Journal article

A martyr factory? Roman Catholic crusade, Protestant missions and anti-communist propaganda against Soviet anti-religious policies, 1929-37

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  • Twentieth Century Communism. - 2014, vol. 7, no. 7, p. 153-173
English The renewed outbreak of anti-religious measures in the USSR in 1929 aroused reactions of protest in Europe in which it was the Catholic Church who set the tone. In a comparative perspective (addressing the Catholic and Protestant churches in Europe), the article presents the main protest initiatives that were in play leading up to the publication of the Encyclical Letter Divini Redemptoris (1937), which condemned communism as 'intrinsically wrong'. The initiatives were driven by a variety of ethical, pastoral, political, and diplomatic motivations, which wavered between pure propaganda protest actions with (poorly) hidden political agendas, and humanitarian relief actions, with or without pastoral motivations. In its conclusion, the article questions what remains, in more recent times, of this martyr factory (in 2007, for example, with the controversial beatification of Spanish priests slaughtered during the Spanish Civil war), and how – especially since 9/11 – the issue of other martyrs can be instrumentalised, or may threaten to give rise to a new kind of Kulturkampf. The research is based on the archives of the Vatican and those of the Entente Internationale Anticommuniste (EIA, Genève 1924-1950) that are held by the Library of Geneva.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Département d'histoire contemporaine
  • English
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