society of Friends of the Newspaper Bezbozhnik (SFNB) in August 1924 in Moscow. In April 1925, at the first congress of the SFNB, they founded an all-Union antireligious society, the League of Atheists, which was renamed the League of Militant Atheists at the second congress, in 1929. The central council of the league was headed throughout its existence by E. M. Iaroslavskii.

The League of Militant Atheists comprised workers, peasants, students, and members of the intelligentsia. Organizations were founded at plants, factories, kolkhozes, and educational institutions. By early 1941, the league consisted of approximately 3.5 million working people of 100 nationalities. The number of groups reached 96,000. Guided by Leninist principles of antireligious propaganda and by the party’s decisions on these principles, the league dedicated itself to ideological struggle against all forms of religion and the development of a scientific world view among working people. It disseminated propaganda on the natural sciences and atheism, offered believers individual counselling, and trained propagandists and atheist agitators. It also published scientific and popular scientific works and a number of periodicals, founded museums and organized exhibitions, and conducted scientific research in the field of atheism and criticism of religion. Working under the motto “The struggle against religion is a struggle for socialism,” the league coordinated atheist propaganda with economic, political, and cultural tasks. The league maintained extensive international ties; it belonged to the International of Proletarian Freethinkers, and then to the World Union of Freethinkers. In 1947 the league turned over its tasks of disseminating scientific-atheist propaganda to Znanie (Knowledge), a newly created all-Union society.


Konovalov, B. N. “Soiuz voinstvuiushchikh bezbozhnikov.” In the collection Voprosy nauchnogo ateizma, no. 4. Moscow, 1967.
Konovalov, B. N. K massovomu ateizmu. Moscow, 1974.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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(8) Although the League of Militant Atheists technically was succeeded by the Society for the Dissemination of Political and Scientific Knowledge (founded in 1948 and after 1963 renamed simply Znanie), this new institution was not charged with atheist propaganda as such but mandated to focus on political education and scientific enlightenment in general.
In an ironic twist, the League of Militant Atheists in Tashkent actually wanted to translate the Koran into Uzbek so that more Muslims would know the Koran so that they could subsequently be shown its fallacies.
The Soviet League of Militant Atheists reported tens of thousands of members in the Central Asian Republics in the 1930s and a miraculous growth rate comparable to other Soviet republics.

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