The Sovietization of Commemoration: The Anti-Religious and Ideological Functions of Soviet Secular Life-Cycle Rituals
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The Soviet campaign to establish an atheist society brought into question the status of life-cycle rituals, the ceremonial markers of major life transitions. Because the development and administration of such rites as christenings, weddings, and funerals had been traditionally dominated by religious authorities, the Soviet state grappled with instituting its own system of secular life-cycle rituals, ideally imbued with uniquely Soviet socialist values. This paper first examines the debate around secular rites in the Soviet Union, which culminated in a second wave of life-cycle ritual development as part of Khrushchev’s anti-religious campaign. It then discusses the forms of Soviet christenings, weddings, and funerals performed from the late 1950s through the end of the Soviet period before concluding with an assessment of the mixed success of these secular life-cycle rituals in relation to their intended functions as replacements for religious ceremonies and as tools for instilling Soviet scientific atheism.