Russian President Vladimir Putin compared the Communist ideology of the old Soviet Union to Christianity, said the party rules were “a primitive excerpt of the Bible,” and compared the mausoleum of Vladimir Lenin (which preserves the Communist leader’s corpse for all to see) to the relics of Eastern Orthodox saints.
“Faith has always accompanied us” as a people, Putin said. “It strengthened when things were hard for our people’s country. There have been harsh, godfighting years when clerics were destroyed and churches were ruined. But at the same time (Soviets) created a new religion. Indeed, communist ideology is very similar to Christianity.”
Putin argued that “freedom, equality, fraternity, and justice” are incorporated “in all scripture” as well as in Communist ideology. He pointed to the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism, a set of twelve moral rules adopted by the Communist Party in 1961.
“The Code of the Builder of Communism is just such a primitive excerpt of the Bible,” the Russian president said. The rules may be compared to the Ten Commandments, but they overlap only marginally. They are rules of attitude, rather than rules of conduct. Some Russian books and media claim that the Communist code is rooted in the Bible, specifically 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.”
Putin also compared the Mausoleum of Lenin to reliquaries of saints. “Lenin was laid down in a mausoleum,” Putin said (translation provided by Newsweek). “How does this differ to the remains of saints for the Orthodox or even for Christians in general?”
“I am often told: ‘Nowhere in the Christian world is there such a tradition.’ How can that be? Go to Athos and see how there are remains of saints and here also there are the sacred remains of Sergius and Herman,” the president said. “So it seems that the authorities at the time did not invent anything new, but merely adopted under its own ideology something that humankind invented a long time ago.”
Putin made these remarks in a documentary about the recently restored Valaam Monastery, telling the story of the building, which is located near the border with Finland. His remarks about saints referred to Serius of Radonezh (1314-1392), a revered medieval Russian saint. Along with Sergius, Herman of Valaam is remembered as the founder of the monastery.
Christians in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions have long preserved relics from the bodies of deceased saints, but it is telling to hear Putin compare Lenin with those saints and his remains with holy relics.
Ironically, Lenin’s mausoleum has become a political issue in Russia. The Orthodox Church argued that Lenin should be buried, that the mausoleum, built in 1924, is improper. Communists reply that the casket sits below ground level, fulfilling the criteria for burial.
Putin’s suggestion that Soviet Communism presented another chapter in Russia’s religious history is striking on many levels. First, Lenin himself would likely have seen it as an insult.
Lenin, an atheist who agreed with Karl Marx that religion was “the opium of the people,” confiscated church property. His successor, Joseph Stalin, demolished Moscow’s largest cathedral in 1931, ordering a public swimming pool with a statue of Lenin in its place. The project was completed under Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev.
Christians have long argued that Communism is akin to a religion of atheism, as it encouraged the enforcement of morality and the prohibition of (other) religions. An estimated 12-20 million Christians died for their faith under the Soviet Union, with over 100,000 priests, monks, and nuns murdered. Other big government atheist tyrannies — such as Jacobins in the French Revolution, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the Communists in China’s Red Revolution — persecuted Christians and those of other religions.
Finally, Putin’s remarks about Soviet Communism being similar to Christianity — and his suggestion that the Communist Party shares moral principles with the Christian religion — is both false and a heinous insult.
Communism is an utter inversion of Christianity, and the very first of the principles in the Code of the Builder of Communism reverses the First Commandment. “Devotion to the cause of Communism” is the exact opposite of Christianity in many ways.
As the Soviet Union’s history suggested, Communism was fundamentally incompatible with Christianity. Under Communism, the government enforced atheism and murdered priests, monks, and nuns. When asked what the greatest commandment in the law was, Jesus Christ said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment, and the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40).
The fundamental difference between the two has to deal with freedom, individual morality, and state power. Communism and Christianity share a few basic moral principles — people should earn their food, for example — but they differ on how moral principles, and especially the fundamental value of human life, should be applied in society.
Christians consider human beings to be made in the image of God. Humans are sinful and need to be saved by the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Conversion is a mysterious process involving the Holy Spirit and a person putting his or her faith in Jesus. Christians should allow people to live and encourage them to accept Jesus, but they cannot force conversion, and while law is meant to restrain the evils of mankind, Christians cannot enforce morality.
The ultimate goal of Christianity is for human beings to accept Jesus, and they will be resurrected at the last day to enjoy paradise. Heaven on earth cannot be achieved by human means. Jesus called Christians to pray for their enemies, rather than putting them to death.
Communists consider human beings to be part of a more valuable collective. People have been corrupted by capitalism and goods and services need to be redistributed by force. Government can make human beings moral, and those who cannot contribute to the society have no value. Indeed, those who would oppose the Communist project must be marginalized, even killed. This is acceptable because Communism aims to bring about heaven on earth, its ultimate goal.
For these reasons, Communism arguably is a religion, and Putin may have been right to compare the embalming of Lenin to the preservation of saints’ relics. His remarks about Christianity and Communism being in any way similar are utterly false, however. One looks to Jesus as the ultimate savior. The other looks to human social engineering to bring heaven on earth.
The very suggestion that Communism would be similar to Christianity is an insult to the millions of Christians who were martyred by the Soviet Union. Putin should be ashamed of himself, and at least add a clarification.
Watch the video below. YouTube has an option for English subtitles. Putin’s remarks about Christianity and Communism begin around the 42 minute mark.